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Portraits of the Artists

  • Stained-glass and graphic artist and home renovation designer Phil Godenschwager. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Stained-glass and graphic artist and home renovation designer Phil Godenschwager. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Susan Rockwell, of Danby, Vt., holds a shuttle for weaving. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Susan Rockwell, of Danby, Vt., holds a shuttle for weaving. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Book artist Donna Stepian in her studio at the White River Craft Center in Randolph. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Book artist Donna Stepian in her studio at the White River Craft Center in Randolph. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Fine woodworker David Hurwitz, of Randolph, in his wood shop. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Fine woodworker David Hurwitz, of Randolph, in his wood shop. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Artist Erica Sears sits in her studio as her son, Avery, 9, works on his homework. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Artist Erica Sears sits in her studio as her son, Avery, 9, works on his homework. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stained-glass and graphic artist and home renovation designer Phil Godenschwager. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Susan Rockwell, of Danby, Vt., holds a shuttle for weaving. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Book artist Donna Stepian in her studio at the White River Craft Center in Randolph. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Fine woodworker David Hurwitz, of Randolph, in his wood shop. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Artist Erica Sears sits in her studio as her son, Avery, 9, works on his homework. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Erica Sears uses wide, sweeping strokes, clutching a chunk of charcoal, to begin to sketch out the face of a Native American on a six-foot canvas as her son, Avery, 9, scribbles away at his homework. Her studio space is littered with children’s art while most of her own work — paintings — are stacked outside her studio in the hall of the White River Craft Center in Randolph.

Two doors down, Donna Stepian sits on a stool in her small studio and quietly makes telephone calls promoting her weekend book-making class. Her journals and art books are neatly stacked on a bookshelf, and typography posters are tacked to the walls. The cool afternoon light filters through the windows as snow falls outside.

It’s a quiet Tuesday afternoon at Kimball House, the center’s main building, a gathering place for artists, crafters, and art students of all ages and types. The building, which includes several artist studios, a darkroom, a commercial kitchen and three apartments, isn’t always this quiet. In the evenings and on weekends, classes in ceramics, drawing, stained-glass window making and photography fill the center and studios with people excited to assemble a church window or to weave a shawl.

Kevin Harty, a Randolph woodworker who founded the White River Craft Center in 1998 and continues to head up the center, has arranged with several of the artists to let them keep a studio space for free or reduced price. In exchange, the artists teach classes right out of their studios.

Because of this, there is a full schedule of classes always available at the center, and artists who would normally only be able to work from home have a space to work, teach and collaborate.

“A lot of artists who are self-employed have a home studio,” said Harty.

“Life gets in the way at home and you always have an excuse not to be creative — dishes need to be done or the house cleaned. That’s why a lot of artists come here, to have a place where they can concentrate and get their work done, but also to collaborate with each other. A collective studio space is synergetic — the artists can really feed off each other’s energy.”

The work created by the artists at the White River Craft Center can be seen throughout the hallways of the artists’s studios, wooden lamps, woven coasters tied into bundles, paintings and photographs. Evidence of a community of productivity and collaboration that provides a space for creativity and teaching.