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Announcing NC Handmade — North Carolina’s first online-only marketplace for North Carolina handmade crafts


September 2020


Media contact:

Lauren Sinclair

NC Handmade founder

(828) 278-8858


Announcing NC Handmade — North Carolina’s first online-only marketplace for North Carolina handmade crafts

A mother and son team up to take traditional NC crafts online!

Boone, NC – Founder Lauren Sinclair and her son Shokai Sinclair launched NC Handmade ( to the public early this September. 


Both Lauren and Shokai are designers and entrepreneurs with more than 50 years of experience in the arts between them, and both found themselves jobless after the COVID-19 shutdowns began earlier this year. Lauren had worked for 5 years at Mast General Store’s Rivercross Gallery in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, and she had to make the hard decision to not return to her retail job in Rivercross’s brick-and-mortar store when it reopened in May 2020. Shokai, raised in North Carolina, had worked for 15 years in marketing for arts and environmental nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area and had recently made a career shift to user experience design when hiring freezes brought their tech industry job search to a grinding halt.


COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the market for handmade crafts, which has relied on a business model built around face-to-face interactions. NC Handmade offers artisans and customers to have those same quality interactions — online! Founder Lauren Sinclair says of her motivation to launch NC Handmade: “For years now, I have been percolating the idea of creating an online marketplace where artisans and craftspeople of North Carolina can come together with those who appreciate quality handmade, one-of-a-kind works — and have an affinity for the Old North State and all it offers. COVID-19 was the catalyst to make me realize the time is now to put that thought into action. Many of the traditional ways of meeting to do business are currently limited or unavailable. Artisans need a way to meet customers and customers need a way to experience the crafts that they love.”


NC Handmade is accepting applications from North Carolina artisans, with the $10/month membership fee waived for the first six months to encourage early adopters of the service. Co-Founder Shokai Sinclair says of the open call: “We’re featuring a wide variety of craft traditions on NC Handmade. Whether you’re a potter or a quilter, we encourage you to apply to be one of the pioneer artisans featured in our marketplace. We’re not an Etsy or an Amazon either. We’re curating a truly local experience where artisans’ work won’t be buried among thousands of mass-produced products.” Apply online at

About NC Handmade

North Carolina has a long history of fine artisans providing beautiful and functional pieces for all to use, cherish, and enjoy. Founded by a mother and son team in 2020, NC Handmade provides a place for artisans and patrons to meet and share their joy and appreciation for fine quality, handmade North Carolina crafts. More at

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UPDATED: Upcoming deadlines for COVID-19 relief grants benefitting North Carolina craft artists

Craft artist in studio
Craft artist in studio

UPDATED: Upcoming deadlines for COVID-19 relief grants benefitting North Carolina craft artists

Times being hard for artists is the understatement of the decade! Between sheltering in place and a global recession, artists are struggling to replace lost income. So we thought we’d take one thing off of your plate and research all of the national, state, and local emergency relief grants for artists. Because of unprecedented demand, many grantors have closed their applications. Others are between rounds of funding. But there is still monetary support out there for local artisans!

We have focused here on cash grants currently available to artisans living in North Carolina. Some have deadlines coming up. Some are rolling deadlines. If you know of other grants, please email us. The North Carolina Arts Council also shared this directory of opportunities for artists with us, and they are updating the list weekly.

We gathered this list of grants (in part) by reviewing similar lists compiled by artnet, ARTS North Carolina, and North Carolina Arts CouncilIf you’d like to re-share this list, please credit NC Handmade as a source — as we have done. We are a brand new, local, family-owned North Carolina business that’s dedicated to helping NC artisans to make a living wage in these socially distant times. We appreciate the boost you can give us in search results by linking to this article when you share it.

Thank you 🙂

Funding available to North Carolina individual craft artisans (by county)

All counties

The Adolph & Esther Gottleib Emergency Grant
Rolling 2020 application deadlines (for painters, printmakers, and sculptors only)
Grant amount: $5,000–$15,000

Artists’ Fellowship, Inc.
Rolling 2020 application deadlines (for medical bills only)
No grant amounts have been listed.

Artist Relief
Application deadline: November 18, 2020
Grant amount: $5,000

Arts Leaders of Color Emergency Fund
Rolling 2020 application deadlines (BIPOC artists and arts administrators only)
Grant amount: $200

CERF+ Emergency Assistance
Rolling 2020 application deadlines (for medical expenses only)
Grant amount: $3,000

North Carolina CARES for Art Grants
Application deadline: Varies, with many counties listing a November 9, 2020 deadline
No grant amounts have been listed.

