Category : Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Elissa’s Picks for Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logoAs I mentioned in my last post, this time of year I’m usually busy prepping for Vermont’s upcoming Open Studio Weekend. As this weekend gets closer, I continue to feel bummed about not participating this year. Meh.

In my last post, I listed the book arts studios I’d visit if I were touring this weekend. Of course, I would also visit studios by artists working in other media. Some of my suggestions are listed below.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the Vermont Studio Tour Guide 2009. There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

First I would start off at #168 – Marcia Hagwood’s studio – Chasworth Pottery and Farm. Marcia has been on my “block” at the Vermont Hand Crafters holiday show for a couple of years now. In addition to being a sweet booth neighbor, she also makes fabulous pottery. I am proud to say that I own one of her mugs and it has the honor of being the mug I reach for first thing in the morning. If it’s dirty, I’m mad. If my husband is using it, don’t get me started. In addition, she also makes her own yarn. In fact, she can tell you which of her sheep contributed to a particular skein of yarn.

My next stop would be #232Tabbatha Henry. I saw her work in person at the Queen City Craft Bazaar and was quite taken with it. Her work looks so delicate but when you pick it up, it’s quite sturdy. It also had this lovely translucence that I tend to get hypnotized by – I’m such a sucker for porcelain.

#142 Sandy Jefferis would be my next stop. Sandy has been an exhibitor at Artisans Hand at least as long as I’ve been in there. I’ve always been impressed by the style of her baskets – they’re like basket skeletons, with the basic structure being the focus. I visited her website and discovered that Sandy also works in paper (yay paper!). You can see some images of her studio here.

Next I would visit #214 – Denise D’Abramo’s studio – Vermont Wool. Denise creates beautiful handspun and naturally dyed yarns using wool from her personal flock of sheep. Denise will be holding an informal natural dye workshop during Open Studio Weekend. Visitors can try dyeing fibers with traditional plant dyes – you can even bring your own items from home for dyeing. If you plan to participate, be sure to dress for mess. $5 per participant requested. By the way, say hi to Moose for me if you go (he’s a sheep).

My last stop would be #49Jen Violette Designs. Jennifer’s beautiful glass pieces have been exhibited at the prestigious SOFA Chicago and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show – accomplishments respected and envied by most artists. I am particularly fond of her sculptural work, especially her rural landscapes (maybe it’s the blue roofs). I eagerly await the debut of her glass cheese sculptures (whoops, there I go dreaming aloud).

Like the book arts studios, these studios aren’t very close to each other either. If you split them up between two days, it should be doable.

A Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logoThis time of year, I’m usually busy freaking out over Vermont’s upcoming Open Studio Weekend. Unfortunately, I am unable to participate this year due to a family commitment. I am most definitely having withdrawal symptoms and am experiencing pangs of sadness as I hear this year’s plans for the Montpelier Watershed Artists. Meh.

Kristin Crane asked me if I had any suggestions on what studios to visit during the event and I became inspired to make a list of book artist studios. Thanks Kristin!

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the Vermont Studio Tour Guide 2009. There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

If I were to start a tour of book artists in Vermont, my first stop would be #190 Claire Van Vliet, owner of Janus Press. Taught by Hedi Kyle, Claire is well-known for her thoughtful integration of form and content in her work. Her structures are quite innovative. She is a co-author, along with Elizabeth Steiner,  of the book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures. If you’d like a preview of her work, she has a number of limited edition artist books available for purchase as well from Vamp and Tramp, Booksellers.

My next stop would be #187Ken Leslie. An article in the Bennington Banner described how Ken started his work in artist’s books:

After receiving his MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania, Leslie went on to show his work nationally and internationally. As he pushed the boundaries of traditional painting, he began experimenting with circular and other non-traditional shapes. Reaching far beyond the conventional painting form, he began folding the paintings to accentuate their narrative sequences which resulted in the artist’s books. Since that time, Leslie has specialized in making limited-edition and one-of-a-kind artist’s books, ranging in size from two inches to 10 feet, and including not only painting but writings on a variety of themes.

I saw one of his large pieces at the SPA Gallery and his use of the circular format is quite striking. If you can’t make it to his studio during Open Studio Weekend,  you can view his work at the Bennington Museum – Top of the World, Paintings and Artist’s Books of the Arctic and Vermont is on display from now until June 14th.

#142 Nancy Stone would be my next stop. Nancy is one of the founders of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. Besides being a serious sweetie (and my friend), she’s also quite an amazing book artist. Nancy has also taught and inspired many students in the books arts throughout Vermont. She often incorporates painting techniques in her work. If you go to her studio, ask her to show you her journal from her travels to Italy – it’s fabulous.

