The woodwork of Alvin Thomas and Haywood Community College employees Caryl Brt and Journel Thomas are on exhibit now through December 15 at the North Carolina Arboretum. The exhibit, “Appalachian Exotics: A Family Tree,” is located on the second floor gallery in the Education Center. Exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. This show is an excellent opportunity to purchase handmade gifts by local artisans that expresses the beauty and tradition of the Smoky Mountains.

The roots of this family tree begin with Alvin Thomas, maker of hand-hewn traditional Appalachian dough bowls. His son, Journel, and daughter-in-law, Caryl have branched out from Alvin’s work to explore more contemporary work. Journel combines his talents of carving and woodturning in exquisitely patterned salad bowls. Caryl’s work consists of turned and carved wooden spoons, lamps with original relief print paper shades, and mirrors. Caryl graduated from HCC’s Professional Crafts-Wood program in 1994.

A sense of place is a vital component to their work. Rather than importing rare woods from vanishing rain forests thousands of miles away, this trio prefers to simplify and practice sustainability by using materials from their own backyards. All the “exotic” woods they need for handcrafting beautiful objects can be found in the surrounding ecologically diverse chain of north-south oriented mountains we are so privileged to live in. The resulting pieces in this exhibit tell the tale of heritage and strong family ties through the craft of woodworking.