Deck the Halls

Galleries in North Carolina offer a unique shopping experience

By Donna Campbell Smith | Photos by Donna Campbell Smith

Deck the Halls

Sea Green Gallery in Nags Head deals in the fine art of reuse.

The dilemma for many folks with a long Christmas shopping list is what to give that is within the budget and, at the same time, unique. We don’t want to rush through the crowded big box stores, grabbing items off the aisle-end displays. We dread dealing with traffic in the cities and crowded malls. We want to give a gift that reflects having put some thought and love in its choice, a one-of-a-kind gift.

Let me guide you to an art gallery. Expensive and stuffy, you may think, but not all galleries deserve that reputation. There are some distinctive galleries in North Carolina that are full of gifts to fit a tight budget and a discerning gift recipient. Not only are these galleries ideal places to find unique gifts, they are an escape from the maddening crowd — quiet places where you can enjoy the atmosphere while you pick out that perfect gift for a relative or friend.

Let’s explore a few of these oases for your holiday shopping, or perhaps a little something for your own home.

Cedar Creek Brad Tucker

Cedar Creek hand blown glass

Above, top: Cedar Creek’s Brad Tucker checks the fire in the kiln. Above, bottom: Hand-blown glass globes at Cedar Creek Gallery.

Cedar Creek Gallery

Forty years ago, Sid and Pat Oakley started Cedar Creek Pottery on six acres of what was once a tobacco farm in central North Carolina near Creedmoor. In addition to the gallery are the studios of more than 10 potters and glassblowers, and several beautiful outbuildings surrounded by gardens. The grounds also serve as a gallery of garden art and sculpture. Inside on a chilly day there is likely to be a fire in the huge fireplace to warm your hands after touring the grounds.

Cedar Creek Gallery, winner of the Governor’s Award for Excellence, sells works by more than 200 of America’s most accomplished craftspeople. While pottery and glass are its main focus, the gallery also sells jewelry, candles, wood and metal work among its handmade treasures. A blue dot indicates the item was made by a North Carolina artisan.

Cedar Creek also has a nice service for busy shoppers they call “Shop, Wrap and Ship.” At the checkout, they will box all of your gifts and provide you with complimentary wrapping paper and bows. You can take your time wrapping your gifts by the cozy fireplace. Cedar Creek will ship your gifts to any location in the United States. How is that for a time-saver?

10–6, all week | Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day | 919-528-1041 | cedarcreekgallery.com

OOAK Gallery

East of Burnsville near the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will find OOAK (One of a Kind) Gallery owned by Kari Weaver. While the gallery was established in 2011, the building has been around since 1922. Just as the name implies, here you can find beautiful one-of-a-kind gifts chosen from the works of more than 150 local artists in the nostalgic Old Micaville Country Store building. The walls and shelves of OOAK hold folk art, pottery, jewelry, glass, original art and prints, cards, books and much more.

OOAK quilt trail headquarters

OOAK is also the headquarters for the Western North Carolina Quilt Trails, so you will find quilt patterned motifs in some of the artwork. Be sure to take time for coffee and something yummy at Maples Coffee Shop in the same building, just step through a connecting door. The gallery is open 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 12–5 p.m. Sun., April through December. January through March, hours vary due to weather so call ahead.

Mon–Sat, 10–5:30 | Sun, Noon–5 | 828-675-0690 | ooakartgallery.com

Sea Green Gallery

Those shoppers who live on the coast or are planning a trip to the Outer Banks will find Sea Green Gallery within earshot of the surf in Nags Head. The gallery is a family owned and operated business housed in the 1946 Grays Department Store building. Owner Susan Evans, along with her husband Phil Morgan and sons Will and Michael Morgan, keep the gallery running.

Sea green interior

Sea Green deals in the fine art of reuse. Its walls, nooks and crannies are stocked with visual art, jewelry, home décor, wall hangings and sculpture created in a variety of mediums and recycled materials. As its website warns, a visit to Sea Green Gallery may bring out the pack rat in you when you see what can be done to turn trash into treasure. Step out the back door to enter the garden area with an array of garden art and water plants. If you can’t decide on which amazing art piece to buy, they have gift cards.

10–6, all week (winter hours) | 252-715-2426 | seagreengallery.com

UpFront felt bowls

UpFront Gallery

Franklin County Arts Council manages UpFront Gallery, which is housed in the front of Leslie Martin’s pottery studio in downtown Franklinton. The building at 22 S. Main Street was once a funeral parlor. Its vintage tin ceiling and brick walls, enhanced with glass and mirrors, make a beautiful space that enhances the displays of art.

UpFront Gallery has works of more than 20 artists in pottery, paintings, felt, quilts, wood, cards, handmade soaps, jewelry and books. The gallery also has revolving shows with featured artists in the back of the gallery, which change monthly.

Thurs–Sat, 10:30–5 | Closed on holidays | 919-497-6910 | fcacarts.org

Mainstreet marketplace art

Mainstreet Marketplace

Also in central North Carolina, Mainstreet Marketplace is located in downtown Henderson in what was once the Gooch and Harris Tobacco House. Owner Lebert Howes bought the building and came up with the vision to give local artisans a place to showcase their work. Mainstreet Marketplace also supports performing arts with a baby grand piano in the front of the building for their events. Shoppers can browse two floors of art, handcrafts, antiques and collectibles offered by more than 50 vendors.

Mon–Fri, 10–5 | Sat, 10–4 | Closed Sundays | 252-438-1474

If these galleries are not close to your home, just ask around. I am sure you will find another hidden gem of a gallery near you. They will welcome your patronage, and you will have the satisfaction of supporting local artisans and finding gifts that are truly one of a kind.

About the Author

Donna Campbell Smith is a Carolina Country contributing writer who lives in Franklin County.

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