By Marilyn Pribus –
One of the most appealing quality-of-life aspects of Central Virginia is our vibrant art scene thanks to artisans who populate studios in both Charlottesville and the nearby, scenic Blue Ridge countryside.
“We have an extraordinary group of talented people working sometimes in obscurity,” declares Joe Samuels who, with his wife Owie, owns Jos. T. Samuels REALTORS® in Charlottesville. “I like the diversity of the presentations. There are so many wonderful gift ideas and Owie and I are always shopping for family and friends.”
Regional artisans founded the Tour in 1994 to enhance awareness of professionals living and working in our area. An excellent way to explore this art trove is during the 24th annual Artisans Studio Tour on Saturday and Sunday, November 10 and 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This year’s Tour includes 49 artisans in 28 studios in Charlottesville and surrounding counties. Central Virginia’s fall foliage provides a stunning backdrop to this free driving tour of studios of returning favorites and new artists.
During the tour, featured artisans welcome the public into their studios and galleries. For many visitors, the best part of the tour is meeting and talking with the artisans themselves.
It’s also a fascinating opportunity to learn about the processes involved in creating pottery, furniture, woven items, jewelry, stained glass, and other media.
At some studios, visitors see demonstrations and in others they have a chance at hands-on experience. In addition, most studios provide locally sourced refreshments.
Each 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 or to add to your own collection.
Meet Some Artisans
While we’d love to feature every single member on the tour, we are happy we can highlight a variety of artistic callings.
New on the tour this year is blacksmith Corry Blanc, founder of Charlottesville’s Blanc Creatives (Studio 18).
With his current team of ten, including chefs, designers and artisans, Blanc creates heirloom pieces for daily use including steel and copper cooking pans, wooden items like spatulas and boards, cleavers and knives.
He forges the cookware by hand with hammer and anvil to create functional pieces rooted in old traditions, but with a modern look. Everyone who finds themselves in the kitchen will be charmed when using these wonderful tools.
Lotta Helleberg (Studio 12) is a Swedish-born artist based in Charlottesville who has been experimenting with textile printmaking for more than a decade. Most recently, she’s been focused on eco-printing, relief processes, and local plant-based dyes.
“My art embraces natural materials and a commitment to leaving behind minimal waste and toxicity, paying homage to the natural world in both form and content,” she explains.
“Most of all, I want to instill an appreciation of the environment we have near.” Her unique works have been featured in dozens of solo and group exhibitions as distant as Oregon, New York, and Canada.
Jo Perez (Studio 4) is a glass artist. “Color, light, line, texture and form,” she says. “I love the magical qualities of glass!”
She’s been “playing” with glass for nearly 40 years and her creations include both glass art and jewelry. She confesses she still can’t wait to get into the studio to make something new.
“The challenge of creating a pleasing work of glass art or an interesting piece of jewelry and the technical skills needed are what I seek in the studio each day,” she says. “The learning curve leads me forward with each completed project to the next new inspiration.”
Jan Elmore (Studio 9) works at her Red Horse Studio in Keswick where she creates mixed-media sculpture, paintings, painted paper collages, and wood-framed mirrors. While she especially likes creating mirror frames, her work also includes carvings, wall-mounted compositions, and painted canvases with embellishments.
Much of her material is repurposed from remnants of wood, copper, aluminum and other scraps she collects from local woodworkers and recycling centers. She finds that random bits of discarded items often suggest new designs. She also adds texture from a variety of papers, leather, and fibers.
I Want to Take the Tour!
Start with a visit to artisanstudiotour.com for profiles of the artisans, a peek at every participants’ work—often with links to individual websites—a downloadable Studio Tour map, and detailed directions to each studio.
An inviting wrinkle is the Passport Program, which gives you the opportunity to win a shopping credit with a participating studio artisan of your choice. This program is sponsored by Jos. T. Samuels REALTORS® who have been sponsors for at least five years.
Pick up a Passport at any participating studio and receive a stamp from each one you visit. Every visitor is eligible to win a $50 credit and if you collect five stamps, you’ll have a chance to win a $300 credit.
“These artisans have so much to offer and my wife and I like to support their efforts,” concludes Joe Samuels. “The tour is very worthwhile and I urge everyone to take a look. It’s pretty surprising and pretty wonderful.”
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. She especially enjoys the opportunity to speak with various artisans.