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Glass bowl by Alaska's Keeper Nott.

 

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 justifiably proud.

 

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 theyve seen all there is to see. The KAC is truly a marvel and time must be spent there to take it all in. But dont miss touring the town of Berea just a short distance from the interstate. Theres the group of studios clustered around the old railroad depot called Old Town Artisan Village. Up the hill a bit is the new 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 this article.

 

                    
Neil Colmer weaves on his loom in Weaver's Bottom.
Neil Colmer weaves on his loom in Weaver's Bottom.

 

In the Artisan Village, Neil Colmer of Weavers 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 noted, it 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 doesnt 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.
Dulcimer maker Warren May and a friend strum up a tune on three dulcimers in May's shop.

 

Don't miss Warren Mays 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, I gotta stop coming in here, I buy too many of his dulcimers!

    

                 
 Artisan Village open signs outside studio.
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.

 

        
 interior of Berea Coffee & Tea Co., on Main Street
Bustling interior of Berea Coffee & Tea Co., on Main Street

 

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.        

 

       
 intricate floral designs in clay by Tricia Taylor of Berea, Ky,
Tricia Taylor of Berea, Ky, creates intricate floral designs in clay
Photo courtesy of artist & American Craft Week..

 

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 natures beauty.

 

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 shapes.

 

     
 detailed linoleum block prints and zinc plate etchings by Grace Wintermyer of Richmond, Ky
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 natures beauty but to inspire humility and appreciation for the exquisite form of often overlooked elements."

 

 
glass work by Keeper Nott, Anchorage, AK
Vibrant, hip and elegant glass work by Keeper Nott, Anchorage, AK.
Photo courtesy of artist & American Craft Week.

 

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 piece."

 

 

       
furniture by Rising Star Lindsay Giants Black of Ashville, N.C
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. 

 

Header image-- Glass bowl by Alaska's Keeper Nott. Photo courtesy of the artist & American Craft Week.

 

           

 BUSINESS INFORMATION:  

http://americancraftweek.com

 

http://www.craftonline.org

 

http://www.acwshowcase.com

 

http://Berea.com

 

http://www.gastineaustudio.com

 

http://www.warrenamay.com

 

http://thestrangestgarden.com

 

http://triciataylorceramics.weebly.com

 

http://herbandwillow.com

 

http://keepersglass.com

 

http://lindsaygiant.com 

http://www.artstrolls.com

 

 

 

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