Arts across the Marsh – Studio Tour- Oct. 2010
Have you ever dreamed of living and working from home in a quiet cottage with a view of the sparkling sea? No commuting, no bosses, no year-end evaluation, you just walk down the garden path to your studio in the morning and get to work, when you feel like it.
For a taste of the idyllic life you can Join the Art across the Marsh studio tour and spend the weekend (October 16 – 17) on a driving tour of the Sackville area, enjoying the glorious fall colors and the hospitality of local artists who are inviting the public into their homes.
Rob Lyon and Katherine Hicks Lyon, who will be celebrating the grand opening of their new studio and printing shop in Sackville during the tour, were one of the first artists to start the tradition eleven years ago. Rob says that seeing the art itself is only part of the fun, it is also interesting to seeing how and where the artists live.
“I love the area”, says Rob, who is well known for his water color paintings and prints of wildlife, “And some of the studios are so interesting, and it is such a wide range, all of them are unique and have a lot of character”.
Rob explains that at the beginning when he and his wife opened their home to visitors, they found that friends like Ghita Levin and Donna Sharpe were doing the same, “So we decided to do it together, and at the same time, and because it went so well, we started asking more friends and now we have about 20 studios involved”.
Rob sighs when asked how he gets the whole tour organized; saying that collecting all the information from the artists is like stewarding cats. Artists will often come up at the last minute, he says, “And say, didn’t I tell you I wanted to be involved this year”?
With 18 artists on the map, which can be found on the Arts across the Marsh website or at the Tourist Center in Sackville, it will take an organized driver to hit all the studios in two days. Denyse Milliken, a weaver who makes her own wool and also works with sea glass in jewelry and in her woven art, lives in Dorchester and has been opening her studio for many years.
Denyse finds that when visitors come to her house they may stay for a while and watch her spin her own wool from local sheep or alpaca wool on one of her beautiful spinning wheels. If they take a lot of time at her house she knows that they won’t have time for many other studios, but she has heard from the visitors that they return each year to see the artists they missed the year before.
Millikens’ gracious house also draws some interest, with the beautiful wood framing and steep curved staircase in the front hallway, and sometimes Denyse finds people ask her more about her house than her treasured spinning wheels and colorful and unique wool. Ghita Levin, a well-known potter in Baie Verte, who can proudly say that she has never worked for anyone but herself, says that that checking out the homes and gardens is part of the draw of the tour.
Ghita and her husband Marc Spence built their own modest home at the end of a long wooded driveway. The studio and shop are nestled among flowers and rock sculptures, everything molded by Ghita’s artistic eye and every corner of the garden a delight, from the fruit trees, and the frogs sitting on lily pads in the ponds, to her own sculptures placed throughout. Visitors can see her at work in her studio and take a look in her shop, where they are refreshments and snacks.
Ghita admits that people coming to visit may romanticize an artist’s life, but she doesn’t mind, it is the only life she has known and she would not trade it for anything. She enjoys showing visitors around and usually serves mulled wine if it is a rainy weekend.
Ghita’s good friend and fellow artist, Marilyn Cook, who lives down the coast in Shemogue, has a similar space, with a beautiful garden and a studio all to herself, where she has worked for many years producing bright silk paintings, hangings and scarves. She also enjoys opening up her home and studio, and admits that people coming to visit may think they have the dream life.
But Marilyn says that life of an artist can be tough. Surviving as an artist takes mental discipline, she says with a laugh, “There is nobody to blame but yourself, you can’t say ‘oh that lousy boss of mine doesn’t have any idea’, when it is all up to you”.
And even though artists survive without a regular income, Marilyn says “You know we wouldn’t do it if the benefits of being an artist did not outweigh the hardship”. She says that she thought about taking a ‘real’ job over the winter but was discouraged by the fact that she would have to go somewhere when she may not feel like it, “So then I thought”, says Marilyn, “I think I will just go back to the studio and forget about that idea “.
Ron Lyon says that he will continue to organize the tour because “It works, we constantly draw in around 300 people from outside this area”. And with new artists moving into the area, and new studios being built by established local artists who are new to the tour, there are always new studios to visit.
Marilyn has had the pleasure of watching one of her daughters grow up to become one of the hard working artists in the area, Kaeli Cook, who has a pottery studio in Sackville. “Watching her grow up was like watching myself, so much was similar, and so, of course, she chose to be an artist!” Kaeli has been on the tour for a few years and is in the process of building her own studio in her garage, which may not be ready for the tour. If you visit her this coming weekend you will probablyfind her at her makeshift studio on the front porch, living the dream.