Crafts of Colrain to hold 16th annual tour

  • Peggy Davis will be showing her calligraphy and art and her husband’€™s, Joe Kurland, nature photographs. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Al Ladd and Marilyn Beal of Colrain will be showing their crafts this weekend. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2019 11:47:58 AM
Modified: 11/7/2019 11:47:47 AM

The deep brown siding of a two-story barn in Colrain hides the flurry of activity inside. Amidst wood dust and intricate geometry of seemingly haphazard stacks of wood, Al Ladd and his partner of three decades, Marilyn Beal, create intricate woodworking designs that end up as bookmarks and high-end jewelry boxes. Upstairs, Beal dyes and crafts silk scarves in an adjoining fiber studio.

This weekend, Beal and Ladd will open the barn’s doors to the public. The duo is one of a few artisan couples who will display their work during the 16th annual Crafts of Colrain, a self-guided studio tour that will take place this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In total, the tour highlights 16 local artisans whose work ranges from handwoven baskets to paintings, fiber arts to pottery and jewelry to unique lighting fixtures.

For artists like Beal and Ladd, the tour is a chance to invite viewers into their workspace and share the more personal aspects of their work — such as how they got into art in the first place.

“I was like a woodworking monk,” Ladd recalled, remembering how, in the early days, he lived at his parent’s house in Worcester and spent 90 hours a week laboring in a nearby factory-turned studio.​ He began woodworking after college without prior experience and quickly immersed himself.  At the Worcester studio, Ladd met Beal, the weaver down the hall, in 1982. Five years later, the pair moved to Colrain. For a number of years, Ladd worked in the woodshop full-time and Beal worked in human services until 1996, when she joined Ladd as a fulltime artist.

Beal, who worked in fiber for decades, began crafting and dyeing silk scarves in anticipation of the foot traffic from Crafts of Colrain. These days, she uses natural dyes, like walnut and sumac, to transfer color onto the silk. Natural dyes are synonymous with an adventure in color, Beal said. While she knows that sumac leaves yield a yellow color and its bark, an orange, Beal says the technique is much less precise than industrial dyes.   

“It’s a lot of testing, experimenting and keeping my fingers crossed,” Beal said.

Peggy Davis and Joe Kurland

Tucked in another corner of Colrain, Peggy Davis and her husband, Joe Kurland, are another couple who will be highlighted in the tour. The two artists began making art before the advent of the internet. Along the way, digital tools have found their way into the work of both artists. It has been a source of

The pair met in 1985 at Klez Kamp, a program and workshop focused on Yiddish language and folklore. At the time, Davis worked in Minneapolis creating English and Hebrew calligraphy pieces by commission. Kurland’s artistic work spans various genres including photography. They married in 1988 and moved to Leverett, later relocating to Colrain in 1991.

As computers became more popular, Kurland’s understanding of technology melded with Davis’ art. For example, Kurland created a font from Davis’ Hebrew calligraphy. She began mixing hand-printed letters with digital designs, and creating illustrations and digitally place words around them.

Their relationship has enhanced both of their art.


For Ladd and Beal, the key to making their professional and personal relationship work — they both agreed half-jokingly — was to have a part-time employee, so “it wasn’t just the two of us, 24/7,” Ladd said. After they both began working as full-time artists, “We basically dropped out of the American economy.”

That artisan lifestyle “has given us a lot of flexibility,” Beal said, noting that making their own schedules has allowed them to pursue other interests simultaneously, such as gardening.

Ladd and Beal are two of a few full-time artists that will be highlighted on this weekend’s studio tour. To prepare, Ladd says he has created a number of items that were not previously in his repertoires, such as bookmarks and pillboxes.

For part-time artisans, the yearly exposure blooms creativity, Ladd said, adding that he’s observed “their artistic license has really flowered in their participation in Crafts of Colrain.” The annual tour has been a boon for the town’s artistic talent.

“We have collectively gotten better,” Ladd said. Beal described it as “a great incubator for people to learn their craft.”

Reach Maureen O’Reilly at or at 413-772-0261, ext.

How to connect

More information can be found at and on the organization’s Facebook page: Crafts of Colrain Studio Tour. Other artists include Justin and Evan Morrell, metalsmiths; fiber artist Carol Adams; Eugenia Sherer, a decorative painter; Jennifer Kapitulik of Rag Hill Farm; rug hooking by Liziana Creations; Moonshine Designs by Keldaby Farm; wood and mixed media by Kevin French; fiber art by Lynn Fisher; Bob Olsen, a pastel artist; jewelry and photography by Helen Olson; Inga Jockers, jewelry; art by Jim and Jill Lyons of Winterberry Farm; baskets and jewelry by Sarah Schoedel; potter Cliff Daniels; and woodworker Ken Noyes.

For a full schedule and directions to each of the exhibits, visit

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