Hughes Glass: Studio 11

Meet Ronnie Hughes of Hughes Glass, studio number 11 on our tour. Our final studio spotlight ends on a powerful note with Ronnie‘s amazing talent, skill, and passion for creating wildflowers in both clear and colored glass. To start, Ronnie was born and raised in West Jefferson, North Carolina. Having moved away a few times, the beauty of the mountains always drew him back. He and his wife, Chris, both animal lovers (cats particularly) found the countryside of Alleghany County to be a safe haven for their animal family and an inspiring setting for Ronnie‘s artwork.

Glassblowing was not the original plan for Ronnie. Graduating with a BA in psychology from Wake Forest in 1976, his plan was to get a Master’s degree and become a counselor. However, after taking a summer job for a friends glass gallery, The Public Glassblower, Ronnie was totally hooked. Grad school took

Borosilicate “hard” glass is Ronnie‘s medium. At his workbench, there is a large bench torch and two smaller hand torches all propane and oxygen fed. Heating the glass to 2000- 2500°F it becomes very pliable allowing him to shape the glass into accurate looking wildflowers. He uses colored glass to highlight the blossoms and clear glass for his signature free formed bases and the remaining flower structures. His wildflower sculptures “stand entirely on their own in continuous glass, a more challenging and time-consuming process.”When asked who has motivated and inspired him, Ronnie is quick to list his top glass artists… Paul Stankard of New Jersey, Lucio Bubacco of Murano, Italy, and the father/son team Leopoldo and Rudolph Blaschka of Germany creators of the “Harvard Glass.”When you step into Ronnie‘s home gallery and studio, you instantly feel the passion he has for both the wildflowers he re-creates in glass and the glass art world in general.

To me, art is about tickling a nerve, provoking a thought, but it’s especially about creating an emotion.“ -Ronnie Hughs

Pottery by Jes: Studio 10

Meet Jessie Smith of Pottery by Jes, studio number 10 on our tour. Born and raised in Alleghany County, Jessie has a deep love and appreciation for the mountains and the locals that make up the fabric of our community. After being away for a year in photography school, Jes returned home as soon as she could. Realizing that photography was not her career path,she knew that doing something creative was meant to be. With her parents encouragement, an apprenticeship was set up with Mangum Pottery in 2010. By April 2011, Jes held her first Open House naming her business Pottery by Jes and “the rest is history.” Jes celebrates 10 years in business this year so how coincidental is it that she is number 10 on our tour! Come by Jessie’s studio during our October tours and celebrate her 10 years of creating beautiful functional pottery.

“Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness”-Anni Albers

Nature is a strong design element in Jessie‘s pottery. She loves to incorporate textures, trees, vines, leaves, indentations and other accents to make her work distinct. She strives to represent the beauty of these mountains using clay and glazes.As you step into Jessie’s clay studio you will see, as she describes it, organized chaos with wheel pieces and slab work covering the tables and shelves in various stages of production. Her sweet dog , Arlo , may wander in to greet you… and typically many genres of music will be playing in the background.One of the rewards for Jessie is to hear from customers how they use her pottery. Some customers use their pottery daily and others have special spots picked out for their pieces to be used as decoration. To know that a bowl, a mug, a platter, a casserole will be a treasure in someone’s home or part of a memory cooking and spending time with family is what keeps Jessie vibrant and inspired as she creates each piece of pottery.

Pottery Place: Studio 9

Meet Tina Duffey and Sarah Harper of The Pottery Place, studio number 9 on our tour. These two lovely ladies are bona fide Mudbugs! Sarah is a native of Alleghany County, the Piney Creek community to be precise. She began her pottery journey years ago with Bet Mangum and Appalachian State University. She has a passion for throwing on the wheel. When she first shared some of her pottery with Tina, her cousin, that’s when Tina caught the bug! Tina, an army brat growing up, moved to Alleghany after retiring from Samford University in Birmingham Alabama as a chemistry professor. Hand building techniques are her specialty. Tina and Sarah are “right sure” that together they have 75 years of experience playing in the mud!

“…My heart has always been here.” -Tina Duffey

When asked the question “Why art?” Tina answers matter-of-factly “Why not? It balances the left brain analytical thinking of a chemist and a nurse.” Tina’s career has been in chemistry and Sarah’s has been in nursing. Working in Clay gives them a chance to explore the right brain creative side. As you walk into the two-story family farmhouse on the north side of Sparta, you are filled with a sense of home. Pottery, antiques, and beautiful handmade quilts fill each room. The studio is situated on the kitchen side of the house and accommodates wheel throwing, hand building, glazing, and firing. Come visit The Pottery Place and perhaps catch Tina and Sarah exploring their creative side!

Will Fernandez: Studio 7

Meet Will Fernandez studio number 7 on the tour. Originally from Las Villas, Cuba. His love for the mountains, rivers, and small town living brought him to Alleghany County. As a young child, his skills of drawing and sculpting were apparent. After a career in commercial art, at the age of 40 he promoted himself to strictly fine art. Will is an impressionist painter as well as a sculptor working with wood, stone, paper mache, and mostly raku clay. He enjoys making human form and a large variety of animals. His focus is mainly on movement, vigor and often humor.

While visiting Will’s work space you can likely catch him raku firing… a firing process that he enjoys showing his guests, and watching their reactions. As he takes the glowing hot sculptures out of the kiln, he then places them in sawdust where they burst into flames. He loves the response from his guests as they view this process for the first time

“it is easy to say ‘follow your dream’, but dreams can be extremely costly in too many ways to mention…but once in a great great while…” -Will Fernendez

Studio Roxie: Studio 8


Meet Stewart Royall studio number 8 on our tour. Not only is Stewart a native of Alleghany County, he is 5th generation! Stewart has loved photography from a very young age and knows this county like the back of his hand. From his portraits to his landscapes, Stewart instinctively captures the stunning scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the New River, and the many breathtaking waterfalls that lay hidden in this landscape. Leave it to him to find the perfect location where the lighting is just right, the backdrop fits the occasion, and perhaps some local folklore to add to the story.

