Making space

As the Open Studios tour returns with its largest cohort of local artists, Boulder Weekly takes you inside three workspaces on the itinerary

Visual artist Shayna Larson flips through watercolor swatches in her studio on Pleasant Street in Boulder. Credit: Jezy J. Gray.

For nearly 30 years, Open Studios has been supporting Boulder County artists by fostering connection between creatives and the community. Nowhere is the nonprofit’s mission more legible than its namesake studio tour program, running this year through Oct. 16. 

Offering a chance to see local artists’ processes up close, the annual three-weekend event opens creative workspaces to the public in a mutually beneficial exchange of inspiration and ideas. From Eldorado Springs to the eastern edge of Boulder County, local art lovers can traverse the region using the online Open Studios map, discovering new artists, techniques and media along the way. 

“It’s an excellent opportunity for artists to develop their collectors and get exposure,” says Open Studios Executive Director Mary Horrocks. “In the last few years, we have seen approximately 8,000 patrons at locations on the tour. We do post-tour surveys, and the average patron tells us they visit, on average, six different studios.” 

This year’s Open Studios tour features more artists than ever, with nearly 20% of the more than 150 juried participants opening their doors for the first time or returning from hiatus. Horrocks hopes the mix of fresh and familiar faces will demonstrate the depth and breadth of creative talent in Boulder County, while also underscoring the intensive labor undergirding each individual art practice.

“Making art is really hard work. The artists on this tour are constantly working on their craft, and it’s an important part of their income,” she says. “I hope people come away with a newfound appreciation for the wealth of artistic talent we have in this community.”

In the lead-up to the final two weekends of Open Studios, Boulder Weekly dropped by the spaces of three local artists for a look into their creative processes.   

Editor’s note: The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Studio #75: Shayna Larson | 520 Pleasant St.

Larson with a watercolor sketchbook in her home front-porch studio on Pleasant Street in Boulder. Credit: Jezy J. Gray.

“My daughter and I have been visiting different artists on the Open Studios tour for the last five years or so. When she was eight, we rode our bikes around on the tour, and she discovered encaustic painting. The artists were so nice, and they let her play with the wax. She was like, ‘This is what I want to paint!’ Now she’s 13, and she paints encaustic every week. I wasn’t painting either. But going around and visiting all these local artists, I thought, ‘I want to do that, too.’

Painting has been such a huge part of getting me through the last few years of the pandemic. COVID didn’t exist in my little studio. I was just in here painting, and the world was OK. So if I could inspire somebody else, that would be wonderful.

My latest series uses pigments made from rocks that I find on hikes behind my house. They look like every rock you might step on when you’re hiking. The key is: When you find one, if you scratch it on another and it makes a mark, you can make paint. It’s labor intensive, but it’s really meditative. 

I hope people come out and support local artists during Open Studios, but I also hope they might pick up a brush or take a pottery class. There are so many different ways to be creative, and Boulder has a lot of creative people.”  

Studio #27: Pete Wysong | 1732 Quince Ave.

Wysong shows off an unfinished rhino sculpture at his home ceramics studio in North Boulder. Credit: Jezy J. Gray.

“Raku is a 500-year-old Japanese ceramics technique. It’s very organic and random. I have a kiln outside that I heat up to about 1,800 degrees, which takes about an hour. I put on a mask and Kevlar gloves to open the kiln door. (I have a fire suit, but that’s another story.) I reach in with tongs and I grab it when it’s glowing red hot. I pull it out, and if I can manage not to drop it, I’ll put it into a trash can full of straw or sawdust. So it catches on fire and the heat and the smoke turn the clay black.

I use what’s called Terra Sigillata for glazing, which is a thin clay. It’s like liquid clay. It looks like I’m painting coffee on the piece. It’s just a super refined thin silt. Then I polish it to a shiny black.

Ceramics is mostly what I do. But I’m learning how to weld and I’ve started incorporating that, too. I also do pastels and watercolors when I have summers off from teaching middle school art. 

I love Open Studios because I get to meet people. I get to talk about art and educate people about this whole process. Because so many people are unfamiliar with how to get to this point. I remember bringing medicine cabinets and I made and painted into my classroom — very simple woodwork. And one of my students was like, ‘You made that?’ And I was like, ‘Well, yeah. People make stuff! You know, that’s how it works. You can go buy it at the store — but somebody made it.” 

Studio #50: Fuki Funakoshi | 2810 Wilderness Place (Unit C)

Funakoshi gestures toward a selection of paintings inside her Wilderness Place studio, which she shares with other local artists. Credit: Jezy J. Gray.

I’m originally a graphic designer, so I do a lot of logo creations for websites. But I’ve always loved drawing. I do it for a job, but I also just like creation. Then I made a decision to try something new, back when I was living in Japan. I started doing character creation on my own, and I opened an online store in the early 2000s to sell my original goods and characters.

Open Studios lets me meet more new people who are seeing my art for the first time. And I get to teach kids some anime character stuff that not many other artists are doing. It’s a great opportunity for me to introduce myself to people. 

Art needs to come from an original place, even if we borrow some idea from another person. But every character needs to be very special. It can’t be close to any other thing. It needs to be very original, and kids are very good about that. Often better than adults. 

I want to stock my memory with something other than photographs. There are many great photographers, but I want to make some original way to keep that experience. Even fantasy, I want to keep it in my mind. It’s hard to remember with just a photo. I want air, movement, feeling. I don’t need it to be perfect.” 

ON VIEW: More than 150 artist studios across Boulder County are open to the public, Oct. 8-9 and 15-16, with individual works from each artist on display at the Museum of Boulder through Oct. 18. Full studio map here.

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