• Stuart Benson

The Tour must go on!

Erin Thibeault standing in her studio with a collection of her landscape art inspired by the nature of the Gatineau Hills

Chelsea Wakefield Studio Tour returns despite pandemic

By Stuart Benson

In a time of such fear and anxiety, due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps art has never been more meaningful, in that we need ways to make sense of what’s happening, to express ourselves, to connect with others and – purely from an aesthetic viewpoint – to bring some joy into our lives.

This is why it’s so important that the annual Chelsea Wakefield Studio Tour happens this year in spite of the pandemic.

This popular event, which typically draws crowds to the Hills’ and invites them into artists’ homes and studios, is in its 32nd year and happens on Sept. 26 and 27, though altered for the times.

Eleven of the tour’s artists have agreed to adapt the tour to offer a simplified, outdoor version for locals and visitors to the region. The tour will be spread out among four locations, two in Chelsea and two in Wakefield, with two to three artists per site displaying their art for sale, many of which will be offering commissions.

Site one, at 44 Chemin Ojai in Chelsea, will host landscape painter Erin Thibeault and Anna Ferrabee, who makes sterling-silver jewelry out of items found in nature like leaves, acorns and pinecones.

Anna Ferrabee applying sterling-silver clay to an acorn before double-firing the piece in a furnace, leaving nothing but a silver-acorn

“Acorns are some of my most popular pieces,” Ferrabee explained. “Those are created by moulding the sterling silver over an actual acorn and after the firing process there will be ashes of the acorn inside the closed vessel of the piece.”

Ferrabee added that the sterling silver she uses is bound with an organic clay and, once it has been moulded to form, the piece goes through two firing processes – where the silver mould is exposed to incredibly high temperatures inside a furnace – which will leave nothing but the sterling silver behind.

Ferrabee explained that she feels confident creating many different kinds of art, from stained glass to quilting, but began making jewelry over five years ago when a friend of hers asked who Ferrabee had bought a similar piece of jewelry from at a nearby artist tour.

“It was a leaf made of sterling silver,” Ferrabee explained. “She kept asking me over a couple of years and I couldn't track down the artist, so I just decided I would have to learn to make it myself.”

Ferrabee says she “scavenges” near her cabin outside Wakefield for leaves, flowers or seeds that resonate with her for the inspiration for her jewelry. Ferrabee said she enjoys creating commissioned pieces, including pendants, earrings and cufflinks from bridal bouquets as gifts to the bride and groom.

“What I love about this art is that it's meaningful,” Ferrabee said. “I have also made jewelry for members of families using items from a place of special meaning, such as acorns from a cottage property or leaves from a memorial tree.”

You can find a preview of Ferrabee’s jewelry, as well as portfolios of all of the artists who are part of the studio tour, including a mini-tour pamphlet, at tourcw.com. The website will also be home to an online retail gallery before Christmas, where you will be able to purchase pieces from all of the artists in one place.

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