November 20, 2019

Covered Bridge Artisans Tour Draws a Loyal Following

FUSED GLASS BOTANICALS: Karen Caldwell’s unique glass pieces are among the offerings at this year’s Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour, celebrating its 25th anniversary. Studios are open throughout the Thanksgiving weekend.

By Anne Levin

When five artists in rural Bucks and Hunterdon counties decided to invite the public into their studios over Thanksgiving weekend more than two decades ago, they never imagined that it would turn into an annual tradition. But the Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour quickly caught on, becoming, for many, a much-anticipated, unofficial start to the holiday season.

“We have so many repeat customers,” said Karen Caldwell, one of the original five artists. “They come back year after year, and they have their favorites.”

Caldwell’s Sunflower Glass Studio is among the eight professional studios on this year’s Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour, being held Friday-Sunday, November 29-December 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Lambertville, Stockton, Sergeantsville, and New Hope- area spaces.  Thirteen additional artists will show their work at the Events Center in Sergeantsville, located behind the town’s firehouse.

This is the largest group yet of participating artists. In addition to Caldwell and her husband Geoff, who are located outside of Stockton, the studios of ceramicist Katherine Hackl; sculptors Dave Cann, John McDevitt, Jeanine Pennell, and Constance Bassett; painters Phoebe Wiley and Annelies van Dommelen; and fiber artist Teri Nalbone are also opening their doors.

“People can go to every location if they wish. We’re so close together that you can do that,” said Caldwell, who recalled the first tour as a way for the five women artists to market their work. “We decided back then to make it a really interesting weekend,” she said. “Most of us lived or worked in historic buildings, so besides being in beautiful countryside and making wonderful art, people could experience these great locations. That has become one of our key factors — where we live and what we make. It’s a good combination.”

Hackl’s studio, located in an old Lambertville carriage house, is a particular favorite of visitors. The spaces of sculptors McDevitt and Bassett and fiber artist Nalbone are all very different, and “exciting,” Caldwell said. “The other great thing is that this year, we had to move our multi-artist exhibition, and we ended up going to the event center, which has a much bigger space to work with. It was great because I got to invite some of my good and very talented friends to participate.”

Those participating include a wood-turner, painter, fiber artist, photographer, glass blower, jeweler, basketmaker, ceramicist, bead weaver, paper clay ceramic artist, wood carver, quilter, and hand-painted floorcloth artist. “The thing about curating a show is you get to balance it all out,” said Caldwell. “We really don’t have duplicates of anything. We might have a couple of potters and jewelers, but everything is unique.”

Many people do their holiday shopping at the show.  “Gift buying is a big part of this,” said Caldwell. “With the way our economy is, it’s really nice to buy something from somebody you know, and somebody who is local.”

Caldwell has been in the field for 42 years. She describes her most recent work as “fused glass botanicals” in which she blends two different glass forms. “People who come to the studio can see and actually understand the complexity of making a stained glass window,” she said. “Someone is working on one now of a heron.”

The tour is free and self-guided. For a printable map, GPS links, and more information, visit