Made in the South Awards

2013 Style & Design Category

A second-generation builder keeps the old-time banjo tradition alive

Photo: Tara Donne

Style & Design Category Winner

Product: Open-back banjo
Made in: Brevard, NC
Est.: 1996

These days, center stage at the Opry seems to be dominated by bluegrass banjos. But long before Earl Scruggs popularized the three-finger method, the driving rhythms of the clawhammer style echoed throughout the South. Cedar Mountain has built open-backs for some of the finest clawhammer pickers in the business, including four-time Grammy winner David Holt, and second-generation builder Tim Gardner is carrying on the old-time tradition. To craft the tone rim of his signature Vintage line, Gardner uses exotics such as rosewood—arguably one of the most tuneful woods in the world—and then varnishes each by hand to bring out the character and soul of the grain. “I want these to be heirloom-quality instruments,” Gardner says. “Something that can be passed down from generation to generation.”

Price: From $2,000

Style & Design Category Runners-Up

Product: Eyeglasses
Made in: Nashville, TN
Est.: 2013

Wesley Knight made his first pair of eyeglasses in college. Years of research and trial and error later, he launched a collection of twelve frames that are custom fit to each client. For a truly one-of-a-kind creation, Knight also offers bespoke services. “Each bespoke frame finds its inspiration in the client,” he says. “I create a pattern from scratch—actually building it directly from the face.” Based upon the individual’s measurements and style preferences, Knight hand draws an initial design. A frame can minimize a large nose, accentuate cheekbones, emphasize or downplay the eyes. Knight then creates a test frame out of wood, and once he finalizes the design, he cuts the pattern from water buffalo or ox horn before assembling and polishing. He even makes a supple leather case as well crafted as the glasses it protects.

Price: From $700

Product: Foraging tote
Made in: Asheville, NC
Est.: 2010

To create a hold-everything carryall for a local urban homesteading shop, handbag designer and longtime forager Karie Reinertson revisited a design she’d been toying with for years. “I had in my head this perfect wildcrafting bag,” Reinertson says. “But it is such a niche bag, I’d always thought it would just be for me and my friends.” Modern gatherers will appreciate such hardworking features as padded leather straps, a removable canvas liner, adjustable bottom cinches (for corralling twigs and herbs), and pockets sized to hold everything from field guides to floral shears to mushroom knives. But even those who prefer the neighborhood market to the field or forest can put the waxed canvas tote to good use. It doubles as an overnight bag, weekend luggage, or an everyday backpack.

Price: $295

Product: Jewelry
Made in: Asheville, NC
Est.: 2009

Drawing inspiration from North Carolina’s rich craft history, jewelry designer Hannah Ferrara—whose family worked at Greensboro’s Cone Denim for generations—melds rustic mountain style with a clean architectural aesthetic. The result is a collection of elegant earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings that are versatile enough for just about any occasion. Beginning with recycled raw metal, Ferrara hammers, saws, solders, and shapes each piece in her Asheville studio. She’s currently tinkering with new designs, incorporating bits of vintage denim from her grandfather’s collection to honor her family’s textile heritage. “Southerners seem to innately support makers and other creative people in our communities,” Ferrara says. “We have been doing it since before it was a thing.”

Price: From $64