Stewart’s studio goes beyond four walls. He is always on the go with bridal / wedding photo shoots, sports team action shots, senior portraits, family memories and more. If it’s not a human event, it’s mother nature that keeps him busy! Each season in these mountains creates a new canvas for his work like the vibrant colors of fall foliage and the quiet solitude of a winter storm. Studio Roxie is located just off of Main Street in Sparta and it’s open year-round. Visit Stewart‘s studio and find a piece of Alleghany beauty to hang in your home.

“Don’t forget to turn around…good photos behind you.”- Stewart

Carolina Farm Table: Studio 6

Meet Devin Ulery of Carolina Farm Table, Studio number 6 on our tour. Growing up in his father’s workshop in Alleghany County, Devin has been working and using tools of his trade since he was 10 years old. He built his first table at 17. Devin and his wife Anna feel the Mountains of NC are their home. Though they love to travel, their home here in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a wonderful place to raise their two daughters.

Carolina Farm Table uses new and reclaimed wood, mostly domestic hardwoods to create custom built solid wood style dining tables. By hand plaining many of their tables they create a look that a machine cannot produce. This is an art form all its own.

Three Crows Metalworks: Studio 5

Meet Lou and Diane and their daughter Maggie of Three Crows Metal Works, studio number 5 on the tour! After living on the Outer Banks for some time and also a short time in Virginia, Lou and Diane felt Alleghany calling them home. They raised three children here in Sparta.

Though their professional careers have not always been metal-smithing they have always enjoyed many different artistic endeavors. Diane got started in metal-smithing in the early 90’s. She feels that art is a serious means of self-expression and escape. Her work is permeated with nature themes. They use mostly recycled precious metals, as well as, precious and semi-precious gemstones sustainably sourced in the Southwest US. They create one of a kind pieces that reflect their love of the natural world and the mountains in which they live.

When you step into the workspace at Three Crows you will see Diane wearing her magnifying glasses with jeweler’s tools surrounding her. Every jewelry-making process produces its own characteristic sounds…the sharp staccato of a ball-peen hammer versus the thud of a rawhide mallet on metal. The rasp and click of the striker as it’s made to spit out the spark that ignites the propane and oxygen released from a soldering torch. The sizzling sound of hot metal as it’s plunged into the quenching bowl. The mechanical whirring and buzzing of the flex shaft with its suite of little rotary tools for grinding, drilling and polishing. The rhythmic grating sound of a file tearing up metal as it is pushed along a metal surface. The jeweler’s workshop sometimes becomes a sensorium of rhythmic experimental music.

Stop in for this sensory experience and pick out a one of kind piece to commemorate your trip.

Mangum-Cater on Main: Studio 4

Meet Robin Mangum, Daniel Cater, and Robin Cater of Mangum Cater on Main, studio number 4 on the tour.
Mangum Pottery was established in Alleghany County in the early 70’s. Cater Pots began their clay career here in the county in the mid 90’s. In 2013 they joined forces to open their joint venture on Main Street in Sparta.
Together their body of work includes functional and decorative clay work as well as metal sculpture work by Daniel. Their gallery/studio is open year round.

A walk about the gallery you will discover a wide range of function and form. Robin Mangum, a master on the potter’s wheel, will surprise you with a twisted vase, a sodium silicate crackle surface, a sculpted head with a whimsical expression. Daniel Cater jumps from clay to metal, coil building a series of clay sculptures one week to designing, fabricating, and finishing a commissioned metal sculpture. Robin Cater finds her rhythm throwing mugs, bowls, vases, and more. Occasionally she will create a series of tile and wood wall hangings, lamps, and totems.

“It’s wonderful being an artist, period. Its just a bonus to be in a place like Sparta.” Rob Mangum

Durgin Originals: Studio 3

Meet Chris Durgin. When asked what brought Chris to Alleghany County his response is “I came to visit some friends, I love the music, that was 15 years ago”
You can visit Chris at stop number 3 on our tour! Under the name Durgin Orginals he creates furniture and instruments.

“My favorite project is always the next one. It is exciting to do new work.”

— Chris Durgin

When asked about his creative process Chris smiles and says…
“I start out with a cup of coffee, pencil and a pad of paper, then work with the client to get a bio from them…a feel of shapes and colors of the piece, the function. From there I continue…its all about the wood.”

Studio Redwood: Studio 2

Mural work, fine art, Giclee Prints, furniture and cabinet finishes, eco-printing, Italian Plaster, Faux Finishes, Venetian Plaster. Classes offered in all. Chris Elliott-Davis

Meet Chris Davis, a lady with many feathers in her hat: artist, muralist, faux finisher, art instructor, mentor, coach and lover of life. Raised on a dairy farm in Southwest P.A. she moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1971.
It is no accident that Chris is an artist, she began expressing herself through art during her childhood. In 1975 she began painting professionally under the name Studio Redwood.

Chris’ creativity can be seen all the way down to the floor of her studio. She began painting her interpretations of happenings and scenery around her in the 1950’s.
She finds beauty in landscape, nature, animals and people, with the ultimate goal of capturing their overwhelming beauty. As well as being passionate and enthusiastic about her own work, Chris loves helping others achieve their dreams of becoming successful artists and crafts people.

Favorite Quote: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton