Urn Art in the Appalachians

Urn Art in the Appalachians

We’d like to share our experience with you about being an Urn Artist in rural America. We’ve lived in the NC Great Smoky Mountain region for nearly 20 years and find it a most inspiring and down to earth place to live and work. We are surrounded by the world’s oldest mountains, the Smokies and Appalachian Chain. Just that fact alone makes is a very grounding place to be. Nature abounds everywhere we look from our Appalachia Urns workshop, housed in an authentic tobacco barn. Wildlife, trees, gardens, wildflowers, farm animals and wildlife are everywhere….how could we not be inspired? The pictures in this blog are what we get to see when we go to work each day. We hope you’ll enjoy them, giving you a peak into our lives.

Barn      cows     horses

pump house

We get to work with natures medium,….wood. We use down trees and native hardwoods, such as maple, black walnut, cherry and the like to craft our urns.  Working with a natural product is very inspiring as the wood so often dictates how it should be turned to best highlight its qualities.

Despite the remoteness of our area, we are surrounded by many artists from potters, candle makers, jewelry makers and the like. All of the artist really support each other and enjoy having connections with other like-minded friends and neighbors.

In addition, it feels good to do work that is service, not labor. Crafting urns is very heartfelt work. We are providing a vessel of beauty, created with reverence, to people during a very challenging time. We hope that our urns can bring them a sense of peace knowing they are memorializing their loved one in a beautiful and thoughtful way.

We feel very blessed to do the work that we do, where we do it. We hope more and more people will support the many hand-crafted artists from rural areas. Most are not making tons of money as they might if they had a gallery in a popular city, but are living their dream, living in a way they want, and living their “right livelihood”.


How The Urns Are Made

Wood is selected.

We use only native hard woods from the Great Smoky Mountain/Appalachia region, such as black walnut, cherry, maple and the like.  We do not take any trees down for the purpose of wood turning, only trees that have come down on their own, or ones that have had to be excavated.

Wood is cut.


The manageable size blocks are stored until it is dry enough for turning. Our tobacco barn is the perfect environment for this stage of the process.

The wood-turning process begins.

A piece of wood is selected for the appropriate urn size needed.  It is then mounted on the lathe and turned with various tools/gouges/chisels into the desired form.







The next phase is to hollow the urn on the lathe to the correct size.

Hancrafted urns made on a lathe






The Finishing Steps.

Once the shape is complete, the urn is removed from the lathe for the finishing process. The urn is then sanded smoothly with several grits of sandpaper, progressively finer and finer to allow a flawless finish. Several coats of high quality gloss urethane is applied, with careful drying and sanding in between coats.

After the final sanding  the urn is waxed and inspection of the urn is done before shipping.

Final Notes.

Our Wood Turned Urns are all hand-crafted individually, with care by artist Robert Woods.  These urns are not mass produced. Though we have a line of urns each turns out similar in style but is truly unique and a signed original. Shapes, sizes, grains of wood will vary slightly as often the wood dictates how the urn must be turned on the lathe.

Wood-turned urns are much like a “thumbprint”, no two are alike. We do not remove natural occurrences in the wood such as small markings, spalting, small cracks that were part of the growth of the tree, lines created by insects, mineral deposits in the wood (things that would not affect the functionality or longevity of the product). It is that same thumbprint that makes each product truly one of a kind with its own character. Each hand-crafted item is as unique as the loved one you are memorializing. Each piece is special! You do not get this individuality when your product comes off of “an assembly line”. Many thanks for supporting the hand-crafted artist.

Robert Woods’ studio is housed in an authentic Appalachia Tobacco Barn in the Smoky Mountains of NC.Barn


Why Choose Cremation Over a Traditional Burial?

Cremation is becoming a more popular option for many people. The reasons are varied, but here are a few benefits:

  • The thought of spending eternity in a sentimental location is more preferential than a cemetery burial.  This could include a special place such as a yard at home, or a place where many happy times have been spent, or a mountain or lake location.
  • Cremation provides for a compact size of the remains. Urns come in many different styles and can be designed for in the home or in the garden, on the mantle or the gazebo.
  • Cremation is less expensive than traditional burial. Depending on what part of the country you live in, cremation averages about a third of the cost of a traditional funeral with embalmed body and casket.
  • Cremation is much friendlier to the environment especially without the chemicals that are used in embalming. You can also purchase urns that are made from recycled materials such as wood.

For many years cremation was not considered appropriate disposal of  human remains by certain religious institutions. Many religious views have changed and the number of cremations has increased.

Choosing cremation is a very personal decision, and making an educated decision is available with pre-planning and education.

Source: old blog