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Over the Mountain Studio Tour is over the top

November 13, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. - The Tri-State area boasts its share of craft shows, but the Over the Mountain Studio Tour provides more than a chance to see artisans show off their wares.

The studio tour, in its 10th year, offers craft lovers an opportunity to see where the artisans create their work.

"I like seeing people's studios, where they actually do the work," said Mariya Stokes, who helped her parents display their pottery at their shop on Paynes Ford Road on Saturday. "People actually get to see the kiln. It takes a little bit of the mystery out of it."

It also allows customers to understand why it takes so long to finish their orders, said Lawrence Crouse, who re-creates antique furniture at his shop up the road.

"They get to see we really are making their things individually," Crouse said.

The Over the Mountain Studio Tour began a decade ago as a way for local craftsmen to highlight their work. Pam Parziale was among the artisans who helped organize the original event.

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"There are a lot of really good artists that live on this road,'' she said. "We realized if we worked together, cooperated, we'd have a much better chance to be successful."

The studio tour will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at eight locations in Jefferson County. At the end of the day, each artist will give away crafts in a drawing.

As in past years, the event drew a number of people from outside the area on Saturday.

Alden and Rita Manchester drove up from Bethesda, Md., last weekend because they mixed up the date.

"We started in Middleway and we're working our way up," said Alden Manchester, holding a $225 mini chest and drawers he bought from Crouse.

Manchester said his wife plans to use the chest as a jewelry box.

"I thought it was beautiful. He does excellent work," Rita Manchester said.

Kathy Van Orden said she took the studio tour several years ago and decided to make the trip from her Alexandria, Va., home again because a friend is in town.

"It's just interesting to see what other people are up to," she said.

Crouse has worked full time making furniture for 27 years. In addition to the replicas he produces, Crouse also has done a number of restorations for the National Park Service and others.

Currently, he is removing blue latex paint from an 18th century cupboard that will be returned to Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

Crouse devotes much of his time these days to making replicas of 200-year-old Windsor chairs. An original can cost about $2,000, so Crouse said many people who own them store them away and buy his copies for $375.

"They're actually too valuable to use. So this is a good compromise," he said.

Many of the artisans who displayed their goods Saturday became interested in their work years before they decided to make a living from it.

Margot Ours, who makes sweaters, designer shirts and crocheted wallhangings and ornaments, started Needle Arts Unlimited when her husband retired about 10 years ago. But her experience with knitting and crocheting dates back to her days growing up in Germany.

"This was daily life for me," she said.

Ren Parziale, who owns Sycamore Pottery, said he graduated from college with a political science degree but decided pottery was what he wanted to do after a stint in the Marines.

"I fell in love with it," he said. "It's all I know how to do."

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