Qualla Arts and Crafts: Gift Inspiration for the Holidays | Cherokee, NC

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Qualla Arts and Crafts: Gift Inspiration for the Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner, and there’s no better place to shop for unique gifts in Cherokee than at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual. Whether you’re looking for a beautiful souvenir or a gift for someone special, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual has the best selection of traditional Cherokee baskets, pottery, jewelry, beadwork, wood and stone carvings, and more, all made by independent artists in the area.

Nation’s Oldest Native American Co-op

Founded in 1946 with a mission to preserve and advance Cherokee arts, Qualla is also the nation’s oldest Native American Cooperative, with more than 250 artist members. In 1989, the co-op expanded into the site it is today, with a light-filled retail space, a members’ gallery, and a significant permanent collection.

With so much to choose from, it’s impossible to leave the store empty handed! Here’s a sampling of some of the fine goods available at Qualla Arts and Crafts that will appeal to anyone on your holiday list. After shopping, be sure to give yourself enough time to check out the gallery in the back, which traces the history of crafts in Cherokee from the 1930s to the present day.

Baskets Galore

From blue ribbon winning baskets that make a big statement, to miniature baskets you can hold in your palm, Qualla Arts and Crafts has the best selection of authentic Cherokee baskets that you can find in one place.

Louise Goings, (shown above), has been a member of the cooperative since the late 1960s, and is one of the master crafters with work at Quallla. Louise grew up in Cherokee as one of eight children. She learned to make baskets when she was only ten years old by watching her mother. Like her mother and the generations before her, Louise starts by gathering her own materials, including white oak cut into thin strips or “splits” and uses plant roots to make dyes.

As Louise’s mother would always say, this is what a basket maker does. A “basket weaver” uses materials from someone else, but a “basket maker” does everything from the beginning to the end.

Historically, the Cherokee made baskets that were beautiful as well as functional. There were baskets made to gather and store crops such as corn and beans, and baskets for fishermen to transport and store fish. 

Common materials to make baskets include white oak and river cane for weaving, and bloodroot and walnut for natural dyes. Visit Qualla Arts and Crafts and you can see several hundred examples of baskets drawing from ancient Cherokee traditions, using these very same materials.

Cherokee Beadwork

Traditionally, Cherokee beadworkers would use all-natural materials such as dried berries, gray Indian corn, and bones from wild animals to create beaded clothing and accessories. Today, Cherokee bead artists use stainless steel needles, flax thread, and glass beads to create their wares. Many of the patterns used are inspired by and created to reflect Cherokee stories, beliefs, principles, and community values.

The beaded belts below are made with leather and seed beads. Each bead is sewn one at a time onto the previous bead, which allows the thread to pass through the bead twice. Should the belt break, the double threading ensures a clean break, which can be easily mended.​
Other examples of beadwork you can find at Qualla include bracelets, cuffs, necklaces, and earrings by various artists.

Check out the amazing colors and precise handiwork!​

Single and multi-strand beaded necklaces like the ones below are an affordable, unique gift made by local Cherokee artists.

Handcarved Masks

Carved masks have a rich history in Cherokee tradition, and are still worn by traditional dancers in productions like Unto These Hills. In some Cherokee dances, masks are worn to conceal the identity of the dancers from spectators. In other dances, masks are only worn by the lead dancer, or to identify the type of dance.

Masks on display and for purchase at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual include “booger masks” which were used to signify intruders during ritual dances, and “wildcat masks” used in ancient times for turkey hunting.

Open Year Round

Season: Open year round. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Winter hours: (September–May): 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday;

9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Closed Sundays in January and February.

Location: 645 Tsali Blvd. (Across the street from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian)

Phone: 828.497.3103

Admission: Showroom and gallery are free and open to the public during regular business hours.

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