Qualla Open Air Indian Art Market | Cherokee, NC

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Qualla Open Air Indian Art Market

On August 27th, from 9 am to 4 pm, visitors to Cherokee can enjoy The Open Air Indian Art Market outside Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and meet some of the member artists.

For the last fourteen years, select artists from Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual have set up booths at the Open Air Indian Art Market to showcase their handmade wares for sale, and provide live, in-person demonstrations of traditional Cherokee crafts including beadwork, woodwork, stone carving, jewelry making, basket weaving, and pottery.

The event is free and open to the public.

"We invite everyone to come out and see the legendary craftsmanship of many talented Cherokee artisans," says Vicki Cruz, manager of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual for over a decade.

Price points will range from $5 up to $500 for more intricate works including baskets and jewelry made from precious materials.

As part of the day's festivities, there will also be live music during the day and members of the North American Indian Women's Association (NAIWA) will sell plates of traditional Cherokee foods such as fried or baked chicken, potatoes, cabbage, and bean bread, plus drinks and desserts. Proceeds from the food sales will benefit NAIWA in their community service efforts. 

About Qualla Arts and Crafts

Qualla Arts and Crafts was founded in 1946 and is the oldest Native American Cooperative in the US. Its 300 artists are members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who learned their crafts from family members, passed down throughout the ages.

The master crafters at Qualla include elders, some in their nineties, as well as second and third generation crafters that are sometimes from the same family.

If you've never been into Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual before, you're in for a treat. It's a beautiful, airy, well-lit space that's a delight to browse and shop for authentic Cherokee crafts. As an educational resource, a permanent gallery collection in the back displays baskets and wood carvings over time.

Although beadwork is the largest selling category of arts and crafts at Qualla, the baskets draw a lot of attention.

"We get a lot of old baskets that people bring in and want identified or appraised," says Cruz.

"Last week we got a rivercane basket that needed repair, and there's only a handful of basketweavers that can do that. We're lucky to know who those people are," she says.

For some of the older basket weavers, Qualla purchases bloodroot, which is used as a natural dye. They also work with the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee to help supply rivercane to the basketweavers.

Cruz points to a tree outside of the building.

"A butternut tree like that is used in carving and makes the black dye that is used for the baskets," she explains. Other natural dyes are grown on the grounds, including bloodroot and yellow root. If you visit on a day that local basketmaker and Qualla staff member Faye, whose nickname is Goose, is working, she'll happily show you the plants and natural dye gardens.

"It's a wonderful place," says Cruz. "We always have something interesting going on."

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