Choose your own adventure: Sedona Open Studios Tour offers myriad paths

Mar 31, 17 • 5enses, FeatureNo Comments

What: Sedona Open Studios Tour

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, April 28-30

Who: 59 artists from the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition

Where: Sedona, Cornville, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, & Camp Verde

Why: Art, culture, commerce, & socialization

Web: SedonaArtistsCoalition.Org, Facebook

Worth: Free


By Robert Blood

[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and artists on the Sedona Open Studios Tour as noted. Find out more about the tour, April 28-30 at studios in Sedona, Cornville, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Camp Verde, at SedonaArtistsCoalition.Org and via Facebook.]

Mike Upp, right, discusses his art with a visitor to his work space during the Sedona Open Studios Tour. Courtesy photo.

No. 44: Mike Upp, potter and Sedona Open Studios Tour organizer

Earth & Fire Ceramic Design, 1525 S. Aspaas Road, Cornville

EarthAndFireCeramicDesign.Com, MJUpp10@Gmail.Com, 503-789-4437

How about an overview of the Sedona Open Studios Tour?

Basically the studio tour is an event that gives people the opportunity to go inside the private workspaces of artists who are on the tour. It’s very different than an arts festival or gallery show where you’re looking at art but typically not meeting the artist or seeing their workspace. It gives you a chance to talk to the artist about their process, about how they do their work. You also get to see demos at some of the studios. It’s much more in depth than what you see at an arts festival or at a gallery show. You talk to the artist, you talk to people, you drive around. It’s not all in the same place, which is worth noting.

It’s literally a self-driven tour, then?

Well, yes. Typically people look online at the stops on the tour, look at the photographs of the work of artists who are participating, dig into their website a little bit deeper, and decide what studios they want to visit. … For example, we recently spent the weekend in Phoenix to attend their 16th annual ceramics studio, which is all over Phoenix and the surrounding area, from Chandler to Carefree. So, what we did was look at the brochure, picked a geographic region with multiple artists whose work we wanted to see, and we mapped out where we wanted to go.

How much of the Sedona tour traffic comes from Prescott?

We get quite a few people from Prescott. It’s somewhere between six and 10 percent. The Mountain Artists Guild’s Prescott tour sends out info about our tour and vice verse. I think we reach about 6,000 people in Prescott that way.

What’s the makeup of mediums on the tour?

There are probably more painters in our group than anything else. Ceramics would probably come in at number two, then jewelry, and then maybe glass. Each category keeps growing. We’ve also got people working with metal. Some of the newer participants do metal sculpture and bronze. The foundry in Sedona is on the tour for the first time this year, too. It’s a pretty broad cross section.

What’s the makeup of patrons on the tour?

It ranges from young families with kids to retired people. It’s a pretty broad cross section. We market in Prescott, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Phoenix, — especially that northern, Scottsdale area — so there are people from all over Arizona. We’ve also got a lot of out-of-state visitors, too.

The tour opens up the artists’ spaces, but it’s also a sales event, correct?

It’s definitely a sales event, for sure. I would say that’s the number one reason artists participate, more so now than a few years ago. Artists who just want to show their work for themselves, who aren’t selling it — Open Studios isn’t really for them. This is an economic way for them to show and sell their work. It’s how people see your art and make a connection. A lot of people buy art on the tour or come back later. We encourage people to make an appointment to come back. A lot of people who find out about us through Open Studios end up bringing people from out of town at a later date. It’s, “Hey, we know these potters in Cornville. …” That’s really one of the biggest benefits for an artist to do Open Studios, especially if you’re doing it year after year. … We tell people to come down to the wineries or come here first and go to the wineries on return trips. And, believe it or not, Cornville has a couple of really great restaurants, too. We encourage people to build an experience out of a visit. The five studios on the tour here have a little punch card, too, that enters you in a raffle for a gift card. It’s an old trick I learned from high-tech trade shows. It definitely works.

How did you get involved in studio tours, in general, and the Sedona Open Studios Tour, in particular?

Before we retired, my last job was in Portland, Ore. Every year we went to their open studio tour. They have quite a big one there. I always thought I’d get back to making pottery again and I knew I wanted to be involved in open studios wherever I was. When we were doing our research on where we wanted to retire, Sedona was high on the list and I saw they had an open studio program, so I just jumped into it. My background is in marketing, so I was happy to help out with that. In the fashion of a typical volunteer-based group, people stood back and said, “OK, you can do the marketing,” and it’s grown from there to the point where I basically run the whole thing now. … Our first Sedona Open Studios Tour was in 2013. At that point in time there were 28 artists and today there are 59 artists, so it’s grown. Also, the quality of the work continues to go up and up. We’re attracting new people to participate as artists, and one really great thing has been getting new people in their late 20s and early 30s to participate. We also have more and more people who tell us they plan their vacation in Sedona around this event. That gives us incentive to keep as the last weekend in April, that way people can plan for it.

