During Dollywood’s off-season, I love to give you a peek behind the curtain at all the work in progress. And though there are several construction projects happening right now, some teams are business as usual. Our craftsmen, for example, continue to produce hand-made wares even when there’s no audience. Craft demonstrations may draw you in as you’re walking through Craftsman’s Valley, but these makers aren’t creating art just for a show. They sell their goods. You can walk out of one of our craft locations with a unique, no-one-has-the-exact-same-keepsake-as-you kind of gift. Items in Craftsman’s Valley are quite popular, so to keep up with demand, our teams utilize the off-season as a time to get caught up on producing goods for the coming season.
I stopped in to check out what was going on in four shops. Here’s what I learned:
Old Flames Candles
In the Old Flames Candles shop, our candle-makers were spread out and busy! Crafters use the off-season to make all dip candles because the creation process takes up so much space. Dip Your Own Candles is a popular hands-on activity that many of our guests enjoy. You select the shape, and then you choose in which color(s) wax you dip it. Using candy molds or cookie cutter type tins, our candle-makers pour the wax, but then have to trim the excess by hand.
I know my little boys would love the tractors—shop hosts told me you’d want to dunk the tractor upside down in green (or whatever color you prefer) to coat the body of the machine, and then turn it the other way and dip it in black for the wheels!
You may think of our cut and curl candles when it comes to Dollywood crafts. Because it makes a great demonstration, we often make these as guests look on and can ask questions. We do work on custom orders in the off-season, though!
Valley Forge Blacksmith
When I stepped across the street to say hello to our blacksmiths at Valley Forge Blacksmith, they were finishing up the 2022 limited-edition knives. Each year, this team designs and crafts 200 of these special railroad spike knives. Once they’re sold out, they’re out. It’s hard to say if these or the Make Your Own Knife is more popular.
They’re already planning next year’s limited-edition design!
Now that the 2022 knives are done, our blacksmiths will shift their off-season attention to building up their stock of other goods. Like the candle-makers, they also take care of custom orders as they come in.
Smoky Creek Leather
At Smoky Creek Leather, I was surprised to find that our leather craftsmen haven’t started on belts yet: they’re too busy making hand-made leather hats! These brown and black hats fly off the shelves. (I heard the dark brown is the most popular.)
Each piece is sewn together including the hand-braided trimming. When the hat is made, the craftsman sets it on a head mold so it’s ready for your head when you buy it!
Mountain Blown Glass
My last stop was Mountain Blown Glass. There, I learned our craftsmen use the off-season to make small items because the creation process isn’t as good for demonstrations. I watched the craftsman make a glass rose.
Roses, paper weights and ornaments—thousands of ornaments!—are made while guests are away. All of these items sell very well, so they make as much as they can before Dollywood reopens for the new season.
I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look. Be sure to stop by our craft shops to appreciate the works of art the next time you’re at Dollywood!