Well I’ve definitely spread these Memory Lane posts over a long couple of months, but here we are finally arriving at the final stop of our tour.
But first, let me tell you a little story. A story which may seem unrelated, but it will all make sense in the end. As I’ve shared on this blog before my mother was incredibly artistic and creative. She painted, sewed, drew and had an amazing gift to create beauty. One of the things she painted were dried gourds. She would decorate them and put string in them to make Christmas ornaments. Or drill a hole in them and then paint them up to make the cutest little bird houses. When she passed away my Sister had boxes of gourds in her garage that my Mother had never gotten around to painting. Not sure what to do with, she left them to live there.
End of seemingly unrelated story.
As my Sister and I were walking around the downtown of Gatlinburg, TN we were searching for a store. In our youths my parents had a favorite shop that sat right on the major strip. It was filled with knick knacks and dust collectors, jewelry and art. As a child I could remember the women that ran it being what seemed to me to be 100 years old. Of course upon our return down Memory Lane we were anxious to re-visit the store. We never could find it we strolled up and down the parkway numerous times during out stay and ultimately we decided the store must have been lost in the Gatlinburg fire of 2016. So sad!
On our last day in there we decided to drive through The Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community on our way home. The community is an 8 mile loop road with various studios of local arts selling their pictures, pottery, jewelry and crafts. Cruising around the loop, my sister and I saw it simultaneously. “That’s It” we exclaimed, flipped a U-turn to get back to the shop we had just passed. And there it was…in a place it did not belong… was Cliff Dwellers.
Our minds could not connect pieces. We’d never driven this loop before and we knew this was the store, this exact building used to be on the Gatlinburg strip. We rushed into the store eager to get to the bottom of this mystery.
As we wandered around the store the shopkeeper told us her version of the following story
The Cliff Dwellers building was built in downtown Gatlinburg in the 1930’s by artist Louis E. Jones in a chalet style of architecture that was then quite foreign to this area. This unique wood and stone building served as Jones home, gallery and studio which he operated until the last years of his life. Upon retirement he sold the gallery to the two ladies who had assisted him for a number of years with the business, and they continued to carry fine art, handmade gifts and hand woven accessories for the home. In the early 90’s one of the ladies died and the other retired at age 85. She then sold the building to a businessman who decided it would have to be torn down to make the best use of the land. In 1995 Jim Gray (regional artist) and his son Chris moved the building to the Glades area and lovingly restored it for use in this new location.
She added that after Gray had restored the building the business was managed for him by 4 local artist. After about 5 years of the business running successfully he sold the business to these four women and they have been together ever since (about 20 years if I remember the story correctly).
As she finished her tale, I was compelled to ask. Which pieces are yours?
“I’m the gourd painter” she said.
With tears in our eyes, my sister and I looked at each other said “Well we have something for you”