Cryptid Glass Art, Appalachian Zines, And A Racial Revamp For Rock 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 talk 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 brings us up-to-speed on his new album.

In This Episode:

Cryptid Glass Art

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

Blenko’s comeback involved a collaboration with a graphic design artist based in Morgantown. Caitlin Tan, spoke with Reporter Molly Born, who wrote an article for The Washington Post called “How a mythical backwoods monster saved a struggling West Virginia glass company.

New River Gorge Guidebook Renames Route Names

In October 2020, we talked with West Virginia rock climbers who took on racist, sexist and other offensive route names in the New River Gorge. DJ Grant is a Black climber who helped kickstart the effort to change offensive names that were found throughout the Gorge. The routes — and the pioneering climbers who made them — are recorded in a two-volume guidebook called “New River Rock,” which contains about 3,000 rock-climbing routes in the Gorge and surrounding areas. Last year, Grant and others asked the New River Alliance of Climbers to change some of those route names to get rid of racist and offensive language. A new edition of the book hit shelves this July. Inside Appalachia reporter Zack Harold checked in with Grant on the latest.


Brian Blauser/ Mountain Stage
John R. Miller has gained national attention with the release of his album “Depreciated.”

John R. Miller

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

This is his third album and it’s gained international attention. He’s been featured in SPIN magazine and on official Spotify playlists like “Emerging Americana” and “Fresh Folk.” He moved to Nashville to further his career, and it was during this transitional time that he wrote most of the songs on “Depreciated.” But the Mountain State is never far from his mind. Miller spoke with Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan about the songs on his new album. They started with the song “Shenandoah Shakedown” — which is set in the Shenandoah Valley where he grew up.

Three Women Come Together To Form Asheville Band

Asheville, North Carolina, is known for its vibrant music scene. It’s a destination for touring musicians, but it’s home to a thriving local scene, too, anchored by record stores, small venues and house shows. The Smoky Mountain Sirens were formed by three women who’d played in multiple Asheville bands, and as Blue Ridge Mountain Radio’s Matt Peiken reports, they 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. In late 2020, she published her first novel, “Even As We Breathe.” It’s a mystery of sorts, set at an upscale mountain resort, and as great books always do, it calls us to think hard about the world around us. NPR’s Neda Ulaby visited the author near the reservation where she grew up.

Appalachian Zines

johnson city zine fest

Courtesy Suzie Kelly
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 glossy, but it’s a lot more likely to be produced by an individual person, often handwritten and made on a photocopier, with the paper folded and stapled. Artist and designer Suzie Kelly has been making zines for more than half of her lifetime. She eventually moved to Florida where she went to a couple of zine fests and got fired up again. When she moved to Johnson City several years ago, she asked, “Why not have a zine fest here, too?”

Mason Adams spoke with Kelly at her home in Johnson City to talk about how she got into zines, and what they mean for the people reading and making 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 send us an email to