New Craftsmen, Carlee Hawkins, enters the Village of Yesteryear with pen and ink drawings.

The Village of Yesteryear is one of the North Carolina State Fairs most popular and anticipated attractions which includes over 75 artists and crafters creating, displaying and selling time-honored handmade crafts. Each year, new craftsmen are added to expand the village and broaden the type of art that visitors can explore.

This year, Gray Works joins the Village of Yesteryear with pen and ink line drawings. Artist, Carlee Hawkins, has been involved in art for just under three years and built her company after graduating from North Carolina State University in December of 2021.

As a nutrition major, Hawkin’s passion for art took her by surprise. “I would draw at night or take a notebook to coffeeshop and doodle. Little by little I took it more seriously and realized that the more time you put into something, the better you get,” Hawkins said.

After entering a small art market, Hawkins created Gray Works and hasn’t stopped since. She is a proud self-taught artist that found her passion and is running with it. Hawkins describes her art as scratchy black and white drawings that have a modern feel but capture old time scenes. Her work often takes inspiration from southern culture, architecture and landscape.  

The art that comes from Gray Works is highly inspired by Hawkins’ hometown of Roxboro, North Carolina. After moving away for college, Hawkins came home and saw the town in a new light.

“My inspiration is coming home and seeing the open fields and the barns,” Hawkins said. “Honestly it’s so pretty out here, and the people make it even better.”

To capture the beauty of the subjects of Hawkins art, she uses pen and ink. Stripping a picture of its color gives the drawings a modern look that is also able to capture historic themes.

“You can get so much detail with a pen. When you take away color you see more detail of what the drawing is of,” Hawkins said. “You really see the subject and all the details.”

When it comes to the North Carolina State Fair, Hawkins admits that her favorite part of going to the fair has always been the Village of Yesteryear and of course the deep fried Oreos, saying her State Fair priorities were to walk the flower gardens and grab some Oreos.

Going to the Fair with her family for most of her life has given her many fond memories. Now, she looks back at the small moments and family-made inside jokes about ice cream and turkey legs and laughs.

It wasn’t until she was at another festival with her artwork that she realized that she could be included in Yesteryear. Fellow craftsmen, Senora and Brian Lynch, encouraged her to apply and from there everything settled into place.

Hawkins says that she is most looking forward to meeting the other craftsmen in Yesteryear. Gaining mentors and hearing from others is valuable to her since many have been involved for so long.

“I’m excited about meeting the other craftsman and talking about their stories and their craft,” Hawkins said. “I want to learn from them since I’m only 2.5 years into this and I have a lot to learn.”

Along with the excitement of the Yesteryear community, Hawkins also looks forward to the Gray Works products that will be available. Cards and framed prints will be offered for purchase, some even in handmade frames.

“The simple things that will be available are cards and prints of things like flowers and barns. My dad is even making handmade frames so they will all be framed in those, which is exciting,” Hawkins said.

Creating art for the State Fair is something that needs to be thought through. Hawkins has taken a leap and decided that the Fair will be her first time selling a collection of originals. They will be available in cards and prints, both regular sized and miniature.

To see the beautiful pen and ink line drawings of Gray Works, be sure to stop by the Holshouser Building in the Village of Yesteryear at the 2023 North Carolina State Fair, running from Oct. 12th-22nd. The Village of Yesteryear has over 75 artists whose mission is to preserve the art of the past for generations to come. The craftsmen look forward to meeting visitors, answering questions and teaching about their craft.

The Village of Yesteryear is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except on Thursday, Oct. 12, when the exhibit will open at 12 p.m.

About Karsyn Westerbeek

Hi everybody! I am Karsyn Westerbeek, but you can call me Wolf Tracks. I am a rising senior at North Carolina State University where I major in Communication with a minor in Business Administration. I am from Warsaw, North Carolina, and have always been a fan of the Wolfpack. I absolutely love the State Fair and its ability to bring our community together. That being said, I am so excited to be working as a public relations intern for the State Fair this summer!

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