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Originally published: 2013-09-23 09:33:53
Last modified: 2013-09-23 09:34:37

Leniavell Trivette recreates the past

For Leniavell Trivette, much of what she does is about the past.

Trivette is a renowned doll maker, rug, hooker and quilter from Zionville. Most of what she does she learned from her mother, Elsie.

"My mom used to do stuff like that when I was a little girl," Trivette said. "She would make quilts and rugs and bedspreads too."

Elsie Trivette was a well-known fiber artist from Avery County. She was known for her knotted bedspreads and her use of natural dyes. Elsie received the 1994 N.C. Heritage Award, and she participated in the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife.

One of Elsie's shining moments came in 1989 when Kurt Russell asked her to teach Goldie Hawn how to spin yarn while he was filming "Winter People" in Avery County. Elsie taught Hawn to spin while Leniavell taught Kate Hudson. Hawn bought a bedspread and two pillows from Elsie.

As a child growing up on Old Beech Mountain, Leniavell started toying with her mother's crafts when she was 6 years old. Leniavell remembers helping Elsie and her younger sister June hook a 9 by 12 foot rug in their neighbor's garage. The rug was later featured in the Smithsonian.

Leniavell started seriously making her own crafts at age 14.

Today, Leniavell Trivette does rug hooking, quilting, tying lace, spinning yarn and she makes sock monkeys and colonial knotted bedspreads. She spins yarn on a spinning wheel that's been in her family since 1960.

Trivette demonstrates spinning, rug hooking and quilting at as many festivals as she can get to. She's been in the N.C. State Fair's Village of Yesteryear every year for the past 30 years, and she's demonstrated at Merlefest for 25 out of the 26  years that the festival has been in existence. She also demonstrates on occasion in Sugar Grove, Johnson City, Asheville and Gatlinburg.

"There's a lot of people that's never seen something done like that," Trivette said. "They all seem to like the different things that I do."

Trivette said that she often spends more money on gas to get to and from events than she spends on food.

"Leniavell works. She's gone to some event all the time," said Mike Campbell, long-time friend of Trivette. "She's been everywhere, done everything.

Like her mother, Trivette has gained a solid reputation throughout all of North Carolina.

Trivette was named Craftswoman of the Year at the Village of Yesteryear in 2000. She's also an honorary member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in Asheville, and some of her work has been featured in the Smithsonian and the Doc Watson Museum in Sugar Grove.

"Oh man, she does some beautiful stuff," said Rick Ward, an old-time banjo player, story teller and believer in passing down the heritage of this area. "I'm glad that she's carrying on that part of the art."

Trivette will be demonstrating her work at this year's Boone Heritage Festival on Oct. 12. The festival, to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, is hosted by the Southern Appalachian Historical Association and the town of Boone. The museum is located on Horn Avenue in Boone. Admission to the festival is free.

This is Trivette's second year demonstrating at the Boone Heritage Festival. She participated in 2011 but did not attend last year because it coincided with the state fair.

"I'm just glad to go and see everybody and hear the music," Trivette said. "And they'll have some good food -- can't beat that!"