By Anne Majusiak, Fall 2013
I admit it. I’m a bit obsessed with rocks.
Whenever I walk my dog by the New Haven River near my house, I inevitably come back with another beauty that has been polished and washed up by the water. My eye seems to be particularly drawn to heart-shaped rocks, and my found treasures are perched on the stonewall my husband built. Did I tell you he is obsessed with rocks too?
So imagine how thrilled I am to learn that during this Fall Open Studio Weekend on October 5-6 is featuring not one, not two, but FOUR studios of stone carvers and sculptors!
My planning for this year’s tour is going to be easy!
To be clear, I won’t ONLY be seeing rock-carving studios during Fall Open Studio Weekend, but it’s easy for me to create my tour starting with a medium I love.
During last year’s Fall Open Studio tour, I fueled my rock obsession when I explored eastern Vermont and stopped in at the studio of Ken Hamblin and Vermont Stone Cross in Hartland off Interstate 91 near Windsor. It was one of those Fall Open Studio peak experiences for me… literally. To get to the Hamblin studio, you turn off the main road and drive up, up, up (2.5 miles worth of up!) on Hamblin Hill Road. With incredible views and immersed in shimmering fall foliage along the way, it was a breathtaking experience!
But more thrills awaited me. Turning in at the stone pillar carved with “Hamblin”, I followed the road as it wound up even further until, around the last bend, I found myself at an extraordinary artist’s studio.
Not surprisingly, Vermont Stone Cross studio was a Quonset style building faced in stone. But to my delight, the studio door had a real porthole with an iconic Long Trail beer sign hung on it! I had a feeling this was going to be one of those studios with lots of surprises.
Passing through that door was a revelation! There were interesting tools and drawings and a workbench, but also an environment to spark imagination, from the bleached skull above the door to the old pastel-colored bike hiking from the rafters.
Father and son, the Hamblins are amiable and interesting folks. They have been working with stone for 25 years, and the clearing surrounding their studio is filled with one-of-a-kind stone benches, birdbaths, and their signature stone crosses, while inside the studio were rustic home furnishings and stone vases, trays and lamps.
This year, I may stick closer to home and check out the Jericho studio of stone-carver Christopher Cleary. This photo from his website has intrigued me both as a gardener and stone-lover! His home-based studio is in historic Jericho center, a classic Vermont village, and there is a great cluster of studios to visit there.
Cleary is a 4th generation Vermonter who began exploring stone as a child while accompanying his father on stone masonry projects. Cleary uses a process called sand carving along with traditional stone carving to create designs in stone. I can’t wait to see how he does it!
He learned his techniques while training at the The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland. Although not part of the Fall Open Studio tour, this is another place I hope to stop by to see while I am out and about!
Also close to home is Julian Isaacson’s Stone Revival studio and gallery in Stockbridge. He is right on Route 100, which is always a pretty drive, especially along the Mad River Valley and especially during fall foliage! Isaacson has some amazing sculptures on his website. I especially love his work in bas-relief. This artist is both talented and multifaceted!
Last, but not least, is Stone Puddles in Wilmington where Frank Sprague, a master stonemason and welder, makes one-of-a-kind birdbaths, benches, garden art and wood chimes. The Wilmington/Readsboro/Whitingham area has a sweet cluster of studios and it is always well worth it for me to drive to Southern Vermont to check them out.
If you haven’t got your Fall Open Studio map yet, stop in at galleries or information centers throughout Vermont or check out the online maps and directions here.