WEST BRATTLEBORO -- Buoyed by major coverage in the Boston Globe last Sunday, the artists and craftspeople of the fourth annual Brattleboro-West Arts Open Studio are eager to welcome visitors this weekend.
The fourth annual tour runs Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and features the work of 16 local craftspeople and artisans in 13 locations in West Brattleboro and Marlboro, who are eager to offer visitors close-up, personal glimpses into their lives and work.
Right on down, in one case anyway, to their underwear.
Featured at American Traders, 257 Western Ave., is The Underwear Project by sculptor and collage artist Sharon Myers. Challenged in her graduate art program a couple of years ago to do 26 representations of something seen every day that changes every day, Meyers was stuck for what to do.
"I jokingly said ‘my underwear.’ They did not crack a smile," she recalled. But they let her proceed. The result has been more than she ever bargained for.
"I was really just experimenting to see where it takes me. ... It’s been so much fun," said Myers. "I have been totally out of my comfort zone, and that’s what’s been great about it."
What Myers did is take underwear and add elements to it by drawing, sewing, printing and doing installations. Some of her additions enhance the soft, sensuous side of underwear; others are rougher, even industrial. The results are pieces that people have an instant reaction to. Underwear, to be brief, is an evocative medium.
"I hear ‘Oh, this is cute,’ or ‘this is cozy,’ or ‘this is sexy’ or ‘this is playful,’" said Myers.
Myers is eager to hear what you think, and excited to be part of the Brattleboro West-Arts Open Studio Tour. Her busts of people were featured at a tour stop the first year, but she’s excited to show people her latest work.
"I’ve lived here 27 or 28 years, and very few people know me as an artist," said Myers. "This is an interesting town. There are many hidden artists."
Myers’ work is mentioned here not to titillate but to show the kind of creativity and unique work that people will see from these artists who are scattered among the hills and off the beaten paths of the Whetstone River watershed.
Tourgoers will find disciplines as diverse as violin and banjo making, glassblowing, textile art, metalworking, stone sculpture, painting, pottery, basket making, woodworking and jewelry. Many of the artists will be doing live demos of their work and some offer other surprises. Studios see as many as 100 visitors in a weekend, and many come from out of town.
The artists are excited to see them, but just as excited to welcome friends, neighbors and nearby townspeople to see the artists living and working in their midst. Last year, the tour took place just a few weeks after Tropical Storm Irene hit. People were still recovering, and access to some studios was sketchy. This year, spirits are higher.
"Last year was really colored by what happened with Irene. It feels very different this year," said Naomi Lindenfeld, a colored clay artist, who will demonstrating her distinctive technique, selling work and seconds and warmly welcoming people to her studio at 330 Meadowbrook Road. "It’s really nice for our neighbors and friends to have an opportunity to some see us in action."
Just in time for fall foliage, Lindenfeld has been incorporating leaf designs into her colored clay pottery. "The flow and movement of the shapes, the effect that the carving has in the layered colored clay patterns, the association with nature and the Vermont landscape that surrounds me, all inspire this new direction that I have been taking with my work," she stated.
Other tour artists who share with Lindenfeld, a passion for working in clay, are Walter Slowinski at 658 Orchard St., West Brattleboro; Matt Tell, at 163 Potters Hill Road in Marlboro; and Malcolm Wright, at 88-90 Turnpike Road (intersection of MacArthur and Stark Roads) in Marlboro.
Wright’s work also includes bronze sculpture, a medium he shares with Ron Karpius, who decided to open his cabin at 259 Greenleaf St., to visitors for the first time, after showing his work in previous years at Doug Cox’s violin studio on Sunset Lake Road. He was never sure his little cabin was big enough to welcome visitors, but he decided to take the plunge.
"My real aim is to make friends long-term with people and let them know I’m here," said Karpius. "Hopefully, they’ll enjoy the environment."
Not only is Karpius’ cabin a good place to be amid nature’s beauty, he has livened things up with sculpture which will be hanging from trees and all around, including a praying mantis and "the infamous Vermont black fly. ... I don’t know why I chose to honor that fellow," he mused.
He will also be doing sculpture demos and selling his work, including small works at prices that make art accessible to people who might not ordinarily buy art.
He will also show and sell a line of Pompeii oil lamps that he originally created for the owner of an Italian restaurant. Based on an ancient style, Karpius’ lamps are durable and burn a mix of olive and canola oils.
Karpius’ tour pal Doug Cox will have to muddle through without him this year, but he’ll manage. Cox is inviting the public to see and try out his new reproductions of violins made in 1744 by Carlo Bergonzi and violas made in 1733 by Paolo Antonio Testore. There will be informal music-making occasionally during the tour hours. Cox Violins is located at 1138 Sunset Lake Road.
Just up the road from Cox is the glass studio shared by husband and wife artists Josh and Marta Bernbaum at 119 Hescock Road. In his latest work glass blower Josh Bernbaum explores what is "hidden beneath the surface. ... Wheel-carving of the glass both reveals an exciting interior and enhances the sculptural qualities I was hoping to achieve." Marta Bernbaum plans to have new specimens of her glass beads on hand.
Other stops on the tour include: Woodworkers David and Michelle Holzapfel at Applewoods Studio, 2802 Route 9 (Molly Stark Byway) in Marlboro; wood sculptor, painter and boat builder Mark Littlehales, 1195 MacArthur Road in Marlboro; painters Petria Mitchell and Jim Giddings, 447 Stark Road; photographer Gene Parulis at Mahalo Art Center, 972 Western Ave.; and painter Janet Picard, 495 Marlboro Road (Route 9).
In conjunction with the tour, the Chelsea Royal Diner will host a Localvore dinner on Sept. 29. In addition to sampling a selection of locally produced foods, the public will have a chance to share a meal with BWA members. Also visitors will have the opportunity to enter a drawing at any tour stop to win one of two gift certificates, one for jewelry from silversmith Chris Lann and another for a meal at the Chelsea Royal Diner.
The Open Studio Tour is the most visible manifestation of the work of Brattleboro-West Arts, an association of artists, craftspeople and others in the West Brattleboro and Marlboro area dedicated to supporting the artistic and economic success of its members and the community. Its members meet monthly and connect in other ways to help each other, both artistically, personally and with the business of the arts.
"It means a huge amount to me," said Lindenfeld.
"This organization brings out the best in people," added Karpius.
Brochures with a map to all the 2012 tour sites are available at any tour stop and at various other locations, including the Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce and American Traders, or by visiting www.brattleboro-west-arts.com. Find Brattleboro-West Arts on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org