Open Studios was a Lot of Fun

A friend of ours (Melanie Thompson) has a studio on her property out near our house and my daughter went over their to play with their son for the day this past weekend. When we went to pick her up, we saw that she had her studio all decked out for visitors because she was part of Open Studios tour. For all the years I’ve been in Flagstaff, I actually never went to the Open Studios… I’m really into viewing artwork (and have spent far more money than I should buying art), but for some reason I’ve never been inspired to go do it.  After seeing her studio, it got me interested.

So, on Sunday afternoon I called some friends and we decided to spend a few hours hopping from studio to studio.  I figured it’d be fun to go for two or three hours and get a feel for how Open Studios works.  Since I live on the east side of town, we decided to start in the 4th Street area and then head east out into Doney Park.  The plan was to hit a few studios and end up out at our house for dinner…  So, here’s where we hit…

Arcelis’ Art Boutique (#21) – At this location there were two different artists.  As you walked through the door there was Janet Mendyk who had a nice display of some really neat candles.  She makes them out of Beeswax.  Some of them looked like beeswax with that neat pattern, while others were smooth.  They were all really beautiful.  She also had some of her paintings hanging throughout the house. Click here for Janet’s website.  Then, in the back room there was a jewelry display from Aracelis’ Art Boutique, handcrafted by Araceli GonzalezAll I can say is that I ended up buying earings for my daughters who begged me, and our friend who was with us also bought some too.  Purchases say it all…

DeBlois Studio (#22) – This location was a totally cool setting…  You wandered out behind the house and the back area was really neat.  It had mannequins all over the place, things hanging in the trees, …  An artistic place.  At the back of the yard, there was a small tent setup with Gretchen Smith’s jewelry.  She had some really neat brooches with faces that seemed to be ceramic or raku.  Then, behind the tent was Nancy (DeBlois) Panlener who was welding on a tin can as we walked up.  She took us into her studio which is called Luminario Del Sol and showed us around.  It was filled with odds and ends like mannequins and masks all over the walls.  One of those ordered chaos kind of feelings…  She had her metal work which consisted of really neat candle holders, metal wreaths, and other artwork that she creates from recycled tin cans.  Very cool!  I really like the feel of her studio!

Sickafoos Studio (#24) – We then headed to 4th Street and over the overpass to see Catherine Sickafoose.  I was already familiar with her artwork because I purchased one of her pieces at Brandy’s a while back.  I love her art.  It was very neat to see her home and studio, and meet her in person.  She paints some simply amazing landscape scenes.  The place was very crowded when we got there, but it lightened up a bit as we looked around.  Her husband was also very funny as he was serving everyone pastries.  I enjoyed talking with them a lot.  If I already didn’t own a piece of her art, I would have been very tempted.  Click here to view Catherine’s website.

Russell Studio (#36) – We then had a choice of hitting up studios all over the Country Club area or start heading out toward Doney Park.  Since we were a little short on time, we opted to start heading east.  On the way, we made a stop in the Smokerise area to see Linda Russell’s artwork.  We were instantly welcomed into her home, had a glass of wine, and got the tour of her forest and Grand Canyon paintings.  She showed us a piece she has that is filled with beautiful Aspens.  On the piece she’s left a “heart” that she can then put your names in if you wish.  She had these as paintings of many sizes… So, you could customize the artwork as a gift to give to someone you love.  Very neat!  [Her son Mike is also a friend of mine, so it was nice to get to see where he grew up.]

Elemental Artworks (#39) – Now it was out to the heart of Doney Park since it is close to my home and also we figured that less people would head all the way out there.  We ended up at the home and studio of Rena Hamilton.  She has a really neat kiln as you walk down into her studio.  She explained to us that she fires half her stuff in that kiln which is heated by wood and has an uneven surface to create an intentional cross directional design, while the other half she does in an electric kiln that produces very even heat.  She showed us the difference on her artwork.  The outside kiln has more uneven tones with one side getting hotter than the other producing more unique pieces, while the electric one creates an uniform finish.  I can see from an artistic point of view that the outside one makes one of a kind items, while she can produce something like a full set of fairly uniform dishes in the electric one.  Click here to view Rena’s Etsy page.  Then, we headed upstairs to see paintings by Eileen Westphal.  A large portion of her paintings have really dynamic pictures of faces with bright colors.  Some of them were rather disturbing, while others made me smile.  She also had some abstract pieces that she explained how she created them.  She talked a lot with our kids and encouraged them to get into artistic endeavors.

M. J. Thompson Fine Art Studio (#38) – As I mentioned earlier, Melanie Thompson is who inspired us to do Open Studios in the first place.  I had seen a lot of her artwork before, but seeing all of it displayed across here studio was an incredible experience.  Her work is more than amazing.  I sat looking at a few pieces getting lost in them…  She is recently from Hawaii and lots of her paintings have the neatest images of trees and flowers.  And, the ones she does of women just take my breath away.  While digging around the studio, I caught a glimpse of a sketch buried under some other pieces that was of Jerry Garcia – it was too cool.  And, on her easel, was a scene she is working on of a saguaro cactus that she said wasn’t finished yet.  It had so much movement in it.  If you ever have the chance to check out (much less buy a piece of) her art, I would totally recommend it!  It is truly amazing!

Charlieware (#37) – We had intended to stop looking at this point, but I convinced everyone that there was one more studio nearby and that we still had 15 minutes before Open Studios officially ended.  And, I ‘m glad I did.  We headed over to view Charlie Anderson’s pottery.  Upon entering, there was a table filled with jewelry that had neat patterned stones.  It was jewelry by Dakotahhhhhh.  Once again my daughter swarmed me to buy them some earrings.  Really nice pieces, but I convinced them (i.e. said “no”) since I had already bought them some earlier.  We then headed into the back room and I was simply blown away by the pottery of Charlie Anderson.  He does Native styled pottery.  It was clear that he was really into researching and learning the pottery styles of many different Native cultures like Anasazi patterns.  The pieces all had beautiful patterns and were in classic shapes.  I hadn’t planned on buying anything else this day until I walked into that room.  I ended up buying three pieces of pottery (one which was a neat butter dish my wife just had to try out).  I may have to track him down again the next time I want to buy someone gifts.  His pieces were beautiful and very reasonably priced.  I really, really like his work!


So, that was my experience with Open Studios.  I had a fun time and bought some unique items that we all love.  It’s a great way to learn more about the artists, see how they do their artwork, and find some gems to purchase (supporting local arts).  Next time (which I believe is in November), I think I’m going to spend the whole weekend going and not just a few hours.  I think there is also a show in the fall at NAU in the Debois Conference Center that I’m going to try to go to as well.  I’m hooked.

Go to for more info about Open Studios!




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