36th Putney Craft Tour Makes Top Ten Winter Events List
For the first time in its history, the annual Putney Craft Tour has made the Vermont Chamber of Commerce's list of Top Ten Winter Events (2014-15). "This will mark the 36th year of the tour," says one of the founders, Ken Pick. "It's the granddaddy of open studio tours as the oldest continuous crafts tour in the U.S. and has served as a prototype for tours all over the country. We're delighted with the recognition."
"There are still five or six of us here who were here from the beginning," Pick continues. "We banded together in one location before we evolved the tour concept. It got more sophisticated as time went on."
Because the tour takes place on Thanksgiving weekend, when there are a lot of people coming here from all over the country visiting family, most of the tour-goers are actually non-Vermonters. They come from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and even from overseas.
The Putney Craft Tour, though unique at the time and distinct to this day, did not spring out of a vacuum but from the happy confluence of a number of trends.
The artists had been there, drawn into creative orbit in and around Putney in the late 1960s and early '70s for many reasons, including the back-to-the-land movement, the rise of American craft, and the powerful cluster of creative souls brought there by Windham College, Yellow Barn Music Festival, The Putney School, and The Experiment in International Living.
Putney business owner Margot Torrey was among the first, in 1978, to gather around her dining room table the initial group of what was then known as the Putney Artisans League to make plans for the Putney Artisans Festival. The timing was when people were just beginning to see the tremendous value of crafts. She was not alone. Other members of the group also saw the value -- the Mischkes and the Eddys had already been welcoming people to their studios, growing their customer base right where they worked. They remain mainstays of the Putney Craft Tour to this day.
No doubt, Vermont's agrarian heritage created a culture of craft and an appreciation of the handmade that remains to this day. "It can be argued that Vermont served as the birthplace of the modern American craft movement," wrote Jamie Franklin and Anne Majusiak, curators of "State of Craft," a 2010 exhibit at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vt.
For more information about this year's tour, please go to www.putneycrafts.com.
Copyright 2014, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont