10 Places to Shop for One-of-a-Kind North Carolina Gifts
From a handblown glass ornament that shines like a jewel to a coveted coffee mug perfect for Christmas morning, the best-loved gifts are the ones that can’t be replaced. We collected 10 of our favorite galleries and craft shops across the state for local, handmade treasures that you can’t find anywhere else.
STARworks’ glass studio may be located in a tiny town near the center of the state, but it’s known nationally for its artists’ intricate, handblown creations. Come December, classic glass ornaments take center stage, and thousands of the dangling decorations in every color, shape, and size — each handmade by a STARworks artist or intern — hang in the gallery for the Holiday Ornament Sale. “Some are more textured than others, and there are plenty of nice jewel tones to pick from,” says Gallery Manager Jamie Carter. “We have a color and a texture for everyone.”
STARworks intern Carissa Coy forces air through a rubber hose into the molten glass she’s shaping into an ornament. photograph by Jerry Wolford & Scott Muthersbaugh
Pea Island Art Gallery
Behind the bright red doors of this eye-catching building on Hatteras Island, there’s a gallery bursting with handmade goods made by more than 100 Outer Banks artists. Owner and resident artist Kimmie Robertson especially loves the reflective acrylic-and-wire stars made by her longtime friend, artist Kazuko Fuller. “The staff and I know a tremendous amount about the artists,” Robertson says. “They are friends and family, so we have the unique ability to share with people what goes into handcrafting something.
It’s really an immersive experience.”
Artist Kimmie Robertson’s shop, Pea Island Art Gallery in Salvo, is housed in a replica of the nearby 1874 Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station. photograph by Baxter Miller
Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery
What started as a small collective of local artists almost 60 years ago has exploded into a gallery of nearly 400 artists in Winston-Salem’s arts district. The perfect gift for Christmas morning? The coveted Piedmont Craftsmen mugs made by the group’s eclectic mix of artists. “It’s a really good heirloom gift,” says Gallery Director Chris Asuncion-Haynes. “A lot of people get them from a parent or older relative and then pass them on.”
You’ll find everything from handmade birdhouses to linens to jewelry at this gallery’s gift shop in historic downtown Hillsborough. Co-manager Joanne Ivey says that the hand-painted silk scarves, made locally, are an especially thoughtful gift during the holidays. “They are works of art,” Ivey says. “Absolutely exquisite.”
It’s not just the name that’s “one of a kind” — this charming gallery lives in the 1922 Micaville Country Store, complete with original hardwood floors and windows, and it’s flush with handmade pottery, jewelry, lamps, paintings, woodworkings, and other goods created by more than 170 local artists. Be sure to check out the ceramic coffee mugs, owner Kari Weaver says — with 25 different artists selling their own renditions, there’s one for everyone on your Christmas list.
The OOAK Art Gallery is housed in a 1922 country store in Burnsville. photograph by Tim Robison
Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft
Just steps from the Scuppernong River, this gallery and fine-craft teaching studio features works that reflect the natural beauty of eastern North Carolina and the surrounding Inner Banks. During the holidays, enameled vessels made by metalsmith Harlan Butt — who studies national parks and surrounding natural areas to create his art — are especially prized. “What makes the gallery special is that most of the artists represented have a close relationship with the space,” Executive Director Marlene True says.
Don’t miss the stained-glass Arabian stars at this regional artists’ gallery and visitor center located inside the old 1926 Stecoah School in Robbinsville. Plus, learn about the area’s original artisans at the Cherokee history exhibit on-site.
This 125-year-old craft shop on the Blue Ridge Parkway — located inside the Folk Art Center — is the oldest of its kind in the country and has been an Asheville tradition for generations. The shop also is home to a western North Carolina holiday staple: colorful glass ornaments handblown by Jeff McKinley, a local artist and member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. When viewed in the right light, they seem to glow. “People come in and start buying them as gifts,” says Shop Manager Beth Renne. “But they usually end up leaving with a bunch for themselves.”
In addition to browsing Allanstand Craft Shop at the Folk Art Center, visitors can explore a museum and watch live artist demonstrations. photograph by Meredith Travel Marketing
In the heart of downtown Asheboro, the Randolph Arts Guild’s gift shop features works by dozens of local and regional artists. Pick up a new ornament for your Christmas tree or sweet, handcrafted wooden toys for your littlest friends and family.
The country’s oldest Native American cooperative, founded in 1946, is dedicated to preserving the rich arts and crafts traditions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee. Find authentic baskets, pottery, and wood and stone carvings, plus beautifully detailed beadwork: Colorful symbols are woven onto barrettes and earrings, belts and ties, and sewn with painstaking care, one bead a time.
To commemorate our 90th anniversary, we’ve compiled a time line that highlights the stories, contributors, and themes that have shaped this magazine — and your view of the Old North State — using nine decades of our own words.