Volume Three May 10, 2002
by Beverly Guthrie Lougher
The Hambidge Center lies on 600 acres of pristine land covered with forests, streams and meadows. The confluence of the Blue Ridge and Nantahala mountain ranges at the Betty’s Creek area in Dillard creates this sanctuary. It was established to provide a place, away from the stresses of modern day life, for artists to live and work in peaceful and beautiful surroundings. The Hambidge Center is such a treasure it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The center was founded in 1934 by Mary Crovatt Hambidge. Mary’s husband Jay was a successful artist, scholar and author. Mary helped Jay with his ideas pertaining to classical art design principles. Their work was called “Dynamic Symmetry” and was recognized internationally in the art world. After her husband’s death she founded the Hambidge Center in his honor. Mary’s driving principle was that the artist could be more creative in a natural environment. When Mary opened the Hambidge Center she set up a large loom room and encouraged the local crafts, especially dying and weaving. She perfected a range of vegetable dyes collected from the indigenous plant life. She opened a successful shop on Madison Avenue in New York that sold her designs and weaving. She designed costumes for the dancer Isadore Duncan and had the honor of decorating President Truman's yacht. It is stated that she became a recluse in her later years. In the Foxfire 2 book there is a chapter devoted to "From Raising Sheep to Weaving Cloth". Many of the spinning wheels used in the illustrations were from the Jay Hambidge Art Foundation as it was then called. Elliott Wigginton, who pioneered the Foxfire concept, was a protégé of Mary Hambidge
The Hambidge Center consists of seven cottage/studios and the main Rock House which has two guest rooms and a dining room, library/archive center, screened porch and dining pavilion. There is also a ceramic studio with two electric kilns and an outdoor kiln. There is even a performance studio with a Steinway grand. The original weave shed now houses the gallery for folk/fine art and crafts. The seven cottages are for the artists in residency and the main “Rock House” is for group gatherings, dinner, and presentations. Guests are not encouraged during the week but welcomed on the weekends. The evening meals are provided in the dining room and are primarily vegetarian. The cottages also have kitchens. To become an artist in residence, you must be in the creative arts: writing, poetry, visual arts, music composition, performance, dance and environmental arts. To apply for residency you submit an application form along with a sample of your work or letters of recommendation. The applications are reviewed by a committee of professionals in each field. Most of the cost of the artist residency is underwritten by the Foundation. The artist is only charged $125.00 per week and the average length of residency is 3-4 weeks.
The Center Director, Dimmie Ziegler, wanted everyone to know that a special event is occurring in June. A Children's Art & Sciences Program will be offered for children ages 9-12. Monday - Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Trish Haitz, the Environmental Education Director at Rabun Gap and Amada Wilson, Environmental Science Teacher at Rabun Gap will be in charge of the program.
The Hambidge Gallery/Shop which housed the original Weave Shed is filled with contemporary crafts and folk art. Pottery, textiles, paintings, furniture, jewelry and books can be purchased. The staff is willing to share time and knowledge with visitors. The Gallery/Shop will be moved on June 1st to the Rabun Gap Log Cabin Craft Shop on Hwy.441, across from the school. It will be opening on June 1 with a pottery show. It will be nice to see our old Craft Shop utilized in this manner again. Be sure and visit during Homecoming.
The Hambidge Gallery will be utilized to house the history of the Center and for special shows for the current artists in residence. When you visit the Hambidge Gallery, the area where the cottages are located is off limits. A very friendly cat welcomes you to the gallery. The cat looked well cared for and fed. Maybe this cat has a taste for goldfish? Well the vegetarian diet in the dining room does allow for fish.
The rock spring house is very picturesque and probably functioned as a storage place for milk, butter, eggs, etc. in the early years of the Center. The interior certainly indicates that it did.
Information for the above was obtained from the website - http://www.hambidge.org and the book The Georgia Conservancy’s Guide to the North Georgia Mountains
One of the most interesting aspects of the Hambidge Center is the water powered grist mill. The mill is located on Barker’s Creek further down Betty’s Creek Road from the Hambidge Center. The Barker’s Creek Mill is very beautiful and rustic and if you have not seen it, you should make a point to visit. It has been restored three times. The last time was 1988.
The miller’s name is Lawrence Holden and his assistant is Woody Malot. Mr. Malot is also the Botany and Physics teacher at Rabun Gap. Both these gentlemen obviously take great pride in the mill and will share their knowledge of milling and the Hambidge Center with you if asked.
The miller normally grinds grain on the first Saturday of each month. He has a sign over the mill door which reads -
“Mill Hours - 1st Saturday of each month - noon till 4 PM.
On the inside of the mill you find the signs stating the fees for milling. The miller’s toll is 1/4 of the flour, grits, etc. or $10.00 per hour without the toll. The sign over the “What we got Today” board reads,
This probably makes a whole lot of sense to another miller. You can also purchase the products they have milled. There is nothing finer than coarse ground grits.
A visit to Hambidge Center leaves you with a sense of the serenity of the place. The valley that follows Betty’s Creek is beautiful and the Hambidge Center’s acreage has been carefully preserved and protected. The public can participate in wildflower walks and nature hikes by contacting the Center and signing up for the activities offered. Once you visit the Gallery and sign the guest list, you can request to be informed of activities that might interest you. The Hambidge Center is a unique place, born out of love and designed to allow creativity to flourish with nature’s help.
Photos 2002 by Beverly Guthrie Lougher