Lastly, I would visit #99Carolyn Shattuck. A longtime printmaker, Carolyn cuts up old prints and reassembles them into book forms. Many of her books include three-dimensional and pop-up elements which create intriguing environments in which she can tell her story. If you can’t make it to her studio during Open Studio Weekend, come to the June 3rd meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont where Carolyn will be the evening’s presenter: Personal Journey as Book Artist.

Unfortunately, the book arts studios aren’t very close to each other. If you do go to any of the studios, share your experiences here and I will live vicariously through you.

Completed accordion books…music to my eyes

I decided that I would get two dozen accordion books done in time for Open Studio Weekend. You can see the start of my work in this post. I already had quite a few in stock, but sometimes I get an urge to set a deadline just so I can experience the feeling of having met it. Now I have a whole bunch of accordion books.

Pile of handmade accordion books by Blue Roof Designs

I love this picture of them all stacked up, ready for the bows to be tied. Obviously, this satisfies my love of piles (haven’t I mentioned that before?). Sometimes, I like to see how high I can stack them before they fall over, kind of like Book Arts Jenga. Except that I really don’t want to knock them over.

Below you can see some of the finished books. I acquired my bow mastery while working at Paper Source in Cambridge, MA. One of the best things about the job was that people would buy gorgeous papers and ribbons and then have you wrap their gifts for them. I could wrap presents all day long.

Piles of handmade accordion books by Blue Roof Designs

If I ever get kidnapped and they won’t let me go unless I tie a perfect bow, I’ll be home by dinnertime. And I’ll definitely be eating farfalle.

Open Studio Weekend – recap

I survived Open Studio Weekend!

Well, most of me did. My feet have seceded from my body and are now hitchhiking down I-89, looking for a new place to live.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend sign

I had so much fun meeting people – everyone who does the tour is so friendly. You never get people in a bad mood. I only wish that more kids came – their eyes are so wide and they always ask the best questions. They’re like sponges. I envy them, still able to look at everything with fresh eyes.

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to blogging about something other than Open Studio (only a year until the next one!). I have achieved a clean studio and I am so proud. I also know that by this time next week, it will no longer be quite so sparkly.

Cleanliness aside, my studio does not look like this on a regular basis for practical reasons – I need space to do my work. Where the shelf units are is where I usually have my cutting station and my desk. I move these out of the studio so I can make room to display my work.

It’s a dilemma I face every year – how can I display my work and yet still stay true to the functionality of my studio? The bottom line is that I have a small studio and I need to work with the space I have. I explained it to visitors like this – my studio is like a kitchen work triangle – things are within arm’s reach, making work more efficient.

Handmade books on shelves at the Blue Roof Designs studio

Even if for a short time, I do like seeing all my work set up on shelves in my studio. It makes me feel more professional and it gives me a chance to reflect on my body of work. I can remember how much I’ve accomplished in the last year and I can make decisions about what I want to discontinue doing and what I want to develop further.

If I ever move into a bigger studio, I might consider having a small gallery section where I can always have my work on display.

Handmade books and cards on display at the Blue Roof Designs studio

One of the advantages of coming to my studio during Open Studio Weekend is my seconds/discontinued items section. The majority of these aren’t really seconds, but more like orphans. They’re the remainders of a discontinued line and I just want them to go to a good home. They need some lovin!

The discounts on these pieces are usually at least 50%, which makes my work available to people who may not otherwise be able to afford it. At times, it can be hard to reduce prices, but in this situation, it’s win-win. Sometimes you just need to move inventory to make room for new work.

I am happy to report that many of my orphans are now with happy families.

Open Studio Weekend update #2, AKA: The Value of Snacks

I’ve made some progress over the last few days with regards to my preparations for Open Studio Weekend. Here’s my revised to-do list:

  1. Clean my studio (meh)
  2. Choose item for visitor raffle
  3. Purchase snacks for visitors (good snacks = happy visitors)
  4. Make scrap bags Make more scrap bags
  5. Make a whole bunch of accordion books (only 12 more to go)
  6. Finish print local map for distribution by Montpelier Watershed Artists (almost done – a big thanks to Jennifer Boyer!)

What? The studio isn’t clean yet? Well, I’ve been too busy dealing with snacks. You may be laughing, but the snacks you choose can make or break your open studio.

I’ve really done a lot of thinking about this. My first instinct, when it comes to snacks, will always lead me to cheese (drroooollllll). However, think about how cheese looks when it’s been sitting around for seven hours. Stinky. Gross. Sweaty. Ew.

Then the mind wanders over to chocolate. Ah, but when one eats it, it gets all melty and then you have to worry about sticky chocolate hands touching your work. Do you really want to be a member of the Gooey Hands Police? I thought not.

