For the 16th year in a row, artists in Leicester open their studios to the public for the annual Come to Leicester Studio Tour. This free, self-guided event is held every third weekend in August. Upcoming tour dates are Saturday and Sunday, August 21 and 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors choose their own tour stops along the scenic route using a printed map of the area, along with pictures of each artist’s work. Detailed brochures with maps are available at various locations in Leicester and the surrounding communities before the tour, as well as at each stop on tour days. Signs along the route direct visitors to the individual studios.
“The artists are open, friendly and eager to share about their art and the process of making it,” says participating potter Barbara Hebert. “Many artists invest much time in readying their work and their property for visitors.”
The tour comprises both local and visiting artists working in a variety of media including clay, fiber, jewelry, metal, glass, wood, natural materials, painting and mixed media. Many artists open the doors to their home studios only on this weekend, providing a unique opportunity to explore the beauty of the mountain community while getting a glimpse behind the scenes of the artist’s life and work. Some stops also offer insight into Appalachian tradition, art and folklore.
At Friendswood Brooms, located in a general store from 1896, Diana and Marlow Gates create sculptural and functional brooms by hand using techniques dating to the 1790s. “I love the feeling of working with each natural wooden handle with the deep understanding that it is unique and there will never be another one just like it,” says Marlow Gates. “And I love being a part of the tour as it forces me to clean up my studio at least once a year.”
Other stops include Peggy Baldwin’s quilting studio, offering keepsake-quality quilts that draw on both traditional and modern block patterns to produce original designs; Frank Barbara’s woodworking studio where one may find anything from furniture to knife boards, canes and other functional items made from locally sourced woods; and Suzanne Saunders’ painting studio featuring vibrant and surreal work in acrylic and collage on wood and canvas, as well as enamel and collage on switch plates.
“The tour is important to Leicester because it raises awareness of the unique beauty of the community and the generous and friendly spirit of the people who live there,” says Hebert. “We hope that once introduced to Leicester, visitors will want to return.”
The printed map identifies tour stops that provide refreshments and hospitality along the route, including Grateful Roots Market & Deli, Gossett Grocery, Sawhorse restaurant and Addison Farms Vineyard. On Saturday, the Big Sandy United Methodist Church hosts a fish fry at the Sandy Mush Community Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.