By Diane Broncaccio
The picturesque hills and valleys of Colrain are home to many artists who open their workshops and studios once a year, for a self-guided tour called “Crafts of Colrain.”
On the second weekend of November, about 500 to 600 visitors a year drive along Colrain’s scenic country roads to the homesteads and studios of talented artists whose work is inspired by their surroundings. This weekend excursion is part sight-seeing and part treasure hunt: many of the 18 to 20 featured artists each year produce work that is well-known beyond the town boundaries. Besides the chance to see and purchase art works, you’ll visit working farms, see farm animals and perhaps see demonstrations of the artists’ crafts.
“The view becomes part of my work,” says weaver Lynn Fisher of Ed Clark Road, who dyes, spins, weaves and felts table-runners, garments and other textiles. “Working in my studio is peaceful,” she says. “Some of my hand tools are antique and connect me with the past.” Fisher also gives demonstrations, and many visitors will be able to see how the work is done.
Crafts of Colrain began in 2004, when Leigh Morrell moved his Morrell Metalsmiths studio from Vermont into Colrain. Although he is now retired, his sons, Justin and Evan, continue the family business, of creating handcrafted metal firescreens, stairway railings, and art pieces for the home that are functional as well as beautiful. Their Greenfield Road studio also offers blacksmithing classes.
Basket-weaver Sarah Schoedel is always on the lookout for twisted vines and branches for her beautiful and useful baskets; but this Thompson Road artist is also engraving wooden spoons and cutting boards with images of animals she has seen on her walks, using a wood-burning tool. She also makes jewelry from repurposed old fencing, from silver, copper and gem stones.
Former New Yorkers Cynthia Herbert and Bob Ramirez raise Angora goats on their Keldaby Farm, and Cynthia makes elegant handwoven or knitted mohair socks, clothing and throws. “My focus has always been working with colors,” she says. “My gardens and the landscapes of western Massachusetts inspire my color palette as I weave.”
Woodworker Ken Noyes’s Windsor chairs and candlestick tables have found a place in many local homes. His traditional furniture and kitchen designs have wide appeal. Decorative artist Genie Shearer has combined her love of barn sales and auctions with her painting talent: She finds old collectibles and gives them new life. “Enthusiastic shoppers know to come well before closing time,” says fiber artist/farmer Cynthia Herbert, “because she always sells out.”
Potter Cliff Daniels turns out a host of whimsical yet useful bowls, candleholders, mugs and plates, while rug hookers Liz and Diana O’Brien produce rugs and teach the techniques to others. Besides selling their work, they also sell rug-hooking supplies. Carole Adams has been spinning fleece from her own flock, creating the yarns she uses in her hooked rugs and felted objects. She also makes herbal products – salves and sachets.
Some locations along this trail are really two-for-one art events – with husbands and wives who each pursue their own talent. For instance, Marilyn Beal of Shelburne Line Road makes one-of-a-kind silk scarves using carved stamps, hand-painting, Japanese shibori and silk-screening techniques, while her husband, Al Ladd of Fine Edge Woodworking, makes cabinets, wood-inlaid jewelry boxes and cutting boards, as well as other items featuring wood inlays or carved detailing in hardwoods.
Bob Olson is a pastel artist, and his wife, Helen, is a jewelry maker and nature photographer. Inge Jockers, a former Californian, makes her delicate necklaces and earrings with copper, silver and gold. “Living so close to nature my work now reflects the change of seasons,” she says. “In the fall, my colors become earth tones, in winter it is white topaz and silver. In summer I work with gold, the color of the starry nights.”
Jim and Jill Horton-Lyons raise sheep, and Angora goats and rabbits for the fiber that Jill weaves and felts. They welcome visitors to meet their animals.
Nature photography is also the forte of Joe Kurland, while his wife, calligrapher Peggy Davis, sells prints and does commissioned work. Their Adamsville Road farm stead will only be open Sunday.
For a map of the self-guided tour, go online to: www.craftsofcolrain.com and click on the map link. The event is free, and it takes place Nov. 9-10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The map includes places to eat and lodging information. Also, you’ll see signs along Route 2, Colrain-Shelburne Road, and along other roads in Colrain that weekend.