By James Dungeon
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Cindi Shaffer, participating artist and executive member of the Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour, and Johanna Shipley, first-time participating artist on the tour. The 11th Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Oct. 5-7. The opening gala is 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Elks Theatre & Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St. Visit PrescottStudioTour.Com for a complete list of participants and more.]
Cindy Shaffer, Astral Glass Studio, 697 Sixth St. Suite 106, AstralGlassStudio.Com, AstralGlassStudio@Gmail.Com.
What is the Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour and how does it work?
You visit artists in their studios and actually get to see how they work. With my own medium, people often don’t understand that I start off with sheets of glass and stack them and fire the piece multiple times. The studio tour allows you a different way of looking at mediums and interacting with artists and finding out more about what you’re looking at. A lot of us do demos, and that education piece is a big part of this. … I think the more the public realizes how much time you put into the process, the more people appreciate the final result. Also, the demos help expose the kids and the big kids to more parts of the artistic process. I know in my studio, I have out pieces on a table in different conditions from starting out all the way to the finished product, that way you can see all of the different steps.
What’s it like as an artist to get instant feedback and interaction from people?
I love it. They love seeing all the different steps and the equipment that it takes. For my medium, glass, there’s a lot of equipment, which is fun. A lot of people don’t know anything about it beyond blown glass.
For someone with an untrained eye, what’s something to look for on the tour?
You should ask people about their inspiration for art. These studios are open so you can see how and where artists make their art. Ask them what the individual steps are. … I’d recommend asking a simple opening question and just letting the artist explain.
How do you get your studio ready for the tour?
I have to clean it. You know, I don’t think it’s possible to make art without making a mess. Maybe that depends on the medium, but I know for myself that I have to get everything out on the tables. It might look chaotic, but there’s a reason for it. Still, for the studio tour, I have to clean up and put some things away. When the tour is over, I make a mess again.
What do you want to get out of the studio tour?
What really jazzes me up about the tour is that it’s a wonderful window into something that’s a big part of Prescott. A lot of people don’t realize how many world-class artists we have right here. I think it’s a way of giving back to the community, too. Yes, it’s a sale, and I want people to buy things, but I also think it’s great to educate people and for kids to see this stuff, and for people to discover new things and meet new people. As an artist, I really enjoy getting to talk to people. You don’t often get that kind of instant feedback. You might see my pieces in a studio, but you wouldn’t meet me or be able to ask me how I did what I did. It’s a win-win. It’s not that this is in competition with galleries; it’s a different approach and one that compliments it.
How has the tour changed over the years?
We have this amazing group of artists that just keeps growing year after year. These people give their time and spaces and make this not just a success for themselves, but for the city of Prescott. It’s really grown into quite the event. This year, we got a grant from the Arts and Humanities Council. It’s the first time we applied and first time we got it, so that’s a feather in our cap — and one that’ll allow us to promote the tour more and for more people to hear about it.
How would you characterize art in Prescott?
People have this perception that Sedona is the place to go, or Scottsdale. And, of course, those places have amazing artists, but there are a lot of artists who sell in both of those places who live in Prescott. There are people who are known worldwide who live in Prescott. There are hidden gems here that are just amazing. And, on the studio tour, you get to see some of those. When you go out on the tour, you’ll get to see these amazing things that your neighbors are doing — things you had no idea were going on.
So what’s new this year?
We have an opening at the Elks on Oct. 3 the Thursday beforehand. Artists will bring one piece and set it up on the table with their studio number. It’s an opportunity to see all the artwork and really get a feel for where you’d like to visit. It’s a time to ohh and ahh and figure out where you’d like to go. Once you get the brochure or look at the map, you can target where you’re going, and you’ll probably want to visit any galleries near by the places you’re planning on going. For some people, you may want to go to outlying studios; they’re not as crowded and you can get a feel for the kind of one-on-one interaction that can be fostered by the studio tour. Then again, you may want to go to a bigger, more well-trafficked location and get lost in a crowd and see what that’s all about.
The Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour, perviously affiliated with Mountain Artists Guild, is its own nonprofit entity now. How did that come about?
The studio tour has been operating for 11 years and it has always operated under the auspices of Mountain Artists Guild. They were our sponsor. Getting our own 501(c)(3) just made sense. This group has been pretty autonomous for so many years. We just thought it was time to become our own entity. We’ve been doing this so long that some of the members on our executive board aren’t even necessarily still members of Mountain Artists Guild. This is our main focus. It’s not that the affiliation was a negative thing — far from it — but we’ve been naturally progressing, becoming larger and larger. Our budget finally got the point where we could be on our own.
You’ve been on the studio tour for a while. How does it look from the inside?
I think the longer you’re on the tour, the more you become a destination for people. There are people who always come to my studio, who I see every year during the studio tour. The more times you participate, the more people you draw and the more people come back. People like that familiarity and that consistency. It’s only gotten better.
Johanna Shipley, The Art Farm, 1011 Norris Road, JohannaShipley.Com, LaughingBird@Live.Com.
This is your first tour — why join the Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour?
I had visited the studio tour, not as a participant, but as a patron, and I was impressed by the artwork and all the different mediums on the tour. There’s such a high level of expertise here in everything from 2D art you hang on your walls to 3D art and jewelry and anything else you can think of. One of the other things I enjoyed when taking part in the tour was the demonstrations. The first year I went, I saw a glassblowing demonstration and thought it was so fascinating. I had no idea that sort of thing was happening here, let alone the lamp work and fused glass. It was an easy decision to join the studio tour, but it wasn’t entirely up to me; it’s a juried show and I didn’t know whether or not I was going to get in.
What’s your pitch for the curious to attend?
You should definitely go. There’s no pressure from any of the artists to buy anything. You’ll actually get to see all these beautiful works of art out there, and meet the people who created them, and find out all the processes and work that went into them. It’s great to see art in a gallery setting, but this gives you a more personal connection to the artists. … It’s almost impossible to go to every stop on tour. Look for someone whose work you really want to see, and cluster a couple of other visits around that.
Do you see the studio tour as a social event?
I do, or, at least, it is for me. Sometimes you’re in a busy studio and you can listen in on other people’s conversations about art, which is always fascinating, but you should dive right in there and take part. I enjoy getting to know artists whom I admire.
How are you going to present your work this year?
I’ll be at The Art Farm. My own studio has a long, steep driveway that’s not particularly practical. Vivian and Michael Farmer, the owners, have a great spot and graciously allowed me to set up there. I’ll be outdoors with a tent displaying my jewelry. I’ll also have a table for doing mixed-media demonstrations. I’ll probably be doing some work in epoxy clay and wire wrapping.
Tell us about being an artist in Prescott.
It’s a fabulous place to be an artist. Other artists here are very generous with their time and talents. Much like the Granite Mountain Jewelry Artists, the artists on the tour, and the artists in Prescott, all of Prescott, share their skills and techniques. They support each other.
The 11th annual Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Oct. 5-7. The opening gala is 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Elks Theatre & Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St. Visit PrescottStudioTour.Com for a complete list of participants and more.
James Dungeon is a figment of his own imagination. And he likes cats. Contact him at JamesDungeonCats@Gmail.Com.