Handmade Crafts


South Mountain Crafts serves as the marketing name for the many products derived from the vocational training programs at the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center, a state operated non-profit residential facility serving persons with developmental disabilities, located in Morganton, North Carolina. Being one of four such facilities in North Carolina it serves the Western 35 counties of Western North Carolina one of the national hubs for craft interests in America.

The JIRDC was established in 1963 to serve primarily school age children but as students aged out of school into adulthood work became the primary focus for training opportunities. Early work assignments entailed piece rate assembly tasks with production and good work habits being the focus for training. However, in the early 80s the shift in work themes saw a change to service related jobs and more entrepreneurial oriented endeavors allowing residents to pursue tasks they were excited about doing. Residents began showing enthusiasm and pride toward the finished products they helped build and soon realized they could select the things they wished to work on during the day. Soon local artisans were hired to be instructors bringing their extensive skills each day to model and work together as mentors to the residents. All jobs were task analyzed and procedures sequenced with residents working alongside artisans in a group oriented approach allowing everyone opportunity to participate in the completion of each product.

Gradually the curriculum expanded to include the finer aspects of furniture building; throwing, molding and glazing pottery; floor loom weaving utilizing selvedge, loopers and rags; arranging and decorating with floras; concocting ingredients for soaps, bath salts, lotions; decorative yard art, nature habitats; and a multitude of ornaments for the holiday seasons. The variety of items created approaches several hundred with all items carried through the South Mountain Stores with special orders available on some items. The net result has been an elevated level of excitement in seeing someone help in the creation of a beautiful piece of art or craft that is highly valued in the market place.

The hope that many of these individuals can learn these skills to a level where they can become recognized as a potter, weaver, furniture builder, florist or whatever trade they wish to pursue warms the hearts of the many staff at JIRDC.