DELAWARE ARTISTS STUDIO TOUR
Article and photos by Anne Jenkins
A group of seven artists in the rural Sussex County of South Eastern
Delaware got together in1995 to try and promote their burgeoning art
community. They chose to launch the SE Delaware Artists Studio Tour on
the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving because, ‘no one did anything
during the Thanksgiving weekend back then,‘ remembers one the pioneers.
Now, eighteen years later, it’s a popular annual tradition and attracts
enthusiastic large crowds.
|Master woodturner Tom Frey
demonstrates his skill in his studio
||Dsplay of delicate bird house
Christmas tree decorations from Tom Frey
A number of the core artists are still leading the charge, new artists
join, old ones leave but a solid 12+ studios open each year and in 2012
they introduced a guest artist in to the mix. Appropriately the first
guest artist was Sonja Frey, the daughter of one of the original seven,
master wood turner, Tom Frey.
Not only do you get to find good art to buy, you also get to drive
through peaceful rural countryside to out of the way studios. Visiting
an artist’s studio in their home is a very different experience to
visiting a gallery. You get to see how the artists live, their
surroundings, their pets, their families. You get the feeling you are
really getting to know the individual, not just the artist, regardless
how much time of you spend with them.
|Kim Doughty works clay on the wheel, the
multi-talented artist also makes delicate jewelry.
||Glass artist Justin Cavagnaro works behind a row of
his colorful glass
The group runs the tour with great efficiency, and their experience
shows with organized touches - like each studio has helpers standing by
to assist the artist and directional signs are posted at the appropriate
intersections. They maintain a website and they put out a clear map on
the website and a brochure with very easy, clear directions to each
studio which really help to make it relaxing and fun.
I recommend you look through the map and at each artist’s website linked
through the group site. Then list the artists you’d be most interested
in visiting and see how it works on the map. Reason I recommend this
approach is if you only have one day, 12+ studios is lot to get to do in
that time frame. If you’re planning on spending both days touring still
choose the ones you are most interested in seeing first - life has a
habit of getting in the way. It can be frustrating if plans change.
|Guest artist Sonja Frey (L) interacts
with a visitor during the SE DE Art Studio Tour
||Large crowds swirl though the studio
of Cavagnaro and Doughty
during the SE DE art studio tour
I started out in the country and worked my way down to the beach area
with the first visit being to the Frey Studios. Tom Frey is a highly
regarded wood turner with awards and accolades a-plenty. And without
doubt, they are justified. His work is superb. It is delicate and
breath-taking. I could only marvel at how thin-walled and elegant his
bowls were and then I saw his miniatures. It is inconceivable to us
onlookers something so tiny and perfectly formed could be created by
hand from a large chunk of wood on large machines or tools. This
amazement is reinforced when he demonstrates his talent in his machine
room with said large chunks of wood lying around.
His daughter Sonja, an abstract collage artist, was excited to be
participating for the first time. Her work is textured, colorful and
intriguing. Surrounded by her vivid art and a font of knowledge about
collage, Frey enjoyed lively discussions about her techniques with
|Ellen Rice's gallery is the only
commercial gallery on the SE DE Art Studio Tour
||Mother Nature show off with an arty
display of fall color
The joint studio of husband/wife artists team of Justin Cavagnaro and
Kim Doughty was a hive of activity. Both artists - he is a glass artist
and she does pottery and delicate silver jewelry - were demonstrating
which always attracts people. It is super interesting to watch an artist
at work in the studio, the visual is so much clearer than a description.
Cavagnaro has a line of golf putter made in glass - bright strong colors
no less - which he claims works perfectly.
Ellen Rice is an established, renown artist and she runs the only
commercial gallery on the tour but she paints at her studio. Her work is
mostly large scale and it would be impractical to combine the gallery
and studio. In 1994 Rice drew, painted and published a historical map of
the “Treasure Beaches of the Mid-Atlantic.” The map and a companion
piece, Treasure Legends of the Mid-Atlantic, attracted much national
media attention. It remains a hot seller to this day. The gallery is a
small well organized space filled with her, and guest artists, work.
A drive in to a private community takes you to Laura Hickman’s
art-filled studio in her home. A regionally well-known artist, Hickman
works mostly in pastels and oils creating landscapes and scenes from her
travels which she describes as “lightscapes.” Easily recognizable scenes
of Europe, or a delightful vignette of a cat sniffing a vase of flowers,
line the walls waiting to be admired by her large devoted following.
In an older neighborhood, Jennifer Carter has a little studio in her
back yard. It’s homey and comfortable and Carter’s bubbly personality
shines through. Her artist statement states “Life throws you curves … so
use them!” Her sketches are funny, serious and self-depreciating. We had
a good giggle together over the new blog she’s trying to get
started…titled Pudgy Beach Girl with her logo of said beach babe of a
certain age clad in a bikini and holding a martini glass.
|Some of the Series II Beach Birds works in progress
in Tara Funk Grim's studio
||Pastel artist Laura Hickman's work station with two
works in progress
My last stop was to the studio of well-established artist, Tara Funk
Grim. The studio is alongside a peaceful canal set back from the beach
road, a delightful location. I always find facing water to be
inspirational and calming. Her work draws you in with joy, exploration
and reflection regardless of whether it’s a garden of flowers or the
charming beach bird series. One of the pioneers of the studio tour, Grim
is professional but easy to talk to, especially about her art. A devoted
group of followers arrived while I was there leading to a lively
discussion. It was a good place to end the tour.
I didn’t visit all the studios but enjoyed the pace I set very much. It
made for a relaxing drive in the country, discovering some intriguing
art and meeting new artists and art lovers. The original group of seven
back in 1995 certainly started a beautiful thing - it’s good to see an
art tour flower in to a beloved tradition and remain strong.
For more info:
SEDAST6. Large crowds swirl though the studio of Cavagnaro and Doughty
during the S DE art studio tour
SEDAST7. Ellen Rice's gallery is the only commercial gallery on the SE
DE Art Studio Tour
SEDAST8. Pastel artist Laura Hickman's work station with two works in
SEDAST9. An art touring dog waits anxiously outside Jennifer Carter's
studio in her backyard
SEDAST 10. Some of the Series II Beach Birds works in progress in Tara
Funk Grim's studio
SEDAST 11. Mot