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NC artisans featured on ‘A Craftsman’s Legacy’ on UNC-TV

“A Craftsman’s Legacy” host Eric Gorges, left, working on a duck decoy with master carver Ben Heinemann of Durham. Heinemann appears on the Oct. 22 episode of the show.
“A Craftsman’s Legacy” host Eric Gorges, left, working on a duck decoy with master carver Ben Heinemann of Durham. Heinemann appears on the Oct. 22 episode of the show. Courtesy of “A Craftsman’s Legacy”

A third of the episodes in the current season of the PBS series “A Craftsman’s Legacy” will spotlight North Carolina craftsmen.

The show, in its third season, profiles craftsmen who work with their hands and use talent and creativity to make things that are often mass-produced these days. It’s hosted by Eric Gorges, a former IT professional from Detroit who walked away from that career to learn metal crafting and start his own business making custom bikes and hot rods.

“A Craftsman’s Legacy” is broadcast on PBS stations across the country. Locally, it airs on at 3 p.m. Saturdays on UNC-TV, with repeats on the station’s UNC-Explorer and NC channels.

The series has deep North Carolina roots behind the camera, too. Director Kelly Davis (“History Detectives”) is a professor at Appalachian State and got his Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill; executive producer Selena Lauterer (“A Chef’s Life”) is from Asheville and lives in Boone; producer Rebecca Cerese (“Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story”) lives in Chapel Hill; editor Elisabeth Haviland James (“The Loving Story”) lives in Durham; and assistant editor Alina Taalman lives in Carrboro. The series’ original score is by Chuck Johnson (“A Chef’s Life,” “Private Violence”), who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Here’s a rundown of the North Carolina artisans featured this season, along with some additional info on each, provided by the show.

Oct. 22 – Durham duck decoy master carver Ben Heinemann: Ben carved his first bird in 1971 and began competing in duck decoy competitions at the “world class” professional level in just six years. Since his bird-carving career began, Ben has gained international recognition for his detail and accurate renditions of wildfowl carvings. His work can be found in the Core Sound Museum of Wildfowl Art at Harker's Island, N.C., and in many private collections. Over the years, Ben has taught seminars and workshops and is frequently asked to judge competitions across the country. He hopes to perpetuate the tradition of waterfowl decoy sculpture as the true American art form.

Oct. 29 – Seth Gould, a tool maker doing an artist’s residency at the Penland School of Crafts in Bakersville: Seth’s blog at sethgould.com offers interesting stories behind his work, such as his duck press inspired by an article he read about the French chef Daniel Boulud, and handmade barware.

Nov. 5 – Native American flute maker Geri Littlejohn of Asheville: Geri’s path is very interesting – she enjoyed woodworking in middle school and then she went to high school in Japan where she developed her love of simplicity in woodworking. Then while at Duke University, where she majored in Japanese studies, she met her husband Hawk Littlejohn, a flute maker, who taught her about the Native American style of flutes in an apprenticeship. On the episode, she talks about the individuality of the flutes she makes.

Nov. 12 – Married chocolatiers Dan and Jael Rattigan of Asheville: This husband and wife team make bean-to-bar chocolates at their French Broad Chocolates. They sold everything they owned, bought a school bus and converted it into an RV and drove to Costa Rica, where they bought an abandoned cocoa farm. They planned to build a house to live and sell locally, but evolved their plan when Jael became pregnant. They opened their first restaurant, Bread and Chocolate, and stayed there for 2 years. In 2006, they started as a farmer’s market chocolatier in North Carolina.