Open Studio Weekend beckons visitors

MANCHESTER -- Ever been curious about the strange and secret alchemy that artists brew up behind those often closed studio doors?

That veil of mystery will be pulled aside the weekend of May 24-5 across Vermont, when more than 230 studio-based artists of several varieties will be laboring away inside their work places. Visitors are welcome, however; to drop by, watch and chat.

Open Studio Weekend, as the event is formally known, is a chance for her to show the public what see does on a daily basis, said Jessica Phillips of Battenkill River Pottery in Arlington.

"I'll have several projects going in various stages and they (the visitors) can see the process laid out there," she said. "I'll be working on things and answer questions."

Phillips makes a range of ceramic wear, from bowls and mugs to porcelain jewelry. Functionality is her watchword -- while many of her pieces have practical usefulness, she strives to incorporate some hand-carved decorating into them to give them a distinctive panache, she said.

"I will have demonstrations where I'll be throwing some pieces on the wheel, and I will also have demonstrations on how I decorate the pottery," she said. "Everything I do is a multi-stage process -- what I'm going to have is four weeks condensed into a day."

Open Studio Weekend began in 1993 as a way to get exposure for artists who were often too small or operating on tight budgets to spread the word about what they did. It's run by the Vermont Crafts Council, a private non profit organization now in its 24th year, and includes visual artists who work with clay, wood, metal, fiber, glass, painting, drawing, printmaking, and paper, according to its website.

"The event started out being just for crafters and craft studios but we got so many painters wondering why they couldn't participate that we said 'you have a good point,'" said Martha Fitch, the craft council's executive director. "If you visit a studio you'll see it's a serious profession, with skills and and tools needed to create works of art."

You can see and talk with artists and crafters at art shows, or maybe in a gallery, but watching them in their native habitat is a way to gain insight into the creative process that's hard to duplicate outside that context, she said.

Artists across the state will be taking part, with outposts in 11 of Vermont's 14 counties having at least one participating studio. In Bennington County, 11 studios will be taking part, from Readsboro to East Rupert.

Last year, about 7,000 visitors trekked across the state to explore at least some of participating artists. Each year, there is some turnover in the roster of artists taking part in the weekend event, Fitch said.

New artists come in, while some who have participated take a hiatus each year, she added.

One of the criteria for taking part in the Open Studio Weekend is that artists have a studio in the first place. Many crafters work out of a home environment, and are not keen to have visitors walking through a home. Others, especially those who work with precious metals or valuable materials, are sometimes similarly reluctant to advertise their working inventory.

Kit Mosheim of Dorset is a jeweler who works with gemstones, beads and precious metals in her living room, but will be displaying some of her craftwork alongside her husband Dan Mosheim, a furniture maker. He has a studio in Dorset where his work will be on display as well.

Fans of furniture making will have a chance to study the differing styles of three different furniture makers within a short distance of each other in the Dorset area, with Dan Mosheim, Steve Holman and William Laberge all within a few miles of each other.

Pairing up is often a smart way for artists to draw more visitors to a studio, Kit Mosheim said, because they can offer the people passing through the opportunity to see more than one artist with one visit. Over the course of the dozen times she's taken part in the Open Studio Weekend, she's noticed that many visitors focus on a specific geographic area, and try to cover as many studios as they can within a given region. And sometimes the visitors are nearby neighbors. She will not be making any jewelry, but will be talking with the visitors who pass through, she said.

Sometimes the visitors are neighbors, curious to see what goes on next door, she said.

"It's a really good way for people in the community to meet artists," Kit Mosheim said. "It's a nice way to get out and see what the arts community does."

A short distance away in downtown Manchester, the artist cooperative Epoch 18 will be serving as something of an information hub for visitors to the Bennington County area, said Sandra Owens, one of the founding and managing members. Several of their members will be hosting visitors at their individual studios. Their work will also be on display at the co-op located on Main Street in Manchester, where visitors can get directions and suggestions.

"Recognition, exposure -- people finding out about the artists and the direct connection to the artists and getting to meet them personally and learning more about the art they are purchasing -- these are some of the main benefits of Open Studio Weekend," said Owens, a jeweler whose own studio is located farther north in Benson. She, however, will be based over the weekend at Epoch 18 in Manchester, handing out maps and offering advice to visitors who wander in, she said.

Open Studio Weekend will take place over May 24-5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Vermont Craft Council's website at, or call 802-223-3380.


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