BRATTLEBORO >> You don't need a golden ticket to explore this factory of creations.
Locals and tourists alike are welcome to walk throughout the old Cotton Mill building at 74 Cotton Mill Hill, where 18 tenants and 32 outside artists and artisans are expected to participate in the 16th Annual Cotton Mill Open Studio and Holiday Sale on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7. It will last from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The event celebrates the work of musicians, bakers, cooks, circus performers, and craftspeople of the Cotton Mill, as well as other artists and artisans from Brattleboro and its surrounding communities. All open up their work spaces for an extravaganza of culinary treats, circus acts, music and media presentations, dance performances and a chance to purchase artistic creations such as iron art, pottery, functional wooden art, blown glass, jewelry, cosmetics, sachets and woven goods. There will also be a display of artwork by Putney Grammar School students from kindergarten through the eighth grade.
The Vermont Jazz Center will have an evening of music on Dec. 5, the night before the doors open.
Louisa Conrad and her husband Lucas Farrell, the co-owners of Big Picture Farm, will be one of the featured artisans, with their goat milk caramels for sale. The married couple started out of Peaked Mountain Farm four years ago and once rented out space at the Cotton Mill before moving back to the farmland to make their products. Conrad said the open studio and holiday sale is typically a successful weekend for the business.
"It's fun. You see a lot of familiar faces," she told the Reformer. "I love to shop there myself. I like to go around the buildings."
One of the weekend's other artisans will be Lindsay Clark, Conrad and Farrell's confectioner at Big Picture Farm. Clark started her own handcrafted chocolate truffle company in January and has been renting space in the Cotton Mill since March. She said she specializes in using local ingredients, such as goat cheese, beets and fennel.
"I had worked as a chocolatier for other people. It's a nice creative outlet for me and it kind of sprung out of that," she said. "The truffles are like a small moonlighting thing for me. I hope to grow organically as time goes on."
Clark said she has even teamed up with Laury Greening, who has designed wooden boxes for the truffles and is expected to be at the open studio.
Ingrid and Franklin Chrisco, who operate True North Granola out of a peanut-free production facility on the Cotton Mill's first floor, will have their granola products - including their new Nutty No Grainer - for sale.
"We love working at the Mill. It's a great community of people that work there," he said. "It is just a natural thing, for us to exhibit at the open studio."
One of the outside vendors coming back to the Cotton Mill is Natalie Blake. She now operates on West River Road but she used to rent a space in the building, down the hall from current business partner Randi Solin, and she watched the open studio blossom into what it is today.
"It's great. I get to clear the clutter from my studio and people walk away delighted that they got a crazy good deal," she said. "Everything is usually 80 or 90 percent off for me."
Stephen Procter, a potter, will sell pieces out of his studio in the small building across the parking lot from the Cotton Mill.
Storymatic Studios will also have its products available. The company was founded to sell a creative prompt designed by Brian Mooney while working at Marlboro College and the Putney School's summer program and now operates out of the Mill's third floor. Mooney will have four products for sale, including the brand-new "Rememory," which is entering its second production run.
This will be the third open studio and holiday sale for Storymatic Studios.
"It's great. The reason that I wanted to get Storymatic into the Cotton Mill is, years ago my wife (Vaune Trachtman) went to the open studio and I just fell in love with the building. You just turn the corner and you never what you'll see," Mooney said. "It's such an exciting place to be. There is so much creative energy. (The weekend) is successful financially, but the most important thing is that we get to talk to people in the area. It's social, it's fun and it's nice to say 'This is what we're doing and this is where we're doing it.'"
But not everything at the open studio costs money. Dana Batchelor, the registrar at the New England Center for Circus Arts, said NECCA will put on a free circus recital with no reservation necessary. She said there will be individual and group acts on different apparatus at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Dec. 6. Batchelor said free sample classes will be held on Dec. 7. She told the Reformer NECCA will have an open studio with juggling, fabric and balance stations so people can "try a little bit of circus for free."
She said children 18 months to 7 years old (with a parent) can participate at 11 a.m. and anyone 8 and older can take part at noon. NECCA will also host a bakesale.
Contact Domenic Poli at 802-254-2311, ext. 277.