Creative Spaces

New ‘Artisan Tour’ designed
to promote area’s talent

Vevay, Rising Sun team up to boost tourism

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(April 2008) – Visitors to the home of Jerry Wallin of Vevay, Ind., will be impressed by a collection of what looks to be original 17th-century Windsor chairs. Instead, the meticulous reproductions were handcrafted by Wallin, who even used historically accurate tools to craft the chairs.

April 2008 Indiana Edition Cover

April 2008
Indiana Edition Cover

Wallin’s striking creativity, along with about 40 other unique area artisans, will be highlighted in an upcoming studio tour throughout the southeast Indiana counties of Switzerland and Ohio.
Tourism offices in both counties have joined together to create a unique tour of arts studios that will allow the public to interact with artists during the actual creation process.
On April 26-27, art lovers will get chance to tour more than 31 unique studios and talk to nearly 40 artists during the “Creative Spaces Rural Places Arts Tour.” The arts trail will run through Rising Sun and Vevay and the rural areas of both counties. Many of the tour stops will be sprinkled along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which runs along the Ohio River.
While it is somewhat unusual for two counties to sponsor such an event together, Rising Sun-Ohio County Tourism Executive Director Sherry Timms said the project works because the two counties are so similar. “Both counties are known as art destinations,” she said. “We want to offer people an adventure in arts; we believe they will enjoy each unique studio in different ways.”
The idea for the arts tour developed after several state and county tourism officials traveled to West Virginia and North Carolina together to examine two different, but successful, artisan development projects.
Led by tourism official Becky Anderson, North Carolina created an artisan trail project that has become a model for other states and communities. Anderson spoke about the project at last year ‘s Hoosier Hospitality Conference in Indianapolis and this year presented the program in Vevay to area tourism officials and business owners. From there, tourism officials in Switzerland and Ohio counties decided to try a trail of their own and dubbed their project the “Creative Spaces-Rural Places Tour.”
Angie Satterfield, project coordinator for Switzerland County’s “Visions Project,” said the projects goals are to create collaboration within the region, increase tourism and public awareness and create economic drivers for the area. “It is going to be an exciting opportunity for both the public and the artisans,” she said. “We hope to make this an annual event.”
During the “Creative Spaces-Rural Places tours, artisans range from unique fine jewelry makers, sculptors, potters, and painters to doll makers, floral arrangers, woodworkers and an internationally renowned harp crafter.

David Attaway

‘The public will
get a rare
exposure to
not only
finished art products but
the entire
process as well.’
– David Attaway, Switzerland Co. Tourism Director

“The public will get a rare exposure to not only finished art products but the entire process as well,” said Switzerland County Tourism Executive Director David Attaway.
“There are very unique studio spaces for people to enjoy; they will get to experience art from one end of the spectrum to the other,” he said.
Wallin spent countless hours researching the exact dimensions, historically accurate woods, production processes and patterns for the various styles of Windsor chairs. These chairs originated during the 17th century in England and were primarily used as garden chairs, according to Wallin. They were introduced in America in 1726 by then-Pennsylvania Gov. Patrick Gordon.
Wallin, an award-winning mastersmith who owns and operates the historic Wallin Forge, has been doing wordworking for years as a hobby. When approached by tourism officials to be included on the artisan tour, he decided it would be a prime opportunity to showcase his Windsor chair reproductions and demonstrate the actual process for tour guests.
“We decided this would be a wonderful chance to show people the handcrafting process and to let them see how unique these chairs are,” said Sandra Wallin, Jerry’s wife.
There will be four or five different styles of chairs on display and a demonstration area situated on the Wallins’ two-story, stone-flagged covered porch at 107 W. Market St, Vevay. The porch on the backside of their historic 1835 brick home has a picturesque view of the Ohio River.
While in Vevay, tour guests will stop at the historic Carriage House, where they will see a display of unusual dolls created by fabric artist Debbie Foster, 50. Her “Society’s Forgotten” dolls, are created from scrap and vintage fabric and then hand-painted.
Each of these unique dolls depict societal problems, such as homelessness, child abuse, poverty, mental illness, injured veterans and racism.
“I make these dolls to raise public awareness to our country’s problems,” said Foster. “They aren’t terribly pretty; I dress them to look the part.” One of her dolls is a black doll that holds a sign reading, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t care about my color.”
Each one of her dolls, which can be found from New York to California, has a tag that reminds people that others can be far less fortunate. “I want to use my dolls to spread compassion.”
Foster will be available during the studio tour to show visitors how she makes her dolls. She also makes quilts, quilted wall hangings, painted quilts and clay sculpture.
Another stop in Switzerland County will be in Lamb, Ind., at Stonehouse Creations. Visitors will step inside the 190-year-old home situated along Hwy. 56 to view Vickie Althoff’s dried floral arrangements. She will also demonstrate how to make floral arrangements. Fine jewelry maker Debbie Reisenback will be be displaying her creations at Althoff’s home.
Althoff, 54, works for the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department. In her spare time, she raises herbs and flowers in her greenhouse and for 25 years has been creating dried floral arrangements.

