DSC_7679-CANNISTERSby Jennie Acklin

We are fortunate to live in an area where driving is a pleasure this time of year. There is no rush hour, no honking horns, and only an occasional traffic light or stop sign. The scenic hillsides are just waiting for their first dusting of snow. No malls, no crowds, just a quiet afternoon drive. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Then why not spend an afternoon on a relaxing drive to East Otto Country where the East Otto Country Associates are hosting their 27th annual Holiday Open House on Nov. 2–3. This group of talented artists will welcome visitors to their studios 10 a.m.–5 p.m. each day.

The group is comprised of artist members Elliott and Michael Hutten of Hog-Shed Studio Pottery, Robyn Zephyrs-Clark of Brookside Studio Watercolors and, new for this year, local artist Barbara Fox of the Mill Street Gallery.

Hog-Shed Studio Pottery marks their 31st year of working with clay to produce lead-free, functional stoneware pottery that is safe for the dishwasher, microwave and oven. If you’re wondering about the name, well, it is what it sounds like, or it was at one point, a hog barn. Elliott and Michael live on a quaint farm in East Otto and have turned one of the old barns into the most charming artists’ studio around.

Once you’ve parked your vehicle, you walk down a winding walkway past gardens and barn wood buildings, to the front door of the studio. First entering the working pottery studio, you are in for a real experience to watch Elliott turn a solid mound of clay into a finely crafted finished piece. Hog-Shed specializes in high-fired stoneware clay including functional and decorative pieces like mugs, bowls, casseroles, teapots, plates, vases and more. Elliott uses simple tools, a slab roller and potter’s wheel to make her professionally crafted pieces.

According to Michael, “We don’t use toxic materials in our glazes or in our clay, and our products are very functional and durable.”

Just off the working studio, is the gallery showroom, so full of shapely and colorful pieces, you’ll be intrigued by each different collection of pottery. Elliott has special color patterns, such as Oneida oak, October jade, gypsy green just to name a few, and you can add to your own collection year after year.

Elliott said, “Many of our customers have become good friends throughout the years, so I look forward to each Holiday Open House as a chance to see old friends and make new ones. I am constantly amazed at how many people return year after year to add to their pottery collections and purchase gifts for others.”

You can contact Elliott and Michael at (716) 257-9549, or visit www.eastotto.com for directions to the studio, which is located at 8420 Maples Rd., (CR #13), Otto, N.Y.

Make a stop at Brookside Studio Watercolors where Robin Zefers Clark tells stories with her brushes when she creates original watercolor paintings, portraits and commissioned works. She also sells limited edition prints, reproductions, and note cards.

Robin’s favorite subjects reflect rural life in the region and include local farms and landscapes, as well as “interesting faces and places.” Some of her chosen subject matter has a dry sense of humor, such as “Recess,” a group of dairy cows around the water trough.

Her “Grandcester” paintings are a wonderful way to preserve beloved old photos. Robin has a magical way of breathing life into a treasured photo or image by transforming it into an original watercolor painting that is sure to become a prized family heirloom.

Robin and her husband Tom built the studio building in 1989. The setting is tranquil and serene, set next to a lovely landscaped pond, with their home on the opposite side. Contact Brookside Studio at (716) 257-9790, or visit www.eastotto.com for directions to the studio, which is located at 8363 Maples Rd., (CR#13), Otto, NY.

A few more miles down the road, on Mill Street in Ellicottville, you’ll find Barbara Fox’s Mill Street Studio and Gallery. Barbara is known for her amazing, lifelike watercolors and coin face designs she has created for the U.S. Mint, and she’s added another medium to her lineup — oils.

As many artists’ do, Barbara wanted to explore a new technique to express her images. But the new medium came with a few challenges that couldn’t easily be remedied in her home studio.

Oil paints require longer drying times and require proper ventilation, which recently lead Fox to open this working studio and gallery.

“I needed a larger space to work on larger paintings. And I didn’t like the odors of oil paints and their related solvents in my home,” said Fox. “I’d painted there last year, and knew it was a pleasant and comfortable space to work, and easily accessible for visitors.”

In addition to providing a wonderful gallery space for Fox’s paintings and prints, the Mill Street Studio and Gallery provides much needed work space. Fox’s son, Trevor Brachmann, creates fantastic gemstone jewelry and displays his pieces there as well.

For more information, contact Barbara Fox at (716) 699-4145, or visit www.eastotto.com for directions to the studio, which is located at 42 Mill St., Ellicottville, NY.

At the end of the day, you’ll have explored some of the area’s finest artist studios and hopefully found some treasures or gifts you can’t live without, and had a nice drive in the country. Each studio will offer refreshments and some holiday treats, so the day couldn’t get much better than that.