LYNN — When the artists in the Lydia Pinkham Building open their studios to the public the weekend of November 17-18, it will give visitors the opportunity to shop local, shop small, and support the arts.
This is the 13th consecutive year for the Open Studios event, and it’s become a must-attend happening for area arts lovers. Nearly 60 artists and 35 studios will take part, displaying and selling a broad range of wares that include paintings, pottery, sculpture, fine woodworking, jewelry, and much more. Nine studio owners will also discuss their creative process and host demonstrations, on both days.
In 2005, Kirsten Bassion, owner of The Clay School on the third floor, convinced her fellow artists renting space in the quirky Western Avenue building to open their studios to the public on the same day. About 100 visitors checked out the work of fewer than 10 artists.
Open Studios has certainly grown. Last year, some 1,500 visitors, the most ever, enjoyed the free event, checking out the work of some 50 artisans on all five floors.
Bassion is confident the turnout will be even larger this year. “We’ve come a long way from the rinky-dink let’s-invite-Mom-and-our-friends days. This is a great showcase for a host of talented artists,” she said.
It’s also a great place to pick up one-of-a-kind holiday gifts, engage with artists, and learn the story behind their creations, say the studio owners.
Tim Hansen and business partner Kate Luchini specialize in colorful jewelry and art pieces at their Digs Enamels studio on the third floor. Their work is sold at the Peabody Essex Museum and about a dozen other stores. Hansen loves the support and encouragement given by all Pinkham Building artists. “It’s a true community in here,” he said. If you’re lucky, Duke, a friendly golden retriever, will be digging the scene at Digs next weekend.
David Pfaltzgraff, in his third floor custom woodworking studio Knotty Turn, will show attendees how he creates pens and other original pieces from wood. He holds up a gorgeous handcrafted bowl. “People call me when a tree falls down,” he said, then laughed. “This bowl was made from a tree that was seriously diseased. That adds character. I love it.”
Peter Kelley, craftsman/owner of the MassModern Gallery on the second floor, specializes in restoring mid-century furniture, and will host a workshop and show off custom pieces including a 1955 cabinet by Frank Lloyd Wright and a 1920s chair by Eliel Saarinen. Visitors to his studio will be able to “see, touch and feel … and even sit in the Saarinen chair and take a picture, if they’d like.”
For Kelley, whose day job is New England sales rep for a furniture business, this is a return to Lynn. Years ago, as a sales rep, he called on Zimman’s when the iconic Lynn retailer wanted to add upholstered furniture to its offerings.
Audrey Gutfreund, a music teacher, will open her Sound Foundation studio on the fourth floor. Her non-profit offers tuition-free piano and music lessons and use of a keyboard.
Volunteer guides, a follow-the-blue-tape-route map and a quick reference directory of participating studios will help visitors navigate the labyrinthian maze that is the Pinkham Building.
Sponsors include the Lynn Cultural Council, Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development agency, Marblehead Bank, Lucia Lighting and Design, building owner RCG, and The Clay School.
Bassion added that Lynn-based Luna Sweets bakery and Girl Scout Troop 86287 will be selling yummy treats as well.
The Open Studios Facebook page and website, lydiapinkhamopenstudios.com, created by Kim Allison and Kyle Day, who both specialize in pottery and ceramics, is a great resource and is loaded with information about the participating artists.
Lydia Pinkham Open Studios, 271 Western Ave., Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17-18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Admission is free. The Pinkham building is not handicap accessible. For more information, go to lydiapinkhamopenstudios.com.