Ann Farnsley

Photos courtesy of the
Switzerland County Welcome Center.

Artist Ann Farnsley stands
outside her studio in Vevay.

“I grow, gather or pluck my materials,” she said. “I really enjoy creating these arrangements.” Although she primarily works with dried plants, Althoff will also do silk and fresh flower arrangements. She said she stays busy doing events, such as weddings, and is working with her daughter, Jessica, to expand their greenhouse operations and flower production. “We are hoping to eventually expand our business and offer group teas and floral workshops,” she said.
In Rising Sun, Ind., trail followers will be treated to an uncommon delight when at William Rees Instruments, located at 222 Main St. Rees, 58, is an internationally renowned harp maker. His hand-carved and hand-painted harps are shipped all over the world. Some of the finest harpists in the world, including the top four world-class Irish harpists, use his harps.
“We have a unique design to our soundboard and backs, which set us apart from other harp makers,” said Rees.
His shop is listed on the “American Automobile Association’s Travel Treasures of the Midwest” because visitors can actually watch harps being made.
He relocated his business nearly eight years ago from Yosemite, Calif., to Rising Sun because of the city’s efforts to develop arts as an economic tool. “I think this tour is a good thing,” he said. “I hope officials continue to do this kind of projects.”
In 1990, nationally renown artist Vera Curnow founded the Colored Pencil Society of America, an organization dedicated to artists who use colored pencils as their medium. Today, that society boasts more than 2,000 members.
Her Main Artery studio in Rising Sun will have many of her colored pencil works on display, as well as her fused glass jewelry and assemblages, which are wall hangings constructed from found objects.

Brian Blackford


She believes the artisan tour is an excellent way to provide exposure to artists. “Indiana is aggressively supportive of artisans,” she said. “It is a great place for us to live.”
Recently, Indiana tourism officials Eric Freeman and Brian Blackford visited the two counties to discuss the tour and other artisan development initiatives by county tourism officials. “The efforts in Switzerland and Ohio counties to increase public awareness of their artisans are just incredible,” said Freeman, the newly appointed Artisan Development Project Manager. “Those counties are doing things others in the state aren’t.”
The Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Arts Commission, and the Indiana Department of Agriculture are collaborating on a project, the Indiana Artisan Development Program. Its mission is to develop a brand that gives meaning and recognition to Indiana-made goods and enhance entrepreneurial efforts in cultural creativity, Freeman said.
The initiative in Switzerland and Ohio counties is being looked at as one model for the state project. “Eventually, the efforts in those counties will become a national model,” said Freeman, who previously worked for two years in public relations at Hanover College.
In December 2007, Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced the launch of the state tourism project. “Indiana is home to hundreds of talented artisans and boasts a variety of unique handmade products,” she said in a statement. “Governor (Mitch) Daniels and I are committed to supporting Hoosier entrepreneurs and promoting Indiana-made products. This project provides a unique opportunity to enhance the entrepreneurial culture that has been created in Indiana and attract visitors to our state.”
The project is being funded by a $350,000 grant provided by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to the Indiana Arts Commission. Part of the funds will be re-granted for communities to develop arts trails, offer workshops and other artisan development projects.

