Arts Craft Arts

Toe River Arts Studio Tour

Page Pottery. Kristen Page, artist. Photo by Sam Dean

Early June Tour Turns a Simple Ride in the Country into an Exciting Arts Extravaganza

By Sue Wasserman

There’s nothing like a good joyride to shake out the cobwebs and lift your spirits. Once you set your GPS toward Yancey and Mitchell counties for Toe River Arts’ Annual Spring Studio Tour June 3–5, you can be sure that simple joyride will transform into an epic adventure that will not just lift your spirits, it will send them soaring!

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this year’s spring tour, sponsored by Explore Burnsville, lays out the welcome mat for more than 100 talented artists and several fine art and craft galleries scattered across lush hills and valleys. Artists like internationally renowned glassblower Rob Levin and glass blower and ceramic artist Yaffa Todd have participated since the spring tour’s inception, while others, such as print artist Jamie Karolich of Small Batch Studio and Press and instrument maker JT Tuner of Wild Sparrow Strings, are sharing their work for the first time.

Thanks to glass artist and self-described geek Dori Settles (aka Funky Dori), the tour offers an easy-to-use website ( The mobile phone-friendly site illustrates the kaleidoscopic work available and makes studio navigation easier.

In Tandem Gallery

“Putting this website together literally gave me chills,” Settles says. “I knew the area was rich in creative talent, given the proximity to the Penland School of Craft, but had no idea just how rich. Contemporary, traditional, funky, highly colored, neutral, textured, smooth, functional, sculptural—it’s impossible to explain the incredible diversity of work found here.”

The artists’ rich stories and experiences add another intriguing layer. Kat Turczyn of Kat’s Flat Art, for example, pursued her passion for painting after retiring as a health statistician. Linda Powell, a former IBM executive turned potter, pursues her own work, and offers classes as well as workspace for aspiring potters at High Country Ceramic Arts. Teenager Roby Summerfield hasn’t yet graduated from high school, but can’t ignore the muse, lovingly inspired by her parents: potter Liz Summerfield and glass blower Scott Summerfield.

While the sheer number of participating artists can be overwhelming, there are multiple ways to lay out your desired journey. “If you’re primarily interested in glass or ceramics,” says potter and Toe River Arts board member Dennis McAvoy, “scan the website or tour guide for those studios. Or choose an area such as Burnsville, Spruce Pine, Celo or Bakersville and visit studios within that area. Since the tour lasts for three days, visitors can take it all in a little at a time. Tour signs help keep you on track.”

Visitors who want to get a sense of the big picture can stop by Toe River Arts’ Spruce Pine Gallery starting Saturday, May 14, to see a display of participating artists’ work. While the gallery, located at 269 Oak Avenue, will be open throughout the weekend, Toe River Arts will host a special studio tour reception for guests and artists on Friday, June 3, from 5:30–7:30 p.m.

“There’s a quote that says, ‘Life is a journey, not a destination,’” says fused glass artist Amanda Taylor. “Where the studio tour is concerned, I say the journey through this beautiful region makes the destination even more special.”

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