After days of rain, the sun began to appear just in time for the May 7 rural artist studio tour.

Art lovers had eight stops they could make on the tour, all located in the Leo and Spencerville areas. Works to view included watercolors, pottery, photographs, candles and more.

During the tour, interested people were able to stop and talk to the artists and discuss their work.

Heather Reyna, a tour goer, said she decided to visit the studios because it gave her a break from other things she was doing and to support local artists.

“It feels more like an organic experience rather than a museum or gallery exhibit,” Reyna said. “You get a better sense of where the art comes from and how it’s made.”

Photographer Holly Heath has set up her studio in Leo to present her photographs. Heath said she knew she wanted to be a photographer since she was a little girl.

“I used to steal my mom’s camera and take pictures of the TV and whatever I got my hands on,” she said. “I took photography in high school and then got my BFA with a concentration in photography.”

Heath is a full-time photographer and said she enjoys working with other people.

“I find people quite fascinating,” she said. “You have all kinds of different people with different perspectives on life and going through different things. Most of the time I photograph families, weddings, babies and pregnancies, so I also celebrate life with some of these people.

Letting go of some of her photography is difficult for Heath, but she feels a sense of accomplishment in doing so.

“Your art is a part of you, it’s something you create and it’s part of your creativity,” Heath said. “When someone else appreciates your work, it’s a very good feeling. Some things are very hard to let go because you put so much effort, time, love, and care into them.

Beth Wright, the owner of Studio Bethshan, started creating concrete candles two years ago after finding pictures of them online.

“I was researching Pinterest for concrete countertops and pictures of concrete candles started popping up and I said I wanted to make them,” she said. “I was the editor of a craft magazine for 11 years, so I have a good background in making things and started making them.”

Wright said making concrete candles is complex and requires a lot of testing.

“Each scented oil can affect the wick differently, so you might need a different wick for one candle than for another,” she said. “It took probably three months of testing before I was ready to sell the candles.”

The candle holder, which is made of concrete, and the candles are all made by Wright from scratch.

“I add color and texture and fill (the medium) with soy wax and a wick,” Wright said.

Wright said it took 46 weeks from start to finish to make a batch of 100 concrete candles.

“You pour the concrete, then it needs to cure for about a week, and then you add a coat of sealer, which also needs to cure,” she said. “Then you add a second coat, which needs to harden. Then it has to harden after each coat of varnish on the outside, then the wax and the perfume come in and it has to harden for about two weeks.

Although she has been making art for 40 years, BJ Jordan, one half of Jordan Fine Art Jewelry, said she always tries new processes and continues to learn and grow.

“It’s trial and error,” she said. “We are self-taught jewelers.”

Jordan said he attended, on average, 10 to 12 art exhibitions per year for 40 years.

Carpenter William Steffen continued to work on his latest project, the communion cups, while the artists toured.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 13,” he said. “I was a professional luthier and got out of it when I was 19. I didn’t do any creative woodworking until 14 years ago when I picked it up, but I had forgotten almost everything I knew, so I went to YouTube and learned everything I could and broke a lot of wood.

Steffen said he joined a carpentry club and within four months was in art galleries. The longest time Steffen has spent on a piece was a month on a carved rocking chair he has inside his house.

When someone buys something that Steffen created, he says it’s the greatest achievement.

“When you have someone committing to buy something and they have the perfect place for it, it’s a totally different feeling,” he said.

Steffen said a tour such as the Rural Artist Studio Tour is an informative option for customers.

“They don’t understand much of what goes into the building process and I can show them the pieces of wood here that are all raw and show them what’s been done with it,” he said.


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