Developing an Eye for Art: Artists Invite Upper Valley Residents Into Studios
Mary Hays labels some scarves for sale that her weaving student made at the Corinth Center in Corinth, Vt. on Sunday, October 6, 2013. Hays, a weaver, showed and sold her work as part of the two-day Vermont North By Hand Open Studios event. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Betsy Derrick, left, of Hanover, talks to Bruce Murray in his ceramics studio and shop next to his home in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, October 6, 2013. Murray was participating in the Vermont North By Hand Open Studios event. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Corinth — Sandy Spiegel lingered by a weaver’s loom Sunday, standing in the main room of the Corinth Town Hall. The machine was owned by a friend, Kathryn Price, who this weekend was showing off her hand-dyed and hand-woven fabrics called ikats.
Spiegel has woven as a hobby before, but hasn’t taken it up in years. So the craft itself wasn’t the only reason she came out to town hall yesterday.
“My friends make beautiful stuff,” she said. “There’s some really talented people in these hills.”
Many of those people — craftsmen and women of various disciplines who live in towns including Bradford, Corinth and Vershire — displayed their work on Saturday and Sunday via the annual open studio tour of the Vermont North by Hand Artisans Co-op.
Several of the 21 participating artists set up shop in town hall, including Jim Gardner, of Vershire, who paints watercolors (which he’s done for 20 years) when not farming tomatoes (which he’s done for 17).
He’s been involved in North by Hand for about five years, though he said he’s not one of its most active members. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate what the group stands for.
“It gives me and others and opportunity to show, to work together with other folks,” Gardner said of the nonprofit, which is in its ninth year.
Mark DelloRusso, a potter from West Topsham who was displaying his work near Gardner, noted that without North By Hand, that sort of collaboration might be more difficult to achieve.
“A lot of artists work in seclusion, in their studios and such,” he said.
True to form, many artists involved with North by Hand decided to stay in their personal studios. It turned what might have been a one-venue event into something that encouraged the exploration of winding dirt roads in the rural countryside.
One was Bruce Murray, a Bradford potter and president of North by Hand. His personal studio is a high-ceilinged workspace filled with vases, trays and other clay works.
“In many ways, it’s broadened and we involve more people,” Murray said. “In some ways it’s become less social.”
Murray has been a member of the organization, which officially meets just once a year, since its inception. Right now, he said, there is a core of as many as 25, with others joining and leaving at a regular clip. About a half-dozen exhibitors were new to the show this year.
Inclusion in the show, which adds a flat $100 fee to members’ $35 annual dues, is the main benefit for a North by Hand member. Some also do outreach projects, Murray said, though that’s often on their own accord; for instance, he recently took on a high school senior as a pottery intern.
“It’s a good way to interact with the community,” he said.
Another artist exhibiting out of her own studio was Kathy Chapman, a painter and stained glass artist who lives up a winding hill off Corinth’s Chelsea Road. She has lived in the Upper Valley for the past 25 years, and much of her current workload comes from private commissions from Ecclesiastical churches.
Sunday was quieter than Saturday, Chapman said, echoing a common sentiment of the day, but the 16 cars that visited her studio on Saturday came from as far away as Hartland, Grantham and Montpelier.
Although Chapman grew up on Long Island, she has Upper Valley blood — both her parents were born here — and always considered the area home. Living in Corinth also allows her to work at home. It keeps the payments low; it keeps things simple.
“You’re not going to get rich,” she said of taking up art as a vocation. “What you’re doing is buying into a way of life.”
It’s a way of life that North By Hand supports, and it’s one that Chapman hopes to show a younger generation is as much a possibility as a 9-to-5 job.
“I can’t imagine a more exciting line of work than making things,” Murray said earlier in the day, surrounded by his pottery.
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.