Virginia Highlands Festival - Abingdon, Virginia

Recently, I had the wonderful experience of traveling north to the Appalachian Mountains. The Virginia Highlands Festival in the quaint little town of Abingdon, Virginia was my destination point, and I was fortunate enough to spend three days perusing artwork at the ten day festival.

Loretta Burton-Youngman

“Please touch the Art!” was the first thing that Loretta, of Indigo Plus, said to me when I entered her tent. Her textured paintings were begging to be felt, so I followed her enthusiastic commands and touched away!

Having lived in many countries around the world, and a native of North Carolina, Loretta currently lives in Florida. She’s an internationally known and award winning watercolorist, and attributes the success of her beautiful creations to her extensive travel.

I enjoyed hanging out and chatting with Loretta and viewing all of her work. She explained to me the process of making her textured paintings, and she had one technique that made her work look like it had honeycomb attached to it. Since I’m a beekeeper, I yelled out ‘sold!’ the minute I saw it.

If you have the opportunity to run across Loretta at an art festival, make sure you stop and see her amazing work…and don’t forget that you can touch it, too! You can also find Loretta’s artwork on her website,

David Alexander

I found David, tucked away between other outstanding artists, inside the Main Tent at the festival. He had just sold a large painting and it appeared that some of his customers had their eyes on another one. Not only was he a hit at this show, it appeared that he was also a favorite around town.

Originally from California, David made his way to the East Coast via the U.S. Navy. He calls Abingdon his home now and the locals are happy about that. He sets up to sell his work at the local Farmer’s market every week, and sometimes comes home close to empty-handed on those days. He’s definitely a hit!

Painting since grade school, David prefers using watercolors, but also works in oils. He draws the inspiration for his paintings from the mountains, farms, and local landscapes. His work is simply beautiful!

David doesn’t have a website, but if you’re in need of a new addition to your wall, you can find his work at the local Farmer’s market in Abingdon…or just ask any of the locals out on the street how to get in touch with him…they all know him!

Helen Bowman

I could not get enough of viewing the work of Helen Bowman Designs! Her booth inside the Main Tent was so warm and inviting, and after I met and talked to Helen, it was apparent that she’s just one of those ladies who takes her charm and warmth with her everywhere she goes.

An artist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Helen makes stunning jewelry out of antique china, which she lovingly calls ‘Chinawear’. I examined each pendant, necklace, earring set, and bracelet at least six times, people! Maybe more! When I say I couldn’t get enough, I meant it! She also has a line called ‘Lace ‘n Glass’ where she uniquely frames vintage lace under glass…not to mention her line of typewriter jewelry. Whew, the lady has it all!

The Virginia Highlands Festival is the only festival that Helen attends all year long. She is a small cottage industry and enjoys selling her pieces wholesale to quaint boutiques around her hometown.

Helen likes to refer to her work as “Creative ReUse”. Since she is also an antique dealer, she has the opportunity to find some amazing pieces to turn into artwork. Helen will be an antique vendor at the Bayou Lafourche Antiques Show in Thibodaux, Louisiana on September 6th, 7th, and 8th, so if you’re in the area, stop by and see her. She plans to have her ‘Chinawear’ with her!

Robyn Willman

It was standing room only inside the tent of Sneedville, Tennessee artist, Robyn Willman, of Harmonic Journeys. Her funky tree chimes, one of a kind jewelry, and antique silverware creations were drawing in fans by the dozens and I was just as blown away as everyone else.

Robyn has been creating her wonderful chimes since the early 1980’s. She uses hand-carved natural stones, vintage jewelry, silverware and metal in her unique pieces. One of the coolest features of each chime is that she finds vintage metal pieces, such as old roller skates, copper pots, and horseshoes, to use as the tops from which all the beads, stones, and silverware hang.

It took me a good hour to decide which one of her tree chimes was going to make its way back home in my sweet little hands. My problem was that I wanted them all! The things this lady can do with antique silverware are simply stunning.

Robyn only uses Bali and Thai sterling when making her one of a kind jewelry. Her main goal is to produce quality pieces and to be different from all the rest. Well, my groovy sister, you accomplished that! We love it all!

Here are the next few festivals where you can find Harmonic Journeys: White Oak Basket Festival (Sept 14-15, Woodburg, Tn), Creative Arts Guild A&C Fest (Sept 21-22, Dalton, Ga), and Exchange Place (Sept 28-29, Kingsport, Tn.)

Jamie Estes

You can never have enough handmade soap is my motto. Especially soaps made out of essential oils and colored from clays, herbs, and spices. Meet artist, Jamie Estes, of Thistle Ridge Soap….one of life’s simple pleasures.

Jamie lives in Abingdon, and has been making soap for 15 years. Having started her company when she lived in South Carolina, she travels the Southeast and attends about 24-30 shows a year.

I don’t know who can walk into a tent filled with soap and not walk away with any, and apparently everyone else had the same thought. A returning customer from years past came in and said she needed to “stock up because she was plumb out!”

There were Loofah Scrubs and Lavender Scrubs to ooooh and ahhhhh over, as well as all of the wonderful soaps and soaks! You could choose from Wildflower, Woodstock, Evergreen, Smiling Dog Soap, Coffee soap…and ‘The Kitchen Bar’ which takes scents, such as garlic and onions, off of your hands. She also has a ‘Mechanic’s Magic’ pumice soap to help cut grease. I couldn’t walk out without buying some Loofah Soap and some Lavender Body Soak. Dang! You know I’m smellin’ good, my friends.

You can find Jamie’s wonderful soaps online at or you can also find her on facebook at

John Scroggin

Roswell, Georgia artist, John Scroggin, was set up behind the Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum and dressed in Colonial Virginia attire. He travels all over the Southeast to participate in re-enactments, trade fairs, and Historical festivals.

John has been blacksmithing for over 10 years, and specializes in reproduction and early restoration, as well as functional art. He had many things for sale, but I had my eye on the ‘Dinner Bell’ that he made…how apropos for the time period. I’m still mad at myself for not buying one, but unfortunately I don’t have anyone to call home for dinner any more!

Along with many others, I stood and watched as John pounded steel, fired it, pounded it, and fired it some more…repeatedly for about 15 minutes…just to get one little nail! That’s a lot of work for one little nail! Oh, to grow up in Colonial Virginia!

If you live in Georgia, he welcomes anyone to come and visit his shop that’s located behind the Old Mill in Historic Roswell. He also teaches blacksmithing classes at John C. Campbell Folk School. John’s website is Check him out!

I’m more than thrilled that I was able to hang out in the incredibly artsy town of Abingdon, Virginia for a few days and meet so many great artists. Everyone in the town is so hospitable and kind! Yep, I think we need to put this festival on our list of “Can’t Miss”…because I know I’ll be back next year!

Folks, the most unbelievable things are at your local fine art or craft shows if you just have a look. Also visit often, and

"Come See What Amazing Things Your Neighbors Are Making"©


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