When Barbara Flynn and Richard Rowe welcomed visitors during the first Open Studios Art Tour in 1999 they were among 80 or so artists from San Miguel to Nipomo.
The roster was robust then and art fans could have easily focused their entire weekend in Flynn’s Los Osos/Baywood Park neighborhood taking in the nearby 11 participating studios. In contrast, the 14th annual tour sponsored by the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council during the weekends of Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21 will feature 31 artists in Los Osos/Baywood Park.
The number of participants has also tripled countywide and while the opportunity to visit with 238 artists exists, time does not.
Difficult choices must be made. Who to see? Who to save for next year? Flynn and Rowe hope to make that decision easier by offering more than just a peek around their pottery shed, outdoor kiln and clay-filled studio.
“Usually we just spiffy it up and open the door,” Flynn said.
Free art talks are a new addition — not listed in the official catalog — to entice visitors.
“Open Studios Tour has grown tremendously over the years. People have to think a little outside the box in order to make sure their studios will be visited,” said Lisa Stromsoe, who has participated in past tours with her silversmith husband, Randy Stromsoe.
Another way artists are hoping to stand out this year is by teaming up. An artist with a working studio might invite a friend or two over to show work.
For example, first time participant and woodworker Pete Skarda is pairing up with painter Laurel Sherrie at her studio in Arroyo Grande. Meryl Perloff is sharing her San Luis Obispo home studio with Julie Frankel and Sue McKee to display their work both weekends at 841 Pepper St.
“Many artists are so gracious with their studio spaces, encouraging new artists to exhibit, encouraging some who have extremely rural spaces to join them etc.,” Stromsoe said. “Art is so subjective. There is no reason to ‘compete’ with each other.”
The “Lots of Pots’’ studio talks will allow Flynn (Moonstone Pottery) to share her extensive knowledge about ceramics through the centuries and Rowe (Rowe Clayworks) to discuss growing succulents in pots.
“You get me started and I keep going,” Flynn said. Rowe’s wife, Sandy, is another of the presenters. She’ll pick up some produce from farmers market to show how ceramic ware can be used on the barbecue. Stromsoe will talk about collecting.
Rowe started sharing the art space behind Flynn’s home after the San Simeon earthquake in 2003 damaged his Cayucos studio. He grows his plants at his Morro Bay home, but works on his pottery about five days a week at Flynn’s.
The friends say that because they are both functional potters they work well together. “You can use all of our pottery,” Flynn said, adding that they have their differences, too. “Richard’s work has a different color palette than mine. He has a different way of decorating.”
Each uses about a ton of clay a year and every bit becomes a pot. Both throw clay on a potter’s wheel, but some of Rowe’s work is hand-built. Since each fire at different temperatures, their large calendar is essential to keep track of kiln times. They spend about six weeks making pots to fill their electric kiln. Rowe packs 90 to 135 pieces in the kiln.
Flynn never tires of historical pieces. Rowe on the other hand goes through phases until he says, “I can’t do this anymore.”
“I like abstract art so I do a lot of that,” Rowe said. “And I’m really into shapes,” Flynn said.
Her interest in shapes complements her interest in researching 16th century English designs, such as puzzle mugs and Bellarmine jugs, which she learned to reproduce with modern non-toxic materials. “I raided all the museums several years in a row,” Flynn said about ceramic exploration trips to England.
She can create a $30 version of a piece that might sell for 6,000 British pounds at the Victoria and Albert Museum, much to the delight of Renaissance Faire fans.
The potters enjoy the Open Studios Art Tour after all these years and have both taken off a year here or there to take the tour themselves.
“We like to show off the studio. We’re extremely grateful to have it,” Flynn said, adding that she used to have to rent commercial space before a county ordinance allowed her to have a kiln behind her house.
IF YOU GO
Open Studios Art Tour
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21
San Luis Obispo County
Presented by San Luis Obispo County Arts Council
Pick up a catalog at various spots around the county. Find the list of distributors at www.artsobispo.org or call 544-9251.