A quick glance at the list of the studios on the Sedona Open Studios Tour shows your studio isn’t in Sedona.

We were the first studio to do the tour outside of Sedona. That was one out of 36 studios in 2013. We were the only studio on the tour in Cornville. We had 75 people show up that year, which was way beyond our expectations. Last year we had 175. As the tour’s grown, so have the areas that participate in it. Now we have five artists in Cornville, seven in Cottonwood, three in Clarkdale, and two in Camp Verde. One of our goals from the very beginning has been to make this a Verde Valley event, not just a Sedona-centric event. There’s a great bunch of really wonderful artists who don’t live in Sedona proper who still participate.

Do you do any demos during the tour?

One of the things I try to do during the demo process is put a handle on a pitcher or a mug. I think most people have seen someone throwing a pot, but most people haven’t seen what goes into putting a mug together — all that extra work of turning the pot over and putting the handle on it. So I try to expose people to that and hopefully they get an understanding of why mugs cost so much. The other thing people tend to be into is the glazes. I happen to be a glaze fanatic. I do a lot of testing and combining of different glazes to try and get new glazes. People who visit the studio often ask questions about it. I have some examples out and show the progression of testing from a small textile to a small bowl to a large platter, which show the steps I went through to get the glaze to that level. … It usually starts with a question about how you get a particular color or effect with a glaze. For the most part, you get pretty intuitive and intelligent questions. A lot of people come in and say, “Oh my gosh, I tried to throw a pot once and gave up because it was so hard.” I use the analogy that being a potter is like being a golfer — it takes a lot of practice. So, I picked golf and pottery as my hobbies, the two hardest things to learn how to do. You have to practice and practice; they’re not things that come naturally.

As both an artist and a patron of these kind of events, what have you gleaned from open studio tours?

What I like about going to other people’s studio is seeing new glazes. I’m a potter, and seeing glazes that really attract me is the best. A lot of the time, potters are a pretty sharing group of people. Nine times out of 10, if you ask, a potter will share a recipe for a particular glaze. You also get to see logistically how they lay out their space and what kind of kilns they have. And, as the Indians say “talk story,” we “talk pots.”

And from organizing Sedona Open Studios Tour, specifically?

I’d go back to the logistics we’ve learned from doing this multiple years. Have a friend or two participate — maybe trade them for work — so they can handle things like wrapping up art or taking credit cards. That frees you, as the artist, to talk to people. Spending time with each visitor is really important. You need to stay on top of it.

Any tips for people planning on attending?

Typically, you should plan to visit studios geographically. Maybe one day visit studios in Sedona, maybe another day do the five studios in Cornville or the seven in Cottonwood. Take a look at the brochure because it’s definitely organized geographically. You can use Google Maps or the brochure to get from one place to another. Typically people stay 20 minutes to half an hour at each studio unless there’s a deeper connection. If you’re an artist in the same medium you may end up staying at a given studio an hour and a half, depending. … You should plan around the studios and artists you want to visit, but if there’s someone nearby, you should go there, too, as long as you’re there.


Ellen Perantoni paints in her home. Courtesy photo.

No. 27: Ellen Perantoni, oil painting & jewelry

141 Back O Beyond Circle, Sedona

ArtWanted.Com/EllenPerantoni, EPerantoni@Yahoo.Com, 928-554-4778

How long have you participated in the Sedona Open Studios Tour?

Three years now, which is as long as I’ve been in the area. I joined the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition, and they were who told me about it.It’s always fun. I get to meet a lot of people and sell my work, and unexpected things always happen. When I did it the first year, I’d only been living here a couple of months, so it helped me get to know the community. I met an awful lot of other people who were new to the area, too. It was nice to deal directly with people who were interested in seeing and buying art. You always learn a lot.

An oil painting of a familiar subject by Ellen Perantoni. Courtesy image.

Tell us a bit about your art.

My paintings are pretty traditional. I learned traditional art and landscape painting in the Hudson Valley, New York State. It’s the classic style you see in museums, almost a bygone art in the depth of detail. I like that realistic approach to landscape painting. I love painting rocks and the sky. Living here is a real treat for that, especially with the weather. It’s been a real treat here so far. I got into creating jewelry this past year. It’s a new thing for me, making it, but I’ve loved jewelry my whole life. The jewelry I make is inspired by the Native American traditions of making jewelry in this area.

What are some memorable interactions you’ve had about your art during the tour?

Jewelry by Ellen Perantoni. Courtesy photo.

