A Portrait of Southern Appalachia
- Author(s): Venable, Sam
- Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
- Publication Date: 2000-11-15
- Status: Active
- Available in Paper: Price $25.00 | Buy Now
Hazel Pendley creates heirloom-quality quilts. Ed Ripley wraps bits of fur and feathers into trout flies the size of gnats. Edna Hartong still makes an item that has all but disappeared from the American scene: lye soap.
All of these people, and many more like them, are Appalachians who work with their hands. Journalist Sam Venable and photographer Paul Efird spent four years combing the hills and hollows of Southern Appalachia to find these talented individuals and let them talk about their work. Mountain Hands is an intimate look at more than three dozen such craftspeople and their vocations.
Venable and Efird encountered folks who pursue popular crafts, such as basketweaving and clockmaking. But they found practitioners of other trades—wallpaper hangers and rail splitters, beekeepers and gravediggers—whose work also depends upon dexterity and upon expressing a distinctive Appalachian way of life. Some are college educated, some can barely read and write; some have lived in these hills all their lives, others have only recently come to call them home. Yet each feels bound to the region through a deep sense of belonging, and each owes at least part of his or her livelihood to handwork.
While most of us may think of working with one’s hands as entering computer data, these individuals attest to the perseverance—and appeal—of more traditional ways. Mountain Hands is a celebration in words and photographs of gifted people who understand and appreciate the Appalachian heritage—and who live it every day.
The Author: A fifth-generation southern Appalachian, Sam Venable is a newspaper columnist whose award-winning observations on daily life appear four times a week in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Venable has spent most of his career roaming the highlands of his home state. He and his wife, Mary Ann, also a Tennessee native and UT graduate, live in a log house atop a wooded ridge on the outskirts of Knoxville.
The Photographer: Paul Efird is a native of Rome, Georgia. He holds a degree in biology from Shorter College but has spent his professional career as a news photographer. After working for two newspapers in Georgia, he moved to Tennessee in 1990 and became a staff photographer for the News-Sentinel. Efird is an avid hiker, canoeist, and backpacker. He and his wife, Stephanie, live in Knoxville.