The Mountain Times

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Vermont artists welcome visitors

For 20 years now, Open Studio Weekend has had visitors and locals following the signature yellow signs to the state's workshops, galleries and craft centers. The popular event occurs twice a year, over Memorial Day weekend (May 25 and 26 this year) and October 6-7. It is organized by the Vermont Crafts Council, a group of craftspeople from around the state. The council first organized in 1990 and they now boast about 400 members. "The Vermont Crafts Council is dedicated to the advancement of Vermont crafts within Vermont and nationally, through education of the public, and the visual arts and crafts community," states the council's mission.

This year, 242 members of the Council will be participating in the Open Studio Weekend with a wide variety of mediums, techniques and artwork to discover statewide. Glassblowers, jewelers, potters, furniture makers, ironworkers, painters, sculptors, and wood carvers are just some of the artists who will open their studios up to visitors. In addition to studio exploration, guests can visit the many galleries that will host talks and feature special exhibits.

Many of these studio spaces are not open to the public during the rest of the year. Most artists will be present in their studios to interact with guests and answer questions, explain methods and perhaps discuss their inspirations.

Additionally, there are several studios that are celebrating their 20th year this weekend, like Danforth Pewter in Middlebury. There are also several studios that are joining for the first time this year.

If you are in Central Vermont this weekend, take this opportunity to learn more about your local artists. A detailed map is available online at vermontcrafts.com.

What follows are a few representatives of the diverse and vibrant art scene here in Central Vermont.

NORTH CHITTENDEN
The beautiful part of our region around North Chittenden has, not surprisingly, inspired and attracted a number of talented artists over the years. The formation of the North Chittenden Women's Art Collective is a testament to the transcendent lure of the area.

The Collective invites visitors to the remarkable old building, Grange Hall at 3 Middle Road, for the fourth consecutive year. This year's showing features Gabrielle McDermit oil paintings, Kathryn Milillo oil paintings and giclees,     Bonnie Baird oil and watercolor paintings, M.E.H. Holland oil and watercolor paintings, Althea Bilodeau wearable fiber art and Jeannie Podolak monoprints.

3--Open -Studio -Weekend -#2-Photo -by -Anne -Majusiak -2013-

WOODSTOCK
If you are interested in exploring the studios in the eastern part of the state, consider making Collective-art of craft your headquarters which is a regional information center. The 12-member group runs a gallery located in a large, historical stone building adjacent to the Kedron River at 47 Central Street in Woodstock.

Visitors during Open Studio Weekend will be able to see members like Barbara Moffi doing a felting demonstration or Rachel Kahn knitting. Member Lynn Davis said "any day a customer comes in, one of the artists is behind the desk. We don't have any paid staff so you may be greeted by a photographer, jeweler or wood worker any day of the week. We are obviously knowledgeable about our own work and we try to know as much as possible about each other's work. It is a wonderful opportunity to talk about craft.

WEST RUTLAND
MJ Amsden Furniture has been in business in West Rutland for almost 30 years. They are well known for their handcrafted wooden furniture. They use carefully selected Vermont woods, which can be custom made and upholstered according to customers' needs. "We usually have an educational display showing how the furniture is made," owner Michale Amsden said. "We often make tours of the shop available as well."

MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS
South of West Rutland is Middletown Springs, where you will find a few studios on the map. One popular stop for visitors is Rising Meadow Pottery, established in 1998 by Nicholas Seidner and Diane Rosenmiller. The husband and wife owners make historically influenced pottery that is designed to be used every day. This utilitarian approach is enhanced by the fact that local ingredients are sought for glazing materials. For example, Seidner has been using slate from stone cutting settling ponds in Granville, NY.

An important part of the pottery company is education and they offer classes for different ages and abilities. "There is a lot of interest in how we make not just what we make," Seidner says. "When people see the artist make their work I think there is a greater appreciation for the finished product. It's so hard for people to understand, by looking at a handmade object, the amount of time, labor and passion that goes into it," he says of what has made Open Studio Weekend so popular. "I think it is a matter of educating people about the process and developing a better understanding."

Photo courtesy of Vermont Crafts Council

Photo by Anne Majusiak