Saturday November 10, 2012

COLRAIN, MASS - When the Crafts of Colrain studio tour was in its embryonic stage back in 2004, the planners of this now-renowned event made a decision.

"We decided right from the start," said tour coordinator C. Leigh Morrell, "that we were going to do everything we could to make it a first-class event." And the fruits of that commitment, so to speak, are on display for all to see today and tomorrow in this agricultural, rural hill town located east of the Berkshires.

Colrain’s famous artists and artisans are opening the doors to their studios from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Ninth Annual Crafts of Colrain Studio Tour. "The tour defines what this town is all about," said Morrell, a master blacksmith who’s been forging iron for more than three decades and also teaches classes in the art of smithing. The self-guided tour can be obtained in a beautiful brochure that features a precise map at www.craftsofcolrain.com/studiotour.

Today’s and tomorrow’s tour has stops at the studios of 17 artists and craftsmen


a comprehensive, varied group in "the town that inspires the artists." According to Morrell, each member of the Crafts of Colrain must be a resident of the town, own his or her studio, and has to have "enough products to satisfy the demand of the tourists."

Leigh and his son, Justin, will be welcoming tour visitors to Morrell Metalsmiths at 207 Greenfield Rd. in Colrain. Visitors will get to see and hear the sights and sounds, respectively, of blacksmiths at work.

"We do forged iron interior and exterior work," said the amiable Leigh. "We have lighting devices, such as electrical products or candles, kitchen and bath accessories along with fireplace accessories like fire tools and screens. In addition, we’ll have a nice selection of Christmas ornaments."

On a less cheery note, art quilter extraordinaire Ruth B. McDowell is participating in her last Crafts of Colrain. McDowell’s work is legendary. Among her many stunning quilts are padded coverlets depicting a horse drawing at the Heath Fair and two versions of the Arthur Smith Covered Bridge that was built in 1870 and stands in nearby Lyonsville. "If you’ve never seen Ruth’s work," said tour promotions coordinator Cynthia Herbert, "don’t miss this last opportunity."

Another outstanding artisan on the tour is Eugenia Shearer. She specializes in transforming old collectibles from auctions, flea markets, and barn sales with distinctive painting. "Visitors are encouraged to visit her early," said Morrell, "before she sells out. Genie is a traditional favorite and her bowls, among other crafts, are simply wonderful."

The latest artist to come aboard is Caroline Christie, who specializes in fine art and photography. Christie excels in original oil paintings of landscapes along with brilliantly done photographs of wild horses from the western peaks of states such as Montana and Wyoming to the majestic coastlines of states like Virginia and Georgia.

Meanwhile, two other veterans of the tour are Bob Ramirez and Cynthia Herbert, who work with Angora goats and mohair products. (Children will be allowed to pet the goats.) Leigh Morrell notes that the wearables created by Bob and Cynthia include "the world’s best socks." The duo also produces throws and other wearables in addition to socks, plus hand-dyed mohair yarns.

Other remarkable artisans on the tour include Mike Purington, Cliff Daniels, Peggy Davis, and Joe Kurland. Purington’s forte is creating natural turned wooden bowls, among other products, transforming nature’s artwork into practical articles. Mike also designed the beautiful official sign of the Crafts of Colrain. Daniels, a gifted artisan, works with wheel-thrown and hand built stoneware pottery.

Davis and Kurland specialize in calligraphy and art, prints, nature and railroad themes, cards, and jewelry among other things.  In addition, Joe and Peggy will perform traditional and original Yiddish songs with the Wholesale Klezmer Band tonight at 7 at their studio located at 389 Adamsville Rd. in Colrain. Not to worry: English translations will accompany each of the Yiddish songs.

Carole Adams has returned to the tour. With yarn derived from her own flock of sheep, Adams offers homemade baskets, woolen and herbal creations, and fragrant homemade soaps.

And Ruby Rice’s Visionary Healing Arts Sanctuary and Gallery affords the chance to view Rice’s eclectic blend of mixed media, wearable fiber art for sacred places, playful hats and scarves, and jewelry, while live jazz and rhythm and blues fill the air, courtesy of bassist Bernard Jones and guest musicians both days of the tour.

Further, there will be a free drawing. A box of products from Colrain artists and craftsmen, a veritable mini-sampler of the town’s talent, will be given to the lucky two tourists whose names are drawn after the tour. Tickets are available at each studio along with the traditional starting point of the artistic trip, Pine Hill Orchards.

Corporate sponsors for the Crafts of Colrain are People’s United Bank and We Love Museums.Com. The Shelburne Falls Area Business Association is a supporting organization.