Seeing a new dining table with Brian Brace.

Seeing a new dining table with Brian Brace.

Brief overview of a past tour

A group attending a conference...

The greater Asheville area has many, many summer camps and also several retreat venues throughout the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.  Recently I was fortunate to be included in an event at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain (just 20 minutes east of Asheville).  Asheville artist Matt Tommey organized the event and asked if I’d like to offer tours to the attendees! 

Friday’s tour was a full-day event and we visited four studios in the vicinity of Ridgecrest & Black Mountain.  Our first stop was to see illustrator Stephanie Sipp.  This was an excellent fit because Stephanie is new to the area and therefore has a different perspective to share with visitors, she works remotely teaching illustration for Florida State College-Jacksonville, in the Interior Design Department – one of the tour participants was also an interior designer!  Stephanie has a gift of making you immediately feel comfortable and welcome; we thoroughly enjoyed seeing her processes, and we learned how she uses technology to show her students details of key principles of design.  It was awesome!

Next stop, the jewelry showroom and workspace of Visions of Creation.  Roberto and June Vengoechea hosted us in their lovely gallery setting – and we got to go behind the scenes to see Roberto’s back room workspace where he teaches small groups to make their own custom ring.  He and June have simplified the processes so that the untrained visitor can go in, take the class, and then come away with a finished product.  Roberto’s own journey is inspiring and his work is incredibly creative.

A short drive took us to a lakeside picnic spot for lunch.   The weather was beautiful!

After lunch we rode about five minutes up the street to the studio and showroom of Brian Brace Fine Furniture.  Brian had examples of his furniture under construction to show – we learned about the woods he prefers, his background and apprenticeship and some exciting upcoming commissions.  Brian builds Arts & Crafts style furniture and had some wonderful examples of his version of the Morris Chair, and some Greene and Greene influenced pieces.

The tour continued to one final studio-gallery space.  Our final stop was to Black Mountain Studios, a ceramic studio and gallery in Swannanoa.  Maud Boleman has a small team of artists creating her functional pottery line that she sells to galleries and in her own showroom.  The most popular item is the bacon cooker!  But there are many other items to choose from ranging from small trays, bowls, pitchers, baking dishes and teapots.

We certainly had a wonderful variety of studios and artwork to see on this tour!


"If you want to learn about the art scene in Asheville, ArtConnections is the place to start.  Using her twenty plus years of experience working in the arts in Asheville, Sherry can create a tour for you where you not only learn about the history of art in Asheville, but can learn directly from the artists themselves how they craft their skills and see examples of their work. "

"This tour is a must for art lovers, or those who want to learn more about a different side of Asheville."

— J Clark, visitor to Asheville from D.C.