This year, both weekends are countywide. In the past, the tour was divided: North County one weekend, South County the second, with a third encore weekend countywide for some of the artists. Artists voted for the new concept and then decided whether they wanted to be open both weekends, just the first, or just the second. More than 75 percent will be open both weekends.
TIPS FOR ENHANCING YOUR OPEN STUDIOS TOUR EXPERIENCE
There’s an app for that: This is the first year for an Open Studios Art Tour smartphone app. Note that it is a new addition to the app you may already have downloaded for SLO County Arts Council’s Art After Dark. Search for “SLO County Open Studios,” or “Open Studios Art Tour” in the app store to download it for free. To browse artists, tap “participants by city” then tap on the city name to explore the artists. Program Director Jenna Hartzell is excited about the app’s capabilities. “You can tap on the map icon (it looks like an interstate sign) and find the artist on a Google map, with the option to “show all” to view the studios nearby (and throughout the county!),” she said.
Catalogs are free: The first catalogs in 1999 were $15 and have been as high as $25. No more. “By the time folks bought a catalog (or two), and paid for gas and lunch, did they have enough to spend on art? Sure, some did, but our mission for the organization is to give access to the arts,” Hartzell said.
“By taking away the charge, ARTS Obispo was reminded that the Open Studios Art Tour is our largest program that feeds our mission completely. It gives everyone access to the arts. It provides local artists with the opportunity to show their work, and it educates the visitors by showing them the process of art making,” she said.
“With free catalogs, more families have started popping up on the tour. We started placing a “Working Studio” icon on the artists’ listings that were planning on having their process on display or were even having demonstrations. That “Working Studio” icon lets visitors know that they’ll really get to understand how the artist makes their art, giving children access to some arts education that they aren’t getting during school,” Hartzell said.
Pace yourself: “Plan. Plan your route. Research the artists you want to see ahead of time by visiting our artist directory online. Use the OSAT Spotlight blog as a resource as well. Plan to buy art. Not all art is thousands of dollars; you might see something you like so bring your checkbook. Plan, but embrace serendipity!” Hartzell says. “Don’t over commit. It’s very hard to make it to more than six studios a day.”
The Open Studios Art Tour Spotlight blog can be found at http://osatspotlight.wordpress.com. Artists have been busy posting background about themselves and pictures of their artwork.
Get social: “Use the hashtag #OSAT2012 on Twitter and Instagram while out on the tour to share images, reactions to art, or just see what others are saying/experiencing!” Hartzell says.
“Lots of Pots” Studio Talks
Four free talks will be offered at Moonstone Pottery and Rowe Clayworks artspace, 1439 6th St., Los Osos during Open Studios Art Tour. Call 528-6890.
11 a.m. Oct. 13. Richard Rowe presents “Growing Succulents in Pots.” With more than 20 years experience with succulents, he has developed a pottery line for these popular plants.
11 a.m. Oct. 14. Barbara Flynn discusses “Ceramics through the Centuries.” She will share reproduction pots from the English Renaissance, Roman period lamps and more.
11 a.m. Oct. 20. Lisa Stromsoe presents “Starting a Fine Craft Collection.” She has been a local gallery owner and a national art juror.
11 a.m. Oct. 21. Home economist Sandy Rowe will demonstrate cooking in ceramic ware during “Fun for Foodies with Pots” with samples and recipes that reflect farmers market produce.
11 a.m. Oct. 14 at Bonestell Studios, 2008 Ferrell Ave., Los Osos. Lisa Stromsoe presents “Collecting Fine Craft on the Central Coast.” Discover trends in local three-dimensional fine craft, plus tips for putting together a personal collection. Afterward, explore the newly expanded gallery and artspace for painter Jay Bonestell and mixed-media artist Ann Bonestell. Call 528-4265.
1 p.m. Oct. 21 at Laurel Sherrie Studios, 310 Corralitos Road, Arroyo Grande. Lisa Stromsoe presents “Nature-Driven Art on the Central Coast.” Learn about local inspiration for area artists, photographers and fine craftmakers. Stromsoe will also demonstrate nature artwork themes of hosts plein-air oil painter Laurel Sherrie and woodworker Pete Skarda. Call 473-4640.