This past weekend I decided to go to a couple of holiday open house/open studios hosted by Kentucky Crafted artists. I was able to combine two of my favorite things: shopping anywhere except in a mall and driving through the countryside.
The weather was crisp, cool and sunny. The leaves on the trees had dropped off just enough to reveal the peaceful pastoral landscapes and yet still had a splash of color to keep excitement in the air. The low light of fall was intensely beautiful.
On Saturday, I made my way to Lewis County to visit Judy Geagley at her shop, which is located behind her house. It’s a quaint building that her husband Gordie built, made of lumber recycled from an old barn that once stood on their farm. Judy gave me the warmest greeting and had story after story to tell me about building the shop and creating her stuffed animals, which are all made from recycled materials. Elvis was singing in the background (it must have been from his Christmas album), Christmas trees were adorned with ornaments designed by her nine-year old grandson Michael and a faint aroma of cinnamon was in the air. I couldn’t resist buying a little donkey made from cashmere. She had such a wide variety of stuffed animals appropriate as baby gifts that it was hard to choose. The next time I need a baby gift, I think I’ll get the octopus, but then again the giraffe was very cute. I was very impressed by the wide price range of items Judy had for sale–from little rag dolls at $5 to sheep made from recycled mouton fur at $325.
She also makes custom teddy bears from old military uniforms or bridal gowns, which I think is a neat idea that not enough people know about. There is something for everyone at Judy Geagley by Hand. All in all, her open house was a great way to get in the Christmas mood without being bombarded by commercial overkill.
On Sunday, my wife and I ventured to Mercer County near Shaker Village to Kathleen O’Brien’s open studio, which she hosts in each of the four seasons. Her studio is in her home and her home is amazing. She designed it and her husband Greg built it, and it is a completely environmentally sustainable structure. The amazing part for me was the light. She studied ways to incorporate optimal lighting in the design and ,wow, does it show off her work. Kathleen is a collage artist whose work draws from many spiritual traditions with a focus on nature and the world around us. (That’s the way I interpret her work, anyhow.)
It was wonderful to listen to her talk about her work and the inspiration of different pieces as visitors would come browse through her home filled with her art. Meanwhile, Greg was busy at the brick oven he built grilling vegetables, and the kitchen was filled with all kinds of noshes including bread he had baked the day before. We were the last to leave and I did buy a giclee print for our kitchen. That’s the way holiday shopping goes. Sometimes you buy for others, sometimes you buy for yourself. Then we went outside to join Greg at the brick oven. We leaned against the outside of the oven for warmth, reminisced about places we had lived and visited and watched one of the most spectacular sunsets ever. Yes, the experience was priceless.
It’s not too late for you to meet artists, do a little holiday shopping and have a wonderful ride through the countryside. The Kentucky Arts Council has placed on our calendar upcoming holiday open house/open studios. If the open studios are not in the country, maybe you can visit one in a city other than your own and take the back roads to get there. I highly recommend it.
Ed Lawrence, communications director