Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Steve Perry, August 4, 2011

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - How Perry got his start in the craft industry

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Partial Transcript: The interviewer is Amanda Fickey and the interviewee is Steve Perry, manager at the 4-H Mountain Craft Center located in McCreary County, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Perry explains how he built furniture and kitchen supplies on the weekends and was a trucker during the week. However, the company eventually shut down, which forced Perry out. Conveniently, the 4-H craft center was needing a new manager and Perry began working with them. Perry also talks about giving away certain pieces for free. Perry explains how he gifts certain pieces to the elderly in the community. He uses reclaimed wood from barns and other destroyed buildings. This cuts down on costs and helps the environment. Perry explains how they price the crafts according to what the community can afford, not what would be needed to turn a profit.

Keywords: Appalachian arts; Artisans; Craft centers; Crafts; Folk art; Recycled wood; Rural towns

Subjects: Arts and crafts; McCreary County (Ky.)

00:09:18 - 4-H craft center

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Partial Transcript: Okay tell me a little bit more about the--how it's structured, how things work here.

Segment Synopsis: The craft center was first started by the 4-H Club. It was the first craft center built by 4-H in the country. It was initially used just so the locals could make a little bit of money here and there. The land that was used to construct the craft center was donated from a larger farm. In the mid 1980s, 4-H had become less and less involved until finally the crafters association, a local group, took over. Perry says that this is the only 4-H craft center that is still running. Perry explains how he prices crafts by simply adding 35% to the price the artisan wants to make. This way, the craft center can make enough to operate and it doesn't take away from the artisan. Finally, Perry explains how most artisans are not doing it professionally; they are either retired or have a full time job, meaning that the crafts they create are mostly made out of passion for the craft itself.

Keywords: 4-H Camp; Appalachian art; Artisans; Craft centers; Crafts; Folk art; Rural towns

Subjects: Arts and crafts; McCreary County (Ky.)

00:20:44 - Craft center business

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Partial Transcript: Well let me ask you something, the people that come in that purchase stuff from you, do you think that they purchase it because they know that it was handmade?

Segment Synopsis: Perry discuses the idea that people understand and want to buy locally made products, especially products made in their own community. Perry also explains how they have no intention to build the craft center into a large business like Berea, instead they want to stay small. You can get more one on one time with people and instructors that way. Other than Perry, there are two other employees that are volunteers. The craft center is a non-profit and a lot of work goes into keeping the building running and working. Perry is paid by commission from the markup of the items at the craft center, meaning he is paid based off of sales. Perry explains how the volunteers are a part of a state assistance program where they work at places like the craft center and they receive government funding in the form of a paycheck.

Keywords: Appalachian art; Artisans; Craft centers; Crafts; Folk art; Volunteer programs

Subjects: Arts and crafts; Berea (Ky.); McCreary County (Ky.)

00:32:20 - Jobs in McCreary County / Challenges the craft center faces

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Partial Transcript: Um, so what do you think are the main--for people that have those 9 to 5 jobs, what are they primarily working in? What kind of jobs do you have in McCreary County?

Segment Synopsis: Perry talks about the types of jobs available are in McCreary County, Kentucky. He says there aren't many options except for a Kroger and a tent factory. Next, Perry talks about some challenges that the craft center faces. The first thing he mentions is the poor economy in the area which prevents them from doing much advertising. Perry also talks about the board of directors of the craft center and who they are and what they do.

Keywords: Appalachian art; Artisans; Crafts; Folk art; Jobs

Subjects: Arts and crafts; Employment--Kentucky; McCreary County (Ky.)

00:38:09 - Artisans at the craft center

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Partial Transcript: Okay. But now, basically, the artists that you have, they're selling out of their homes.

Segment Synopsis: Perry talks about the artisans who bring their crafts to the craft center. Perry talks about one artisan who competes in craft fair competitions and always wins. On the other hand, there are artisans Perry will have to turn away from the craft center because the craftsmanship is not up to the quality standards. Perry explains how some things people make are rustic looking and people may misinterpret it as being not well built when in reality they are more sturdy and rugged than you would expect.

Keywords: Appalachian arts; Artisan centers; Artisans; Craft centers; Crafts; Folk arts

Subjects: Arts and crafts; McCreary County (Ky.)

00:46:38 - Perry's son / Selling pieces

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Partial Transcript: Well, I tell you what, let me, let me go back to thinking about these things.

Segment Synopsis: Perry talks about his son and how he got started making crafts. Perry taught his son the "primitive method" so that he could have someone helping him but soon his son learned the "traditional method" which he preferred and honed. Perry talks about how many of the pieces they sell there would cost three times more in Gatlinburg.

Keywords: Appalachian arts; Arts education; Crafts; Folk arts; Primitive crafts; Rural towns; Rustic crafts

Subjects: Arts and crafts; Gatlinburg (Tenn.); McCreary County (Ky.)

00:56:54 - McCreary County, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well, is there anything, Steve, that we didn't talk about in regard to the Center or even McCreary County...

Segment Synopsis: Perry finishes the interview by talking about why people should come see McCreary County and all the amazing natural beauty in the area. He explains how the parks service owns 70% of the county and it is all protected. Perry says they are also working with a group in Somerset, Kentucky to get some educational workshops started.

Keywords: Appalachian arts; Craft centers; Crafts; Folk arts; Tourism

Subjects: Arts and crafts; McCreary County (Ky.)