By Michael Riley
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour celebrated its 33rd year of operation Oct. 3 and 4 – the first of two weekends. Due to COVID-19 and its restrictions, 12 artists decided to participate this year, down from 40 artists that were originally slated to partake in the tour.
While the studio tour in Bancroft was cancelled this year due to the pandemic, the Haliburton tour went ahead with restrictions in place. Artists involved celebrated a busy first day. Paradigm Designs and Pottery Lane Studio, A Stitch at a Time and Blackbird Pottery and Artech Studios all said that Saturday, Oct. 3 had been extremely busy for them, comparable to a brisk business day they had experienced during previous years’ studio tours.
Peter Emmink and Joyce Pruysers-Emmink are the co-directors of this year’s Studio Tour steering committee.
“It’s definitely a different tour this year for obvious reasons, with 12 studios having made the decision to open their doors with COVID-19 safety protocols in place,” says Peter Emmink.
These protocols included requiring masks, having sanitizer at the door, ensuring distancing was observed, having limits on the number of people inside their studios and having outdoor tented areas showcasing the art wherever possible.
Susan Watson Ellis runs Paradigm Designs fine jewelry with her husband Todd Jeffrey Ellis and creates the jewelry they sell. She says that Saturday, Oct. 3 was amazing, and as good as some of her best years.
“It’s always busier on the Saturday so it’s a little more manageable today,” she said on Sunday.
Ellis says that in addition to the usual safety protocols, she has also put a mirror outside for people to try on something without their mask. Generally, she says her customers’ questions have been pretty focused on her products and not on COVID-19 much at all.
“I think everybody’s got that down as far as what we need to do to protect ourselves,” she says.
In terms of sales, she says that the studio tour is a big show for her, comparable to the One of a Kind Show she usually attends in Toronto. She expects next weekend to be even busier.
“Both days will be busier because Monday is a holiday [Thanksgiving], so people are in the region longer. They’re not heading back home as soon,” she says.
April Gates is the creative force behind Blackbird Pottery. She says it’s been a great tour so far.
“It’s a bit strange because of COVID-19 but other than that, it’s been fairly typical. I would say it’s on par with normal numbers of people we’d see in other years,” she says.
Gates says she has been taking lots of orders for her work, which should keep her busy into Christmas and New Years.
She says the studio tour is an important piece of her income in any given year, but that she’s a full-time artist. “People know where I am if they want to come and buy any of my pottery,” she says.
The Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour was open this past weekend and will continue next weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10 and 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can go to www.thestudiotour.ca for more information about the various artists and their wares.