The fine art of birthdays


Ah, November! The air is crisp and inviting. The leaves have taken on their autumn colors. Adventure beckons. And the world is beautiful.

I am a March birthday girl. Now I’m not saying March isn’t beautiful, because it is. It is spring. But as a second choice for a surprise birthday adventure, my husband Bill chose November, and later we both agreed it was perfect. After all, birthdays last a whole year.

As instructed, I packed casual clothing for this mystery destination, and as we’re driving down the Interstate to parts unknown, I am constantly wondering where we’re going. How could we leave our exquisite Virginia to seek thrills elsewhere?

Well, we didn’t. We rode through the fall scenery to Charlottesville, not only one of our favorite places but also the site of the annual Artisans Studio Tour. I am thrilled, as both of us are lovers of handcrafted arts. I could just feel my credit cards jumping around in my purse, anticipating a lot of activity.

Just for your information, for the past 23 years, the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau has sponsored this annual event which, to everyone’s delight, has grown to include more than 45 professional artists who open their studios to art lovers, both local and from afar. Potters, weavers, leather craftsmen, woodworkers, jewelers, quilters, blacksmiths—they’re all there! And what makes it a unique adventure is that we’re all supplied with a map that directs us to art studios not only in Charlottesville but also in surroundings areas, all open for visitation. It is absolutely amazing!

So off we go! Our first stop was to Noon Whistle Pottery, a former gas station in Stanardsville that creativity magically turned into an art studio. This three-floored structure, a piece of architectural art in its own right, housed works from more than 150 artists whose array of handcrafted treasures completely overwhelmed us. Our eyes went wild. So much to see, so much to purchase, so much self-discipline to muster up. What a spectacular experience for art lovers of any medium.

Now onward to the next stop, Jaeger & Ernst, cabinetmakers extraordinaire. Exhibiting absolutely the most outstanding handcrafted furniture and cabinetry, these craftsmen are geniuses at bringing out the natural expressions of raw wood into stunning designs one would have to see to believe. And the entire studio smelled of freshly cut wood. My credit cards quivered as several pieces found their way into my handy-dandy shopping bag.

Leaving there, we headed to downtown Charlottesville to find Taviametal studio in a converted warehouse, the backdrop for stunning custom-designed jewelry. Absolutely mind-bending creations in sterling silver, gold, platinum and titanium were transformed as rings, necklaces, bracelets and pins—eye candy, for sure. And I’ll tell you, it was tough leaving without a treasure trove of jewels in my bag.

The Barn Swallow was not just a studio. It was like a movie set. We strolled along garden paths to a charming 1800s barn, all designed to present not only the works of the resident artists Janice and Mary Ann, but also the works of more than 80 other artists. Imagine porcelain and clay works, scarves, gemstone jewelry, purses, wall hangings, soaps, notecards all under one roof. It was a veritable shoppers’ paradise.

Fortunately with the help of our GPS we made our way down country roads to other destinations, including a memorable visit to Blaise Gaston in Earlysville. His home/studio is surrounded by old trees and fronts a creek, a pastoral setting for the art-furniture in his home, which is so unique I refer you to his website in lieu of my own description. That would be:

And finally to end the tour, Two Owls Pottery in Crozet demonstrated in no uncertain terms that clay calls to the creative soul. The studio was filled with creations that almost defy description. Roz, the artist, says her work is for anyone who loves pottery, and was she right! Bill and I became devotees of her work and have choice favorites in our home to prove it.

This was one of my favorite birthday surprises! With the beauty of autumn outdoors and the exquisite sights indoors, we were mesmerized by Mother Nature’s ingenuity. Appreciating art and loving the creativity that goes into it refreshes the soul. Both Bill and I agreed that this was one of the best birthday adventures ever.

About Sylvia Weinstein Craft 25 Articles
Sylvia Weinstein Craft, as publisher and editor, has been cutting her teeth on printer’s ink for 35 years and enjoying every issue of it. What began as an 8½ x 11 quarterly has grown to a 24-plus page tabloid with a monthly distribution of 9,000 in almost 200 Peninsula locations. Sylvia is most proud of her dedicated designers, writers, photographers and other important team members who make this industry fun. Most of all, she is quick to express her appreciation to the advertisers and readers who make it possible for her to love her work.

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