Brown County
Studio and Garden Tour

by Charlene Marsh
courtesy photo of Bob Birdsong, basket weaver

Last summer I drove the self guided Brown County Studio and Garden Tour, visiting as many studios and gardens as I could in one day.

A gray, stormy day slowed my start, but once on the road, the countryside was charming and the mist rising from the new fallen rain provided an ethereal backdrop.

With map in hand, I started with Dennis Watson’s garden near my home. The gardens, full of lilies, were created to honor his deceased daughter, Stacy. Small pools and waterfalls greet the visitor. A fishing shed by the pond invites you to linger and enjoy pink water lilies in bloom.

Artist Amanda Mathis once lived in Mr. Watson’s log cabin. Also on the tour is her nearby studio on twenty acres of land bordering Salt Creek. She takes inspiration from the beautiful scenery to paint “contemporary primitive” acrylic paintings.

I headed south on picturesque State Road 135 to Spears Gallery. Larry Spears was busy demonstrating raku pottery firing techniques. This year his emphasis will be on reduction fired stoneware and porcelain. The pottery is hand thrown on the wheel and various glazes are added to the surface.

A long winding uphill drive leads you to Bill Root’s sculpture studio. I marveled at Bill’s four-foot concrete carousel horse standing in the middle of a flower bed. The studio is housed in a large open barn. Mr. Root creates sculptures using cold cast, fiberglass, woodcarving, and fired clay. A fiberglass replica of the carousel horse is on display in his studio with other sculptures. Samples of the sculpture molds provided a glimpse into the intricate production process.

After leaving the Bill Root studio, I drove back north to Salt Creek Road and the enchanted Faerie Hollow Pottery studio. Cheri Platter creates porcelain pottery using Oriental calligraphy techniques to paint roses, iris, and tulips. Her studio is full of windows with views of the woodlands and gardens. The extensive rose gardens have usually peaked by the time of the tour but are still worth a look.

My next stop was the Gary Pearce studio. The yards and gardens provided gallery space for the stone and copper sculptures. Mr. Pearce is primarily a stone carver working with limestone and marble. Some of the sculptures incorporate copper wire. Gary uses hammer and chisel, power grinder and air hammer to create his works of art.

I took so much time visiting each studio, garden, and artist that I only had time to enjoy five locations.

I missed Helein Hart’s Wildflower Studio, on the tour again this year. She creates fresh, translucent watercolors incorporating flowers, whimsy, humor, and verse, inspired by her hilltop view of the natural beauty of Brown County.

The Birdsong Corner Baskets and Flower Farm features four flower gardens, a pond filled with koi, and a home totally constructed by Bob and finished inside with 13 Indiana hardwoods. The kitchen features hand-constructed hickory cabinets and a tin ceiling. The Birdsong’s have been weaving baskets for 27 years and sell them at the Brown County Craft Gallery. They recently started crocheting old-fashioned log cabin rugs. Joan Birdsong is an oil painter.

New studios on the tour this year include Brenda Roberts, a landscape artist, Greg Schatz, a potter, and Chris Gustin, a weaver.

Chris Gustin has woven thousands of rugs from materials salvaged from mills as well as scarves and clothing from soft silks and cottons. She has twelve looms in her Homestead Weaving Studio. The walls are lined with colorful spools of yarn.

This year, Jay and Ellen Carter plan to welcome visitors into their gardens. Established over a twenty-five year period, they include annuals, perennials, shrubs, and water gardens. You can also view their log cabin filled with antiques and early Indiana art.

I won’t be able to make the tour this year as I plan to host tour visitors at my newly constructed studio on Lanam Ridge Road. The building is painted in a rainbow of colors on the outside and finished with oak hardwood floors on the inside. There is a fish pool and fountain. Figurative, narrative, conceptual, tufted fiber artworks, tufted handbags, and oil paintings will be available to the visitors.

This year’s tour takes place June 23rd and 24th. Look for the Brown County 3rd Annual Studio and Garden Tour brochure for a map and description of the tour. You can pick one up at the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Brown County Chamber of Commerce, or at Tour Headquarters—Brown County Inn and Restaurant at the corner of State Roads 46 and 135, and T.C. Steele State Historic Site south of State Road 46 near Belmont.