Published DatePLYMOUTH — "Art is such a small word, but look at all we've got" remarked Penny Burke, a painter from New Hampton, as she cast her eyes around the diverse array of works at Artistic Roots, a gallery on the common here.
Artistic Roots, together with its kissing cousin, the Squam Lakes Artisans Gallery in Holderness, are non-profit, cooperative enterprises, owned and managed by local artisans with the shared aim of encouraging those taking the artistic journey by displaying the work of individual and drawing inspiration from the group. At the same time, Artisan Roots brings artists together with the community by offering classes and workshops in different mediums as well as hosting special events.
The Squam Lakes Artisans Gallery, housed alongside Kirkwood Gardens in the building provided by the Squam Lakes Science Center, operates as a seasonal gallery between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. A share of its 30 members are also members of Artisan Roots whose work is on show in both galleries. The two cooperatives work closely together and said Barbara Platts-Comeau, president of the Squam Lakes Artisans Gallery, "share the same bookkeeper to keep us legal."
Lynn Haust of Ashland, a retired art teacher who works in glass, serves as president of Artisan Roots. She explained that all the members of the cooperative are juried, or chosen after a presentation of the their work to the group. Members pay an initial fee and monthly dues, as well as agree to work two four-hour shifts at the gallery and attend six of the 12 monthly meetings of cooperative. The gallery retains a 10 percent commission on sales each month.
"We own the cooperative," Haust said. "Everyone is an equal member and all decisions about the management and operation of the gallery are made collectively."
The galleries feature original works in a wide range of mediums. "We are an eclectic group," said Burke, admiring a collection of handbags, scarfs and mittens fashioned from remnants and recyclables by Donna Castor.
For some, their art is an adjunct to their jobs and a creative form of retirement account. Haust said that she began working with glass 20 years ago in anticipation of supplementing her pension from teaching. And Katiie Fly, a photographer from Canaan employed in the computer services department at Dartmouth College, is following her example. "Photography is an outlet to the unstructured side of my life," she said, "but I'm also developing a retirement business."
Platts-Comeau, who with her husband Bill Comeau is one of three husband-and-wife teams among the memberships, is the recreation director at a retirement community in Concord. She makes sandcast items designed for the garden, like birdbaths and stepping stones, featuring the imprint of leaves in different colors as well as weaves baskets and works felt. Meanwhile, Comeau, a woodworker, trays, egg-timers, utensils and mirrors from lilac, walnut, apple, birch and cherry, many embellished with cherry burls.
When Bethani Garland of Campton is not making jewelry of sterling silver and semi-precious stones in natural hues, she is caring for orphaned and injured wildlife at the Elaine Conners Center for Wiildlife in Madison. She likens the colors in her jewelry to those of flora and fauna. "Nature always has the best palette," she said.
The master box maker at Canterbury Shaker Village for 22 years, Barbara Beeler of Contoocook is among the Squam Lake artisans. Unlike most, her boxes are lined, because she said "people like to use them to store precious things." Among her apprentices was James O"Rourke, whose Shaker boxes stand alongside her own in the gallery.
Joanne DeCosta, known for her fondness for chickens, turns a myriad of different materials, among them beads gathered from around the world, into brightly colored mosaics. "I'll use anything," she said, pointing to a basket with shards of pottery. "Anything broken and glueable is in danger."
Burke of New Hampton, who taught drawing and painting in the Laconia schools, works in graphite and oil. She is best known for her studies of Squam Lake, featuring old boathouses, and set of images of sugar shacks.
"I'll paint anything," said Mary Walker, also from New Hampton, whose oils, some painted from photographs on commission, dramatically capture the light.
Both galleries sparkle with the stained glass works of Judy Detzel of Ellsworth, who recently moved to New Hampshire from western Pennsylvania. Using colored glass of subtle hues, her panels feature clear glass and bevelled edges that play with the natural light to enhance her sparing use of color.
Burke said that Artistic Roots, now in into its tenth year, has been an artistic and commercial success, moving from a basement — "not the best place to display art," she said — to expansive quarters on Main Street. Apart from the talents of its members, she traced the success to "the camaraderie among the artists. It has been extraordinary."
CAPTION: Artistic Roots, the artisans cooperative in Plymouth, recently celebrated its ninth anniversary. Lynn Haust (left), the president, stands among the works of some 40 artisans on display at the gallery on the common, with photographer Katie Fly (kneeling), her vice-president, jeweler Bethani Garland, painter Penny Burke (left) and Lily, Garland's Samoyed. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).