Locals: Neal Thomas

In this photo series, we travel around the Triangle to meet new people. This month, we visited the N.C. State Farmers Market.
Photography by Bob Karp

Wander around the outside of the State Farmers Market, and you’ll likely encounter Neal Thomas. A fixture for decades, he’s known for his dry firewood, which he cuts in the forest near his home in Wendell, North Carolina. “I cut the trees, I split my own wood, and I come to market,” he says. But Thomas does more than chop logs to warm local hearths: His true skill lies in finessing a sharp blade to strip lengths of wood that he weaves into sturdy, classic baskets. “That’s what I’ve been doing for 45 years,” says Thomas. “I craft handmade baskets out of white oak.” A trade Thomas learned in his 20s, you can also find his baskets in the N.C. State Fair’s Village of Yesteryear. —Ayn-Monique Klahre