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At home with their art

W.Va. artists open workshops for annual tour

W.Va. artists open workshops for annual tour

November 06, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Thomas D'Onofrio works slowly and uses a big hammer.

The maker of Windsor-style chairs, stools and settees prefers quality over quantity, he says, taking his time to craft the British-borne furniture that Americans began improving upon in the early 18th century. D'Onofrio reproduces historical Windsor-style pieces in his Shepherdstown area studio, changing lines here and there to make his light but strong creations more aesthetically pleasing to his artist's eye. He hand-carves such soft woods as pine and poplar into single-board seats and combs, uses a lathe to turn harder woods like maple and ash into legs, steam bends hickory and oak into arms, and transforms hickory into spindles.

"Then it's a matter of drilling holes and assembling everything. And that's a lot of fun - it takes a big hammer," D'Onofrio says.

Art enthusiasts can tour his showroom and peek into his spacious woodshop this weekend during the 14th annual Over The Mountain Studio Tour. Eighteen West Virginia artisans will show their works at nine studios throughout Jefferson County from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, and Sunday, Nov. 9.

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"The tour is just an exceptional way for people to meet the artisans and see them in their home environments," says basket weaver Anne Bowers of Middleway, a 14-year veteran of the tour. Her studio is marked as stop No. 1 on a detailed tour map, which is available at the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau on the corner of U.S. 340 and Washington Street in Harpers Ferry, and online at www.ahajc.org/studiotour.

Like the majority of the tour's participating artisans, painter Katherine Zinner Cimaglio will share her studio space to make the tour more convenient for participants. Textile artist Suzanne Larsen's elegant home creations will compliment the animals, landscapes and historical architecture that grace many of Cimaglio's canvases. The artists are looking forward to a tour that's "been very successful every year," says Cimaglio, whose award-winning works are inspired by local sites.

Last year's tour was "absolutely fantastic" for glass bead maker and jewelry artist Tamra Trafford and gourd artist Gretchen Meadows, who will share Trafford's studio for the tour again this year, Trafford says. More than 200 guests visited the Shepherdstown area studio during the 2002 tour. Trafford will again demonstrate the process of crafting glass beads using glass rods and a propane torch, while Meadows will display the gourds she grows in her garden and turns into artwork inspired by the traditional ceremonial vessels of diverse cultures.

Teddy bear maker Treva Blackford's Brown Shop Bears will share space with the Heirloom Baskets in Bowers' Middleway studio. Margot Ours, a longtime Shepherdstown resident who now lives in the Canaan Valley of West Virginia, will show her Needle Artistry - crocheting, knitting, sewing and tatting - in the Leestown studio of potters Ren and Pam Parziale. The couple has been throwing pots together for 40 years, more than 30 of which have been spent in West Virginia, the Parziales say.

Photographer and printmaker Peggy Meckling, whose work includes photo-inspired etchings, lithographs and copper prints, will share studio space with glass artist Sheila Brannan. Just around the corner from Meckling's studio, Steve Adams' hand-carved wooden bowls and Glenn Kinser's carved and painted birds will occupy a portion of D'Onofrio's studio spread.

Adams will show about 30 traditional and more creative pieces that he's crafted from cherry, maple and other hardwoods with a hand adz. It takes more than five weeks to create each hand-hewn bowl - from harvesting the wood to curing it through a precise process needed to prevent cracking.

"It's taught me patience," Adams says.

Artists Eric Johnson, Larry Cook, and Steve and Cynthia Portrey will show their talents at home studios. Johnson will demonstrate hand-forging techniques using traditional methods of ironworking on his working farm near Shepherdstown. Cook will display the durable garden containers he crafts from cement, pearlite, vermiculite, reinforcing fibers and peat moss. Weaver Cynthia Portrey will offer a wide variety of colorful table runners and shawls and scarves. And her husband, Steve, will display more than 80 turned bowls that he's constructed one layer at a time from different types of wood, he says.

Look for specially marked boxes at each studio for your chance to win the hand-crafted door prizes that each artist has created for the tour. For more information, call 1-304-267-3856 or 1-800-624-0577, or visit the studio tour's Web site.

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