SPOTLIGHT: Walpole Artisan Tour features 16 artists and a new home base
By NICOLE S. COLSON
Keene Sentinel Newspaper, Keene, NH Staff
Published: Thursday, November 20, 2008
WALPOLE - The Walpole Artisans start the 2008 holiday season with new locations on its annual tour map and with a new permanent home as a starting point. This year, 16 artists - five of whom are new - are featured on the sixth annual Walpole Artisan Tour. As always, demonstrations are part of the event, during which artists are available at their studios to discuss and sell their work.
Thanks to a new artists' co-operative, which opened in town in the spring, this is the first year the entire group has had a year-round spot to show its work.
The nonprofit organization also promotes arts education in the form of workshops and demonstrations. In past years, the Hastings House behind the Unitarian Church has been home base for the event, but this year it will be the co-op at 52 Main St.
Another new location is not even in Walpole - it's at 33 Bridge St. in Bellows Falls. The building houses Great River Arts Institute and the work space of one of the tour's artists - Chris Sherwin of Sherwin Art Glass Studio and Gallery. Joining him in his space will be artists Priya Allaire and Jon McAuliffe, who specializes in portraits.
McAuliffe, 25, of Bellows Falls learned to paint only four years ago, during a course in classical realism he took in Florence, Italy.
"His paintings look like photographs," tour founder Barbara Tarantino said.
He started drawing and later taught himself to paint.
"I've always been drawn to representational art," McAuliffe said. "It's the way my mind works. It locks into details."
In Florence, he worked with live models to perfect his technique.
Rather than sketching before he does a painting, he works from photographs - if the subjects of his commissioned work can't sit for portraits. When he does work with live subjects, he said it's nerve-wracking.
"I wouldn't stop until someone was happy," he said.
But the unknown elements about portraiture are what he likes most, he said.
"Part of what makes doing this so attractive to me is every time I sit down I wonder if it's going to work out or not."
His focus during the past two years has been on more fine art. "The inspiration comes out of nowhere," he said of this type of work.
For instance, he said, he was out on a drive near his home one day and saw an old farmstead. He discovered some rusty tea kettles and set them on top of some large stones as his subject. The result is his painting titled "Tea for Two."
McAuliffe, who paints every day, said although he's mostly self-taught, his experience in Italy started him on the road to consistent practice.
"It got me buckling down to completing an idea," he said.
As for advice to others who want to paint without going to art school, McAuliffe said to "soak up as much information as you can from all kinds of sources ... keep your eyes open," and "learn to be self-directed."
Katalin Thomas of Dummerston, Vt., another first-timer on the tour, has many more years of experience in her craft. A textile artist, she learned to sew from her aunt while growing up in her native Romania.
She first learned to create dresses. She missed sewing when she moved to the United States, she said.
"I needed a creative outlet. Textiles were very familiar to me."
She decided to pursue a degree in textiles and graduated from Philadelphia's University of the Arts in 1991. After spending the next few years knitting clothing sold at craft galleries across the country, Thomas returned to school, this time to pursue a career as a graphic designer in the Philadelphia area.
After moving to Vermont to raise a family, she took some time off from graphic design and began working with silk fabrics of different weights and textures, including raw silk, silk velvet and crepe de chine. She now makes pillows, bags, sachets, wall hangings, clothing, table runners and scarves from the material, which she hand-dyes and pieces together using satin applique stitching.
More recently, she went in another direction with silk, by printing on it. She started a company, Artful Beginnings, to showcase her new products. In this line are thank-you cards, bridal handkerchiefs, ring pillows and other keepsake items - all customized with text.
She also now prints children's artwork on silk, from scarves to pillows, submitted to her either in original or electronic form. She hopes to finish do-it-yourself kits for people to create silk items using their children's artwork and then selling them during the tour.
Other new faces on the tour are textile artist Racheal Alexander Scott, pastel and oil artist Kate Beetle and Grace Therrien, who creates prints from acrylic plates, linoleum and wood blocks.
Appearing again this year will be Mark Putnam of Woodward Tiny Tot Furniture; photographer Judy Stalus; watercolor artist Barbara Tarantino; metal sculptor Bob Taylor; potter Sharyn Tullar; doll maker and vintage-inspired artist Loribeth Robare; fine woodworker Bill Shannon; potter Barbra Bragg; and Janette Schuster, who creates art and jewelry from found objects.
The sixth annual Walpole Artisans Tour is Saturday, Nov. 29, and Sunday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 6, and Sunday, Dec. 7. Hours for both weekends are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Tour maps may be found at the Walpole Artisans Cooperative at 52 Main St., across from Burdick's Restaurant or at any artist's studio. A raffle featuring prizes donated by artists on the tour will take place at the co-op and refreshments will be served. For more information, call 756-3020 or visit http://www.WalpoleArtisanTour.com/ .
(Article originally published in The Keene Sentinel print edition entitled Up close and personal.)