Eric Freeman


According to Freeman, the goals of the project include:
• Raising awareness about the availability of hand-crafted and value added food products made in Indiana;
• Providing artisans, particularly those in rural areas, with access to entrepreneurial support;
• Providing grant funding for artisan business development education and networking;
• Promoting artisan trail development and retail opportunities;
• Developing branding for Indiana-made goods.
“We are dedicated to helping artisans develop their business,” said Freeman. “At the same time, we know that arts bring tourists to our state.”
Blackford, development director for Indiana Office of Tourism Development, said recent studies have shown cultural tourism is a growing industry. “People interested in arts come to our state and stay longer,” he said. “This project will not only help artisans, but it will help communities as well.”
Currently, Freeman has acquired a database of about 2,500 Indiana artisans and food producers that he will contact about the project. “We want to get the word out to every artist in the state about the program,” he said.
Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Jefferson County, Ind., is already involved in the state initiative through the Ohio River Scenic Byways project. That project developed several years ago through a Federal Highways Administration grant. As part of the project, several artisan trails throughout southern Indiana are being developed. “We were ahead of the state game by several years,” said Lytle. “We hope to eventually merge the trails into the state program.”
The Ohio Scenic Byways program has also compiled a list of 300 Southern Indiana artists from 21 counties. The searchable database is available on its website: www.ohioriverscenicroute.org. Those artisans are now part of the state tourism artisan project’s list.

Rick Starker

Photo courtesy of the Switzerland County Welcome Center.

Rick Starker works on
a woodworking project
at his studio in Vevay.

Lytle said Madison has many artists and draws arts-oriented tourists to the area. “We intend to be in position to move in and be an active part of the state program.”
To participate in the state artisan project, artisans and food producers will have to undergo an adjudication process. “There is absolutely no cost to the artisan; however, the jurying process will be fairly difficult in order to promote the quality of the products,” said Freeman.
Artisans who don’t jury into the program will not be turned away. Instead, they will be offered workshops to help improve their product development. “You won’t be let go,” said Freeman. “We want to eventually take everybody in.”
Artwork will include fine art, folk art and crafts, multi-arts, photography, craftwork, woodwork, ceramics, pottery, painting and drawing. sculpting, glasswork, jewelry, papercraft, candles, metal and ironwork, tinware, clothing, furniture, basketry, fiber art, leatherwork, toys and games, graphics, printmaking, musical instruments, quilt and knit and needlework, and home and outdoor accessories.
Value-added foods and products will include jams and jellies, dry mixes, syrups, honey, soaps and lotions, spices, wine, cheee, meats and jerky, milk and ice cream, yogurt, noodles, sauces and salsa, beer, bread, pastries and baked goods, candies and chocolates.
Applications are expected to be available in May for artisans interested in the program. By the time the first artists are juried into the project, the state will have created a logo and branding design, Blackford said. He added that several designs have been submitted for possible use.
At first, the state artisan project’s products will be available at state historic sites, including the Indiana State Museum. Displays and signage will be developed for the products. “Retailers who are interested in displaying our products should definitely contact us,” said Freeman.

• All Indiana artisans and value added foods and products creators interested in the adjudication process should contact Eric Freeman at (317) 607-8715 or via email at artisan@iac.in.gov. The Indiana Artisan Development Project is housed in the Indiana Arts Commission.

Back to April 2008 Articles.



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