The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

From Thailand To The Blue Ridge

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: December, 1985

Sompis Richardson and her prize winning work.Sompis Richardson and her prize winning work.Sompis Richardson is a newcomer to the Blue Ridge. She and her husband Jim recently purchased a piece of property in the Willis, Virginia community. The property doesn't have a house on it, but it does have a very old log barn, and this barn is going to be the center of a lot of activity. Come spring, work will be started by the Richardsons to convert it into a unique craft shop.

Sompis, whose nick-name is "Nit" is a remarkable person. You can name just about any craft and not only does she do it, but is very good at it

Nit was born in Thailand and has led an interesting life. She started to school at age 3 and was teaching school by the age of 18. Always an active person, she also had a job nights at a hotel. Nit enjoyed hotel management so well that she traveled to Europe to continue her education in it. From there, she got a job with an American based cruise ship line. For the next 4 years she would travel to Alaska in summer and South America in winter as the maitre d' of the ship's dining room and entertained passengers with native Thai dances in beautiful costumes.

The owner of the ship line was so pleased with her proficiency that he asked her to manage a restaurant he owned in New Mexico.

That's how Nit came to America and her love of travel is what has brought her and her husband, a North Carolina native to the Blue Ridge.

Nit always enjoyed art, but it was a traditional occupation for men, not women in Thailand. She wasn't really interested in becoming a teacher, but became one to please her family.

When Nit and her husband moved to North Carolina they bought an old house in need of repair. They were both "do-it-yourselfers" and looked forward to the challenge. Jim had always wanted wood working shop equipment and when it came time to buy furniture, he had an idea. If they bought equipment to make furniture, they could make what they wanted. For the money invested, they would still have the equipment to make other things.

When furniture making proved to be a success, the couple moved on to other wood working crafts. Nit is also an excellent seamstress and also upholstered some of the furniture as well as their car seats.

When the Richardsons were repairing their house, Jim built a mantle for one room. Nit was going to paint a series of ceramic tiles to go on the mantle. Her first try at ceramics, this set of 12 tiles, was entered and won not only Best Of Show, but Judges Award also, at the 1985 Eastern North Carolina Ceramics Show. It is a scene of old time farming. After 21 years of putting art and crafts aside, Nit took them up again with a passion.

At present, Nit's crafts are on display and for sale in Meadows of Dan at Cockram's Mill, The Country Whale and The Mountain House Restaurant. Nit does wood carving, pierced lamp shades, lamps, wood working (bread boxes, potato boxes, etc.), embroidery, crocheting, tatting, punched tin and copper, sewing, furniture, and oil, water color, tole and fabric painting.

When she opens her barn craft shop, she will be selling her crafts and also said she may teach classes if there is interest. She takes commissions to do painting and crafts.

All of Nit's work is done with pride of craftsmanship. She said, "A personal touch makes a difference." One of the most unique things Nit has done is hanging in The Mountain House Restaurant. It is a painting of an elderly black man painted on a background of real, cured tobacco leaves. The texture and veins of the tobacco leaves adds character to the painting. The frame was also made by the Richardsons out of tobacco sticks.

It is the first painting she has done on tobacco leaves, but hopes to do more soon. She will take orders to paint portraits, explaining that she thinks it would be especially meaningful to tobacco farmers - to have a painting of themselves or their tobacco barn or farm to pass down to their descendents.

Anyone wishing more information may write to the Richardsons at Route 3, Box 134B, Willis, VA 24380. We'll all be looking forward to the opening of her new shop.