Just as wine can be said to reflect terroir — the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to it by the environment in which it is produced – so fine craft can be said to have terroir.  On November 13 and 14, 2021, the 46 artisans participating in the 27th annual Artisans’ Studio Tour will present hand-made, heirloom quality work which distinctly reflects the terroir of Central Virginia.

The 2021 Artisans Studio Tour includes 46 artisans in 21 local studios, including 9 guest artists from outside the area – from Staunton, Richmond, Lynchburg, Leesburg, Hopewell, and Tidewater.  A map of the Tour studios is available online at www.artisanstudiotour.com in August.  To make the most out of the Tour, visitors can make plans to stay the weekend.  Those starting from points north may wish to begin with Studio #1; while those coming from points south can start with Studio #21 and work backwards. Studios will be open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, November 13 and 14, 2021.

In their artisans’ statements found on the newly updated website,  www.artisanstudiotour.com,  many Tour members describe how they have been inspired by the natural world.   Jewelry artist Steven Hamm speaks of his “appreciation of the sublime in the everyday.”  Glass artist Susan Haas loves being on the water, “ocean, river, lake, mud puddle,” and her work “is alive with bubbles and waves, sea foam and movement….”  Kirk McCauley utilizes “wood from the grounds of Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, and the University Lawn, as well as Stratford Hall, home of Robert E. Lee,” in his wood-turned vessels.  Sarah Tremaine “uses local plant materials to create botanical prints and natural dyes on a variety of natural fibers” to make wearables such as tops, shawls and scarves.

Many Tour participants express a desire to become more eco-friendly in their practice. For example, Madison County’s Christina Boy’s uses “rain barrels as her main water source in the studio to mix her paints….Her finishes are low- to no-VOC, and a few times a year she does scrap control: Usable wood pieces are turned into smaller household and kitchen items; the sawdust goes into the barns and compost pile; and the unusable is distributed amongst family members to be used as kindling for their wood stoves.”   Working at Red Horse Studio in Keswick, Jan Elmore creates wood and metal multimedia sculpture and mirrors using scraps gathered from local cabinetmakers and recycling enterprises.

Furniture maker Alicia Dietz from Richmond, a former Army Blackhawk maintenance test pilot and commander, writes that “while most of today’s manufacturing is built around planned obsolescence,” her furniture is designed for “permanence, integrity, and craftsmanship.”  This year will be Alicia’s first year on the Tour. Her work can be found at Sunset Farm Studio #20.

Several artisans on the Tour enjoy doing custom work for clients, consciously trying to incorporate their local terroir into their client-specific designs.  After a difficult year of not being able to meet with clients face to face, Central Virginia’s artisans are eager to make new connections, create new work in cooperation with clients, and talk about how they and their work have grown.  Richmond copper artisan Cathy Vaughn enjoys “working with clients to make custom work, often using leaves that are harvested from places with special meaning for them, or using plants with which people have an emotional connection.”

In 2020, the Tour was virtual, which prompted many artisans to upgrade their websites and provide on-line opportunities for viewing and buying their work.  The Artisans Studio Tour website has become much more comprehensive, allowing visitors to preview work, see videos of some of the artists at work in their studios, and read artisans’ personal statements to help target studios to be sure to visit during the tour weekend.