Vermont artisans prepare for Open Studio Weekend on Oct. 6 and 7

Artistic creativity and the brilliant colors of Vermont autumn go hand in hand on Oct. 6 and 7 as a statewide network of craftspeople and artists open their studios to the public for Vermont Fall Open Studio Weekend.

This is the second year that the Vermont Crafts Council is presenting an Open Studio tour in the fall, although the spring studio tour has been offered since 1993.

VCC Director Martha Fitch points out that, unlike last fall when the state was dealing with the aftermath of road damage from Tropical Storm Irene, this year the traveling is easy as Vermont roads are smooth and bridges have been fully repaired.

“It's a rare invitation to go behind the craft shows and exhibits to view the creative work environment and speak with the artist,” says Fitch. “You can explore straight or winding, paved or dirt roads, and be treated to brilliant scenic vistas, classic Vermont villages, and warm welcomes from artists whose studios are normally private spaces.”

The Crafts Council publishes a free map booklet available at Vermont welcome centers and galleries.

In Windham County, the pottery studio of Walter Slowinski is less than a mile from both Interstate 91 and Route 9, tucked into a renovated corner of an old barn.

Slowinski, a former physician, has been making pottery since his college days at Oberlin. A musician as well, Slowinkski moved from western New York in 1998 after exploring the area during a Vermont Spring Open Studio Weekend.

He remembers stopping at the studio of Malcolm Wright, a master potter in Marlboro known for having one of the first wood-fired kilns on the east coast.

Wright, whose Turnpike Road Pottery is also part of the studio tour, was “quite supportive,” says Slowinski.

“A lot of what the tour is about is being able to converse in a personal way with the craftsperson or artist,” he says.

Visitors during Open Studio Weekend will find Slowinski making pots in a sunlit studio he built in a corner of the barn, where he throws, glazes, and bisque-fires his work before finishing the pieces in his wood-fired kiln outside.

He will finish a firing shortly before Open Studio Weekend, so visitors will be able to see all-new work, including Japanese tea bowls, covered jars, bowls, mugs, and teapots with sculptural handles he has made from apple and wild high-bush blueberry branches.

Also in Brattleboro, visitors will find the ceramics studio of Laura Zindel, whose detailed drawings of botanicals, insects, and other features of the natural world are fired onto clay through a ceramic-transfer process.

Just west of Brattleboro is another cluster of artists in the Marlboro-Wilmington region, including Matthew Tell Pottery, the Art of Humor Gallery, Green Mountain Pressed Flowers, Eric Sprenger Fine Woodworking, and Isabelle Hadley's lavender farm and craft studio.

Studio visitors traveling north of Brattleboro will find two glass blowing studios: Sherwin Art Glass in Rockingham, where Chris Sherwin specializes in iridescent and torchwork design; and Brandywine Glassworks in Putney, where Bob Burch has been blowing glass for nearly 35 years in the 200-year-old barn that houses his studio.

In Burch's studio, a furnace roars and glows at 2000 degrees to keep the glass in a molten state while it is being worked.

“It's like a dance, because you have to keep it moving constantly,” he says.

He will demonstrate nonstop during the Open Studio.

“In 15 or 20 minutes, I can make a small piece that will show people the entire process,” he says. “Once in a while, if people seem really excited, I let them help.”

Burch says the Open Studio Tour is an educational experience but also gives people a sense of his life. He and his wife Nancy, who manages the business, open their studio to the public only a few times each year, and they will have a full array of glass available, including seconds.

The Vermont Crafts Council is a nonprofit organization serving the Vermont visual arts community. For additional information about Open Studio Weekend, visit www.vermontcrafts.com or call the Vermont Crafts Council at 802-223-3380.

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