by Elizabeth Johnson
Visiting the Covered Bridge Artisans during their 19th Annual Holiday Studio Tour, Ellen Shaughnessey and I soaked up picturesque Hunterdon County, New Jersey. (What beautiful farmhouses and barns—and not a housing development in sight!) Though we couldn’t visit each participant, we were impressed with the Tour’s high quality offerings and its excellent curation.
In Stockton, we found Timothy Martin‘s studio near the historic Green Sergeant Bridge (1866), the sole remaining covered bridge in New Jersey and a still-functioning part of Route 604. Martin’s Surrealistic paintings combine natural and manmade subjects, suggesting dream-like stories. Magical events involving flora and fauna are dramatized using chairs as a kind of imaginative scaffolding.
Awed by the quality of goods at the Ginny Naparano Cultural Arts Center, an old, restored church in Sergeantsville, Ellen and I opened our wallets like sailors on leave. I bought several greeting cards by Ellie Wyeth. I love her mischievous animals lurking beneath bedcovers. And I am still coveting one of Martha Dreswick’s gorgeous handmade baskets. Ellen bought a handbeaded bracelet by Sheila Ferneke (she almost bought two) and a handblown Christmas tree ornament by Drew Montesano. Susan Nadelson’s handspun yarns and handknit sweaters are warm and cosy yet flattering, and Amy Turner’s handwoven, linen tea towels are fit for the Queen’s kitchen. If our stomachs hadn’t started rumbling below the apse of the church, we would have kept shopping, but we headed to the Sergeantsville General Store (est. 1847) for a delicious, homemade, $5 pork dumpling lunch special.
Our next stop was one of the Hunterdon County covered bridge artisan tour’s founding members. Phoebe Wiley’s Long Lane Farm Studio where Ellen met a teapot that had been waiting for just for her. Phoebe’s spacious, sky-lit space inspired a good case of studio envy. Off Sergeantsville road, Karen and Geoffrey Caldwell’s Sunflower Glass Studio felt like a visit to a medieval glassworks, being filled with tools, drawings, and windows in progress. I felt positively European watching the vibrant, colored pieces glow in fading daylight. Geoffrey chatted informally about his craft, and while I was leaving, I felt the tug of their creative orbit.
The Moorland Studios off Main Street in Stockton exhibited Constance Bassett’s sculptures and somber, moody paintings with David Cann’s decorative metalwork. The studio handles conservation and maintenance of many public metal sculptures, notably William Penn’s statue atop City Hall in Philadelphia. Uniting stone, wood, metal and a beautiful garden, the studio makes a pleasing setting for showing smaller, portable work and showcasing their skills.
We finished our Tour in Lambertville, visiting Annelies van Dommelen’s painting studio, sifting through decorative boxes, prints, monotypes and paintings that merge beasts, plants, and found objects into rich, sculptural surfaces. Katherine Hackl‘s porcelain, stoneware and tile pieces are functional, well designed, and handpainted. Ellen bought two tiles, one for each of us; I chose one from Hackl’s Birch series. Then, with bulging Goody Bags and wrapped packages wedged throughout the car, we drove home planning our next local arts excursion.