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The Gift Behind the Gifts

Meet the community of makers behind your holiday shopping during the 21st Annual Open Studios at The Mill at Shady Lea

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Reflect on your holiday shopping. Maybe you’ve bought jewelry. Some pottery. A photo or painting. Did you meet the person who created it – and watch as they demonstrated how they do it? Probably not. You could fight lines again at a big-box store this season, but the 21st Annual Open Studios at The Mill at Shady Lea offers a special opportunity. The historic space in North Kingstown, which serves as a creative haven for over 40 artists of varying mediums, invites visitors on December 1 and 2 to meet the makers in their studios, view demonstrations of their craft, and finish your holiday shopping with a flourish.

Open Studios began as a party, essentially. Neighbors surrounding the Mill were curious about what was going on there, and artists were delighted to showcase their passions and knowledge. While they were welcomed with snacks and conversation, neighbors asked if they could buy some of the artists’ work. Since that first party, Open Studios has become a two-day celebration of a creative, talented community and the art it produces. There’s music, food, and drink, including a gourmet food truck, and presentations from participating artists. While the event is free, the Mill encourages visitors to provide canned goods for the North Kingstown Food Bank.

“There’s a community there,” says Director Lynn Krim, and it’s a distinct and diverse one. “They work together. They get jobs for one another. They share their successes and their failures. It’s just a wonderful group of people.”

Krim says the artists thrive on that inclusive nature and it’s why Open Studios is so different. From glassblowers like the nationally recognized Anchor Bend Team to clothing dyed from flowers by textile artisan Diane Harrison, the Mill provides a welcoming space for imaginative minds within any medium to collaborate and inspire one another. “Writers, potters, jewelers, antique clock fixers and builders, cartoonists and illustrators, graphic artists, weavers, fiber arts, it just goes on and on,” lists Krim. “That’s why Open Studios is such fun.”

Visitors receive a map of the Mill with information on demonstrations, like this year’s special feature by sculptor Elizabeth Lind. Both new and seasoned makers will be highlighted. “There’s nothing like it,” shares Krim, “because they're not just there selling their wares. They’re telling you who they are and what they're doing with their life.”