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25th annual Allegany Artisans Studio Tour this weekend

Richard Lang will demonstrate throwing pots during the Allegany Artisans Studio Tour.

Goin' South

If you’ve had enough city for a while and need to drive past leaves turning to orange, and to seek time among people who appreciate the modern world but who often work at a calmer, older pace, make your way to a working artisan studio in Allegany County. Pull up a chair, share a brownie, and see how some of your New York neighbors work.

This saturday and Sunday, October 13-14, 49 artisans will open their studios to the public during the 25th annual Allegany Artisans Studio Tour. Some artisans work in their homes and others in shops or stores. Many of them take their work to craft fairs where visitors trudge between tents searching out what might interest them. For the studio tour, however, these artisans stay home, open their doors, put on their aprons or gloves, and work where they always work, while hosting anyone who wants a behind-the-scenes peek.

The studio likely closest to Buffalo belongs to Sarah Phillips. Called “Auntie’s Place,” it’s surrounded by themed gardens where Phillips’s eye captures images of nature and renders them in paintings, scratchboard work, carvings, prints, silk scarves, drawings—just about any medium that a person might think to use. A recent collection of watercolors involves beautifully detailed abandoned cars, trucks, and tractors overgrown and seemingly joining nature.

Head south along Route 19 after seeing Phillips and make your way to Charles and Betsy Orlando in Belmont. They put out a trail of signs because their road might not strike everyone as inviting. People like to know it’s the right one before they turn off the tarmac and onto the gravel, so the signs are there with the red and white Allegany Artisans logo to encourage the venture.

Marsha Van Vlack exhibits art tiles inspired by nature.
Laurie Johnson exhibits her fun, handmade stuffed animals.
Celtic woodcarver Alec McCrea will demonstrate woodcarving in his beautiful studio in Alfred Station.

Blacksmithing is only part of Charley’s metal work. He also tinkers with tin cans to create found-object robots and wall pieces. He has made several stringed instruments using tin cans—all of them work and, not one to do things the easy way, he learned to play every one of them.

Charley sells knitted and felted objects, as does Betsy Orlando, who is a well-known art doll creator. Her dolls are not playthings but statements, not decorations but thoughts. They will change your idea of what dolls are.

Make your way down the hill (carefully, perhaps slowly) back to Route 19 and head south to Wellsville, a small town packed with Allegany artisans. Find StoneFlower Pottery on Route 19 just north of Wellsville. The big, old, farmhouse will have Elaine Hardman’s pottery and mixed-media pieces—roosters and fish born of popcorn and cookie tins—items that have been featured in shows as far away as Chicago.

Hardman’s work will fill the country kitchen but the dining room is for Jim Horn’s amazing work—objects created with the support and assistance of his wife HM Bateman, recently of Wellsville and currently of Buffalo. Jim takes creativity into wearable art, jewelry with built-in smiles, and even makes mirrors that smile back.

Jim’s wife, HM, makes the best brownies on the studio tour, and Jim makes possibly the most colorful, creative pins in Western New York.

Nearly a quarter of the artisans live and work within Wellsville. Also in town you’ll find Kristy Hall (paintings) and Brenda Layman (chainsaw sculpture). Russ Allen shows his wooden clocks and ornaments in his home with his jeweler-daughter, Trina Allen, while his daughter Laurie Johnson, fibers artist, shows her toys and Wear Bear Hats distinctly uphill, with Peter Midgley’s pottery. Laurie has branched out widely on the species tree so there are frog hats, dog and duck hats, and the occasional wearable bulb of garlic.

Peter Midgley is famous for saying he will demonstrate the raku process “weather permitting.” Raku is a quick firing technique with lots of flame and more smoke, and it happens in Peter’s driveway, but only if the sky is clear and it’s not too windy.

Head down the hill, cross the river and turn south on Route 19 to find Bob Chaffee, who signs “Gottagocarve” just above his name on every piece he makes. He’s often standing deep in a pile of wood chips, but last year he built an addition next to the porch so that he has a clean room just for display. Watch him at work or be amazed by a miniature fox or bear, a colorful character in cowboy hat, or one of the many Santas that he finds hidden inside of bits of wood.

You could go to Whitesville, where Fred Beckhorn makes Natural Form Furniture, Marcia Van Vlack makes exquisitely formed ceramic tiles, and Mary Sterling forms Victorian lampshades that any bit of lace or string of beads would be proud to cling to.

In Andover, Stephen Walker designs and creates Celtic jewelry for an international market. Stephen’s apprentices have branched off from his shop to work on their own in Wellsville. Lyndsay Himes Burr and Jennifer Acomb put their personalities into silver, so check the website to match your style with our jewelers.

Find Allegany Artisans in Scio, Alfred, Alfred Station, Almond, Angelica, and along the road in between. Ask in any town where to stop for the best pie and coffee. Make a weekend of it by staying at a local retreat, B&B or chain motel.

Find specific directions to the Allegany Artisan of your choice at, where work samples, contact information, and driving directions are posted.

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