By Marilyn Pribus –
One of the most appealing quality-of-life aspects of Central Virginia is its vibrant art scene. Artisans of all sorts populate studios in Charlottesville and there are numerous galleries and studios nestled away in other towns in our scenic Blue Ridge countryside.
A wonderful way to explore this art trove is the 23rd annual Artisans Studio Tour on November 11 and 12. The Studio Tour was founded in 1994 by a group of regional artisans to enhance the community’s awareness of professionals living and working in our area. This year, 45 artisans in 25 studios will display their varied crafts during this free, self-guided tour which includes two new studios and seven new participants.
“This tour really highlights both the quality and quantity of artistic talent in our area,” declares REALTOR® Kelly Ceppa of Nest Realty in Charlottesville. Why not take advantage of our fall weather to visit some in person?
Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., these 45 artisans will welcome the public into their studios and galleries. For many, the best part of the Tour is meeting and talking with the artisans themselves.
It’s a fascinating opportunity to learn about the processes involved in the creation of pottery, furniture, weaving, fabric design, jewelry, stained glass, musical instruments, wood turning, and quilting. At some studios, visitors will see demonstrations and in other places they’ll even have a chance at hands-on experience. In addition, each studio will be providing locally sourced refreshments.
Every artisan has undergone a rigorous approval process ensuring all work is of the highest quality. This means the Tour is an excellent opportunity to find a unique gift for someone special on your list or to add to your own collection.
Meet Some Artisans
Dammann Custom Instruments (Studio # 7) dates back to 1990 with the creation of electric basses which Ralph Dammann played. While they still make those basses, more modern work came about when Ray Varona joined the company in 2007. Today, their most popular instrument is their Five Course Mandocello. The “defining characteristic” of their instruments is locally salvaged and harvested woods like walnut, cherry, locust and Osage orange which they gather, saw, and dry themselves. Visit their Albemarle County Studio to hear and see their lovely instruments.
Taviametal (Studio #15) is Tavia Brown’s jewelry business, launched part-time in 2001 and now a full-time studio in Charlottesville. She works through “touch, sight, and sentiment” in sterling silver, gold, and titanium, often punctuating her work with gems. Her intriguing offerings include one-of-a-kind, limited edition, and custom items including earrings, rings, pendants, necklaces, and bracelets. Her work, she says, combines industrial with delicate and her signature look comes from a “balance between the gritty and the enchanting.”
Alex Pettigrew of Pettigrew Woodworks in North Garden (Studio #18) crafts a large variety of accessories for office and home. He cites the “wonderful palette of color and texture” found in Appalachian hardwoods and his beautifully created pieces are finished with natural oils and waxes—no stains—so the hues of the various woods shine through.
Pettigrew’s creations range from ink pens to pizza cutters and ice cream scoops, from wine racks to jewelry boxes, from bowls to serving boards and other lovely items. He hates to see things go to waste, so leftover wood from larger pieces is incorporated into smaller items. For the Tour, he has also created some purely decorative pieces.
The Tye River Pottery in Nelson County (Studio #20) is where Kevin Crowe creates his eye-catching wood-fired functional stoneware. His work ranges from four-inch tea bowls to large-scale throwing of vases up to four feet tall.
Crowe’s creations are fired only twice a year. Each firing (“done when the moon is right”) lasts for a week and gobbles up eight cords of wood. During the Studio Tour, Crowe and his crew will be firing his new anagama—an ancient style of Asian kiln with the wood burned in the same chamber as the fired pieces. The wood must be stoked around the clock and when the wood ash settles on the pieces it creates interesting interactions (and often surprises) with the glazes and the minerals in the clay.
Susan Haas, a first-timer on the Tour, has always been fascinated by glassblowing. She says it’s an intriguing mystery to take the molten glass and shape it with heat, tools, imagination, and more heat to create a solid piece of beauty. Her blown glass—in a variety of styles, and often showing echoes of water—will be on display at Phineas Rose (Studio #6) in Madison County.
Another newcomer is Sarah Tremaine whose wearable art creations and decorative panels are made from silk, wool and other natural fibers. Her work, inspired by nature and made by hand, often uses local plant materials and natural dyes to create eco-prints (botanical prints) on a variety of fibers. Items include garments, scarves, neckties, and items for the home. Her Sunset Farm Studio (Studio #23) is in Crozet.
“Taking the Tour,” concludes REALTOR ® Ceppa, “lets you meet these artisans and enjoy our beautiful countryside at the same time.”
For more information, visit artisanstudiotour.com. This splendid website provides profiles of the artisans, a peek at every participants’ work with links to their individual websites, a downloadable Studio Tour map, and downloadable detailed directions to each studio.
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. She especially enjoys the opportunity to speak with various artisans.