SOUTH NEWFANE - Roger Sandes knows exactly where many of his fellow artists live in South Newfane area.
"Up here on the left, with the yellow door ... there's a potter who has his studio there in what looks like a garage, but it's a studio," he said, gesturing to a quaint house where Rob Cartelli works his ceramic magic. "And then up here, there is an iron bridge, that's Parish Hill Road, and if you go up there, there's a couple of studios ... a woodworker and a painter."
This picturesque trip from the house Sandes shares with wife, collage artist Mary Welsh, in Williamsville to the property of potter Richard Foye at 85 Auger Hole Road in South Newfane is just a sampling of what is in store for participants of the Rock River Art Tour, scheduled for July 19 and 20. In its 22nd year, the tour unites several Rock River Valley artists from a variety of genres for a public display of their work in their homes, studios and gardens. A map of all the stops and a list of every artist included on the tour can be found at rockriverartists.com.
Most of the spots on the tour are within a short drive of South Newfane, and visitors are also welcomed to stop at the 19th century Old Schoolhouse. According to Rock River Artists, the old one-room schoolhouse is transformed into a high-end, contemporary gallery for the weekend and will serve as a hub for guests to see all of the artists' work, plan your self-guided tour, pick up maps, purchase a ticket to the art raffle and ask questions. The artists include painters, potters, furniture makers, a photographer, printmakers, an ironworker and a thread on fabric artist.
Sandes, who gave the Reformer an abbreviated tour last weekend, said he decided on New Year's Eve of 1966 to be artist and never looked back.
"I knew it was the most ridiculous thing to attempt, but I should do it anyway," he said. Now, he and Welsh are two of the Rock River Art Tour's founding members and continue to annually open up their home to any and all interested art fans. He said the tour is the brainchild of photographer Christine Triebert.
Sandes and Welsh stopped by the home of Richard Foye, a potter who specializes in raku - a type of Japanese/Korean pottery that produces a beautiful, multi-color glaze on the finished product due to the firing technique used. Foye said he will have his studios open for the tour and people often also enjoy pursuing his garden and checking out some of the antique automobiles parked off to the side.
He said he got started in pottery at the University of Vermont, when his roommate became interested in it. That was 45 years ago and that former roommate - Ken Pick, of Putney - is now Foye's tennis partner and fellow professional potter.
"It's his fault I'm making pottery," he joked.
Foye said his studios are generally received very well during the art tours - attracting as many as 350 people - and the weekend has on occasion accounted for up to 10 percent of his income for the year.
"It's always worth it, financially, as well as it's good spiritually, too," he said. "You talk to people and get a lot of people who don't live nearby here."
Sandes and Welsh then swung by the house where Triebert lives with her partner.
"We dreamed it up and Roger named it," she said in her studio that is bejeweled with copies of her work. "We had been living here just a handful of years - it was our third year here - and we were aware there were a lot of different artists in this area, but there sort of was no forum for meeting each other, working together, showing work together, and we were familiar with other groups that did this sort of thing in other areas and we just said, 'What would it look like if we did it here?' "It just grew out of a conversation," she added.
Triebert has on display two of her most recent bodies of work, as well as photographs she produced without using a camera. She explained she can copy objects directly onto photographic paper and then scans them and makes large prints. Triebert is also proud of her "geomorph" work, generated by the debris and rubble left behind by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. She said she photographed them in an abstract way and mounted them individually on small wooden panels so they can be configured into different patterns by guests of the tour.
Most studios on the tour will have refreshments and a homegrown barbecue fundraiser has been scheduled for Williamsville Hall, which served as the community center in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene flooding, on Saturday night.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.