Since 1995, Open Studios — founded by Gary Zeff — has provided fans of the creative a front-row seat to artists at work. What started as a relatively small tour has spiraled into around 140 artists opening their workspaces to offer visitors an inside look at just where glass is blown and paint applied. For the first three weekends in October, folks can explore the vibrant dens of artists throughout the streets of Boulder all the way to the tucked-away ateliers of Eldorado Springs, Lyons and Niwot.
“I’m excited that, thanks to the funding we have from the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau, we can promote the tour heavily — beyond Boulder County,” said Mary Horrocks, a board member who took on the role of executive director of Open Studios this year.
With 15,000 catalogs dispersed throughout locations in Breckenridge, Vail, Denver, Colorado Springs and elsewhere, organizers are hoping October’s Open Studios is a draw for out-of-towners looking to experience the unique artistry of Boulder.
Maps to locate studios are available online. Art hunters can also pick up a paper map at locations including Meininger Art Supply in Denver, Tattered Cover Bookstores, the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau on Pearl Street, all of the Boulder Public Libraries, North Boulder fashion boutique and gift shop Jacque Michelle, Naropa University’s Nalanda campus and publication racks in Hazel’s Beverage World and Lucky’s Market.
“Those who live here know Boulder as an arts town, but we really want to get the word out to the rest of the region,” Horrocks said.
Open Studios has also brought about other programs that serve the community and continues to add to the cultural landscape of the Front Range. From the Boulder Plein Air Festival to Pop! A Local Artists’ Gallery, the nonprofit strives to showcase the area’s talent in different venues throughout the year.
“People gravitate to Boulder,” Horrocks said. “The beauty of the area resonates with creative people. People have been coming here since the 1800s to create art.”
From the pop-art-esque daring collages of Paula Gillen to the bold abstract acrylic paintings of Scott Rodwin, the quality and diversity of work on the tour is sure to appeal to a number of individuals. A range of price points makes Open Studios the ideal place to get a jump on holiday shopping.
“Since I was a child, my mother would take me to art shows, craft shows and bead shows,” said Nina Brandin, Boulder-based jewelry who will display her work at Studio #75, E -11, at 2810 Wilderness Place. “After the bead shows, I loved coming home with those and making my own creations which I could wear. You’ll be able to see some of those creations at my Open Studio, as I’ll be displaying a progression of my work from beads to precious metals and stones.”
Brandin’s work manages to be great for every-day wear, yet still holds an understated sophistication. Delicate silver bangles brimming with texture and statement-making necklaces and cuffs offering radiant pieces of citrine, tourmaline and amethyst are among her desired creations.
“I’ve had a passion for creating since an early age starting with an after-school silversmithing class in 8th grade,” Brandin said. “A woodworking class in middle school, taught by Mr. Wood, gave me the feeling of transforming a material from basic into a useful, beautiful piece of art and just fascinated me.”
Later on, Brandin was accepted into the Jewelry Making and Repair Program at North Bennet Street School in Boston, the oldest trade school in America. It was here that she received hands-on training in traditional trades and fine craftsmanship.
“Most people have no idea what goes into making a piece of hand fabricated jewelry,” Brandin said. “A lot of jewelry these days is mass produced and manufactured using machines. I make each piece by hand.”
Attendees will get an opportunity to see her hammer, brush, stamp and polish a myriad of materials into lustrous accessories.
“At my studio, you can expect to see jewelry for sale handcrafted from raw materials such as silver and gold sheet and wire, precious metals and stones, as well as some natural stones and fossils,” Brandin said. “I recycle a lot of metal, so there are a lot of spheres and ‘pancake-like’ shapes which I love to texture then add to rings, make into earrings or necklaces and sometimes set stones into.”
From handcrafting one-of-a-kind engagement rings to designing necklaces that embody the essence of a customer, Brandin remains inspired by those who seek out her innovative designs. She even works with folks to rework the jewelry they already own by creating a piece that incorporates parts of their broken or rarely-worn pieces into fresh reinvented novelties.
“The most rewarding aspect of my job is the look on someone’s face when they see their custom piece completed and put it on — total joy.” Brandin said. “This also goes for when someone finds a piece in my collection that they just love. It’s like they just go together. I’m so happy when my work finds the right home.”
Like Brandin, who found her passion for creating early on, Open Studios is giving teens an opportunity to tap into their own creative skill set. For the first time, this year, a teen studio will be held at Niche Workspaces, 4571 Broadway, Boulder, on Saturday and Sunday. Up-and-coming creatives, ages 13-19, will show their work, sell it and have the chance to interact with potential patrons and receive valued feedback.
“Teens on the steering committee were really the driving force behind this concept,” Horrocks said. “ We really want to build on that and give the youth in the community the ability to show their work.”
As executive director, Horrocks hopes to bring more youth-centered workshops to the community and also plans to bring additional art programs to the elder residents of Boulder’s Frasier Meadows in 2020.
Prior to the official start of Open Studios, art-lovers can get a preview on Friday from 6 –8:30 p.m. at Naropa University’s Nalanda campus, 6287 Arapahoe Ave. A piece from each of the artists on the tour will be on display, an array of appetizers will be served and beer and wine will be available for purchase. It’s a great chance to map out must-sees and converse with artists.
“I’m looking forward to chatting with people about what they love about their jewelry and seeing if we can maybe work together to give it new life,” Brandin said.
If you go
What: Open StudiosWhen: Preview Exhibit: 6- 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nalanda Campus of Naropa University, 6287 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder. (exhibit open daily, noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 5 – 20) Self-Guided Tours: noon- 6 p.m. Oct. 5-6. Oct. 12-13, Oct. 19-20Where: various locationsCost: freeMore info: openstudios.org/the-tour-1