The conversation that would lead to the creation of Over The Mountain Studio Tour started at a kitchen table, recalls Anne Bowers, an original member. “We were a few artists looking for a way to represent ourselves beyond just going to shows. The Valley Craft Network in Maryland was our inspiration and also our advisor. Bowers uses the words artisan, craftsman and artist when referring to the members of the Tour. She explained that individual pieces by members will have different aspects, some functional, some decorative, some interpretive. “It’s when you look at the work as a body that you can understand the artist.” The group has grown and changed over the past thirty years, but Bowers notes the sense of support and the mission to educate have remained consistent. “Our members are artists who are serious about what they do and love sharing their art with the public. I’ve never been part of a group that has been so good to work with.”
For many of the Tour members, art is their livelihood and the pandemic has been difficult. Bowers said that several members struggled to maintain their creativity. “The art is an outlet to feed your soul, to create things that others can appreciate. When you can’t share what you create, it’s a loss.” She shared her own experience, “at the start, I was creating and creating, but then it became clear it [the pandemic] would continue, I asked myself if I needed to make so much. Without the goal of shows, I asked, why do I want to do this? It really was a time of sadness.”
“The 2020 show was virtual. Some of our members were not at all comfortable with the technology and chose not to participate. Some were very successful at presenting their work online. But it’s not something that we expect to repeat. What we do with the Tour is not just about selling our work or coming and seeing [static displays of art]. It’s about investing in relationships and engaging in conversations as we show our work. We think of the people we see on the tour as our friends. We’ve been apart for a year and are very interested to share again.”
Mentoring and education has been a key aspect of the Tour since the beginning. Bowers is excited that the Tour is partnering with the Shenandoah Planing Mill to participate in the Summerfest at the Mill event on June 12. She credits Tour member and wood-turning artist Neil Super as being the “catalyst who can see the possibilities” in starting what she hopes will be a new tradition for the Tour. “We started a summer show about ten years ago, but this is the first time we’ve partnered with another group.” The Summerfest event will feature demonstrations by the woodworkers at the mill as well as other hand-crafters and artisans in addition to the Tour members. Bowers remarked, “we live in a time when we are surrounded by things that we don’t know the origin of. It’s eye-opening for many to see things made. It’s a treasure to be able to share both what you do and how you do it.”
Welcoming New Artists to the Tour
The Observer asked which artists to feature in this article and, in keeping with the spirit of mentoring artists, Bowers immediately suggested the newest members of the Tour — Danielle Corsetto, Lisa Ashton, and Rod Glover. In speaking with these three artists they all noted that it was the educational aspect of the Tour — the opportunity to learn from other artists — that was the most compelling benefit of joining.
Danielle Corsetto (Cartoonist and Drawing)
Danielle Corsetto describes herself as “a professional cartoonist who also dabbles in caricature, figure drawing, gouache, and watercolor, and teaches all ages & skill levels how to make comics.” She says she has been writing and drawing comic strips since she was a child, and realized pretty quickly after graduating from college that she wasn’t drawn to a typical office job. With encouragement from experienced cartoonists she met over the years at various ComicCons, she took the leap to start her first long-running webcomic series, Girls With Slingshots, online in 2004.
Her current long-term project is a graphic novel called Elephant Town that takes place in Shepherdstown where she currently lives. She noted that the pandemic cut down on her travel and gave her some time to dive deeply into creating watercolor and ink & marker studies of the town to use as reference for the graphic novel drawings. “It’s not something you always have the time to do, but the pandemic gave me the space to focus.” For the event at the Mill, Corsetto will be presenting small watercolor and ink drawings of Shepherdstown, as well as drawing caricatures.
Lisa Ashton (Bead & Textile Art)
“I began sewing and weaving beads over 50 years ago, around the time I was 11 or 12,” says Ashton. She noted that even while she was working full time, she was sewing clothing and costumes, quilting, learning multiple techniques, but always concentrating on beading. She says much of her work was creating “costumes of fantasy, original and historical reproductions” (with documented research) that she would enter into competitions. She describes her creative process as a “stream of consciousness” approach, noting that often her pieces will evolve as she works on them and she does not know what the finished piece will look like until it’s done. She often incorporates old jewelry and found objects into her work, taking inspiration from the original object and creating a “twist” with the beaded creation. “I consider my beaded pieces as “little worlds” where everywhere you look is an interesting new detail.”
Ashton currently resides in Harpers Ferry and can be reached at LisaAshton35@gmail.com.
Rod Glover (Botanical Collage & Assemblage)
Glover expected 2019 to be a change of pace — after twenty years of running a retail shop near DC’s Logan Circle, he sold the business to commit a full-time effort to his art. He studied fiber arts in college and he describes his art form as “collage – applying different elements to a substrate, typically paper or wood.” He also incorporates painting into his work. A gift of a book on botanicals planted the seeds for his current approach to explore form and shape using natural plant elements. What he didn’t expect was the change in 2020. Glover remarked that he found it difficult to be creative during the pandemic. The current spring has been energizing both as the pandemic receded and nature revived. “My materials are ephemeral and I have a window of opportunity to gather them. The Summerfest event gave me a deadline and focus, since I needed to create smaller works for the event. It was a great challenge.”
Glover works near Shepherdstown and his work can be found online on his website BirdAndBevan.com.