The regular three-day tour of participating artists’ private studios on the 2020 Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some of the artisans are welcoming visitors for a modified tour experience this Friday through Sunday.
New artisans this year are Cindy Kopack with Whippoorwill Mountain Jewelry, Janice B. Clark with Crossed Arrows Trading Company, and Tom Weir with his bladesmithing and scrimshaw shop On the Creek. Following are segments on those artists.
By Steve Watkins
Cindy Kopack jokes that the only reason she sells the hand-crafted products of her metalsmithing is so she can keep the hobby going.
The former forest ranger said she enjoys retirement and loves her two-year hobby that much. She’ll be part of the modified 2020 Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour redesigned this year so that craft seekers may visit local crafters right in their home and commercial studios.
“I’ve always been more technology and scientifically minded,” said Kopack, a retired 36-year Forest Service veteran. “It’s so interesting to see all the things you can do with metal making it into something people can use. The only reason I sell it is to fund the hobby of making more.”
Kopack became interested in metalsmithing more than two years ago when she attended her first classes at Arkansas Craft School in Mountain View. She subsequently attended a 10-week metal-clay class at the Arkansas Arts Center and has not looked back.
Her home studio business called Whippoorwill Mountain Jewelry is filled with finely crafted earrings, bracelets, necklaces and other pieces, each one hand-crafted over time.
“When you see hand-crafted jewelry and it’s expensive, you know why,” she said. “It’s a very time-consuming process.”
He craft hobby is a “total divergence” from forestry work where the land often dictates how it is used and how solutions to its challenges are determined. The metalsmithing craft allows her a total freedom to create.
“And there is a lot of science in this too, although the metal doesn’t always do what you think it’ll do.
“I can just get lost in this,” Kopack said, explaining the addictive nature of her hobby. “...and you’d think I was a pyromaniac as much fire as I use.
“This is so good for me because I’m a perfectionist, and this is a kind of work where whatever you produce is never really going to be perfect.”
The studio tour is scheduled this year for Sept. 18-20. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 870-213-8000 to make an appointment.
By Lori Freeze
Always artistic by nature, Janice Clark’s interest in leather work was sparked during time she spent out west in a “mountain man atmosphere.” She bought what she needed to begin and took her first creations to a rendezvous event and was more successful than she ever imagined. After returning to the south, she started making more traditional items such as guitar straps. In Arkansas, she began doing craft shows and found the Ozark Folk Center State Park while searching for shows online. She started working part-time and by the third season was the primary leather crafter.
Inspired by nature, a popular creation of hers is a leaf-shaped hair bun holder based on a leaf she gathered in the Craft Village. She also makes smaller leaf pins, and earrings of various designs, including feathers, embellished with stamping and/or engraving.
Stamps for letters and symbols enable youngsters to create personalized bracelets. A section of leather pinched and secured at select spots forms a crude but recognizable bull shape, which she cannot resist dressing up with bits of fur or other additions.
Clark observes trends displayed by visitors and also creates products based on specific requests for features of purses, messenger bags and drawstring bags. An idea for a sturdy flyswatter resulted in a popular gift item that visitors buy for family members and house-sitters.
Her product line also includes tooled belts, wrist cuffs and wine bottle hangers, as well as Bible and journal covers, dog collars and more.
“I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands and expressing myself creatively,” she said.
By Lori Freeze
During his early years on a farm in northeast Arkansas, Tom Weir fell in love with the Ozarks during Sunday trips with his family. As an adult, he worked in a corporate atmosphere in cities such as Detroit and Atlanta and always carried an anvil with him, fostering a dream to return one day and pursue bladesmithing. Now, his well-traveled anvil has found a permanent home in Stone County, where he has been since 2004.
Weir began at the Ozark Folk Center State Park as blacksmith, and knifemaker Jack Thomas became a mentor who also encouraged him in the art of scrimshaw to decorate powder horns. He said he had made knives before, but Thomas helped him elevate his craft. Two years later he had lost his friend and mentor and was asked to assume the position of bladesmith.
“It was cooler in here,” Weir joked about the decision to move from the fiery forge to an indoor workbench. He said he continues to learn things every day, and he enjoys teaching others during classes offered at the park.
