You really forget so much of what you did 15 to 20 years ago, at least I do. Raising a family, running the business, volunteering in non-profit organizations. I was trying to date the original Jay Artisan’s Studio Tour so I took down the box on the top shelf which contains 15 pounds of scrap clippings, brochures, etc….
I found so much more related to the eventual Studio Tour that I decided to start in a chronological order from the time that we were married and our business started.
We’ve always enjoyed talking and demonstrating our work, so people have always come into our studios.
1987 – We started the Participation Days with a screen print, (don’t remember the image) but people could come with a tee-shirt and print the image themselves for free. People came with lots of shirts or just fabric. Later on I received a gift of my screen image on a pillow.
It’s been fun over the years to see people wearing the tee-shirts that they printed here. My favorite hiking tee-shirt is one of those images, “Adirondack Swirling”.
Sue had mugs ready to be decorated with colored slips, we clear glazed and fired the mugs for just $3, good deal. It was fun to see the designs and hear the stories about where the mugs were going.
The idea was to get people to see the handmade nature of the work we were doing. To understand that it was made here in the Adirondacks, by American Craftspeople, that it was original and one of a kind.
We began our Holiday Card Printing. People could print their own holiday cards with our screen image. Standard size cards came with an envelope.
It was a big hit and I had to schedule some people in for other times to accommodate everyone.
The map on the poster/mailer on the left shows other businesses in town. We were also promoting how a person could shop in Jay at the different businesses. One business was the Sugar Bear who we created a special relationship with and we would give fudge away to customers for free, or once we arranged to have a free lunch for customers.
Those are stories reserved for another article on all the Merchandizing trials we have over the years.
| We began having other Craftspeople join us in the studios helping people Participate in their crafts with them.
|| Over the years Sue has given many demonstrations in her studio, to home schooled groups, girls scouts and many others.
Over the years we’ve tried a lot of things to our art out to the public. We’ve always felt a need for people to understand the exciting techniques that we use to create our hand made work.
We created an “Understand Raku” presentation, complete with a video and examples.
We tried it in several venues around Plattsburgh.
The Studio Tour begins. It included the large country block bounded by route 9n to the east, route 86 to the north, Hardy Road to the west and Springfield Road on the south.
It was in both Jay and Wilmington. We had balloons to show where each studio was, it eventually became pointing fingers and now it’s “Artist At Work” signs outside each studio.
We got some good press right off the spot. We knew from doing press releases the papers liked black and white photos, so we always would include images in our press releases.
I remember that we did it originally the weekend after the Kiwanis Craft Show…..we eventually advertised it as a week of art and craft in the town of Jay, beginning with the Craft Show and ending a week later with the Studio Tour.
Many people had their hand in the making of the tour, but it was still a lot of work getting the map together, dealing with people and printers. All the little details it takes to get something like this off the ground every year.
| Arto Monaco was on the tour this year, having his old studio open to the public.
||This map was designed by someone else for this year, I didn’t care much for it, but it was nice to have someone else do the work.
We continued our Participation Days right through the Studio Tour period.
in 1993 that day would have been one week after the Tour and two weeks after the Craft Fair.
So we were having good business in the month of August in those years.
I see that the date for 1993 is the weekend before Labor Day. We had organized a craft show outside Saranac Lake at Donnelly’s Corners, it eventually became the Lake Clear Juried Craft Show. When we stopped doing it there and it moved we then had that weekend open and I believe we were doing Participation days in July and August.
1993 must have been a very busy year for us. Emily was 2 and Corrine started school that year.
In addition to the Participation Days and Studio Tour we did our First Annual Holiday Card Screen Printing. I have posters showing that we began card printing in 1988, so I don’t remember why we called it our First Annual…..perhaps we stopped doing it while the kids were still toddlers.
Once the children began school, Sue was very active in the girl scouts and in the elementary school with art projects for the children and the school principal Joe Kahn was very supportive of her work there.
1994 – I couldn’t nail down the date that this first morph of Studio Tour ended.
But this is last year I have for the Wilmington/Jay Studio Tour. By this time it was called the “Artisan Studio Tour.
Its always been an effort getting a group of people together, organized, to make something happen.
I’ve found it best to work with a firm deadline and budget so that everyone involved knows exactly what to expect. When those aspects of a plan aren’t adhered to, disaster results. I know.
The Studio Tour stopped at some point, because I was hoping someone else would take it over. True we made good money on that weekend, but for all the time it was taking to put together it just didn’t seem worth it to me anymore.
So I stopped doing it, tried to get others involved, but the Studio Tour stopped.
We were doing two Participation Days during the summer, one in July and one in August, we worked hard to drum up business.
It was working, we got a lot of press and we had advertising that included all the events we were having at the gallery.
Up to this time we were still showcasing our work in our old gallery space and all the Participation and Demonstrations occurred in the studios.
By the 4th annual card printing date we were getting quite a following. I never kept track of how many cards we screen printed, but we needed to make reservations.