Rauschenberg Medical Emergency Grants
Application deadline: January 5, 2021 (for medical expenses only)
Grant amount: $0–$5,000

Chatham County

CARE: Chatham Artist Relief Effort
Rolling 2020 application deadlines, with decisions made ever Thursday
Grant amount: $50–$250

Durham County

Durham Artist Relief Fund (Northstar Church of the Arts)
Rolling 2020 application deadlines
No grant amounts have been listed.

Durham Arts Council Arts Recovery Fund
Rolling 2020 application deadlines
Grant amount: $0–$500

Madison County

Artist Relief Fund for Madison County
Rolling 2020 application deadlines
Grant amount: $200

Pitt County

Pitt County Arts Relief Fund
Rolling 2020 application deadlines
No grant amounts have been listed.

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This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we #HonorNativeLand

"Whose Land?" photo by jetsonorama

This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we #HonorNativeLand

Between 1776 and 1887, the United States seized over 1.5 billion acres from America’s indigenous people by treaty and executive order. And, according to NCPediaNorth Carolina is home to the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi River and the eighth-largest Native American population in the United States. 

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we want to share a statement acknowledging the traditional inhabitants of North Carolina — on whose land we conduct our business. As NC Handmade was founded in 2020 by two descendants of white European settlers, we believe it’s our responsibility to offer this acknowledgement — and to start out our new business venture off on the path of reconciliation and by being in right relationship with our Indigenous neighbors.

If you are interested in creating your own land acknowledgement statement, we recommend you check out the US Department of Arts and Culture and the Native Governance Center. Both provided helpful guides that got us started.

And if you would like to support North Carolina Indigenous artisans, check out American Indian Made in North Carolina and Qualla Arts and Crafts

We’re working on building connections with Indigenous artisans to be featured on NC Handmade. If you know of anyone who might be interested, send them a link to our artisan application.

Land acknowledgement statement

Every community owes its existence and vitality to generations from around the world who contributed their hopes, dreams, and energy to making the history that led to this moment. Some were brought here against their will, some were drawn to leave their distant homes in hope of a better life, and some have lived on this land for more generations than can be counted. Truth and acknowledgment are critical to building mutual respect and connection across all barriers of heritage and difference. We begin this effort to acknowledge what has been buried by honoring the truth.

As North Carolinians, we stand on the unceded (ie. stolen) ancestral lands of the following tribes*:

We pay respects to their elders past and present. Please take a moment to consider the many legacies of violence, displacement, migration, and settlement that have brought us to our current moment.

* This list doesn’t include the many North Carolina Indigenous tribes lost to genocide, European disease, and forced relocation.

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Our founding story (an interview between a mother and a son)

Lauren Sinclair and Shokai Sinclair

Our founding story (an interview between a mother and a son)

Shokai Sinclair: What’s your history with craft traditions? What drew you to craft?

Lauren Sinclair: I am a knitter and sewist. I have had an affinity for handmade craft as long as I can remember, learning much in the beginning from my mother and grandmother. I love the intimate sense of history and the appreciation for other cultures you acquire through the experience of craft. There’s a connection between the maker and the user in the practicality of every piece an artisan creates.

SS: What are your ties to North Carolina?

LS: I moved to Eastern North Carolina 30 years ago. 17 years ago I invested in a getaway in Boone, North Carolina. Eight years ago I moved to the High Country full time.

SS: What do you find unique about North Carolina — and about North Carolina crafts?

LS: I admire the spirit, variety, and beauty of every region of North Carolina. From anywhere in North Carolina, you are within a few hours of the ocean, the mountains, quiet rural places, and bustling cities. North Carolinians love to share their knowledge of the history of their craft. There is almost a storytelling quality to it that draws you in and transports you to a different time.

SS: Who or what inspires you?

LS: People who persevere in exploring the possibilities, make mistakes, and learn from them.

SS: What made you decide to create NC Handmade?

LS: Years ago, I saw my mother and many of my friends struggling with how to promote themselves. As a graphic designer working in the printing industry and an entrepreneur who had owned a direct mail yarn business, I wanted to use my skills to help solve their problems. Life’s obstacles got in the way, and the time was never right. Now my son is a technology wizard and a great graphic designer/artist. And we both find ourselves at a perfect time and place to put our skills to work and support the craft artisans we appreciate so highly.

SS: What are you looking for when you select handmade crafts for your website?

LS: Variety! I want to show the wide spectrum of handmade crafts that are available in North Carolina. And quality! There is nothing better than holding a finely crafted piece in your hands.

Lauren Sinclair: How do you see the relationship of craft and technology interacting?

