Willard Watson 1905 – 1994
Ora Greer Watson 1908 – 1994
There may never have been a more dynamic craft duo in all of Watauga County than Willard Watson – who is featured in the Jack Guy Collection – and his wife Ora Greer Watson. Together, Willard, an exceptional master woodworker, and Ora, an expert quilter, produced some of the finest crafts ever to come out of the region. Both were featured in Foxfire Magazine, The North Carolina Folklore Journal, and other publications, and both received the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award in 1983 and the North Carolina Heritage Award in 1994.
In addition to his woodworking, Willard was also an accomplished banjo player, dancer, storyteller, and moonshiner. When famed folklore collector Ralph Rinzler met Willard and Ora (by way of Willard’s cousin, guitarist and singer Doc Watson), he was amazed by their work. Of the two, Rinzler noted,
“Willard seemed to have a special feel for carving wood toys, a kind of intuitive touch not associated with outside influences. And Ora—she had the most natural sense of color combinations in her quilting of any mountain craftsman I had run across” (source)
Willard and Ora presented their crafts at some of the largest folk festivals in the US, including the National Folk Festival, Newport Folk Festival, and North Carolina State Fair. Their work has also been included in Smithsonian Institution exhibits.
– TJ Smith
Listen to Willard Watson in the Jack Guy Collection:
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Traditional Artist Directory profile
Folklife from Home: Willard Watson III on the toys of Willard Watson