“I’m not afraid to tell someone everything I know,” he said, adding that he won’t be around forever and he wants to see the skills carried on.
He makes only fixed-blade knives, noting that folding knives require precision that can only be obtained with expensive equipment. All knives are unique, and the most popular models are skinners with 4-inch blades formed of 1095 high carbon steel or Damascus billets. His handles are created from wood such as curly maple, or from deer antler.
“I used to make just knives that I like, then I realized I’d sell more if I’d make what other people like, too,” he said with a laugh.
Weir’s knives are intended for use and he has no interest in making blades that are so fancy they will just sit in a shadow box. But that’s not to say they are not beautiful. A bit of file work on the back of a blade, chemical etching to bring out the Damascus pattern, and a finish that brings out the various grain patterns in a wood such as curly maple can achieve dramatic effect. Weir names each creation and makes his own sheaths. He has made 40 knives so far this year.
Clark will be at the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village on Friday and Saturday at the Leather Shop. Her private studio will not be open.
Weir will be in his shop at the Ozark Folk Center on Friday and Saturday. His private studio will not be open.
Other Studio Tour artisans who will be the state park’s Craft Village this weekend are jewelry makers Linda and Charles Widmer, copper colorists Skip and Rachael Matthews, broom maker Shawn Hoefer, and potter John Perry.
Ozark Folk Center hours on Friday and Saturday are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park will not be open Sunday. There are 19 shops in the Craft Village, including those involving Studio Tour artisans. Admission to the Craft Village is $12 and entrance currently is through the administration building across from The Skillet Restaurant.
The following artisans are available for private studio visits during the weekend:
• Judi Munn will be in her private studio all weekend, where she creates artwork and sculptures. The studio is located at 9400 Green Mountain Road off Highway 5 North. Call (870) 585-2308 for information or directions. Appointments are not necessary.
• The Mountain View studio of potters David and Becki Dahlstedt is open during the weekend and throughout the year by appointment. Call Becki at 870-615-4825 to arrange a visit.
• Fiber artist Jeanette Larson of Havencroft Farm on Highway 66 just west of Mountain View will conduct private tours of the farm by appointment only. Message Jeanette on the Havencroft Farm Facebook page to arrange appointment times for Sept. 18-20. The farm gate will be closed to those without appointments.
• Painter Loretta Babak will be available in her Herpel Road studio for private tours by appointment. Contact her at 870-269-5732.
• Joe Bruhin’s wood fire pottery studio will be open during the weekend and throughout the year, with or without an appointment. It is located at 3253 Red River Road south of Fox. 870-363-4264.
• Maria Smith of Bear Pen Beads near Fox will be open by appointment on the weekend. Call 870-213-1681 or e-mail email@example.com.
• Encaustic artist La’Nelle Gambrell of the Fox area is offering gallery tours by appointment. Call for more information, 870-746-4146.
• Beadmakers Tom and Sage Holland will open to visitors at the Meadowcreek Center southwest of Fox. Take Highway 66 west out of Mountain View for 13.9 miles to Highway 263 (on the other side of Timbo). Turn left on Highway 263 and continue 7.6 miles to Fox. Turn right on Meadow Creek Rd. and continue for 3.1 miles past the “T” junction on Meadow Creek Road where the pavement ends. At the bottom of a steep hill take a left to stay on Meadow Creek Road. Pass a red barn. Stay left at the fork. Soon you will see a large stone triangle where you take a left and go up a small hill to the Education Center of the Meadow Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.
• Mahdee and Peggy Rais-Dana’s studio near Mt. Pleasant is open year-round on Saturday and Sunday by appointment from 8 am to 2 pm. Contact Mahdee at 501-246-0740 or Peggy at 870-260-9286.
• Stained Glass artist Claire Cresto will be open on the tour weekend by appointment only at Spider’s Web Studio near Calico Rock. Call her to make an appointment at 870-291-0659.
In addition, metal artist and jewelry maker Pam Alexander will be visiting Liz’s Place in Mountain View where some of her work will be available. Liz’s Place is located at 417 Sylamore Ave. and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Wearing masks and practicing social distancing applies to all studio visits.