The one thing I’ve heard over the last 4 years is that folks want nutritious snacks. They’ve been driving around a lot, have often eaten fast food for lunch, and they feel yucky. They want a good-for-you munchie.

This led me to the discovery of Perfect Snack #1: baby carrots. They’re a vegetable that doesn’t act like a vegetable. They don’t leave crumbs and aren’t sticky. Perfect.

Then there are those who want something sweet. Okay, but as I mentioned earlier, I fear sticky, gooey snacks. This led me to Perfect Snack #2: Fig Newtons. Sweet and cookie-ish, but still fruity and sorta healthy (I get the fat free ones). And they’re pretty crumb free. Score.

For whatever reason, I have determined that in order to have a successful snack scenario, you must have three options. I needed a salty option to complete the snack puzzle. This led me to my last choice: Triscuits (reduced fat). Not entirely crumb-free, but flavorful and not too dry. Besides, I need to have snacks that I like to eat. When you’re not looking, I’m almost certainly (and oh so delicately), cramming a Triscuit in my mouth.

Add some spring water and apple juice to the mix and you’ve yourself a bang-up spread. A diverse selection of munchies with a high yum factor and a low risk for messiness and/or damage to your work.

Open Studio Weekend update #1

Yesterday I had my first official “Oh crap!” moment with regards to Open Studio Weekend. I have one week left. My studio looks like a bookbinding bomb hit it. There is paper everywhere. I took a picture of my studio and asked my husband if I should include it in this post. He shook his head.

That’s never good.

At least I have accomplished a few things, as evidenced by the number of things crossed off my list.

  1. Clean my studio (meh)
  2. Distribute tour maps to local establishments
  3. Update signs to direct visitors to my studio
  4. Submit press release for Montpelier Watershed Artist group
  5. Submit calendar listings to local publications and online event calendars
  6. Choose item for visitor raffle
  7. Purchase snacks for visitors (good snacks = happy visitors)
  8. Make scrap bags Make more scrap bags
  9. Make a whole bunch of accordion books
  10. Finish print local map for distribution by Montpelier Watershed Artists.

In the image below, you can see the signs that are used throughout the state for Open Studio Weekend. If you’re driving around Vermont on Memorial Day weekend and see a gazillion yellow signs on the road, now you know why. All of the participating artists use the same signs, each customized with their studio number (I’m #242 – a palindrome studio).

Vermont Open Studio Weekend signs

I’ve heard that some folks drive up to Vermont and drive around until they find a yellow sign and that’s how they start their tour. I wish that I could tour other studios and yet still be here to meet people in my studio.

I’ll start that cloning research next week.

Mmmmm….scrapple.

Okay, you got me. This post is not about scrapple.

I just like saying scrapple.

I went to college in Philadelphia and actually ate the stuff when I was there. I did not know what was in it at the time, I swear. The stuff actually tastes good until you know what’s in it.

I don’t like to throw things away. I’m a saver. It drives my husband nuts. This is especially true when I’m working in the studio. I will save the smallest scrap of paper because I can’t bear to part with it.

Piles of paper scraps

I have a plastic tub to house these treasures. Then the tub gets full.

And I get cranky because things get all smushed.

At this point, I have two options:

  1. Make cards – This is a great way to use up yummy paper scraps.
  2. Make scrap bags – Part with your dear friends and share your scraps with the world.

Once a year I endure the trauma of option #2. I make batches of scrap bags for folks to purchase during Open Studio Weekend. As I go through my scrap tub, I will inevitably have these moments where I look longingly at a scrap and think, “I remember you. You are so pretty. I glued some of you to a book. I’m sorry that you didn’t make the cut. Please don’t hate me. I changed my mind. You can stay.”

After going through enough of these moments, I finally grab a bunch and start sorting. In the image below, you can see what my work table looked like today.

Piles of paper scraps

Ah, the memories. Scrapple. [Focus, Elissa, focus]

Lucky me, I was able to engage in happy pile-making for a few hours. Even though it looks messy, the piles are organized using a highly scientific method of looking at scraps and putting them in a pile. It’s a skill that took years to develop.

I’m hoping to have around 20 scrap bags done by next weekend, 24 if I’m lucky. It’s a little known secret that if you visit me at a craft show and ask me if I have any scrap bags, I will likely have a few hidden under the table. So if you can’t make it to Open Studio Weekend and want to see one, just ask for one at a show.

I’m always happy to pull one out of my scrapple hat.

Countdown to Open Studio Weekend

I woke up this morning and went down to my studio – in the image below, you can see what greeted me.

Blue Roof Designs studio

Ugh…Open Studio Weekend is less than two weeks away.

I now admit the following – I am the Queen of the Traveling Pile. If I’m done with something, I’ll probably put it somewhere impractical. Then I’ll need that surface for something and the pile moves somewhere else, joining with other items along the way. Soon I have every surface covered with who-knows-what.

