Photo courtesy of the artist.
Types of Artistry
Storyteller, naturalist, craft demonstrator
Union Mills, NC (Rutherford County)
Doug Elliott was raised in Maryland where he developed a passion for the natural world that eventually brought him to the North Carolina mountains where he has lived for almost thirty years. Doug interviewed, befriended, and apprenticed with a number of older tradition bearing mountain folks. Today, Doug gives public performances, workshops, and other presentations using knowledge and experience collected from these tradition bearers.
Doug was always interested in nature, and he collected many critters as a youngster. As he matured, he focused on wild herbs and medicinal plants—a passion that led him on numerous trips to the southern Appalachian Mountains in the mid-1970s and to eventually settle in western North Carolina. He became acquainted with Yancey County natives, Theron and Doris Edwards, who taught him a great deal about plants, nature lore and traditional mountain ways. The Edwards practice a number of traditional crafts including quilting, woodcarving, rug making, broom making, and several types of basketry. Doug apprenticed for years with them and together they received a National Endowment for the Arts, Folk Art Apprenticeship Grant to make baskets.
From Paul and Ben Geouge, also in Yancey County, Doug learned how to make poplar bark baskets, a practice he continues today. Doug has taught a number of workshops and classes on how to gather and prepare materials to make several different kinds of baskets. About twenty years ago, Doug moved to Rutherford County where he lives today with his wife and son. He continues to seek out the traditional wisdom of traditional elders. The stories, songs, and folklore he has heard, the observations he has made, and the natural history he has researched combine to make lively, entertaining, and educational programs.
Doug is a very experienced public performer. He presents programs at festivals, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and schools from Canada to the Caribbean. He has been a featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival and has lectured and performed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and conducted workshops for the Smithsonian Institution. He teaches classes and workshops in basket making and woodworking, particularly making poplar bark basket, woven baskets, and cattail hats. He typically gives a presentation that includes storytelling, plant and animal lore, and also music that draws on his skills as a champion harmonica player from the Fiddlers Grove festival in Union Grove, North Carolina.