Redefining 'shop local'
PUTNEY — From gourd art to award-winning handcrafted cheese and wine, from twisted glass and jewelry to turned wooden bowls and pottery, you can't go wrong venturing "over the river and through the woods" to find the 22 working studios on Putney's artisan trail in search of fine art and crafts, and the quirky and unusual, too.
The Putney Craft Tour, the oldest continuously held craft tour in the country, offers visitors a chance to meet the artists in the settings where their work happens. Now in its 41st year, the tour is being held from Friday, Nov. 29 through Sunday, Dec. 1 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
This year, the tour celebrates Parish Hill Creamery cheesemakers of Westminster, who were among seven Vermont cheesemakers who took home a collective 19 medals at this fall's World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy. Parish Hill took bronze for its Humble and Idyll cheeses, gold at the American Cheese Society 2019 Conference and Competition for Reverie and Kashar, and silver for its Suffolk Punch. Feel free to judge for yourself: Parish Hill offers tastings on the tour at 131 West Parish Hill Road — that's studio No. 14 on the Putney Craft Tour map, available at putneycrafts.com/map.html.
Vermont's cheeses are not the only winners on display. In its first foray outside Vermont, Putney Mountain Winery's Vermont Cassis received Double Gold and Best in Show for liqueurs in the 2019 New York World Spirits competition. The winery offers tastings of a variety of its wines, liqueurs, and ciders at their winery in Putney. That's No. 5 on the tour map, at 8 Bellows Falls Rd.
Stained-glass artisan Julia Brandis and her husband have spent the past four years building a new studio, which they're excited to premiere this year. Its wood was cut and milled right on their land. Folks who have been coming to Julia's studio for years will find it is a short walk up the hill to the new gorgeous light-filled space on Newcomb Road.
Dena Gartenstein Moses is known for her colorful and visually stunning wearables: shawls, luxurious, and handwoven hats lined in polar fleece. In addition to her Vermont Weaving School, Gartenstein Moses is just starting a new company, Vermont Weaving Supplies.. Find Dina Gartenstein Moses at studio No. 10, at 4 Signal Pine Road in Putney.
For something really unique, check out The Green Mountain Spinnery, at 7 Brickyard Lane. In 1981, a small group of local fiber enthusiasts assembled antique equipment gathered from abandoned mills around New England and transformed the former gas station, located just off Interstate 91 at Exit 4, into the working mill and yarn shop that you can visit as part of the tour. Browse their yarns, patterns and samples in this worker-owned cooperative.
There are four glassblowers on the tour. Start with Robert Burch's studio, at 3 Great Meadows Ridge in Putney. Burch is an entertainer and glassblower — he's been working in the medium for more than 30 years — and his studio is alive with demos all weekend long. And Robert's daughter Caitlin works in two related fields: offhand blown glass and lamp-worked glass. You might catch Caitlin demonstrating in studio No. 4.
Josh Letourneau also has a connection with Robert Burch, having apprenticed with him on furnace work. His work ranges from colorful tumblers and steins to lamp-worked pendants and beads, which can be found at his studio at 2089 Kurn Hattin Rd.
If pottery is your thing be sure to stop at Ryan Burch's studio No. 2, across the driveway from his father's glass studio. For Ryan, creating with his hands has always seemed to be the most sensible and natural contribution he can make to the world. Other potters on the tour include Ken Pick, Fiona Morehouse of Alchemy Arts, and David Mischke.
Putney Craft Tour painters include landscape artist Nancy Calicchio, whose muse is the Vermont landscape. Calicchio's studio is at 198 Church St. in Westminster West, and she always has a fun opportunity for visitors—young and old—to participate and engage with art.
Traveling to or from Calicchio's studio, consider stopping at the Westminster West Congregational Church for their "soup sale" fundraiser to help support families in need. The hearty and internationally inspired soups will be accompanied by brownies, cookies and all kinds of sweets, too. The sale takes place Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Artist Judy Hawkins also is inspired by the Vermont landscape, especially interpreting the mood and feeling of weather, skies, and water. Her colors are bold with gestural brushstrokes and fine detail. Hawkins's studio, at 3506 Westminster West Rd., is near Calicchio's and on the way to jewelry designer Jeanne Bennett.
New on the tour this year is Jeanette Staley, who creates commissioned floor cloths for the home. She also paints small studies inspired by the Vermont culture and agrarian lifestyle. She's looking forward to the tour. Say hello and see her world at 201 Church Ave., in Bellows Falls.
Rounding out the tour is Kim Grall, who fashions art from gourds. She describes herself as a multimedia artist with a background in painting, printmaking, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, photography, music, and more. All of these pursuits find their way to her gourds and are supported by the many materials she finds growing on her property. Her studio is at 4607 U.S. Route 5 in Westminster Station.
A full listing of artists can be found at putneycrafts.com/meet-the-artists.html.
Making connections with art
Connections are what it's all about, both for the artists and the people who visit their studios. Thousands of visitors move through the studios over the course of three days and engage with the artists—the real draw of such tours. People say it's much more interesting to see something in a studio where it was created and to speak to the artist who made it than to see a piece in a shop or gallery.
Putney also reflects the power of the creative economy. Area bed and breakfasts, B&Bs, stores, restaurants, and retailers report that the tour drives their biggest weekend sales of the year. And for the past four years organizers have been partnering with Sandglass Theatre and Next Stage Arts, to put on special performances at night.
On Saturday, November 30 at 7:30 p.m., Next Stage Arts Project and Twilight Music will be featuring contemporary folk singer-songwriters Antje Duvekot and Marr Nakoa. For tickets, visit nextstagearts.org.
Sandglass Theater will be offering a piece about belonging, memory and intergenerational dialogue. "When I Put on Your Glove," performed and created by Shoshana Bass, explores a daughter's relationship with her father's work and how an art form endures and transforms as it is handed to the next generation. Performances are Friday and Saturday Nov. 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. at Sandglass Theater in Putney. For tickets visit sandglasstheater.org.
Visitors can start at The Gleanery Restaurant, 133 Main St., Putney for information, maps, and a preview exhibition of artisans' works. Lead sponsors include Four Columns Inn & Artisan Restaurant, Hidden Springs Maple, Putney Diner, Putney Food Co-op, and the Putney General Store. More information can be found at www.putneycrafts.com where you can also download a map.
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