Experience Art on the Naples Open Studio Trail

Cub and Pam Storms at work on the potter’s wheel.

I’m always on the lookout for a new weekend adventure, which is what led me to the Naples Open Studio Trail. Its brochure boasts, “See where the magic of art happens!” which I did when I visited a few studios this past autumn.

For the past 13 years during the first weekend of October, artists in the area of Honeoye and Canandaigua Lakes have opened their doors and invited the public to their studios to view their artwork. The free two-day event is spread out across the countryside – there are no crowds to deal with and the pace is unhurried and relaxed. Maps are available listing the artists and locations, and you can choose the route and the stops you want to make.

Visitors can get to know the artists, view demonstrations of their craft, and gain a greater understanding and appreciation for those who live and work in our area. They use oil paints, glass, ceramics, wood, metal, leather and so much more – there is something for everyone.

I thought it would be a great way to spend an autumn day and maybe gain some personal inspiration for my own art. With the trail map in hand I picked a kickoff point in Naples and began my day at the pottery studio of Stephanie Marshall. One of the artists who has been on the trail almost since the beginning, she is creative, energetic and full of interesting stories. When I asked her why she chose pottery as a medium, she smiled and said, “Even as a child I always loved to play with squishy mud.”

Stephanie is a self-taught potter who now also teaches her craft, but her hand-painted designs are a gift from her mother. She told me about the hours she spent sitting by her Mom, learning Chinese brush strokes. It’s a fond memory for her, and she incorporates the style into much of her pottery.

I watched her at work at her potter’s wheel, totally absorbed in her creation of a lovely bowl. I left with a beautiful coffee mug meticulously crafted by Stephanie with a design painted from the legacy of her mother.

I drove a couple miles to the studio of Albie Alliet, another artist who has been on the trail from the beginning. His gorgeous paintings fill the walls. Albie was trained in graphic arts, but his painting is all his own. “I feel like a novelist,” he told me, “I want to be a storyteller, but I do it with canvas and a paintbrush. I can tell when someone looks at a painting and they see my story. That means a lot to me.”

Albie uses a storyboard process, thinking through his idea from beginning to end. He explained the process and showed me pictures and sketches of individual parts of his idea, which he builds upon for his finished product. Using layers of acrylic paint, he achieves the consistency he desires. The completed artwork often looks like an oil painting.

Over the last few years, Albie has experimented with clay. It’s baked to harden and then added as an additional layer to his paintings, creating a three-dimensional look. The results are stunning.

I headed to the studio of Scott Grove, a woodworker, sculptor and designer. He is a creative and multitalented artist who uses multiple media for his artwork, but most impressive is his work with exotic, highly figured wood veneers and his signature polychromatic metallic finishes. He showed me a curved design and explained his technique for compound veneering, which allows him to bend and stretch it into round forms. His furniture is functional and gorgeous.

I took a walk around the grounds where Scott has created his sculpture garden. It includes a 14-foot purple chair, a 16-foot wooden dream catcher and a 12-foot red ribbon. His excitement for his artwork is evident as he explains a technique he has used or describes his ideas for growing his sculpture garden.

Next on my list was a visit to the woodworking shop of Bruce Hickey. His colorful designs are all about the wood, matching dark with light and using his lathe and his talent to create each individual piece. “Nature provides an abundance of color in the wood without the need for stain,” says Bruce. “The grain pattern reveals itself as I start cutting, and I often adjust my project to fit what I see.”

I watched him work the wood, spinning it around and exposing the layers he had glued together, creating the first half of his salt and pepper mills.

Bruce’s wife Tina, who has joined him in the woodworking business, adds her own designs to the pieces they create. A beautiful vase was sitting off to the side, and when I asked about it, she showed me a slight flaw at the bottom, which I hadn’t noticed. “I can’t sell it; it has my name on it,” she said, evidence of the fierce pride in their workmanship. I left with another vase, a dark bubinga wood piece from these talented artists.

My last stop of the day was at the studio of Cub and Pam Storms. Both are potters, each with a specialty. Cub’s is hand-painted stoneware; Pam’s is jewelry. “My Mother loved to match her jewelry,” she explained. “She couldn’t afford a lot, but she always made sure to have pretty jewelry that matched. I learned from her, and I want to pass this along to others.”

Her designs are colorful and lovely, with a porcelain focal point, then glass or beads as an added touch.

Cub’s stoneware reflects his love of nature and the surrounding area. Many of his hand-painted designs showcase the beauty of the Finger Lakes Region. Whether it features scenes of Keuka Lake, an animal, or Cub’s “Red Berry Vine” design, the stoneware is both functional and beautiful.

I had a wonderful day. Each artist I met was creative, talented and so very passionate about his or her work. They all talked about what’s next – new ideas to try and their plans for the coming year.

This October, 17 studios will open their doors to the public. Five of the locations will welcome guest artists to join them, increasing the number of total artists on the trail and the range of talent and artwork. With a mix of return artists and those new to the trail, it is sure to be another wonderful weekend of art and creativity.

I am making plans to hit the trail again this year, but I have a huge dilemma. I want to revisit the artists from my last trip to see all the new and creative ideas they told me about, but I also want to see other artists that I missed. No matter what I choose, it will be a win-win. Taking a drive around the colorful countryside and getting up-close and personal with talented artists on their home turf is a great way to spend a weekend.

Now in its 14th year, the Naples Open Studio Trail will be held October 3 and 4, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The trail map (above) and brochure can be found at naplesopenstudiotrail.com, or can be mailed to you when you add your name to the mailing list.

story and photos by Cindy Ruggieri

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