Shokai Sinclair: Craft and technology are both designed experiences. And that means that we have the option to design them with elegance and delight as the primary drivers. Or they can be made to maximize consumption. It’s a given now that most of us are required to have computers and mobile phones to accomplish much of what we do in our day-to-day lives. But I don’t think that that’s reason enough to accept that we’re simply servants to our devices — updating our profiles and buying things. That’s where I think technology can learn a lot from the traditional crafts. Many of the crafts we’ve admired for centuries can accomplish much more (and with much more joy) than your typical app or website, and it’s because of that intense focus on the individual’s use of the craft object. Imagine how cool our lives would be if every piece of technology we touched was created with that level of care and focus.

LS: What is it like to visit your home state of North Carolina online?

SS: I’ve lived away from North Carolina for so many years (in California and now Colorado). But I feel a shared sense of pride whenever I encounter another North Carolinian out in the world. And there’s a kind of feral, self-reliant creativity to artists I meet from the Tar Heel State.

LS: Who or what inspires you?

SS: These days, I find it hard to be inspired by anyone who you all would recognize. I am of course inspired by my family. Beyond that, I am inspired by the planet — and by imagining what life will be like for future generations. I am inspired by the innate organic trait of resilience to preserve the balance of life. For example, I recently learned that our sun has gotten hotter over its billions of years of existence, yet our planet’s temperature has remained relatively constant. Our atmosphere adapted to maintain the perfect temperature to preserve life. There’s a will to survive there. And whether you call it evolution or divine providence, it’s pretty remarkable. Similarly, in the past few years, I’ve experienced devastating wildfires, heat waves, and now a pandemic that have profoundly impacted my life. But I feel like I’m also developing new powers of resilience that I never thought I had.

LS: Why are you passionate about creating this community for artisans?

SS: As someone who has learned a fair amount of marketing and digital technology, it’s sometimes even a struggle for me to keep up with the technical knowledge needed to run an online business. And (COVID or no) in our digital age, it’s becoming increasingly harder to run an offline business without its online counterpart. That makes it difficult for artists, local stores, and guilds to keep up. Some big corporations have capitalized on this paradox. Have you ever spent hours on Etsy trying to find a handmade gift for a friend or loved one? They’re definitely there, but these marketplaces are saturated with mass-produced objects that make it extremely difficult to find anything unique.

LS: What do you see as our role in encouraging and expanding sustainability?

SS: We get messages from all around us to do everything faster and cheaper. Fast food. Fast travel. Fast fashion. And that’s not a side effect of a “connected world.” Our technology is designed that way so that certain key performance indicators can be satisfied. Open that email. Make that comment. Push that button. I believe we can design different experiences that honor the “slow” things that are becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

LS: What opportunities do you see for making the NC Handmade community a vibrant, growing community?

SS: I think we have an excellent opportunity now (while we’re all sheltering-in-place) to learn more about all of the great things that artisans are up to and to adapt the ways that we engage with the arts. There’s been a popular resurgence in self-sufficiency practices (like canning, fermenting, and sourdough) that I think is leading to an increased interest in the traditional crafts that we haven’t seen in 100 years.

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Pam Washer

Pam Washer at sewing machine

Pam Washer

RagBags, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

All of Pam’s bags are one-of-a-kind — made without using patterns.

They are made on a 1958 Singer Featherweight sewing machine that belonged to her husband’s grandmother. She’s made over 3,500 bags on this machine!

Most of the embellishments on Pam’s bags are also repurposed — items such as broken jewelry, vintage buttons, and various decorator tassels and trims.

Pam makes custom bags to order, using any material you might be interested in repurposing. Contact us for details on custom orders.

Featured products

About Pam Washer

Pam came to Appalachian State University from Shelby, North Carolina, in the late 1970’s, and never left! She has lived in Blowing Rock for over 35 years and started RagBags in 2005. It all began when a friend of hers wanted her to come up with something to sell in a craft sale she was having. She had never done anything like that before but she saw an article in a magazine about how to repurpose wool sweaters into handbags. She had always liked the idea of repurposing and recycling so she decided to give it a try. She sold almost every bag she made for that sale and was hooked!

Now, RagBags’ handbags are made from a variety of materials — whatever happens to find her! This includes discontinued decorator fabric samples, book covers, carpet samples, game boards, VHS tape, and many others!

Pam’s work may be seen at Monkee’s of Blowing Rock, Blue Ridge Artisan Guild gallery in Wilkesboro, Valle Country Fair in Valle Crucis, Art on the Mountain in West Jefferson, and other seasonal events.

Custom orders available. Please contact us for more information.

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