A road trip through Putney, Vermont, promises cozy bed and breakfasts, artisan cheeses, hand-blown glass vases, unique pottery, and more from talented locals.
Vermont is known for maple syrup and covered bridges, but it’s also characterized by a free-spirited sensibility that has fostered many longstanding artistic communities. If you’ve experienced the joy of finding the perfect landscape painting to hang over your desk or selecting a stunning ceramic vase to display in your home, then you understand why thousands of people are traveling to Putney in southeastern Vermont to shop for distinctive arts and crafts. From colorful hand-blown glass vases to striking new designs in jewelry, textiles, and metal, there are many ways to get inspired and persponally connect with working artists. Take a road trip to the many local shops and studios, and along the way, you can enjoy Vermont’s picturesque towns and verdant scenery.
Vermont’s Artisan Tradition
Many renowned craft artists have chosen to settle in or near the small towns that dot the state, including Putney, which became an arts colony in the 1960s thanks to a local arts college. Vermont ranked fourth in the U.S. in the number of artists per capita in a 2016 report from the National Endowment for the Arts. Visitors that tour the Putney area can experience that sense of community for themselves and leave with a couple one-of-a-kind pieces too.
The Putney Arts Scene
Putney boasts a high concentration of accomplished craft artists, most of whom open their studios to visitors. Many of the artists living in and near Putney welcome guests year around for a personal tour of their studios and shops. Blacksmiths, glass blowers, potters, jewelers, weavers, woodworkers, and others all operate active studios in the area, typically in their homes. This is where you can witness artists at work, finessing the shades of color on a painting or putting the finishing touches on a gemstone necklace.
“The artists are definitely accessible and many will give a brief demonstration of what they do,” says Lynn Barrett, publisher of SO Vermont Arts & Living magazine near Putney. “People are very interested in talking with the artists, and a lot of people come back year after year and get to know the artists.”
The Art of Shopping Putney
The annual Putney Craft Tour, generally held in November, is a free, self-guided tour of more than 20 local artist studios that range from fiber arts, ceramics, and metal arts to glass and woodcarving. The tour has been continuously operating since the 1970s and is one of the most popular of its kind.
For more shopping, check out Green Mountain Spinnery offering natural fiber yarns. Or drive south to Brattleboro to Vermont Artisan Designs to see a high-quality selection of handmade crafts, or drop by Gallery in the Woods for folk art and fine art.
Hard copy guides to nearby studios are available in most visitor centers and many shops, so you can simply pick one up and tour the area. Be sure to call the artists in advance before paying a visit to their studios.
Putney Artists and Studios to Visit
The glass-blowing tradition is strong in the Putney area. Artists like Robert Burch produce high-quality vases and sculptural pieces. It’s a tradition he’s passed down to his daughter, Caitlin, who also blows glass and creates magical lampwork jewelry.
Potters Fiona Morehouse and David Mischke impress admirers with their painstaking and innovative techniques. Glass artist Joshua Letourneau and stained glass makers Edel Byrne and Julia Brandis are worth visits as well.
Deborah Lazar and Judy Hawkins have mastered the art of landscape painting, each in her own individual style. And don’t pass up Tom Goldschmid, who creates flowing wooden bowls that showcase the wood’s grain.
Take a break from browsing crafts by sampling local artisan cheese makers and wineries or by sampling the maple syrup and maple-flavored treats made by local growers. At night, enjoy a cocktail by the fireplace at a local bed and breakfast inn while gazing upon the distant mountain peaks at sunset. And check out the art hanging over the fireplace; a local probably painted it.
Who are your favorite artisans in Vermont? Tell us on Twitter, and follow us for more travel tips and inspiration.