Is a steady downpour putting a damper on your camping vacation? You can always create your own workshop at BluSeed Studios.
BluSeed Studios is located on Cedar Street, which is just off of Broadway as you head out of Saranac Lake toward Paul Smiths. I discovered it a few years ago, shortly after I moved to the area and became the arts and entertainment reporter for the region. BluSeed artistic director Carol Vossler and information coordinator Michelle Hannon welcomed me to the role and gave me a tour of the building. I was hooked.
Within the building's corrugated blue facade I discovered a place that's as ingrained in the community as the mountains themselves. Not only does BluSeed host artists from around the world, it also encourages others to become artists by hosting a variety of workshops.
"The workshops support our mission to give artists the opportunity to experiment, diverge, exhibit, and perform; to move ideas and aesthetics forward; and to share this diversity with the community," Michelle said. "The workshops go right along with that mission."
During the colder months there are a number of regular workshops on BluSeed's calendar, like print making and ceramics. Large studios on the ground floor of the building are dedicated to those practices. They're wildly popular, and tend to fill up quickly.
But since summer is a glorious yet fleeting season in the mountains, the workshop schedule thins during the warmer months to make room for the Design Your Own Workshop program. Participants can try things like pottery, paper making, pulp painting, book arts, enameling, print making, or encaustic painting. The best part is the classes can be arranged on relatively short notice, making them a unique option for when the weather forecast isn't looking sunny.
"Basically, we can take groups from one to anything that's reasonable," Michelle said. "It appeals to a wide range of people because it's really tailored to suit your desires and capabilities. Call us up and tell us what you're interested in learning. Just give us 24 hours notice to get ready."
I received a paper making tutorial last summer that was a particularly interesting endeavor. Old cotton clothes are cut into strips and beaten to a pulp, and the fibers are used to make the finished product. Sometimes plant matter is also mixed in with the cotton.
When I sat in on the workshop, the instructors were making paper out of Eurasian watermilfoil — an invasive aquatic plant that's been found in some Adirondack waterbodies — to raise awareness on how to safeguard against transporting the persistent vegetation to other lakes and ponds.
The finished product was a sturdy, greenish-colored paper that would make an interesting canvas for drawing, painting, printing, or writing.
"You know, even if it isn't raining out, paper making is a great outdoors activity," Michelle said. "It's a wet activity and you create a great product. I've seen seniors do it and young kids do it. It's so much fun."
Even if you don't have time to take a workshop, BluSeed is worth a visit. They regularly host events and bands, and there's always interesting artwork in the gallery. The Abstraction show — a collecttion of abstract paintings and sculptures by 48 different artists — is up until July 16, and then a reception for the Materials to Masterpieces show will follow on July 29. That show will be comprised of works by people who have taught art workshops at BluSeed and will run through Sept. 10.