Sue and I would work out new designs every year, one of my favorites was the teapot pouring out ice skaters over a frozen Adirondack Lake.
The Covered Bridge was a very popular card that year.
This poster for a Raku Demonstration from ’95 included a small handout receipt for a drawing for a piece of raku.
By ’96 I think the Wilmington/Jay Studio Tour was over. Regardless of whether a group was formed to make the Studio Tour happen Sue and I continued to do our Participation Days, in July and August. In place of the tour we had a Demonstration Day that year.
Here I was offering a “Spontaneous Drypoint Etching Workshop” among the other events that year.
I remember Grace Potthast from Gallery in the Glen asked about starting up a Studio Tour again and that is how the second incarnation of the Tour began, this time as the Jay Artisan’s Studio Tour.
By now there were more artists and craftspeople in Jay that wanted to get involved in the Tour. Sue created the Moose and Rider drawing and we were going in a more whimsical direction this time.
As I remember there was certainly controversy almost every year of the Tour. First the Ironman came to town and happened to be on the date we traditionally was using for our Tour…..so we had to move our date. It was annoying to be pushed aside by the town and not having our businesses considered. In view of the fact like many north country businesses we totally depend on summer traffic and here was a weekend that they were taking away from us. It continues to this day, the Ironman race that comes through the town of Jay has been disastrous for small businesses like ours.
There were other controversy’s within the Tour group….who should be on the tour, was it a tour for artists and craftspeople or should other businesses be involved. It was always on going and even Sue and I were on different sides of the issue. I wasn’t a purest, I was a realist. I was for other businesses, I felt the more the merry as long as we were all making money.
from the years 2001 – 2008 the Jay Artisan’s Studio Tour got a lot of excellent press in local papers, mostly the Lake Placid News was very supportive. We also got North Country Public Radio from Canton as a sponsor. In 2002 I got the domain name, JayStudioTour.com and put our little tour on the web, with an interactive map. Click on a number and you went to one of our fourteen studios
I had a woman from Washington State call me around 2003 and ask questions about our studio tour. She had been to the studio tour website. She was writing an article about such tours and after I filled her in on how ours was organized, she decided that we had the best tour in the country for artisans, and she was going to write about it. There was a link from the magazine article to our website.
What made it so good was the cost per artist and what they received from it. That’s because several of us did all the work, getting sponsors, graphic design, dealing with printers, dealing with participants….etc. As I looked around the web at other studio tours, you could see that many of them charged quite a bit more for participants on the tour, and very few equaled the quality of our graphic brochures.
Here’s the 2003 brochure and map.
Cherri was able to get us sponsors as Patrons of the Arts
and I believe it was her who got us a grant from the Visitors Bureau, and so we were able to
increase the amount we got printed. It was also around this time we combined the brochure
with the JEMS brochure of summer events.
As the years moved forward I continued to do the graphic design work, deal with printing and around 2004 we began advertising other events that were going on in the town of Jay. It seemed only natural to combine JEMS as I was with the group since the beginning and it was an important part of our town by now.
Probably 2005 was the peak year for the Studio Tour in my mind. It was the last year I was involved in the planning and graphic design for it. I was getting burnt out from dealing with people both with the Studio Tour and with JEMS, we were busy building a theater in Jay at this time, and I was feeling unappreciated, as well as having a daughter going overseas as an exchange student, business was going sour and changing, friendships were deteriorating as well.
I’m not sure if there was a Studio Tour in 2006 I think I decided too late for anyone else to take it over and therefore it did not happen that year.
I bowed out and Joan took over the tour planning for the next two years. I continued doing the website and I made the posters for the tour. Graphic brochure was done by someone else, and all we did was put our $50 in, sit back and get a crowd on the Studio Tour day.
It was enjoyable having other people do the work, and I really got a kick out of it. After all I was still quite involved with the website and posters. BUT it wasn’t enough to keep the tour going and when Joan didn’t want to do it after two years, Jay Artisans Studio Tour was over.
Essentially, because I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I say that because the first time it ended, it stopped because no one picked up the ball from me, this time Joan managed it for two great years. But being retired and with grandchildren and other plans there was no one else to do it. I felt that we could still generate Studio Tour interest ourselves, like we did before with our Participation and Demonstration days.
2009 – 2011
But our lives are changing too. Health concerns, taking care of aging parents, it would be difficult to be involved in the same endeavors these days. That’s why we joined the Studio Tour organized by the Adirondack Artists Guild in Saranac Lake. They do a wonderful job as this tour has grown to forty studios spread out from Jay to Tupper Lake. But we just received word that the woman who was organizing the tour has decided to bow out after five years. Bummer. We’re hoping someone will pick up the ball and run with it, again…..
Looking back on my days of the tour I have this advice for anyone who was as energetic as I was, and as passionate about showing your art/craft work and demonstrations as I was. Do it yourself, get grants to pay yourself and have people who do the tour pay you a proper amount for your work.