Plan a Visit to theTanasi Arts & Heritage Center……..

Located in Unicoi, Tennessee off Exit 32 on I-26, the Tanasi Arts and Heritage Center features an array of unique and beautiful handcrafted items created by regional artists.

Below are images of a few items Bob has for sale at Tanasi.  Additionally, you can find my naturally dyed yarns and copies of my book, Roan Mountain: History of an Appalachian Treasure in their gift shop.


Arrowhead necklaces at Tanasi 50Flint-knapped point (left) made from Flint Ridge flint from Ohio; Point on right knapped from Novaculite from Arkansas.   Both necklaces are hafted on cedar shafts, glued with pine pitch, and wrapped with backstrap deer sinew.   The cord is jute and B50 bow string material corded with a Flemish twist.

Tomahawk at Tanasi 50 Tomahawk blade made from Keokuk chert from Oklahoma, hafted on a cedar handle, wrapped with rawhide and decorated with grouse tail feathers and wild turkey wing bone beads.

Arrows - at Tanasi 50 Primitive arrows with helical fletching made from wild turkey wing feathers.  Shafts are made from sourwood and knapped points are jasper from Nevada.  All fletching and arrowheads are secured with backstrap deer sinew and glued with pine pitch.

Naturally Dyed Yarn 50Naturally Dyed Wool – processed over an open fire in an iron pot and kept at a low simmer for approximately 5 hours.  The lavender yarn is dyed with Cochineal and the golden yarn with Osage Orange.

Interested in finding out more about Tanasi?

Visit them online at

Galax in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Galax in bloomOne of the most striking plants to grace the forest floor in the Southern Appalachian Mountains is Galax (Galax urceolata).   Preferring a cool climate, galax boasts glossy, heart-shaped leaves which spread via rhizomes, often forming large populations. The 8 to 15 inch white flower stem emerges from late May to June.   In the fall, the leaves take on a deep bronze-red hue.

Historically, the collection of galax for use in the floral industry has played an important economic role in the mountains supplementing many family incomes. More recently, over collecting and uprooting the plants by pulling the leaves has resulted in many populations being threatened.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, picking galax is illegal; in some national forests, during specific times of the year and with a restricted permit, galax can still be collected.  Of interest are the efforts of researchers at North Carolina State University who hope to find a viable method to grow galax commercially.  If they are successful, this would provide a great economic boost and reduce the pressure on wild populations.

Some wildlife species also use this beautiful plant as a food source.  White-tailed deer forage on galax, often heavily during years of poor acorn production.  Traditionally, Native Americans used parts of the plant to treat kidney ailments.

Below are photographs from the North Carolina Archives, taken in 1939 of galax being gathered and packaged in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

Galax-1939- Banner ElkWomen gathering galax in the NC mountains 1939

Upcoming Educational Events!

As summer slowly passes and falls approaches, we wanted to let you know where we will be demonstrating in the next few months.

On Saturday, August 16th we will be spending the day at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park for their annual Crockett Days Celebration.  The Saturday/Sunday event is full of 18th century demonstrations, re-enactments, and a host of activities highlighting Davy Crockett and his contributions to our history.

During the day, Bob will be demonstrating flint-knapping, atlatl, and varied primitive skills.  I will be setting a pot of natural dye and sharing various plants and natural colors, in addition to demonstrating weaving with naturally dyed wool yarn.

Call the park located in Limestone, Tennessee at 423-257-2167 for additional information


Saturday and Sunday, October 4 and 5 is the annual Fort Watauga Knap-In at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton, Tennessee!   In celebration of Tennessee Archaeology Week,  this weekend presents a great opportunity for traditional knappers and primitive skills folks to get together and share the skills and survival techniques that they so enjoy.

For information on this event you can email Bob at



Flint Knapping Workshop June 22 & 23

Bob Estep illustrates the fine art of knapping a blade2Bob Estep, along with his friends Chris Edens and Clark Sams, will be teaching this excellent and informative weekend workshop dedicated to learning the art of FLINTKNAPPING!

Traditional tools, such as billets made of antler, pressure flakers, and  hammerstones, were the primary tools used by primitive flintknappers.  These are the tools that YOU will use to learn this art.

The ethics of flintknapping are highly stressed in this two day class as students are encouraged NOT to rework historic artifacts; instead to learn and appreciate the skills and tools needed to survive in earlier times.

This class is only taught one time per year!  The 2013 class will be held on Saturday and Sunday, June 22 & 23 from 10 am to 4 pm each day.   The cost is minimal for the two full days – $60.00 includes all the tools you will need, along with the opportunity to learn from three talented knappers.

If you are interested in this Adults Only workshop, please call Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton, Tennessee at 423-543-5808 to register for the class.  Call soon as the maximum class number is 12.   Payment in advance is necessary to hold your spot.

Hope you can join us!





A Vibrant Touch of Spring!

Even though the nights are still cold, I knew spring had arrived in Roan Mountain about a week ago.  Early one morning, through a gentle rain, I could hear the song of the corn planter, more commonly known as the woodthrush.  

Trilliums, delphinium and more269 x 358Corn planter, you might say?  Many years ago, a dear friend in her 80′s, shared the important message the corn planter was sending -  a logical message at that – when you hear the first song, it was safe to plant your corn.  Hence, the name of the bird; a bird she fondly listened for each year, and a memory I will never forget.

For me, spring  became official today.  A quiet hike on the Cate’s Hole Trail in Roan Mountain State Park became a tour of color and beauty. To say the mountainside was lush, would be an understatement!  The forest floor was a soft spring green carpet of new plant growth, topped with purples, reds, whites, and yellows.

Delphiniums & mayapple 269 x 358Highlights of the trip included purple Delphinium, Trilliums, Mayapple, White Fringed Phacelia, Yellow Violets, Foamflower, and Miterwort.  The fern-like leaves of Dutchman’s Breeches and Squirrel Corn covered the ground beneath the blooming species.

 A special find was the rare Fraser’s Sedge (Cymophyllus fraserianus), a species of Special Concern in the State of Tennessee.  Botanist and Naturalist, Ed Schell had shown me the location for this small area of plants nearly 20 years ago.  Happily, it is still thriving and hopefully will continue to for years to come!


If this little journey has tickled your fancy, you might want to check out the 55th annual Roan Mountain Spring Naturalist’s Rally nextFraser's Sedge 2 weekend – May 3 – 5!   Sponsored by the Friends of Roan Mountain, the rally offers a fantastic weekend of guest speakers, hands-on activities, hikes, and tours led by knowledgeable leaders.   Information can be found at


Beneath the Highlands

Roan Mountain Primitives – thriving “beneath the Roan,” with the goal of preserving and honoring the ways of those who came before us, so that future generations may continue to appreciate and practice the old ways.

Rhododendron smallPrimitive tools, flintknapped stone, pit fired pottery, wool yarn dyed using Appalachian plant species or historic dye products, and Handwoven items make up many of the pages of Roan Mountain Primitives.

Every handcrafted item is unique and crafted using the traditional methods and tools of our ancestors.

Our work is created with an appreciation of the natural world and the marvelous connections amongst living things.

Conservation and protection of our natural resources is our primary concern when using traditional methods of crafting.

The history of Roan Mountain is also highlighted here, along with information on Roan Mountain: History of an Appalachian Treasure by Jennifer Bauer.   Published in November 2011 by History Press, Charleston, this book is now available in print or downloadable.

Keep an eye on the Menu for plant stories, information on natural dyeing, primitive skills information,and so much more!

Please email us via the Contact Us link if you’re searching for an educational, interpretive program or demonstration.

Flame Azalea