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Artists Among Us: Supporting Your Local Talent

By October 6, 20093 Comments
by Julie Moir Messervy


Sandstone heads by Donald Saaf. Photo: Donald Saaf website.

Since I’ve been a landscape designer, everywhere I’ve lived I’ve come across a local talent to join forces with on my landscape designs. The same holds true here in Vermont: my team of creative professionals at JMMDS all live within forty minutes of our studio in Saxtons River; along with a host of other talented artists, sculptors, wallers, and potters.

I believe in using local talent wherever possible. Not only are you supporting your community’s economy, but going local also allows you to collaborate elbow-to-elbow with another imaginative soul, thus inspiring new ways of thinking and stimulating original ideas for the project at hand.

Have a look at some of the many artists whose gifts I can avail myself of up here, all who live within a 25-mile radius.


Tiles by Trikeenan Tileworks. Photos: Trikeenan Tileworks wesbite.

My friends Kristin and Stephen Powers are the designers, owners, and manufacturers of Trikeenan Tileworks in Keene, NH. Trained at RISD, both artists combine age-old materials and techniques with their original designs, all made by their highly trained artisans in New Hampshire and upstate New York. We used some of their Glass Windows tiles in our guest bathroom—gorgeous!


Ceramic vessels by Stephen Procter. Photos: L: Cotton Mill; C & R: Stephen Procter website.

Potter Stephen Procter works out of the Cotton Mill in Brattleboro, VT. I’m excited to find places for his magnificent (and huge) unglazed vessels, inspired by ancient techniques, yet reflecting a contemporary sensibility. What’s wonderful is that his high-fired stoneware can be used outside, when it’s lidded. I can’t wait to find the right client with just the right project so that Stephen and I can design a one-of-a-kind vessel together.

Paintings by Donald Saaf. Photos: Donald Saaf website.


Paintings by Julia Zanes. Photos: Julia Zanes website.

Closer to home, right in Saxtons River itself, are the artists Julia Zanes and Donald Saaf. Julia’s artwork features a lovely and fanciful world of nature and gardens, trees and flowers, cottages and castles. Donald’s imaginative paintings illustrate a host of children’s books and Dan Zanes album covers, and, like Julia’s, can be found in galleries and museums. Make sure to check out his soapstone carvings of figures and massive sandstone carved heads. I’m eager to use this talented couple’s artwork—made outsized as scrims or screens in some of my gardens.


Paintings by Charlie Hunter. Photos: Charlie Hunter website.

Right down the road in Bellows Falls, is more talent. Painter Charlie Hunter does exquisite drawings and paintings of local settings, but also runs the popular Roots on the Rails–“incredible music adventures on great trains with great music and great people.”


RAMP Logo and paintings by Robert McBride.
Photos: Top L: RAMP website; Bottom L: VPR website; R: RAMP art raffle website.

And finally, there’s my friend Robert McBride, who not only paints wild and wonderful flower boxes and abstract paintings, but he also supports the artists in the area with wonderful art raffles through his organization, the Rockingham Arts and Music Project (RAMP).

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Enjoyed this post, tho’ must confess to a touch of envy. Hard here in Oregon to get folks to see beyond what passes for garden art, the under $75.00 gob o’ glass on a copper plumbing pipe. There is so much more possible!

  • Thanks for writing, Patrick. I find that sometimes you need to see what artists usually create, and then challenge them with a project that stretches them beyond their norm. I’ll be talking more about this when I show a garden we just finished up today in Beverly, MA that enabled a local wood carver/twig artist from Bellows Falls, VT to try his hand at creating a hand-hewn beaver lodge. I can’t wait to show you what he did!

    My point is that there’s talent everywhere one looks. But sometimes people just need a bigger stage or unusual opportunity to show off what they know.

  • Raquel says:

    I need to look around for local talent .. that’s a great idea. I am tried of seeing the same designs at home dept and lowes!