Cipher Glass Art, Appalachian Zines, and a Racial Overhaul of Climbing Routes

In the latest episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear stories from creators across Appalachia and how they process their lives through their art, including songwriting, photography, and self-published zines. We’ll speak with a climber who challenged the climbing community to rename racist and sexist route names, and won. Also in this episode, West Virginia singer and songwriter John R. Miller gives us an update on his new album.

In this episode:

Cryptid glass art

Blenko Glass is based in Milton, West Virginia. At the start of the pandemic, the company took a huge hit and had to lay off almost all of its employees. But thanks to a federal loan and some clever marketing, they rehired nearly everyone and had one of their most profitable years in decades.

Blenko’s return involved working with a Morgantown-based graphic designer. Caitlin Tan, spoke with journalist Molly Born, who wrote an article for The Washington Post titled “How a Mythical Outback Monster Saved a Struggling West Virginia Glass Company.

New River Gorge guide renames route names

In October 2020, we spoke with climbers in West Virginia who adopted racist, sexist, and other offensive course names in the New River Gorge. DJ Grant is a black climber who helped start the effort to change the offensive names found in the gorge. The routes – and the pioneer climbers who created them – are recorded in a two-volume guidebook called “New River Rock”, which contains around 3,000 climbing routes in and around the gorge. Last year, Grant and others asked the New fluvial alliance of climbers changing some of these route names to get rid of racist and offensive language. A new edition of the book came out in July. Inside Appalachia reporter Zack Harold inquired with Grant about the latest.

Brian Blauser / Mountain Scene


John R. Miller captured national attention with the release of his album “Depreciated.”

John R. Miller

Singer and songwriter John R. Miller grew up in the Eastern Panhandle, West Virginia, in a small town called Hedgesville. He became quite well known throughout the state and performed a few times on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage. Now he has a new album called “Depreciated”.

This is his third album and it has garnered international attention. He was featured in SPIN magazine and on official Spotify playlists like “Emerging America” and “Fresh folklore.” He moved to Nashville to pursue his career, and it was during this transition period that he wrote most of the songs for “Depreciated”. But the Mountain State is never far from his mind. Miller spoke with Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan on the songs from her new album. They started with the song “Shenandoah Shakedown” – which is set in the Shenandoah Valley where he grew up.

Three women reunite to form the Asheville Band

Asheville, North Carolina is known for its vibrant music scene. It’s a destination for touring musicians, but it’s also home to a thriving local scene, anchored by record stores, small venues and house shows. The Smoky Mountain Sirens were formed by three women who had played in several Asheville bands, and as Reporting by Matt Peiken of Blue Ridge Mountain Radiothey decided to try something new.

North Carolina Author Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina. At the end of 2020, she published her first novel, “Even As We Breathe”. It’s something of a mystery, set in an upscale hill station, and as great books always do, it calls us to think seriously about the world around us. NPR’s Neda Ulaby visited the author near the reserve where she grew up.

Appalachian Zines

johnson city zine festival

After spending time in Florida, Suzie Kelly moved to Johnson City and started the Johnson City Zine Fest.

After spending time in Florida, Suzie Kelly moved to Johnson City and started the Johnson City Zine Fest.

A zine, in essence, is a self-published magazine. A zine can be big and shiny, but it’s much more likely to be produced by an individual person, often handwritten and done on a photocopier, with the paper folded and stapled. Artist and designer Suzie Kelly made zines for more than half of his life. She eventually moved to Florida where she went to a few zine festivals and ignited again. When she moved to Johnson City several years ago, she asked, “Why not have a zine festival here too?”

Mason Adams sat down with Kelly at her home in Johnson City to talk about how she got into zines and what they mean to the people who read and make them.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by John R. Miller, the Smoky Mountain Sirens, Wes Swing and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi and Eric Douglas also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also email us at [email protected]

Virginia F. Goins