Seagulls, solitude, and sunlight on water all lend themselves to a place where artistic expression is alive and well. Virginia’s Eastern Shore Artisan Trail features 120 artists and businesses spread along the 70-mile coastal peninsula.
Creativity along the trail runs the gamut, from painters, carvers, and photographers, to ice cream makers, restaurateurs, jewelry designers, and a shepherdess who creates with wool she has spun herself.
The unique surroundings of this place, which seems lost in time, have influenced artisans such as Kurt Lewin. He and his wife, Sally, are owners of Windsor House in Capeville, where he builds quality furniture and accessories from felled tree to finished product.
“The first time I built a Windsor chair, I kind of got hooked on it” Lewin said. “And, we even ended up getting a saw mill.”
Some artisans on the trail exhibit their work in downtown areas.
The At Altitude Gallery, owned by pilot and photographer Gordon Campbell and wife, Christine, offers stunning original aerial photography printed on metal panels. The studio-shop is located in a beautiful historic building in Cape Charles, where the Campbells share half the space with Moonrise Jewelry. There, Meredith Restein designs original pieces, including her signature piece, a cuff bracelet fashioned from Icelandic fish skin in a variety of appealing colors and textures.
In the next block, Lemon Tree Gallery features the work of a number of artists. It offers classes and events that include visitors, and the gallery encourages an appreciation for a variety of arts. Owner Clelia Sheppard said, “We pride ourselves that this is a living gallery that embraces the arts in an organic way.”
Jack Richardson paints in a studio attached to his Onancock gallery, which displays not only his work, but that of a number of other artists. As he dabbed paint onto a canvas he was working on, he said, “I enjoy sharing my work. We want visitors to know that what we do here is real.”
Off the beaten track
A number of the trail’s artisans have studios and workshops in their homes, and are open by appointment (contact info is on the website).
Karyn Belknap owns Ten Good Sheep in Onancock, where you can watch her spin wool and explain her craft right in her living room.
“Visiting in home studios offers visitors an opportunity to see the nuts and bolts and inspiration and, sometimes, mess that’s involved in the creative process” Belknap said. “The visitor gets an authentic experience and deeper understanding of what it takes to make the art that they’re touching.”
Carole Pierson, a Dutch painter whose home studio is tucked away in a picturesque cove in Cape Charles, welcomes visitors to see her artwork; just call first.
“I truly love to paint,” Pierson said. “I feel like I eat, smell, and breathe art, and I love to share my love for it with others.
Variety along the trail
Along with artists, shops, farms, and bed-and-breakfast lodging, trail members include such places as the Island Creamery in Chincoteague, which creates frozen desserts from local products daily, and the Great Machipongo Clam Shack in Nassawadox, serving delicious fresh seafood and produce and offering an expansive seafood market.
Those who are part of the Eastern Shore Artisan Trail have a passionate, generous spirit that offers visitors a rich experience, draws them into this warm community, and grounds them in this special place.
Before you go:
Artisan Trail: artisantrailnetwork.org
Eastern Shore Tourism: esvatourism.org