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Follow the Blue Arrows to Lydia Pinkham’s 14th Open Studios

by Joey Phoenix

For the last 14 years, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Lydia Pinkham Building in Lynn has hosted their annual open studios. Last year, nearly 2,000 people filtered in through the Western Avenue doors to check out the wares produced by dozens of working artists and see them in action.

This year, the weekend of November 23 and 24th, the open studios are happening again, featuring 55+ artists and craftspeople, artist demos, and the brand new onsite restaurant, Uncommon Feasts. 

The event is free to the public and gives residents and visitors the opportunity to engage with artists, purchase their work, and discover the stories behind our latest creations. 

The Lydia Pinkham Building and Studios are a sprawling indoor space spread out over three floors. With so many spaces to wander through, and with not all businesses in the building participating in the event, how will patrons know where to go? 

“Just follow the blue arrows,” The Clay School owner Kirsten Bassion says. “They will help you get where you need to go.”

Some of the mediums represented this year include potters and ceramicists like the Clay School and Gina Chase, wood and leather workers like Emporium Custom Leathers and East Coast Artistry, jewelry makers like Ravenstone, painters like Bobbie Bush Portrait Artist and Freda Nemirovsky Studio to name a few. 

One of the most interesting parts of open studios, apart from the bit where visitors can bring home unique pieces of art made by local craftspeople, is the opportunity to see artists at work, to see their process. 

“I think people coming in and seeing the process excites them, makes the objects more important,” Kirsten says. “and they get to meet the artists.” 

One of the reason this is exciting is because people aren’t taking a back seat in their artistic experiences anymore. More than ever, people are wanting to understand how things come to be, and sometimes, even take part in creating it themselves. 

“There’s a whole movement right now where people are getting tired of looking at computer screens, they’re going back to being makers. It’s like a deep-seated biological need.” 

The Clay School and Lydia Pinkham Studios Early Days 

The open studios at Lydia Pinkham first came to be out of necessity. The Clay School, located on the third floor at the back of the building, was notoriously hard to find. What better way to acquaint people with the new space than by throwing a party?

“One of the reasons we started open studios was not just to showcase the school, but to give any of the artists here who have been trying clay and working with clay a little while the opportunity to sell,” Kirsten Bassion explains. 

In the beginning, the Lydia Pinkham Building was just the Clay School, a handful of artists, and a bunch of other quirky businesses who rented space there. Now, the studios have grown to encompass more than 60 working artists in 30 different studios and continues to grow. 

“We started the open studios as the Clay school’s Open Studios,” Kirsten recalls, “and as it got more popular we thought, well we’re bringing all these people to see the pottery studio, we might as well let all the artists benefit from all of our hard work.” 

And the open studios and the Lydia Pinkham artist community continued to grow. 

One of the participants of this year’s open studios, Couture Planet, has been at Lydia Pinkham for nine years. “We’ve watched the building grow, it’s a great community here, it’s a good feeling place,” says co-owner Kathy Cormier. 

“It’s been good because I have my own space,” says Luna Sweets executive baker Patricia Francis, who’s been at Lydia Pinkham for a year. “I was in a shared kitchen before so now I can use specific areas for specific things. I also get to interact with people who are also in the building, I feel like I’m part of a community.”

Demos and Hands-on Open Studios Opportunities

Digs Enamels is next door to the Clay School on the third floor. Shared by Kate Luchini and Tim Hansen, Digs Enamels produces work using the ancient art of enamel, but with a more modern spin. For this year’s open studios, Tim and Kate plan to host a demo showing off what enamel work actually is. 

“Everyone thinks enameling is ceramics, and it’s not,” Tim says. “So we’ll be doing a demo of what it is during the open series, as a sort of teaser to our upcoming workshop series starting in January.” 

Digs Enamels isn’t the only studio offering demonstrations during open studios. 

Sharon Santilllo from Family stories through art will be hosting a Collage and Writing Workshops, and showing off the museum of the world’s smallest pencils. Brad Alderman will be hosting piano classes and demos. 

An artist new to the building, Photographer Patricia Scialo, will be teaching visitors how to make a pinhole camera and talking about pinhole photography, and showing examples of handmade cardboard cameras. And Jessica Bradbury of Emporium Leather will be hosting “Ask a Leathersmith,” encouraging guests to bring her any question you’ve ever wanted to know about leatherwork. 

The Clay School will also be hosting wheel-throwing demos and there will be many more unlisted demos happening the weekend of the event. 

Lynn Open Studios will take place on November 23-24 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. The event is sponsored by the Lynn Cultural Council, Lucia Lighting, RCG Properties,

Marblehead Bank, and the Lynn Housing Authority. For more info, go to the open studios website at https://www.lydiapinkhamopenstudios.com/ 


Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable llamas, feel free to send them a message at joeyphoenix@creativecollectivema.com


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