By Deb Everts

It’s back! On May 18 and 19, the Routes to Art Studio Tour is returning to Cattaraugus County.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Saturday and Sunday, art lovers will have the opportunity to visit the studios and hubs of participating artists and artisans throughout the county where they will see the artists at work.

This self-guided tour will take visitors on a road trip throughout the picturesque countryside to the artists’ studios and hubs in Cattaraugus, Little Valley, Ellicottville, Salamanca, Olean, West Valley, Gowanda, Franklinville and Irving. 

Tina Hastings, executive director of the Tri-County Arts Council, said the Routes to Art Studio Tour began in 2008 and took place annually until 2014.

The arts council and its artists took a hiatus from Routes to Art after the 2014 studio tour, she explained, but it was always with the intention to return to the event. According to Hastings, community members have been asking for the return of the event every year since. 

“We had planned to bring the event back for our 20th anniversary last year, but we had to postpone until this year,” she said. “We’re really hopeful that the event will be well received.”

Hastings said they hope to build the event up again. There are13 participating artists this year, but the arts council would love to have more artists join in the future. She said Tri-County Arts is here to help promote artists, so the more who want to join in the better.

“Many arts events give artists an opportunity to display their work, but studio tours like Routes to Art give the community and visitors to our county the unique opportunity to visit the place where artists spend so much of their time creating their work,” she said. “These studios are full of creativity, and give guests a chance to really connect with artists, and to ask questions they might not when they just attend a festival booth. Plus, this is a great chance to begin to build a collection of work from your favorite artists.”

NEW ARTIST Eric Holbein said Cattaraugus County is a gorgeous part of the state to wander around this time of year. He said it’s a great time to get out and see the artists in their studios and native environments.

“I think the art studio tour is a great thing,” he said. “We’ll be part of reviving something. It’ll be fun and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Holbein, a ceramic artist, said he’s been doing pottery for about 12 years and his focus is on beautiful, functional art. He started the age-old tradition while studying as an art major at Houghton College. Holbein said he fell in love with ceramics when he took a class in his senior year and he’s been doing it ever since.

“I’ve always worked a lot with my hands doing landscaping, masonry and carpentry, so ceramics was a unique direction for me. I’m very hands-on so the tactile, 3-D nature of clay really clicked with me,” he said. “I like the whole process of building kilns and firing because it’s really intriguing to me.”

Hailing from the Rochester area, Holbein said he learned how to paint with oils when he was 16. After receiving an associates degree in graphic design from Finger Lakes Community College, he decided to get back into a more fundamental education and traditional arts at Houghton.

Prior to settling in Cattaraugus, Holbein and his wife lived in Corning and East Africa working with an organization, so he’s been kind of setting up different shops and studios all over the world. 

Holbein’s current studio, New Albion Clayworks, is located on his wife’s family farm, just outside the village of Cattaraugus. He lives with his wife, Maria, and two-year old daughter, Illa. The couple is expecting a baby boy in July.

“The property was a dairy farm back in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s currently not a working dairy and we’re raising beef cows now, but it’s still somewhat of a functional farm,” he said. “I converted the old milk parlor into a studio where I’ve worked for a couple of years.”

To find out more about Holbein and his ceramic art, visit 

The event is free, plus each artist will have a raffle box for guests to enter to win one of two baskets of artwork donated by many of the participating artists. The more artists people visit, the more chances they’ll have to win.

Along with Holbein, new this year are John Balacki, watercolors, From the Good Earth, 310 King St., Olean, and Pauline Hoffmann, Ph.D., Wild Mountain Botanicals LLC, 7382 Route 16, Franklinville.

Other participating artists include Thomas Militello, glass art, Comet Creations, 10527 Maltbie Road, Gowanda; Judson Brown, fine art, 9969 Burns Hill Road, West Valley; Penelope S. Minner, Seneca-Iroquois basket making and crafts, Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, 82 W. Hetzel St., Salamanca; Jon Ann Capasso, Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, 82 W. Hetzel St., Salamanca; Mary Jacobs, beadwork and embroidery, Stanley “Sully” Huff Heritage Center, 12857 Route 438, Irving; Robin Zefers Clark, watercolors, Brookside Studio, 8363 Maples Road, Little Valley; Eileen Weishan, sewing, embroidery and beading, exhibiting at Brookside Studio, 8363 Maples Road, Little Valley; Michael R. Weishan, photography, exhibiting at Brookside Studio, 8363 Maples Road, Little Valley; Elliot Hutton, pottery, Hog-Shed Studio Pottery, 8420 Otto-Maples Road, Little Valley; Keith McKale, wood carving, Ellicottville Memorial Library, 6499 Maples Road, Ellicottville.

Look for the purple signs in the area. Find a map of artists’ locations and restaurant sponsors on the Tri-County Arts website,