Gina Wheeler, a broom maker, grew up in Hendersonville in an artistic family. She apprenticed for several years with broom maker Alton Blankenship, learning directly from him the art that Blankenship learned from his father in Rutherford County. Blankenship spoke admiringly of his protégé’s work. She often accompanied him and assisted him at his demonstration engagements until his passing in August, 2011.
Michael Wheeler is the great-grandson of Lark Wheeler, a prominent Yancey and Buncombe County chair maker of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many of Lark Wheeler’s chairs have survived in the community, and Michael has assembled a large collection. Michael uses many of the same materials and techniques that his grandfather did in assembling the chairs—including the use of green legs and dried rungs, and wooden pegs rather than nails. Michael learned to weave chair bottoms from Hunter Maney, an elderly Barnardsville resident. In June and July, as Maney taught him, Michael goes into the woods to “ross,” or strip the bark from, hickory trees, which he stores in rolls to use for chair bottoms.
Michael Wheeler is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
Gina and Michael Wheeler are available to demonstrate and teach broom and chair making.