Hand-crafted with love

07 Jun 2022

Charitable shopping, woodworking classes offered at Scaly Mountain Crafters 

By Brittany Conley

Nestled along Highway 106, roughly halfway between Dillard, Georgia and Highlands, is a little community with big mountain views and the potential to capture the hearts and imaginations of all who visit.

It certainly was the experience resident Darren Gillett had when his grandparents came to Scaly Mountain in the 1970s and he started spending carefree summers with them.

When he retired in 2017, Gillett and his dear wife, Michelle, knew exactly where they wanted to be and moved to Scaly Mountain full time.

“We love the friendly environment and feeling of community, as well as the slower pace the North Carolina mountains offer,” says Gillett.

Often after retirement, many people become more invested than ever before in their truest passions and find the time to turn their hobbies into far more. 

Leaning on his family’s motto “D.S.T.M, or “Do something that matters,” Darren and Michelle took their 20 years of experience in woodworking and married it with their passion to help others, creating their first creative business, Pens With a Purpose, crafting hand-turned wood and acrylic pens, with optional engraving, with proceeds benefitting SERV International, a non-profit with a mission to feed those in need.

From its inception in January 2017 until the pandemic began in 2020, Pens With a Purpose relied both on online sales and participation in regional craft shows to raise funds for their global food campaigns, which now includes a group from SERV International working inside Ukraine to feed as many as possible and plans to expand into Poland to serve refugees.

“In 2020, we had many of our scheduled craft shows canceled due to Covid restrictions,” says Gillett. That prompted the couple to take quite the leap of faith.

They began exploring options to open their own retail store to pick up where the craft shows had left off, and they were well aware they were not the only local artists dealing with canceled show schedules. As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” and the Gilletts’ new dream came to fruition in April 2021 with the opening of Scaly Mountain Crafters, an eclectic and breathtaking repository for not only the Gilletts’ work, but also the work of many talented local artists–over 80 of them and counting.

With such a treasure trove housed under one roof, it is next to impossible to walk in and not fall in love several times over.

“We are blessed to have so many other artists’ work in our store,” says Gillett.

In fact, everyone who steps into Scaly Mountain Crafters is an artist, even if they don’t know it yet. One of the many wonderful things about artists is their unbridled enthusiasm to introduce others to the joy of their craft.

Seeing an opportunity, the Gilletts began offering classes inside their shop where budding artists can craft their own pens, birdhouses, walking sticks and more. 

“It’s nice to have customers slow down from their hurried pace and forget about their cell phones and emails to spend (one or two) hours being creative,” Darren says. “These classes are amazing opportunities for both the young and the young at heart, who might have never picked up a hammer, or who simply want to spend an afternoon making memories. To see the look on their face when they say, ‘I can’t believe I made this!’ is an awesome feeling…it’s a very rewarding experience,” adds Gillett.

Keeping in line with their mission to give back, each reservation booked for one of their many crafting classes not only feeds the soul, but also provides at least 25 meals locally for those who are in need.

Between the classes and the outpouring of support from the local community, Scaly Mountain Crafters has contributed over 318,400 meals through their partnership with SERV International and an incredible 25,000 pounds of non-perishable food through distribution sites in Scaly Mountain and Highlands as well as Rabun County, Georgia.

For something many of us use every day, a pen has largely been a mundane item. We use them, we lose them, we discard them. It takes truly creative and compassionate people to look at such an object and think they can turn that into not only a work of art, but a means by which they can change the world.

How truly lucky we are to have people with such keen eyes and hearts like Darren and Michelle Gillett who can give back to so many with as simple an item as a writing pen.

To browse and support the Gilletts’ spectacular work or sign up to take one or more of their classes, visit the lovely shop, Scaly Mountain Crafters at 8106 Dillard Road in Scaly Mountain and online at www.ScalyMountainCrafters.com or www.PensWithAPurpose.com.

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