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Celebrating creativity at the Cotton Mill

The Cotton Mill Open Studio and Holiday Sale will take place Friday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Signs will point to the mill from Interstate 91 or downtown. Schedules and directions are available at or by calling 802-257-7731.

BRATTLEBORO—Each year, just before winter hits hard, the artists, musicians, bakers, cooks, circus performers, and craftspeople of the Cotton Mill open their studio doors.

The sixth annual Open Studio and Holiday Sale takes place from Dec. 2 through Dec. 4 at the Cotton Mill, a ramshackle, high-ceilinged, three-story, 145,000-square-foot maze of hallways, stairs, doors, and studios hovering above the Connecticut River.

Built in 1919, at the height of Brattleboro’s manufacturing days, the building started as a textile mill and ended as the Dunham Shoe factory.

Now it has become a successful business incubator run by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. About 60 small businesses make it their base of operations, but the Cotton Mill has also attracted a number of artists and arts organizations — many with national reputations — who have, for a variety of reasons, chosen to work there.

The Cotton Mill may offer inexpensive studio space, convenient access to materials and shipping, freight elevators, loading docks, and the other necessities of commerce, but dogs and children hang out in the hallways, people run back and forth borrowing one another’s tools, and sometimes artists find themselves asking a neighbor for aesthetic advice.

And on the first weekend in December, these artists and craftspeople throw the doors open to their studios and work spaces, and they give people a glimpse into what goes on there every day. Last year, more than 2,000 people attended events during the open house.

Visitors to the open house can attend performances at Luminz, the Vermont Jazz Center, and the New England Center for Circus Arts; watch Randi Solin of Solinglass blow art glass; see ceramics artist Natalie Blake carve tiles and occasionally throw a pot; sample handcrafted cosmetics from Venus of Vermont; get a free massage; and taste the 25 different homemade jams (“boiled down the old-fashioned way”) and toppings from Sidehill Farm.

They can also savor a gourmet lunch cooked up by Robin Scudder, followed by pie, fresh from the oven, at Just Pies on the first floor, or a taste test at True North granola.

Up on the third floor, visitors may stop and see Michael Poster’s Roller Derby portraits, visit Terri Sylvester’s beautiful mural studio, and check out T. Breeze Verdant’s exquisite marquetry with great earrings and wooden boxes, silk painting by Patricia Burleson, holiday candles from Wildblossom, Greg Goodman’s furniture, and metal sculpture by James Takaki.

And, if you need a rest, you can hang out and enjoy the tunes at the Vermont Jazz Center, or some film magic by the Center for Digital Art and Mutsu Crispin.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #128 (Wednesday, November 23, 2011).

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