Grovewood Gallery Debuts Craft in Toyland

Friday, October 13, 2017
Elizabeth Swing

Craft in Toyland opens Saturday, November 18th, at Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, just in time for the holidays. This group exhibition will showcase handcrafted toys and games – all American made!

Also on display will be a collection of antique wooden toys from the heyday of Tryon Toy Makers & Wood Carvers, on loan from Tryon, North Carolina resident Rick Dunn. An opening reception will take place on November 18 from 2 – 5pm, free and open to the public. This show will remain on view through December 31, 2017.

Craft in Toyland will feature works by 10 artists and craftspeople from across the country, including toys by local makers Paul Frehe, Greg Krolick, Sarah Owen, and Alicia Williams of Heartwood Rocking Horses. This exhibit will also showcase works by Julia Calhoun, Elizabeth Swing of Emergolde, Joe Godfrey, Delilah Iris, Lumpy Buttons, and Wolfum. All handcrafted toys and games will be available for sale, with the exception of Rick Dunn’s collection of antique toys.

For nearly 20 years, Dunn has been collecting wooden toys made by the renowned Tryon Toy Makers & Wood Carvers, a children’s toy and fine craft company established in 1915 by two enterprising, artistic women: Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale. The Tryon toys were the finest made in the United States at that time, and today, the surviving toys and woodcarvings are highly sought after by collectors.

Before starting Tryon Toy Makers & Wood Carvers, Vance and Yale lived in Asheville’s Biltmore Village, where they, along with Edith Vanderbilt, founded and ran what would become Biltmore Industries, a successful woodworking and weaving business. In 1917, a couple of years after Vance and Yale moved to Tryon, Mrs. Vanderbilt sold the business to Fred Seely, Edwin Wiley Grove’s son-in-law, and it was relocated to a site adjacent to The Grove Park Inn, where Grovewood Gallery is housed today. While learning the ropes of the weaving trade, Seely frequently corresponded with Vance and Yale, seeking advice and also trading information on new fads in techniques.

Today, Julia Calhoun, who is one of the featured artists in Craft in Toyland, is working to keep the Tryon Toy Makers & Wood Carvers’ artisan legacy alive. She is the 4th individual owner of the business and has recently begun bringing the enterprise back with the production of some of the earliest toys designed by Vance and Yale, working from antique sets and photographs. She will be showcasing a reproduction of a wooden circus set, an early item in the company’s history that is extremely rare. “The only one we know of is in the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh,” Julia says. “A second one was located a few years ago in Boston but sold before our local collector could get to it. I had to draw my pieces from a photo of the one in the Museum.”

If you plan on seeing the exhibit, and want to learn more about Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale, you can take a guided history tour, which starts at the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum located next door to Grovewood Gallery. The tour touches on Vance and Yale’s time spent in Asheville, before they relocated to Tryon and founded their new company. Tours are offered Wednesday – Saturday at 1pm and will run through the end of December. You can learn more by visiting www.grovewood.com/history-tours.