We have been traveling this week and landed in scenic Sevierville, Tennessee. We found a cozy little cabin nestled into a corner of Hidden Mountain with a brilliant view of The Great Smoky Mountains. We only left the cabin one day this week and on that day we stumbled across a little rustic shop at the bottom of the mountain. We parked the bug in one of three spots and were immediately greeted by Johnny Watkins.He was smiling from ear to ear, excited to tell us all about his creations, vision, and dreams.
I would describe Johnny as a tall pencil thin man with shoulder length straight light brown hair accompanied by a wave or two. I would guess he is in his late 30's or early 40's. I immediately felt comfortable; as if I had known Johnny for a long time even though we just met. We began our journey through his workshop, saw mill, and display room. I was drawn to a table that was adorned with a hand carved dog at the base of a beautiful tree stump. On top was a section cut out of a large a tree trunk and displayed a carved picture of a cabin, trees, and a bear.
Next, we began browsing through a collection of one of a kind original carved doors, door and window frames adorned with animals, flowers, and various depictions of nature. Johnny began telling us about how he had a dream. It just came to him. He explained that the problem with most people when they have a clear vision they fail to act. He knew this was something he had to act on. He began sketching his vision. Then acting upon his vision he began to carve. The results are stunning works of art. Each one different from the other. No two are alike. Some days he sketches and other days he carves.
Johnny was quick to point out that he only has an 8th grade education, but he can build or carve anything. Make a request, give him a picture, if you can dream it, he will create it. He told me there was a time when everything you found in this area was hand made from the people that lived here, but now most items are made in China. You could see the sadness in his eyes. He told us that a man came through and said he was going to buy some of his works of art to send to China to have duplicated in order to sell them cheap. It is my hope people recognize the difference and are willing to pay the artist a fair price for a unique work of art.
I was amazed to hear him say he only takes cash or check, but if you don't have a check (because most people do not carry them anymore) you can still buy something, take it home, and mail back a check! He said he has a renewed faith in people and is trusting. During the time he has allowed people to take one of his creations home and mail a check back, he has only had one person not pay.
We ended our tour by selecting an original work of art and made a request for a second piece made similar to the first. He asked how long we would be here. We indicated we were going home on Saturday. He said no problem, pick it up on your way out. We anxiously await for our second original piece. The two pieces will look lovely in our home.
I want to end with a quote from my good friend Charley, "For a quarter more, go first class or don't go at all." Support local artists when you travel. Save enough to make an investment in something that is truly special made with love by a local artist. (Click on photos to see full view.)
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