She set up a home and studio in Painttown, a community not far from where she was born. There, back in Cherokee ancestral lands, Crowe lived out her adult life and cemented her legacy. She taught thousands of students the art of Cherokee wood carving, and encouraged them to give the tradition their own spin—like she had.
Crowe’s teachings were based on her own practice, in which she used the traditional tools and techniques of Cherokee carving—but rather than create utilitarian objects, as was tradition, she depicted figures. Though she often depicted the animals that surrounded her in North Carolina, at times, she created abstractions and human forms.
She worshipped the variegated nature of wood, and how its idiosyncrasies and undulating grains could enhance a sculpture’s final form. “The movement of the grains—they almost seem alive under your hands—and the beautiful tones and textures all add life to the figures you whittle,” she once said
As Fariello pointed out, Crowe was drawing from her fine art schooling, but also responding to her new life in the Qualla Boundary. She wanted to create a curriculum that students enjoyed, as well as objects that could be sold to the ever-growing number of tourists visiting the area. Whittling small animals was conducive to both goals. (After World War II, tourism expanded exponentially in the U.S., seeing more visitors to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Crowe and other Cherokee artists saw an economic opportunity for their people in the uptick.)
Crowe conceived a teaching plan for carving based on the creation of animals like cats, mice, geese, owls, and bears from small blocks of wood. Together with Doris Coulter, who taught weaving at the Cherokee High School, she even began to sell mail-order carving kits. In a 1966 article in the Girl Scout magazine American Girl, Crowe wrote a step-by-step guide to carving—simultaneously promoting Cherokee arts and the kits. “With little more than a pocket knife, a block of wood, and a few basic instructions,” she wrote, “you can be on your way.” (Notably, her audience here consisted of girls; perhaps another goal of the piece was to spread her craft to more women.)
As Coulter remembers, Crowe’s passion for carving and its many facets came through in her lessons. She was a playful yet strict teacher, who “kept her humor but took no prisoners,” he quipped. She used a red wax pencil to ruthlessly mark mistakes on his whittling blocks, he recalled, but always doled out encouraging words, too: “Keep goin,’ just keep goin.’” She described this double-edged approach to teaching in the same 1988 interview in the Winston-Salem Journal: “Be good to them. Give them confidence,” but also “give ‘em a rough time.”