By Belle Crawford
This year marks the 12th annual Come to Leicester Studio Tour, held Saturday and Sunday, August 19–20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors are invited to learn about Leicester’s vibrant arts community, visit the studios of 26 participating artists and buy original works by local crafters.
“The tour has continued for 12 years because of the tremendous talent here,” says Dianne Frisbee, Come to Leicester advisory board member. “I love the phrase ‘functional art.’ We have potters, quilters and craftsmen (and women) working with wood, iron, glass and fiber to create pieces we need in everyday life, from cups to dressers and brooms. These pieces become elevated beyond their utilitarian purpose when created by hand.”
Most artists participating in the tour are displaying their works in home studios, with some showing at the Leicester Community Center and Addison Farms Vineyard. Artists who have been participating in the tour since its inception include Marlow Gates of Friendswood Brooms, potter Cat Jarosz and figurative artist Karen Hawkins. Newer exhibiting artists include textile artist Deanna Lynch and functional and decorative wood artist Valerie Berlage, each returning for a third year on the tour; fiber artist Joanna White in her second year; and woodworker Frank Barbara, new to the tour.
“I have always thought of Leicester as a series of rural communities bound together by a zip code but separated by regional topography,” says Matt Jones, ceramicist and longtime participant in the tour. “It is an amazingly beautiful landscape, and many artists are attracted to its pastoral scenery and inspired by its mountains, fields and woodlands as well as the plant and animal communities that thrive here.”
Jones has been doing his own ceramic shows in Leicester for 19 years. “When people see art presented in a studio or workshop where it’s made, they can imagine what that artist’s life and working rhythms must be like, and this is an essential aspect that drives art tourism in our area,” he says. “It enriches the community for people who call Western North Carolina home.”
Mixed media figurative artist Karen Hawkins, member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, says that during the tour she is able to explain her craft to visitors. “My process and media range from sculpting, painting, weaving and fashion design to printmaking, beading and quilting.”
What Hawkins loves about the Leicester tour is that visitors to her studio can see firsthand the step-by-step process of creating her one-of-a-kind characters.
“They go away with a better understanding of figurative art,” she says. “I love the laughter, smiles and the excitement people bring to my studio when they visit. After each tour I am inspired and energized.”
The Come to Leicester Studio tour is self-guided with a printable map of the routes between artists’ home studios available at cometoleicester.org.