Putney, Vermont's Open Studio Art Trail Opens Thanksgiving Weekend for One of A Kind Shopping Adventure Where Artisans Light The Way
The press release describes the 33rd Annual Putney Craft Tour and the 27 artisans that open their studios to the public all within a 12-mile radius of Putney. This is a 3-day adventure where visitors follow the map on the backroads of this beautiful town. There are quotes from the artists as to what to expect. Its free and the artists put out the welcome mat with snacks and cider.
- Hartford, CT (1888PressRelease) October 27, 2011 - With an extraordinary collection of talent, the Putney Craft Tour stands out among art excursions, and this year's open studio tour is no different. Bursting with an eclectic variety of artists and craftspeople nestled among the hills and valleys of this charming Vermont town, the 33rd annual Putney Craft Tour, a prototype for open studios around the country, held during the long Thanksgiving weekend, gives shoppers, visitors and collectors another reason to be thankful. Many of the studios are off the beaten path and on dirt roads affording a great opportunity to enjoy Southern Vermont's natural beauty that inspires these artisans.
Blacksmiths, glass blowers, potters, jewelers, weavers, woodworkers - even artisan cheesemakers -invite visitors to come in, discover, ask questions, sip hot cider and find that one-of-a-kind gift, for themselves or others.
Part of the fun is meandering the back roads, following the map to find these prominent craftspeople and view the works where they are conceived and created; in some cases, the settings showcase how to incorporate original pieces into a home.
With 27 artists and craftspeople spread out over a 12-mile radius, it's worth making a weekend out of it, suggests Ken Pick, who creates evocative functional and sculptural pottery and is one of the original members of the group that gathered to organize the first tour. Make it an experience, he said. "Experience the rural environment and take the tour in a leisurely fashion. You can't do it all in one day. Spend at least a couple of days and enjoy the rich community of artists."
"There's plenty to enjoy," Pick said, with romantic B&Bs and dozens of fine restaurants throughout the region offering respite after a day touring the studios, meeting the artists and watching them at work.
"Putney rocks," said weaver Dana Gartenstein. "It's got so much art and crafts to choose from and it's high quality." The annual craft open studio tour has helped put Putney and surrounding towns on the map, with hundreds of visitors moving through the studios over the course of three days and engaging with the artists, the real draw of such tours, as well as the distinctive, original pieces for sale. "They get to see how and where it's made," said Gartenstein, and visitors often develop a relationship with her. "I give them a lot of attention," she said. She spends time helping them find the perfect scarf or shawl in the best color for them; demonstrates how to wear a shawl or tie a scarf.
The artists gain a lot from the tour, as well. "It feeds me," Gartenstein said, bringing her follow-up customers and attention to her school, the Vermont Weaving School. "My life energy goes into these pieces and my customers get that."
Josh Letourneau, a glass blower who has been part of the tour for 10 years, also enjoys the interaction with visitors to his studio. "Watching the reaction (to a glass blowing demonstration) from an individual for the first time is as rewarding as a commission," he said. "More than half of my crowd comes to buy a piece, but a lot of people come back for Christmas gifts, hire me for commissions, or just grab a business card for a future birthday present or wedding gift. My traffic through the whole weekend is very friendly and appreciative of an interesting and hopefully educational glass demonstration."
One of his fondest memories, he said, "was when an educated glass artist in my studio was explaining the process of my demonstration to his girlfriend. Turning around to him, I asked him if he'd like to do a demonstration for his lady. He smiled, and nervously stepped up to the dragon's mouth (torch) and busted out this stylish creation. He then turned to me, looking a little relieved, and gave me a hug."
Those connections are what it's all about, agree other participants on the tour, both for them and the people who visit. Silver jeweler Jeanne Bennett, who has been on the tour for 10 years, appreciates the feedback she gets. "It's nice to get the work out in public. I'm up in the woods (in Westminster West just outside of Putney) and I love hearing everyone's feedback."
In addition to first-timers, Bennett, like most of the artists, has repeat customers that come back "to see what's new and add to their collection." More than anything, she said, the tour is great entertainment. Driving through the Vermont countryside and finding these places is an adventure in itself, she said, although the studios are well marked and maps are available that provide clear directions.
"Not everyone knows what they are getting into when they walk into the studio," said Ken Pick, "as there can often be an element of surprise. Certainly enjoying the ambiance of the studio and the outside sculpture garden are all part of the experience. Of course, the annual smells of hot cider steaming on the wood stove are not to be missed."
Pick's studio and gallery are in an old tobacco barn surrounded by gardens and fields as well as a 200-year-old maple, he said. Sculptures and ceramic benches grace the garden, and large, colorful platters are showcased inside and out.
People come from all over New England, he said. "There is everyone from the holiday shopper, the curiosity seeker, the curious potter, families, old friends, community members, craft lovers and collectors to people who have been pondering that big purchase for a year or two - a large wall platter, a bench - and are ready to make the financial jump."
Landscape painter Judy Hawkins thrives on the excitement generated by visitors to her studio in Westminster West, just outside Putney. "It's been wonderful for me. It's partly about sales - sales are good-but it's wonderful to have that interaction with people. It's opened up a part of me that has become part of my (creative) process. It's helped me grow as an artist. It's about the conversation; I explain what I'm doing; why I paint the way I do."
She, too, has loyal customers who return every year - one couple from Connecticut has been coming every year for almost 20 years - but she loves it when newcomers wander into her studio, a scenic spot set out in her garden and "chock full of work," she said, "with painting stacked three and four deep, floor to ceiling."
"I always ask people if it's their first time if I don't recognize them. I try to touch base with every person who comes in. I find people love to have a conversation. It opens their eyes to my work. Sometimes people stay in the studio for an hour; it's not just in and out."
For Hawkins, the bond that develops between the craftpeople and the visitors is what makes the Putney Craft Tour so meaningful. For Gartenstein, it's also about community. "I feel part of this bigger whole."
And while there are other art and craft tours, she said, "this is different. There's a magic that happens here. There's a little bit of fairy dust that makes the magic happen."
For detailed information on the craftspeople, a map, and links to accommodations and restaurants, go to putneycrafts.com.