By Dorothy Foster
COPPERHILL, Tenn. - Rip and Tammi Mann own the oldest retail stores in Copperhill - Hand Hewn Bowls and the Christmas Shop - but the stores are only 10 years old.
"When we moved here from Florida," said Mann, "there were almost no businesses. The 1990 flood had wiped everything out. Over 8 feet of water had invaded the stores we're in now. It was tough for everyone."
Now the Manns' stores showcase his work involving hand-hewn bowls.
"I got hooked watching an old-timer in Dollywood over 23 years ago," Mann said. "And I just had to learn how to do it."
The craft involves creating items from whole logs using only hand tools, mainly an adze.
He buys the logs from a one-man sawmill in Andrews, N.C., and uses different types of wood, including cherry, black walnut and curly maple.
After he hews the bowl, the five- to six-week process of seasoning it with mineral oil begins. Tammi Mann attends to that task, coating a bowl with oil several times a day, sealing the wood's pores until it can repel liquids.
Through the years, the Manns have exhibited at some of the best traditional crafts shows in the nation, including Carolina Craftsmen in Greensboro, N.C.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Name: Hand Hewn Bowls
Owners: Rip and Tammi Mann
Specialty: Wooden bowls from native materials
Contact: 423-496-1166, www.handhewn.com
"I was invited to these shows because I always demonstrated my craft and became known nationwide because of it," Mann said.
He has been featured in several national news and magazine stories and appeared on CBS' "Sunday Morning" when Charles Kuralt hosted. He also was listed as one of the top 200 traditional craftsmen in the United States, a fact that did not go unnoticed.
"I was sifting through my mail one day and noticed a letter from the Clinton White House," he said. "Thinking they were soliciting donations, I tore it in half."
"Boy, did he get the shock of his life!" laughed Tammi Mann. "They had seen his name on the list of the 200 best artisans and requested a bowl to adorn the Blue Room at Christmas."
That 10-inch bowl now resides in the presidential section of the Smithsonian, she said.
He also created a Texas-shaped bowl for former President George H.W. Bush.
Another customer in Georgia bought a bowl, then told Mr. Mann it cost him $10,000. The customer said the bowl looked so good in the dining room, he had to buy a new table, then a new chandelier and a new rug to complement it.