Berea, Ky won the number one spot in the recent 'Top 10 towns
for craft lovers' in the USA run by American Craft Week (ACW)
beating out stiff competition from the likes of Asheville, N.C.
and Burlington, Vt. It is a well deserved win and they are
A lot of folks make the mistake of stopping off the Interstate
75 at Exit 77 to visit the wonderful Kentucky Artisan Center
(KAC) and then continue on down the highway thinking they’ve
seen all there is to see. The KAC is truly a marvel and time
must be spent there to take it all in. But don’t
miss touring the town of Berea just a short distance from the
the group of studios clustered around the old railroad depot
called Old Town Artisan Village. Up the hill a bit is the
town, with the esteemed craft-oriented Berea College slap bang
in the middle, called College Square. Generally you can always
find some studios open to visit, just a couple are mentioned in
Neil Colmer weaves on his loom in Weaver's Bottom.
In the Artisan Village, Neil Colmer of Weaver’s
Bottom Studio has an explanation for the name of his studio.
When he and his wife, Mary, started out as professional
craftspeople they were starting at the bottom. They were at the
bottom of their finances and their studio is at the bottom of
the hill. In the mountains, bottom means courage and he dryly
sure took a lot of bottom to get off the bottom.”
A graduate of the Berea College and a weaver for over 30 years,
his beautiful work is now world-renown. Mary makes corn husk
dolls creating scene and character from natural products.
Ken Gastineau, is a talented jeweler and metal smith. Time
permitting, he will demonstrate his craft and he loves talking
about how Berea has worked hard to achieve their enviable
art-town status. It doesn’t
happen overnight and takes dedicated people with vision.
Dulcimer maker Warren May and a friend strum up a tune
on three dulcimers in May's shop.
Don't miss Warren May’s
wood making studio uptown on a street behind the Main Street.
May is world renown for his dulcimers but saying he makes
dulcimers is an understatement. Each one is a piece of art - and
the music he produces is spellbinding. While we visited, we were
chatting with him about life in general, his dulcimers and how
they work, when a friend of his walked in and they gave us an
impromptu performance. It was a magical moment. We could have
stayed for hours listening to them. After a few numbers, she
laughed as she said,
gotta stop coming in here, I buy too many of his dulcimers!”
Look for the Artisan Village open signs outside studios.
You really need more than one day in Berea. Apart from studios
and galleries, take a tour of the College - I admire how they
allow students to work for their tuition and it has an
interesting history of craft making. The Berea Coffee & Tea
Company on Main Street is a lively place for a panini and people
watching. The Boone Tavern right in the center of town is a
delightful place to overnight . This is a grand restored hotel
which dominates the Main Street. The hotel started back in 1908
when the wife of the Berea College, President William Frost, had
to provide lodging and food for about 300 visitors to the
college. After they all left she told her husband it was time to
build a guest house which is now the hotel.
Bustling interior of Berea Coffee & Tea Co., on Main
Berea also fared well when ACW announced their 2016 Rising Stars
of exceptional crafters under the age of 30 and 2 of the 30 were
locals. Tricia Taylor, 24, of Berea and a graduate of Berea
College. Grace Wintermyer, 26, of Richmond, KY. Both benefited
from the Berea Artist Accelerator program. The program restored
a building in Old Town into a gallery, Gallery 123, and studio
space. Artists have studios in the back of the building and they
have to man the gallery in the front of the building. They are
also offered business training to help launch their careers.
Tricia Taylor of Berea, Ky, creates intricate floral
designs in clay
Photo courtesy of artist & American
Taylor is a ceramic artist, Berea College graduate who runs her
shop Herb & Willow in the Artisan Village in Berea. Taylor's
inspiration is definitely nature. She works in slab-built,
hand-built ceramics, both functional and decorative, celebrating
Taylors work is time consuming as each piece is hand-built from
flat slabs of clay. For functional work, Kentucky plants are
arranged and pressed into the slab before cutting it and shaping
it into a piece of functional pottery. For decorative sculpture
work, she hand cuts each petal from slabs and manipulates the
Grace Wintermyer of Richmond, Ky., specializes in
detailed linoleum block prints and zinc plate etchings.
Photo courtesy of artist & American Craft Week.
Wintermyer works in print. She recently moved out of the
Accelerator studios to her own studio in Richmond, Ky. Her
artist statement neatly captures her art. "My work seeks to
celebrate the intersection of intentional symmetry and chaotic
chance in the arrangements of natural landscapes. I work with
both linoleum block prints and
zinc plate etchings. By creating mainly agriculturally
themed pieces, my goal is to not simply imitate nature’s
beauty but to inspire humility and appreciation for the
exquisite form of often overlooked elements."
Vibrant, hip and elegant glass work by Keeper Nott,
Photo courtesy of artist & American
The Rising Stars showcase is a great guide for collectors and
art lovers to finding young talent around the country. Many are
in established art-oriented states, like North Carolina, or
towns like Ann Arbor, Mich., and some are more far flung, like
glass artist, Keeper Nott in Anchorage, Alaska.
Nott started out interested in ceramics and wheel-throwing but
was introduced to glass and he fell in love with the process. A
section of Nott's artist statement probably explains it best,
"Glass is a full-contact sport. In the glass studio, you're
working in a fast-paced, hot, sweaty, and stressful environment,
taking incredible amounts of physical and mental endurance, and
the glass is certainly not a forgiving material; it pushes back.
My love for glass is rooted in its kinetic nature; I am
compelled by the movement of the glass and how my movements
relate to and affect the material. Glass exactly captures the
environment that it was created in. Every effort, movement, and
touch of the artist is frozen in time, reflected in the final
Classic, elegant furniture by Rising Star Lindsay Giants
Black of Ashville, N.C.
Photo courtesy of artist &
American Craft Week.
An excellent place to start looking for something close by, go
to the American Craft Week website. There are links to the Top
Ten Towns for Craft Lovers and the 30 Rising Stars, there are
also links below
under business information. There are artists studios, galleries
and organizations from all 50 states listed by state in their
archives and for the current year. Their listing changes each
year depending on who participates but it is a resource of
magic. Also be sure to note the dates of the week long
celebration, 7-16 October 2016, and go to any near you. It is a
wonderful guide to support local arts. Happy art touring.
Glass bowl by Alaska's Keeper Nott.
Photo courtesy of the artist & American Craft Week.