Value of the handmade vs. the machine-made highlights

24 renowned artists open their studios Thanksgiving weekend

PUTNEY —From jewelry to ceramics to handwovens and woodworking, to handcrafted cheese and wine and more, handmade items are gaining in popularity. According to The Wall Street Journal, the number-one tactic for such big retailers as Macy's, West Elm, Whole Foods and Nordstrom to help them stand apart from their competition is to carry local artisan goods and rare global products.

This is not surprising to the artisans on the 39th Annual Putney Craft Tour that takes place Thanksgiving weekend, Friday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Putney. The tour is the oldest continuous craft studio tour in North America, offering a unique opportunity to spend time with many of Vermont's most powerfully creative voices and to experience the artists' stories and their work up close.

Bob Burch, a founding member of the Putney Craft Tour, agrees that the demand for handmade items is growing. Consumers are looking for the authentic and unique, and they want to purchase items that represent some form of history plus have profound stories to tell. He said, "For those who come on the tour, you get to see where the artists live, what their life is about, and not only see the work but also see it being made. Each piece has a history. Each piece is signed. It's a special and memorable experience. That's what people are looking for now. It's about connection."

"The tour allows the opportunity to connect to the process, not just to a product," said Fiona Morehouse. In her second year on the tour, she talks about art and craft, creating beauty while enhancing everyday living in an artful way to authentically connect. She talks about people becoming more mindful in the way they relate to their home spaces. "For me," she said, "art is like grace from the grit of life. You know you're always going to have dishes, you're always going to have laundry, so how can you make those experiences more artful? How can you bring grace into the mundane, or into your life, or offer it as a gift to others?"

The handmade trend has been helped along by technology; it's easier for entrepreneurs to get their goods to customers, thanks to online sites such as Facebook and Etsy (an online market for handmade and vintage items) — options not available to previous generations of crafters.

But, as Burch points out, it's not the same experience online as it is in an artist's studio, which is up close and personal with the opportunity to speak to the artist, breathe in the atmosphere, and actually see work being made. It's also an adventure to meander through the beautiful Vermont countryside and follow the map to find these prominent craftspeople.

For the last four years, the Putney Craft Tour, Next Stage Arts Project, and Sandglass Theatre have joined forces to present and publicize a special Thanksgiving Weekend of Arts, aptly named Putney Craft Tour's "Craft, Culinary and Performance Weekend." The tour invites area restaurants to create a Putney Craft Tour lunch or dinner "special." Restaurants participating include the following: JD McCliment's Pub, Katy's Great Food Restaurant, Putney Diner, The Gleanery, Putney Food Co-op, Putney General Store and the Four Columns Artisan Restaurant.

The tour is an opportunity to meet Putney area's 24 working artists and buy that special one-of-a-kind gift directly from the artist who made it. Visitors can observe and engage with glass blowers, potters, jewelers, weavers, and woodworkers, as well as with artisan cheesemakers, a custom bicycle-maker, winemakers, encaustic artists, farm-art artists, and one artist who makes drums, rattles, lidded containers, masks and more from gourds. All of the artists will be demonstrating during the tour.

Tour-goers are invited to take photos with their phone as they visit the studios for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate and a night at the Four Columns Inn.

For the fourth year in a row, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce has named the annual Putney Craft Tour as a Top Ten Winter Event (2017/18). The tour has also been approved as a Vermont Arts Council 2017 event.

Visitors may start at The Gleanery Restaurant, 133 Main St., for information, maps, and a preview exhibition of the artisans' works. For all the details, visit or


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