Folks of Fairview: Velvet Cook

“Well, we wanted to get back to the area,” Velvet Cook says about living in Fairview, NC. She and her husband are from Western North Carolina originally, but they had been living in South Carolina since her graduation from Clemson University in 1988. “We moved here in 1996, before the 74A expansion. We’ve been here ever since,” she says. the room, hand-painted garden totems in various stages of design, stand waiting for completion. Artist brushes of all sizes are within reach, cleaned and ready for their next task. Some are so tiny, they could only be measured in millimeters; others, large enough to paint a base coat on a totem, canvas, or mural. Transparent containers hold paints in every color, organized by type—glass, wood, multi-surface.

“I majored in industrial engineering,” Cook says. “It’s all about logistics, space utilization, and efficiency.” Engineering? That seems an odd degree for an artist. “Yes, well, I would have majored in architecture,” she explains, “but the housing market was tough at that time and my dad discouraged me.”

Cook’s dad, Robert (Bob) Moody (1936-2001), owner of Waynesville-Moody Design architectural firm, recognized his daughter’s talent early. Even as a child, she would study his trade magazines, taking in the photos of elaborate houses. Then, 10-year-old Velvet would reproduce the pictures in her sketch book. So later, when Moody’s firm was contacted by Frances Layfield, a local artist, he bartered with her: art lessons for Velvet in exchange for house plans for Layfield. For the next 18 months or so Cook,
by then a middle schooler, studied drawing and painting with Layfield. She learned about light and shadow, perspective, and color theory, along with other technical aspects of her craft.

The journey from art lessons to engineer to professional artist had its share of detours. Cook continued drawing through high school, but focused on other priorities during and following college: studies, career, new marriage, baby girl. But when Cook began volunteering at her daughter’s schools, lending her artistry to backdrops, school murals, and more, she became known locally for her talent. Soon, her volunteer gigs led to profitable commissions.’s art business grew through personal referral at first and later through social media. Her specialties include custom Christmas ornaments, hand-painted signs, and the garden totems that decorate her workspace. “I saw the totems advertised for over $400 and thought, ‘I can make those and I can do it for a lot less.’” (Hers range from $100-$220.) “They’re fun to do,” Cook says. “Unless the customer has a special request, I just do whatever. It’s almost like doodling,” she says, though most folks would say her doodling is someone else’s masterpiece. “Of course sometimes, I like to be told what to do and that’s when I enjoy the ornaments. They are very precise and exact; the opposite of the totems.” Lest her engineering side feel neglected, she has the signs. “They require strict measurement and mathematical accuracy,” she says with an almost apologetic laugh, “And I love that too!”

Summer 2021, Cook’s daughter convinced her to place more energy in establishing an Etsy shop online. She had placed a few things on Etsy in the past, but had not done much with it. So, in June of 2021, she added some new items to her shop, Handcrafted by Velvet. Orders trickled in, increasing as Christmas approached. A nice steady pace—until Thanksgiving week. That’s when things got a bit crazy. She was getting orders so often it was starting to look like she might have too much work. Indeed, in one day alone, she received 14 orders! “I’m just one person doing this and people naturally wanted Christmas
delivery. I had to shut the store down!” Cook recalls. She tried to get it closed, but kept running into problems., the orders kept coming. She reached out to her daughter who promised to get back to her later. “No!” Cook explained to her, “You’ve got to close it NOW!” Thankfully, her daughter got it offline and Cook was able to get all the items completed and delivered by Christmas. She opened the shop back up before Christmas that year, with the warning that any new orders could not be delivered by December 25. By the end of the holiday rush, Cook had sold more than 60 garden totems and over 175

That would be a push for anyone to manage, but in addition to her work as an artist, Cook works as a fitness instructor (she teaches 10 classes a week), a contractor with her husband (Cook Renovations and Plumbing), and a server at the Venue. Plus she does all the accounting for the businesses she and her husband run.

Seems like being an efficiency expert has really paid off for this local Jane-of-all-trades! You can find Velvet’s Etsy shop at Handcrafted_by_Velvet.


This piece first appeared in our local paper, The Fairview Town Crier, where I write a monthly column called Folks of Fairview. You can read the Crier online here.

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.