Burnsville, N.C. – Map your route along scenic mountain roads, meet artists in their studios and purchase one-of-a-kind pieces during the Toe River Arts Studio Tour, Dec. 6-8. Now in its 27th year, the event is one of the oldest studio tours in the country.

Approximately 100 artists participate throughout Yancey and Mitchell counties representing a variety of media, such as pottery, paint, glass, metal, textiles, wood and mixed media. For many artists, the studio tours — held twice a year in June and December — are the only times of year their workspaces are open to the public.

While many purchases in today’s world are impersonal and in bulk, the studio tour offers an opportunity to connect with makers who create custom pieces by hand.

“When you buy handmade, one-of-a-kind items, not only are you supporting the artists and providing them with a chance to live the lives they want, but you’re adding something to your own life that is as individual as you are,” says Nealy Andrews, executive director of the Toe River Arts Council, which puts on the tour.

Many artists take part in every tour, but each event brings a few new participants. Newcomers this December include Leah Leitson (porcelain), Jim and Mary Lynn Bowman (glass), and Will Manning (forged knives). Returning attendees enjoy seeing how artists’ styles evolve, such as Claudia Dunaway, a well-known ceramicist who recently shifted to printmaking.

“Every December there’s an exciting energy that surrounds the studio tour,” Andrews says. “While it may be cold outside, the warmth and friendliness of the artists make this an unforgettable event.”

Hours for the Toe River Arts Studio Tour are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. The tour is free and self-guided. Guidebooks with a list of participating artists, photos of each artist’s work and maps to the studios are available at the Toe River Arts galleries in Burnsville and Spruce Pine, participating studios and area businesses. Digital versions of the guides are available for download at www.ToeRiverArts.org. For additional information or questions, call (828) 682-7215.

For lodging and dining options for the weekend, go to www.YanceyChamber.com.
Kenny Pieper of Pieper Glass