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16 local studios put work on display at Saturday's Deerfield Arts Tour

  • A beaded collar by Judy Bush

    A beaded collar by Judy Bush

  • An animal portrait by Torin Judd

    An animal portrait by Torin Judd

  • Watercolor by Mike Driscoll

    Watercolor by Mike Driscoll

  • One of the ceramic houses created by Al Jaeger.

    One of the ceramic houses created by Al Jaeger.

  • Mike Driscoll shows the clay figures used in his illustration.

    Mike Driscoll shows the clay figures used in his illustration.

  • Another one of the ceramic homes created by artist Al Jaeger.

    Another one of the ceramic homes created by artist Al Jaeger.

  • A beaded collar by Judy Bush
  • An animal portrait by Torin Judd
  • Watercolor by Mike Driscoll
  • One of the ceramic houses created by Al Jaeger.
  • Mike Driscoll shows the clay figures used in his illustration.
  • Another one of the ceramic homes created by artist Al Jaeger.

The long and winding road to ceramist Al Jaeger’s house and studio is daunting – you have to drive uphill very slowly, navigating rocks and ruts. That turns out to be a good thing, though. Otherwise you might not notice the little treasures, fanciful ceramic houses, which Jaeger has planted atop stumps, next to boulders and on tree branches. They can’t be called fairy houses, which must be created out of found materials like stones, leaves and flowers, but it’s easy to imagine that magical creatures could live there.

Your reward, though, is at the top of the hill. And that’s before you even enter his studio. Jaeger has spent the past 46 years transforming a blank-canvas wooded property into an art form of its own, with stone walls and terraces and elaborate gardens.

Jaeger’s paradise is stop No. 4 on the 2013 Deerfield Arts Tour. This weekend, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 20 artists – painters, photographers, wood turners, ceramists and more – in 16 studios will display their work and chat with visitors.

At each stop on this free, self-guided tour, visitors can sample refreshments and fill out a free raffle ticket to win a gift certificate toward a purchase from the studio of their choice. The artists’ creations are also available for purchase this weekend.

The tour, in its ninth year, is the brainchild of Judith Bush, herself an artist who creates intricate beadwork at her studio on Mt. Delight Road in Deerfield (stop No. 1 on the tour). When she opened her shop in 2005, she realized that she needed a marketing tool.

“I had a shop in the middle of nowhere,” Bush said.

Many other artists in this rural town faced the same problem.

While the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen organizes artists on a statewide scale, Bush saw the need for something more local. Thus, the arts tour was born.

Kathy Hansen, a potter and watercolor artist (stop No. 16) who also teaches water color classes, has seen the benefit of the group effort.

“I had a yearly open studio before the arts tour began,” Hansen said, “but the combined forces and the advertising have given me a lot more exposure. And it’s been great for my water color classes.”

Bush hopes the tour will help visitors overcome their lack of self-confidence in their artistic potential. She occasionally offers free (except for materials) classes at her studio to get people started.

“Anybody can create art,” she said. “We can do it in our own way. We all respond to different things. Some are creative in the way they live, even if they don’t ‘produce’ anything.

“Everyone has potential, but it’s often killed or buried early on. As adult learners we have a hard time making mistakes. We want it to be perfect. Once you give them a way in, they’re willing to take the risk.”

Hansen agrees.

“It takes a lot of nerve for a person to start something new. This is an informal way for people to meet the artists, to see what they have to offer, without having to commit to something right away,” she said.

Visitors will discover that many of the artists create in more than one medium.

Mike Driscoll is well known in the Deerfield area for his watercolor landscapes. A visit to his studio reveals even broader talents.

To illustrate a yet-to-be published children’s book, he sculpted the main characters so that he could draw them from any angle. In his newest work, cut-out paper birds with plumes that move realistically are turned into colorful three-dimensional collages.

“I’m an artist,” Driscoll said. “There are lots of ways to create art.”

The variety of work on the tour bears witness to that idea. For example, Sheri Girard and Dana Allard specialize in nature photography. Torin Judd paints animal portraits and landscapes in pastels and oils. Don Williams creates sculptural and functional works in clay. Jacqueline Nyberg hand-paints canvas floor cloths.

The artists all know each other in this small community. To assist three artists who lack tour-friendly space of their own, Bush makes room for them to set up shop in her large studio on tour weekend.

Jaeger, who creates porcelain wall sculptures that often replicate the landscape surrounding his studio, spoke in particular of the collaboration among the potters and ceramists in the area. The New Hampshire Potters Guild built the Cooperative Kiln Shed on his property, he said.

“It’s huge,” he said. “Four grown people can stand in it, and it takes three days to heat it up to temperature.

“Four times a year, potters take turns firing it up. It takes three people working around the clock for 50-60 hours. One person opens the kiln door, a second person tosses in two pieces of wood, and a third person is getting the next two logs ready to throw in,” he said.

What is it about Deerfield that it has so many artists? Nothing that lots of other towns don’t have, Bush said.

“Every town has artists,” Bush said. “They just need someone to organize them.”

That organization is a plus for the artists and for the town.

“The community stays whole by recycling money, by supporting local businesses. It’s what keeps a community alive,” Bush said.

For a complete list of artists and a downloadable map, visit deerfieldartstour.com.

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