In the photo, underneath that smear of paperwork, is my large format rotary trimmer (sorry, my sweet!).

Cleaning my studio is now inevitable. Don’t get me wrong – I love having a clean studio. Doing what it takes to get it done, that’s another story. I’m looking for some elves who are willing to take on a low paying gig, so if you know any, give me a call.

This past Friday, I met with other artists in my area who are also participating in Open Studio Weekend. We decided to call ourselves the Montpelier Watershed Artists. I don’t what it is about having an official name, but it makes me feel so much more legitimate as an artist.

I have been coordinating the newly-named group for the past three years. This is such a great group of people who really want to share their work with the community. If you come by my studio during Open Studio, you should definitely visit one of the other nearby studios. Local maps will be available at individual studios.

In the coming days, I’ll be working on my list of a gazillion things that need to get done for Open Studio.

Here’s the beginning:

  1. Clean my studio (meh)
  2. Distribute tour maps to local establishments
  3. Update signs to direct visitors to my studio
  4. Submit press release for Montpelier Watershed Artist group
  5. Submit calendar listings to local publications and online event calendars
  6. Choose item for visitor raffle
  7. Purchase snacks for visitors (good snacks = happy visitors)

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. If you have any suggestions on where to start cleaning, please let me know.

I need all the help I can get (especially if you’re an elf).

Spring Marketing Conference – done deal

I learned something new about myself today – I can talk for an hour and a half without stopping. And it was something I hadn’t spoken about in public before. And I was up at 1 a.m. last night preparing for the discussion. And I did it without severe coffee abuse.

I did a presentation at the Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference (as I described in my last post). I found it ironic that the title of my workshop was Time to Make Nice with Your Computer and then my laptop decided to not make nice with the projector. Meh.

Luckily, they had another computer for me to use on-site. Despite this techno-barf, I was really happy with how it went [read: I did not vomit or pass out]. I hope that I was able to pass along some useful information to those who attended.

Note: If you came to my presentation and you’re reading this now, hiya! Now that you’re here, sign up for your own blog.

At the end of the conference, I picked up a batch of maps for Vermont Open Studio Weekend. As I mentioned in this post, I like piles of things. As you can see in the image below, I couldn’t resist the pile of maps on my work table.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend maps

This year I am site #242 – apparently I moved up from #243.

Don’t be impressed, it doesn’t really mean anything.

I will likely be talking a lot about Open Studio Weekend over the next few weeks – it’s held during Memorial Day Weekend from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. all over the state. If you’d like a copy of the map (it helps you plan your tour), the Vermont Crafts Council website has a list of sites where you can get one.

I leave you with yet another pile image – this time a shot of my newly-arrived postcards for Open Studio Weekend. These will be sent out as invitations to my mailing list (hopefully next week). The images on the postcards are from the photo shoot discussed in this blog post. My hubby takes some nice shots!

Vermont Open Studio Weekend postcards

Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference

VT Crafts Council - Spring Marketing Conference

This Wednesday, I’ll be presenting at a seminar at the Vermont Crafts Council’s Spring Marketing Conference. My seminar is entitled Time to Make Nice with Your Computer. I came up with the theme based on the reactions I witnessed at last fall’s marketing conference.

A number of people showed up for a seminar on how to use a blog to promote your business. I heard grumblings from people about how they now had “another thing to do” – and on their computer no less. I can relate to that. The last thing I need is to add something to my never-ending list of things to do.

But the fact is that artists need to market themselves. You can’t just assume that you will create work and the buyers will show up.

You can count on one of three resources to get it done:

  1. Time
  2. Money
  3. Luck

Since I had the time, I spent last week engrossed in online research. I investigated del.icio.us, Facebook (I was already a member), Indiepublic, TalentDatabase, and Flickr. I could have spent even more time looking at other tools, but I would get no sleep and starve to death (and I need my cheese) – there are lots of options out there!

The main reason why social networking tools are ideal for artists is this: as artists, the one thing we have over any mass-produced item is our story. When you meet someone at a craft show or during an open studio, you have the opportunity to tell your story in person. However, what do you do during the rest of the year? How can you get people to connect with you and your work?

The answer lies in the use of online social networking tools.

Create your own buzz.

I know that only having a website isn’t going to cut it anymore. I enjoy talking about my work. I love getting feedback. I only attend 2 craft shows a year and participate in Vermont Open Studio Weekend – how else am I going to connect with people?

I hope to see some of my fellow Vermont artists at the conference. While I can spend an hour talking to myself, it’s not as much fun as having a conversation with others. There are also interesting seminars other than mine, so check out the schedule and I’ll see you on Wednesday!

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