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Great Falls Studio Tour Set

Potters, jewelers and sculptors open their doors to the public.

Last summer's Great Falls Studio tour went so well that its organizer Laura Nichols decided to do it again. Only this time, Nichols plans on having the weather cooperate.

"The first time was in June of 2004 and it was the coldest, nastiest, rainiest day you've ever seen, and people still came out and said they loved it and they wanted us to do it again. So this year is going to be bright and sunny," said Nichols.

In 2003, Nichols founded Great Falls Studios, a consortium of more than 35 artists and craftspeople living and working in Great Falls. As a local potter and lifetime Great Falls resident, Nichols says she was sure that "there might be some artists lurking around in Great Falls and hiding away" like she was.

"I was interested to find out who they were, so I started calling people and I asked them if they knew people, and now we have 35 members," said Nichols.

15 of those 35 members will be participating in this Saturday's Great Falls Studios Tour, a free tour of working artists' studios throughout the community. The tour will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and maps and brochures will be available at the Great Falls Firehouse, Great Falls Hardware, individual studios and online at www.greatfallsstudios.com. There will be seven studios featured on the tour and participants include painters, photographers, potters, a jewelry maker and a builder of wood sculpture. Additional artists will be talking about their work and will have displays at the Great Falls Firehouse and the Great Falls Library. A portion of any proceeds from sales will go to support the Great Falls Firehouse Building Fund as part of a fund-raising campaign to replace the firehouse. Additionally, anyone who visits at least one studio will be entitled to a reduced-cost pre-fix lunch at The Old Brogue.

"The tour provides a day of fun, enabling our friends and neighbors, as well as art lovers from across the Washington area, to see a side of the local art scene that is otherwise hidden," said Nichols. "Visiting the studios is a lot like going on a house or garden tour, but with an additional benefit. Not only can you meet artists and look at great art produced right here in Great Falls, but you can shop for unique and wonderful creative pieces."

Nichols' studio is located on Hidden Springs Farm, where Nichols raises chickens. She sells the eggs through Great Falls Hardware.

Photographer Michael McDermott lives on Hidden Springs Farm as well, as he rents his house and studio from Nichols.

"I take care of her chickens when she is out of town," said McDermott.

McDermott is participating in the tour for the first time this year. As a photographer, McDermott does not have a regular portrait studio with his work on display, but he plans to be on hand to guide visitors through his digital network to show them how he goes thorough his creative process.

"I do a lot of animal shots, nature shots and informal portraits," said McDermott. "I tend to shy away from formal photography."

Wood sculptor Jonathan Fisher is also a first-time participant in the studio tour.

"This is a new thing and I don't think it's very common," said Fisher in reference to the studio tour. "Garden tours and house tours are more common, but I think it's interesting to see how artists work ... these places are generally not open to the public, so it's a good chance to get in and see them."

Fisher's studio is in a small out-building on his property, and Fisher plans to display both his pieces and the tools he uses to make them.

"I make a lot of abstract very graphic pieces that are designed to go on a wall, and I use mostly primary colors," he said.