Reno Open Studios
Robin Felt’s pottery studio in Sparks is a quaint, homey little shed in the midst of a backyard garden overflowing with greenery and works of art. Sunflowers stand tall over tomatoes and squash plants. On the walls of the studio, inside and out, are mounted ceramic suns and seahorses, decorated with intricate patterns and bright glazes.
The ceramics are Felt’s creations. An important, often overlooked aspect of art-making is the influence of place. Where artists make their work can be as important as the materials they use or the substances they consume beforehand. Seeing an artist’s studio can be an insight into their work—where artists make work might answer how they make it and even why they make it. That’s one of the driving concepts behind the annual Reno Open Studios art tour, now in its third year.
Before retiring, Felt worked as a graphic designer in the newspaper industry, including 19 years at the Sparks Tribune. Now, she’s a dedicated potter. She uses a slab roller, rather than a traditional wheel, and many of her pieces have a loose, handmade feel. In addition to the wall-mounted suns and seahorses, she makes fish-shaped vases and funky liquor decanters that look like miniature elfish women, with shot glasses to go with them. Pottery, more than just about any other art, blurs the line between practical tools and art objects.
This will be the second year that Felt has participated in the Reno Open Studios event.
“I thought it was really great because it’s a family thing,” she says. “People bring their kids and the kids’ eyes are just popping out of their heads, after seeing the glassblowers and some of these artists’ studios.”
The free tour also provides artists an opportunity to sell their creations directly from their studios. This year’s tour, the weekend of Sept. 9-11, will feature about 40 local artists. It’s an eclectic group—glass artists like Carola Roach, oil painters like Wes Lee, airbrush painters like Ned Peterson, sculptors like Kai Prescher, photographers like Jeff Ross, calligrapher Carol Pallesen and forensics artist Penelope Siig. With so many different media and aesthetics represented, it’s the rare occasion that the phrase “something for everyone” can be used without reservation.
And artists are competitive beasts. They’re all working to outdo each other for the event and eyeing each others’ works.
“The artists all want to see what you’ve been up to,” says Felt. “I’ve met a lot of great people through this.”
This year’s tour is the biggest yet and, as in previous years, the event is accompanied by a group exhibition, featuring artists of the tour at Sierra Arts Gallery in Reno. That exhibition opened in mid August and will be on display through the first day of the tour—a good way to preview the participating artists.
“[Sierra Arts Gallery] were huge in launching the event for us,” says Melinda Plumbridge, one of the organizers of the event and a participating artist. “We completely and totally appreciate their support and their role in developing arts in our community.”
The Reno Open Studios website has studio maps available, so attendees can plot their own unique, self-guided art tours.
“It’s a good, educational, fun thing to do on a weekend,” says Felt.