Haywood Open Studios Tour features more than 30 artists

By Michael Beadle

The world where artists create can often be a private place off limits to the general public.


There are secrets to the craft. There’s a vulnerability artists deal with when they experiment with making a new piece. And sometimes artists simply like to have peace and quiet when they work.

This weekend, more than 30 artists throughout Haywood County will invite the public into their studios on a free tour as a unique way of opening up that art process to people who may not normally get to see how art is designed, created or produced.

The countywide tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, and then from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8. The Haywood County Arts Council organized this first-ever countywide tour of art studios. Maps and listings of the participating artists and art studios can be found at Gallery 86, the arts council’s downtown Waynesville gallery, or at locations on the Haywood Open Studios Tour. There will also be signs set up along the route to help guide visitors to the studios — some of which are part of public galleries and some of which are inside artists’ homes or in studios adjacent to their homes.

In addition, Gallery 86 is currently featuring a month-long exhibit showcasing some of the artists involved in this year’s studio tour. The exhibit, which will be up through Oct. 14, includes everything from finely hand-crafted furniture to paintings to pottery and textile wall hangings — all created by artists in Haywood County.

Liz Spear, a fabric artist in Waynesville, will be one of the many craft persons welcoming visitors to her home studio. Since the space is not designed for much more than four or five people, she’s setting up a tent to accommodate guests and fellow artists Carol Brt and Journal Thomas to come share their woodworking talents as well.

“I’ve had a real busy year,” said Spear, who is preparing her work for the Southern Highlands Craft Guild Fair later this month in Asheville. Spear sees the tour as an investment to reach out to new clients, work with fellow artists and celebrate different craft art forms.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Spear said.

In a world of hard-edged reality, people have a need for softness that often comes from handcrafted art, Spear explained.

And what she really loves to hear is a comment weeks later that a conversation she had spurred on someone to take an art class or pick up sewing again.

Many of the participating studios include potters and painters, but there’s a wide range of artists including woodworkers, painters, metal sculptors, miniature bookmakers, and jewelers. Carol Stefen, owner of Otter River Crafts and one of the studios on the tour, makes gourds and fashions leather into all kinds of decorative items. Gourds are homegrown and painted with falling leaves, pumpkins and Christmas imagery to get you into that festive holiday spirit. Stefan’s studio is off the beaten path — tucked away in the Fines Creek community about a 30-minute drive from downtown Waynesville.

While it would be virtually impossible to cover all the studios in a single day or weekend, some of the studios can be clustered together for an afternoon stroll or an autumn drive out through the countryside.

“We had a great response,” said Paula Bolado, director of Gallery 86.

There are already artists lining up to apply for a spot on the tour next year.

What Bolado particularly enjoys about the tour is that local artists from around the county can be a part of a community and celebrate homegrown and hand-crafted art — from the Appalachian walnut and maple woods that go into John Gernandt’s tables at Textures to the Celtic influence that appears in Marjorie Warren’s Thistle Studio weavings.

“There’s this need that people can buy work that’s locally made,” Bolado said.

Bolado said the tour would not be possible without the hard work of Haywood County Arts Council’s Studio Tour committee who kept in constant communication with area artists and for local sponsors who helped pay for the publicity.

For maps, directions or more information about the Haywood Open Studios Tour, call 828.452.0593 or stop by Gallery 86 located at 86 N. Main Street in downtown Waynesville.

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