Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: Ode to Steve Williams and the Little Girl from Banner Elk, North Carolina

Full Moon Rising mug by Steve Williams,
available at

"The place you just can't stay away from."

BENNINGTON -- After zero public comment, Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly stood before town council on the night of January 14 and reported on two items. The first item was about two Christmas cards she and the town staff received from Lees-McRae College, signed by Barry and Deb. A little girl was responsible for the second item.

Indeed, according to the minutes, Lyerly "shared with everyone a letter she received from a creative young girl who attends Rankin Elementary School in Mt. Holly. The girl wrote about places of interest in and around Banner Elk, designed a bumper sticker and created a new slogan for Banner Elk 'the place you just can’t stay away from.' "

That makes a lot of sense when you consider where Banner Elk sits ...

Google Maps

Google Maps

... up in Appalachia, those Blue Ridge Mountains in the corner of North Cackalackee, just south of Virginny and just east of the Tennessee-Kentucky sammich.

Banner Elk, North Carolina, 1.2 square miles, population 1,028 in 2010, up from 811 in 2000 when the breakdown was 90.26 percent white (732), 3.95 percent black (32), .62 percent Native American (5), 1.23 percent Asian (10) and other races (10), .25 percent Pacific Islander (2), 2.47 percent mixed (20) and 1.85 percent Hispanic or Latino (15).

According to Wiki, Indians inhabited the land near Elk River though "no evidence is found" to support that theory. Martin Banner arrived in 1848 and years later when the Banner clan hit 55-strong, the land was named Banner's Elk, shortened to Banner Elk in 1911.

You'll find these sights in and around Banner Elk ...

Bridge that fords the Shawneehaw Creek (Wikipedia Commons)

Mill Pond, where the Shawneehaw Creek and Elk River merge (Wikipedia)

... Banner Elk is home to the Woolly Worm Festival every year, and the surroundings offer an outdoor enthusiast's paradise because of Watauga Lake and Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain and Grandfather Mountain and Pisgah and Cherokee National Forest and Hawks' Nest -- the largest all-tubing mountain on the east coast.

As mentioned, Banner Elk is home to Lees-McRae College, a private 4-year school affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Lees-McRae sits 4,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest college east of the Mississippi. The school sells its location in the "undeveloped forests" of North Carolina, and the mission of Lees-McRae's Outdoor Programs ...

... "is to offer students opportunities for participation in outdoor educational experiences that will develop the mind, body, and soul of the student while developing essential leadership and developmental skills vital to success in life. This program will challenge students to be active participants in their environment and in their own lives."

Lees-McRae's cycling team is ranked No. 3 in the nation, but the men's hoops team is struggling (2-21 overall) after a 10-point loss Wednesday in Due West, South Carolina ...

Banner Elk is seeking a new police chief to oversee a $662,000 operating budget. Depending on experience, the top cop will make between $52,974 to $79,460. To apply click HERE.

For all of that information, Art Gallery Dude goes back to that little girl at Rankin Elementary and the slogan she brainstormed for Banner Elk ...

"The place you just can't stay away from"

... and there's a truth and wisdom about that when it comes to a Banner Elk artist by the name of Steve Williams because Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery sells his pottery wares and customers just can't stay away from it. 

It's fair to say Steve is the most popular pottery artist at Fiddlehead.

Steve's theme is full moon rising "over the North Carolina mountains he calls home", and his mugs and bowls and platters and cream and sugar sets and sushi plates fly off the shelves. And to think, mom wanted son to be a doctor.

"My poor mother's dreams of my becoming a physician ended when I took an elective pottery class at Appalachian State University," Steve writes on his website. "I soon changed from a biology major to industrial arts and technical education.

"I took every pottery class ASU offered and made up several more under independent study. Teaching high school was not for me. I did my student teaching and promptly decided to open a pottery business. That was 24 years ago. It was a pivotal decision and I have not regretted making the decision to be a potter. A person could study pottery making for many lifetimes and still not learn everything about the subject."

Fiddlehead received 34 pieces yesterday: 6 fluted soup bowls, 6 large dinner plates, 6 salad-dessert plates, 6 16-ounce mugs, 2 cream and sugar sets, a large fluted serving bowl, a large platter, a chip and dip set, a large square tray and 2 sushi trays. Everything is safe for the microwave, oven and dishwasher -- and, Steve said, "it is lead-free."

Large fluted serving bowl $65

Sushi tray 5x12 (2 available) $24

12x12 Square Tray ($64)

6 Fluted Soup Bowls ($18)

6-inch Salad/Dessert Plate ($17)

Chips and Dip Set ($62)

11-inch Dinner Plate (6 available) $35

Cream and Sugar Set $44

16-ounce Mug (6 available) $22