Our desire to see all that Vermont has to offer has been delayed a bit by travel and other responsibilities, but this weekend we were free to set out and explore. We consulted the weekend events section in Seven Days, and discovered that it was the annual Vermont Open Studio weekend, during which Vermont artists (as the name suggests) open their studios to guests. Not only is this a great opportunity to meet artists and view their work and learn about their process, but it was also a perfect excuse to See Someplace New.
Late Saturday morning, armed with a printout of the map and guide for Windsor County we pointed the wheels south, toward Woodstock, a town that a colleague of Doreen said we should check out. We planned to start our tour with a group show at The Collective. As we drove a drizzle turned to a steady rain, which became a pour for most of the afternoon.
As it turns out, The Collective wasn’t quite what we were looking for: though there is a variety of beautiful work on display, it is just a gallery, and there was little chance to engage the artists, much less see where they work. We decided to take some time to check out the very charming village of Woodstock, including some shops and a couple more galleries. The pouring rain dampened our desire to walk much, but we were there long enough to learn that a) Woodstock appeals to a ritzier tourist (it reminds me of Camden, Maine), and b) the traffic never stops on Route 4.
We returned to the car and chose to drive further south to Hartland (close to where we built the bridge), to the studio of Deborah Falls. This was more like it, as we drove up the gorgeous Queechee Road to a gravel side road. This visit was again a gallery visit, set in an old cape on the side of the road. Falls paints delicate-looking botanical prints on silk, with vibrant colors and cool textures. This time we did get to speak to the artist and learn about her technique, though her time was being hogged by a fan from New York. I can’t blame the artist for focusing on an established customer, but it would have been nice to get more than two questions in during our visit.
Heading back north, we made a rainy stop to Queechee Gorge. I did brave the torrents to take a couple of photos, but this spotdeserves a longer visit before I report. We then headed to the town of Bethel, where there were three different potters on the list. Because the afternoon was getting short, I scientifically determined the best of the three to visit by figuring out which one we would get to first. This was Two Potters, a married couple who both create pottery.
And the third time was really the charm. Two Potters is (are?) located at the end of a dirt track off a dirt track, at an old dairy farm at the top of a hill. The serene setting seems like the perfect place to relax and create. The potters (Nathan and Becca Van Fleet Webb) built a giant wood-fired kiln and a studio, and converted a small barn to their gallery space. We had the opportunity to talk to the artists at length about their work, the kiln (which holds about 1,000 pieces and will soon be stoked for its fourth firing) and the property.
On Sunday we wanted to get out of the house for awhile in the afternoon and decided to visit more artists, this time closer to home. We headed out to the village of Adamant, which is in Calais, and which must be a real place because there is a co-op. Here was the home of watercolor artist Jo Mackenzie and her husband Tom, who happens to be one half of the band Shady Rill. They were delighted to see my TNC shirt, because their property happens to abut Chickering Bog, one of our flagship preserves in Vermont. We had a nice chat with them about the property, her work, photography, and their dogs. Then we were off to Kate Taylor’s woodworking shop in East Montpelier, where she specializes in wooden boxes made mostly from cherry and walnut. Then finally two paper artists back in Montpelier: Blue Roof Designs (Elissa Campbell), who makes whimsical handmade books, and May Day Studio (Kelly McMahon), a letterpress and bindery all in one. At May Day we didn’t meet THE artist – we met an artist whose name I have forgotten who works as an intern – but any disappointment was offset by the fact that we were allowed to run the press and make our own print.
All-in-all it was a fantastic weekend. The weather on Sunday was simply glorious – sunny, mid-50’s – and the late foliage was simply spectacular. And I continue to be struck how Vermont always has another gorgeous view just around the next corner. But above enjoying the scenery and visiting new towns, I found the art tour very fulfilling. It’s always a joy to talk to artists , as without fail they light up talking about their work, and there is boundless inspiration to be gleaned from a woman who excitedly shows from the grain she found in a piece of scrap wood that will one day become a box. And for me personally, though I didn’t indulge my instincts to excess, to be reminded that there is beauty in the chaos of a studio, and that great photographs to be found pretty much anywhere you look. One needn’t have a panoramic view to make a lovely photo, as a row of unfired pots can be just as beautiful.