I always get a chuckle when people ask me how long it takes me to do a painting. I get that constantly, and I just don’t know because I’ve never kept track. I start out and generally work in short sessions. I don’t try to do it all at once. My technique works best when I do some work, let it dry, and do some work over it. I just keep painting until the painting works out the way I want it to work. Sometimes I’m lucky and a small one only takes a few hours. Others have literally taken years. I’ll work and work on something and it doesn’t go right, then, eventually, anew idea pops into my head and I work on it again.


Lon Walters poses for a photo in front of some of his art. Courtesy photo.

No. 5: Lon Walters, metal sculpture

Rong Wranch Arts, 735 Dry Creek Road, Sedona

RongWranch.Com, Lon@Sedona.Net, 928-282-4223

What’s it like to sell your own art at the Sedona Open Studios Tour?

I’m a talker, and I really enjoy engaging with people. Sedona itself and the Verde Valley are extremely eclectic communities. I came out of San Diego and, quite frankly, that’s a much narrower mindset. I really enjoy talking to the range of residents and tourists who visit during the open studios tour. … I had attended an open studios tour about a year ago, too, and thought it was really cool. After participating in a different tour last fall, I met Mike (Upp) and we hit it off. This one is really a no-brainer for me. It’s fun.

What kind of questions do you field?

How did you get started?” is pretty common. I took a welding course a number years ago and found out I enjoyed brazing. I use a lot of wire and end up brazing it instead of mig or tig. I wanted to do something different and started making art that was more whimsical. In general, my art is a cleaner-looking steam punk aesthetic. I was really into balloons for a while. I started going to garage sales and incorporating items from that, as well. My latest piece uses a pewter, double-walled coffee pot I got for $2. Another piece uses a fondue wedding present that was still in the box. I got it for $5 and made it into a coffee cart. It’s a lot of fun. It’s $200-$400 for those larger pieces, so I figured I needed to do something smaller, so I started making bubble wands for kids, which are $25-$30 out of copper, brass, and bronze. It’s a great thing to pick up for the grandkids.

What kind of preparation do you have to make for the tour?

My space isn’t organized at all. When I hit a garage sale, if I can find something I can use, holy mackerel, I get it. So, now, I have to put the mess in the corners. I have some collector cars in the garage, so I’ll move those out to make space for people. I’ll put out a couple of disassembled pieces — insects, ants, and dragonflies — so people can see how much goes into each piece. When you see them complete, you can appreciate all the work that went into them. Some things look really simple but still took two or three days of an hour a day just waiting for something to dry in place or waiting for a piece to come. It can be a real test of patience, which is something I don’t always have. It can be a lot of small tasks. Just before this interview, I was doing some bubble wands, I painted one of my ants, put eyes on one of my dragonflies, and was working on another piece.


Evelyn Albu. Courtesy photo.

Evelyn Albu, Sedona Visual Artists Coalition membership chair and patron

How did you get involved with the Sedona Open Studios Tour?

First of all my wife is an artist and she’s on the board of the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition. She started out in acrylics and tried playing around with sculpture. I’m the chair of the membership board. … It’s a great tour. First of all, the weather is usually gorgeous. You can walk around from place and, because a lot of studios are attached to people’s homes, it’s practically a home tour. You get to see a lot of different neighborhoods. I liked meeting a lot of different people. You not only meet the artists at their studios, but you meet other artists and sometimes groups of people who are on the tour. You visit and you exchange ideas. It’s a very social event. It’s fun.

How do you plan a successful tour?

Look at the locations and plan a route. The tour is spread all the way from Camp Verde to Cottonwood through Sedona. You can kind of make your way through in spurts. Saturday is usually the big day if you’re planning on going from early morning until close. Usually Sedona has the largest numbers that day. In the other areas, the artists are pretty close together, so it makes the trips worthwhile. … If it’s sunny, bring sunglasses, a sunhat, and water — you know, typical Arizona stuff. If it’s rainy, and we’ve been unlucky with that the last couple of years, it can be a bit muddy. There were times I thought I wish I’d brought a pair of boots. So, bring a pair of boots if it’s raining. And remember, it’s a social thing, so gather up your friends and go with a group of people together.

How is the tour changing?

The tour itself isn’t too different. We added raffles and giveaways last year and will be continuing those this year. We have more volunteers now than we did before, which frees up the artist at each studio to talk to people instead of worrying about the logistics of checkout and packing. The feedback from artists has always been that they need more help, especially during peak hours. The weather didn’t help with attendance the last couple of years, but it’s grown, anyway, and it should be better this year. … When you go year after year, you’ll find certain artists and studios you like and revisit them. It’s interesting to see how their style or art changes over the years. And, of course, there are new artists and new faces.


The Sedona Open Studios Tour is 1o a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, April 28-30 in Sedona, Cornville, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Camp Verde. Find out more at SedonaArtistsCoalition.Org or via Facebook.

Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.

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