“Whetstone Brook Reflections”


"Whetstone Brook Reflections" theme of Brattleboro-West Arts 2011 Open Studio tour:

"Whetstone Brook Reflections" to be displayed in Key Bank window (185 Main Street, Brattleboro) starting on Gallery Walk Friday, September 2 at 5:30PM; "Whetstone Waltz" by Ned Phoenix to premiere.

Brattleboro-West Arts is a group of artists who live and work in the Whetstone Brook watershed. On Sept. 24 and 25, they will open their studios to the public during their 3rd Annual Open Studio Tour.

Many months ago, when planning the studio tour, some members decided to create works inspired by a common theme. They chose the Whetstone Brook, a key geographic feature influencing the environment they live and work in. The result is “Whetstone Reflections”, an exhibit that will open Sept. 2 at Key Bank on Main Street in Brattleboro.

Members were inspired by the natural beauty of the brook, and the pieces they created reflected this. Individual artists responded to various aspects of the brook in their respective media.

A change in perspective

Days before the exhibit was to open, Tropical Storm Irene and the subsequent flood showed us all a dramatically different aspect of the brook’s personality.

The flood leads us all to re-examine our relationship with the brook and its impact on the community it flows through. The choice was made to exhibit the pieces that were made prior to the flood, with the addition of photographs that were taken on Aug. 28, the day of the flood by BWA artist, Walter Slowinski.

The flood has affected us all. Brattleboro-West Arts invites the entire community to take part in a visual conversation about the Whetstone Brook. We welcome you to contribute prints of your photos, which can be brought to the bank, so they can be added to the display. Be sure to keep your own copy, as we will not be able to return the photos.

The Whetstone Brook is important to the West Brattleboro community. The brook and its tributaries define the shape of the town and its roads. In the past it provided power to its craftsmen as today it provides inspiration to its artists. 

The group's third annual open studio tour, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 24 and 25, offers seventeen different artistic interpretations of life in a six-mile radius of West Brattleboro, Marlboro and the Whetstone Brook Watershed, an intellectually rich community whose landscape is decidedly pastoral.

The "Reflections":

Walter Slowinski, a potter, gathered some rocks from Whetstone Brook that are of similar size and surface to some of his teapots.  The rocks and teapots are arranged together in a tilted shallow wooden box in such a way as the teapots sequentially pour into each other, like a series of small waterfalls.  He obtained water from the Whetstone, creating a Whetstone Brook teapot fountain/waterfall. In addition, he offers photographs taken while walking from West Brattleboro to downtown on the day of the flood.

David and Michelle Holzapfel collaborated in the making of "Working for the Good", a wooden piece made from the crown of a 175+ year old tree, harvested from a farm at the base of Ames Hill Road. "Since the piece can function as a coffee table or as a bench, David and Michelle refer to it as a coffee bench.


Josh Bernbaum produced a grouping of blown glass forms shaped like rocks. The forms are filled with small stones gathered from the Whetstone Watershed. One will able to view the interior stones through clear "windows" left in otherwise opaque glass forms.

Doug Cox commissioned a 15-minute chamber piece "Whetstone Waltz" by Ned Phoenix.   Also he will have a violin, not yet varnished, made entirely of wood from the Whetstone watershed and includes wooden pegs made by Jason Breen and a silver leaf detail by Chris Lann.

Ron Karpius produced a set of oil miniatures inspired by the brook, which he crosses by foot everyday to his cabin and studio.

Chris Lann collected roots and pebbles from the brook and designed a gold and silver necklace inspired by the tug of war between the water’s tendency to move a rock and the landscape’s ability to hold it fast.

Naomi Lindenfeld made a colored clay vase and a couple of pinched and carved bowls that are inspired by the shapes, color and texture of the stones in the Whetstone Brook.  The patterns and designs that result from her use of layered colored clay convey the flow of the water over the stones.

Starting with Gallery Walk, the exhibit will run through the month September.

"Our corner of Vermont is a very special place," said tour trustee Douglas Cox, who custom-builds violins for professional musicians, often with maple and spruce from his own hillside. "Our goal is to share the place and the process from which our creativity flows."

The artists participating in the open studio tour will exhibit and sell their art, but also hope visitors will linger a while at each studio to chat, ask questions and watch them work. "The tour is a way for our neighbors to see what is happening in their community, and for travelers to our area to see below the surface," Cox said.

The weekend features some work that responds directly to the Vermont countryside, like landscape paintings, wood-fired stoneware, and boat-building. Other artists offer a contemporary twist on a traditional local art form, such as fiber arts, fine jewelry and layered colored porcelain. Still others incorporate trees or stones from their own property, or take inspiration from the ripples of the Whetstone Brook, the brilliant autumn leaves or the geometry of a freshly mown hay field.

"Our location and our way of life shape our work," said tour trustee Josh Bernbaum, a glass blower," That is what we want to share with our visitors."

The tour coincides with the beginning of the fall foliage season as well as the peak of apple picking and the fall harvest.