“Furniture is my art form, my expression of beauty,” says master furniture maker, Andy Pitts. “In every piece I create, my goal is for function and beauty to co-exist harmoniously,” he says earnestly. Andy Pitts is just one of the 19 artists whose studios are featured on the Arts Alive! Studio Tour ’12, a self-drive tour of workshops and studios set for the weekend of April 14-15, 2012, in Virginia’s Northern Neck.
What first strikes you as you walk up the wide entrance steps and enter Pitts’ studio workshop in Heathsville is how it reflects the same ideal of form and function you see in Andy’s hand-crafted furniture pieces. Complete with sawmill and solar drying kiln, his studio is nestled in the secluded forests of Northumberland County, Virginia. Using pre-fallen hardwoods local to the studio, Pitts harvests all his materials, mills the wood, and dries it himself. His designs bring out the inherent beauty of the wood – a “celebration of its beauty,” Pitts adds. “I respect its imperfections and variations.” Using only clear finishes, avoiding stains that might mask the grain, a Pitts design is distinctive, with its graceful curves, exquisitely matched grain patterns, exacting joinery, and meticulous finishing. You can smell the sweet fresh scent of the clear light shellac polish he uses on some of his pieces, and on others you can feel the soft texture of oil and beeswax finish.
As you continue on the tour, you’re sure to meet artist Sidney Mace, a professional woodturner in his Reedville studio. Sid also favors green locally-found wood, “recycled firewood,” as he calls his medium. “I most enjoy working with what Mother Nature gives me,” says Sid. “She has the final say in what every piece of my art becomes.” As you walk around his expansive studio-workshop, you’ll also see works made by the [Heathsville] Tavern Woodworkers Guild, including some hand-built wooden canoes.
Cross the path from Sid Mace’s workshop and step into Penny Mace’s studio, where she displays her fiber works, including embroidery, knitting, sewing, and woodcarving. Seeing up close the intricate and rich patterns of her designs, it is obvious why her talent was recognized with a “Best in Show in the Nation” for decoy carving, and a People’s Choice Award for Art Quilting.
With your next stop at the Stodart studio in Burgess, you will meet Richard Stodart, an artist who’s been painting since 1973. His preferences are acrylics, charcoal, pencil and pastel, but Stodart chooses his subjects and colors broadly and deeply. “As well as having an objective existence, there is a subjective connection to all things in the universe,” he explains philosophically. “I’m interested in expressing the full range of this interdependence.” A native of Trinidad, West Indies, Stodart has shown his work in Canada, Hawaii, California, New York, Delaware, New Mexico, Vermont, as well as Virginia.
Moving on as you continue touring Northumberland and Lancaster Counties, you might find yourself in Kantor’s Studio in Lancaster. “My vision is a reflection of a lifelong love affair with fishing and the water,” Richard Kantor gleams as he gazes at a painting of a sunset on the bay that he’s working on. His Lancaster studio may be where he paints, but his inspiration comes from that close connection with the natural beauty he’s found around the creeks and coves throughout the Northern Neck. Although he started with carving and painting duck decoys, he has since transitioned to oils and, more recently, drawing with colored pencils.
The artists featured above are representative of the 19 artists (and 18 separate studios) that make up the two-day tour on April 14-15, 2012. Other artists and their studios on the tour are Lorri Amidon (jewelry, Lancaster), Mary Jo Beswick (painting, Lancaster), Shirley Kinney (doll maker, Lancaster), Sue Broadway (jewelry, Merry Point), Sukey Starkey (mosaic art, Ophelia), Alvaro Ibañez (mixed media, paintings - Kilmarnock), Fran Davis (woodworking, painting-Heathsville), Carol Seymour (watercolors, Heathsville), Diana Jamison (oils, Heathsville), Charles VanDenburgh (oils, Heathsville), Sally Vinroot (fiber art, Heathsville), Nancy Max (stained glass, Farnham), Ed Ramsey (pottery, Sharps), and Susan Ramsey (watercolors, Sharps).
Tickets for the Arts Alive! Studio Tour ’12 are $20 per person for both days. In addition to witnessing first-hand the extraordinary talent and beauty expressed in hundreds of works of art, tour-goers will have a chance to win a work of art donated by the artists. All ticket sales, along with a percentage from the sales of all art work go to benefit the Northumberland Public Library. And tickets are tax-deductible.
Donors who are making the Studio Tour possible include EVB Bank, Chesapeake Bank, Bank of Lancaster, Harford Tire Service, Inc., (C.A.R.S.) Callao Auto Service, Ingram Bay Contracting, Inc., Stodart Enterprises, The County Seat, Luna, Pim Montgomery, Glen Lester, Inc. and The Highlander Studios.
For a full-color brochure with a detailed map of the Arts Alive! Studio Tour ’12, or to purchase tickets, call or visit the Northumberland Library in Heathsville: (804) 580-5051. Tickets
are also available throughout the Northern Neck at participating businesses. Call for locations.