We’re approaching prime driving season in the Delaware River Towns. As in, there’s no destination. Just let the lush, winding backroads take you wherever they may.
If that’s a little too aimless for your liking, try a self-guided tour instead. It just so happens, one of our favorites, the Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour, is coming up April 30 and May 1.
The group dates back to 1993. Six women artisans came together to see if they could better promote their work as a group. They named themselves after the Delaware Township covered bridge, around which they all lived and worked, and introduced themselves by way of a self-guided tour of their studios.
Over the years, the tour expanded to Stockton, Lambertville, and New Hope. This year’s edition will grant tourgoers entry to eight active studios, all within five-mile radius of Stockton, and feature another 14 artisans in an exhibition at the Sergeantsville Firehouse Event Center, in Sergeantsville.
As prolific as the arts are in the river towns, it’s rare that we get the chance to interact with artists and artisans within the familiar confines of their habitats. For those interested in the creative process as much as the finished product, the tour offers an opportunity to glimpse what many artists have difficulty articulating: how and why they do what they do.
Here’s a brief guide to the featured studios.
Bill Jersey Art, Lambertville, NJ. During a highly acclaimed career as a documentary filmmaker (his work garnered three Emmys and two Oscar nominations), painting was a hobby Jersey squeezed in on the weekends. Now it’s his full-time focus. But the two are still intertwined. “I learned to catch a moment in time and use it to tell a larger story,” he says. “That is what I seek to capture in my paintings.”
Bonetown Studio, Stockton, NJ. To see Jeanine Pennell’s small clay sculptures is to step into a fully realized world where whimsy shapes everything. Pennell specializes in something called gesture drawing. She considers each sculpture to be a three-dimensional sketch. She usually starts with a mouth or a nose and then builds her creatures from there.
Moorland Studios, Stockton. Sculptors Constance Bassett and David Cann, the artists behind Moorland, met at an art foundry. Together, they’ve helped with the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and the William Penn statue atop Philadelphia’s City Hall. Separately, Bassett has made a name for herself as a stoneware sculptor and large-format painter, Cann as a furniture and lighting designer and sculptor.
New Hope Glass Studio, New Hope, PA. Jill and Dan Burstein have been creating stained glass art together since 2001 and one-of-a-kind blown glass pieces since 2010. They complement each other beautifully. Jill, who holds a fine arts degree, designs all of their creations and Dan, who has studied under some of the field’s most respected names, brings them to life.
John Petach Fine Art Studio, Stockton. Petach uses maps – those things on paper that helped us get places before there were apps – of the places he’s been as canvases for his intricate city- and landscapes. He’ll often use a pallet knife, but that’s never a given. “My paintbrushes have been everything from a clam shell to a Paris Metro card,” he says.
Sunflower Glass Studio, Sergeantsville, NJ. Much like their peers across the river, Karen and Geoff Caldwell enjoy a very complementary working relationship. As has been the case since they formed their studio in 1978, Karen is the designer and Geoff is the one who brings it to fruition. They specialize in stained glass windows, panels, and home décor.
Swan Street Studio, Lambertville. Katherine Hackl, who opened her studio in 1994, creates custom handmade decorative tile, drawing on the Arts and Crafts traditions. Her pottery is a collection of hand-thrown functional stoneware and porcelain decorated forms. Each piece is layered with botanical images, patterns, and illustrations.
Van Dommelen Art, Lambertville. Annelies van Dommelen is an artist who’s made a career of defying categorization. She is a painter, a printmaker, a decorative box maker, and sometimes she’s all three at once. Sometimes her art is abstract. Other times, it’s remarkably intricate in its realism. The one constant: It’s all a pure expression.
For a map of all the tour’s locations, including the event center, go here.