- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 8, 2018
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- Named Top Ten Vermont Winter Event by Vermont Chamber of Commerce
- Oldest Continuing Crafts Tour in the Country
- Cheese and Wine Tastings
- Thanksgiving Weekend, November 23, 24, 25, 10-5p
PUTNEY, VT— The 40th Annual Putney Craft Tour, the oldest continuing craft tour in the country, timed to coincide with Thanksgiving and holiday shopping, did not spring out of a vacuum, but from the happy confluence of a number of trends including the back-to-the-land movement and the rise of American craft. No doubt, Vermont’s agrarian heritage created a culture of craft and an appreciation of the hand-made, which continue to this day.
One of the founders is potter Ken Pick who arrived in Putney in 1969 after receiving an MAT from Antioch-Putney Graduate School. But pottery was never far away from his heart, and in about 1973, he began to earn his living from his craft.
“There are still five or six of us here who were here from the beginning,” Pick said. “We banded together in one location before we evolved the tour concept.” In 1982, on the fourth annual tour there were 16 artisans working in 13 studios. The tour was advertised as the Annual Holiday Craft Tour, Open House and Seconds Sale, and the practice of going from studio to studio or ‘over the river and through the woods’ was established, inviting the public into the space where work is created to learn about the craft and talk to the person who made it.
“This year there are 25 artists on the tour. It’s never been more than 28. There was a conceptual agreement that that size was good. We wanted to bring in new young people who arrived in the area,” Pick says. He adds that the date of the Thanksgiving weekend was chosen carefully —“it’s the start of the gift-buying season.”
“And, because it’s Thanksgiving, people are here visiting family from all over the country,” Pick said. “People come from all over the New England states. Most are actually non-Vermonters. They come from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and even from overseas.”
Connections are what it’s all about, both for the artists and the people who visit their studios. Thousands of visitors move through the studios over the course of three days and engage with the artists, the real draw of such tours, as well as the distinctive, original pieces for sale. People say it’s much more interesting and exciting to see something in a studio where it was created and to speak to the artist who made it than to see a piece in a shop or gallery.
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Silver jeweler Jeanne Bennett, who has been on the tour for over 15 years, appreciates the feedback she gets. “It’s nice to get the work out in public. I’m up in the woods and I love hearing everyone’s feedback.” In addition to first-timers, Bennett, like most of the artists, has repeat customers that come back “to see what’s new and add to their collection.”
Potter David Mischke also loves the interaction with customers. “It’s wonderful to meet people, explain how you make the pottery. They learn that it requires more skill and experience to make a living than they realize. Mischke says that 500-700 people usually come each day to see and buy his functional stoneware pottery distinguished by beige/brown exteriors and bright blue Chung glaze interiors.
More than anything the tour is great entertainment. Driving the back roads and finding the studios is an adventure in itself although the studios are well marked and maps provide clear directions.
Erica Noyes from Boston says, “I have been coming on the tour since I was in high school. (I graduated in 1994.) I grew up in Maine, but have family in Vermont, so that is how I started attending. I went to Bennington College, so it was easy for me to do the tour those years. I live in Boston now, but try to make it up every year with my husband. I tell everyone that it is the best event of the year!”
The tour is also an inspiration for those who may be interested in working with their hands. One family's story of finding the Putney Craft Tour: “My youngest son Shawn became very interested in glass making. A colleague at work mentioned glass blowers on the Putney Tour and we packed the family in the car and headed up from Massachusetts the day after Thanksgiving 15 years ago. We visited Bob Burch's studio and Shawn was hooked. He went on to study glass making at Alfred's School of Art & Design and we have returned to the Putney Craft Tour nearly every year since then,” says Aggie Baker, his mother who’s also an artist.
Putney also reflects the power of the creative economy. “It’s not just the crafts studios who benefit, but area B&Bs, stores, restaurants, and retailers.” Pick says. “Local shop owners say it’s their biggest weekend because of the tour.” In fact for the last four years, we’ve been partnering with other cultural entities in Putney including Sandglass Theatre and Next Stage Arts to put on special performances during the tour. We also tie in with local restaurants to offer Putney Craft Tour specials and we raise money for the Putney Food Shelf. We’re promoting it as “Putney Craft Tour’s “Craft, Culinary and Performance” weekend. “People love it.”
Next Stage Arts Project and Twilight Music present an evening of contemporary bluegrass and folk music with The Lonely Heartstring Band and The Stockwell Brothers on Saturday, November 24 at 7:30 pm at Next Stage at 15 Kimball Hill in downtown Putney, VT. Tickets are $20 Advance / $24 At the Door. For information, call 802-387-0102. Advance tickets are available at www.nextstagearts.org, Turn It Up in Brattleboro and Putney Food Co-Op in Putney.
Sandglass Theatre will present, “When I Put On Your Glove," a puppetry, dance and spoken word piece that explores a daughter’s relationship to her father’s work. The show addresses universal questions of belonging, childhood, fear of loss, death and the complicated nature of navigating generational artistic legacy. Performances are Saturday and Sunday November 23 and 24 at 7:30 pm at Sandglass Theater in Putney, Vermont. Tickets are $16 students/seniors and $18 general. Reservations in advance are recommended and can be made by calling (802) 387 - 4051 or email email@example.com
The tour includes wine and cheese tastings as well as demos. Visitors may start at The Gleanery Restaurant, 133 Main Street, Putney for info, maps, and a preview exhibition of the artisans’ works.
Lead sponsors include Basketville, Four Columns Inn & Artisan Restaurant, Hidden Springs Maple, Putney food co-op, and the Putney General Store.