Three New England States in One Day

Date of Trip April 22 / Newsletter June 11, 2021

Aerial view of Harrisville, New Hampshire

Road Trip with my friend Grant Drumheller

Several weeks have passed since my one-day road trip to southern New Hampshire and Vermont with my friend, the artist Grant Drumheller. Grant had suggested the trip with the goal of visiting Harrisville Designs, a very special yarn store in the historic village of Harrisville, New Hampshire. Beside being a wonderful painter, Grant is a superb knitter and uses his knowledge of color and design to create beautiful garments for his wife and daughters. Even Fanny, his Jack Russell pup benefits — she proudly sported an intricate cable sweater this past winter. More about Harrisville further on in this newsletter.

To make a day of it, my goal was to visit some artists along the way. Steady conversation made Route 101 West zip by. Beyond Manchester, I let the GPS navigate us to Newbury, New Hampshire where ceramic artist David Ernster lives. When I first visited David over a dozen years ago, the final miles were on dirt roads. Pavement has now reached his home, although his surroundings remain rural, wooded with views of nearby hills. 

David is a maker, a builder, an artist. His house, studio, and kilns were all made by his hand. He grew up in the upper midwest along the Mississippi River and came to New Hampshire after receiving an MFA in ceramics from West Virginia University in 1989. Since then, he has worked professionally as a potter, goldsmith, independent studio artist and educator.

His studio, show room and storage area are filled with his work and include both functional and sculptural pieces. He constantly explores new forms and glazes that range from simple thrown cups and mugs to large, slab-built sculptures. We oohed and aahed over his yellow glazes, but then the new sapphire blue and rich reds caught our eye. Grant commented that David applies his glazes and decorative drawn lines much like a painter. Needless to say, we both came away with a few purchases.

David is an active member of The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and often demonstrates at the annual Sunapee Fair that will run this year from August 7th through the 15th. I encourage you to visit David’s website, where he also invites you to visit his studio.

So many beautiful ceramics to look at.

Studio Visits Build an Appetite

The Restaurant at Burdick’s in Walpole, New Hampshire.

From Newbury we continued west to Walpole – our destination being lunch at Burdick’s. You are still in New Hampshire, but the atmosphere and menu will transport you to France and a gourmet bistro. Many travelers make the restaurant their sole destination as I have done on numerous occasions.

One is also apt to spot Ken Burns eating lunch at the counter, as he is a silent co-owner of the restaurant and has lived in Walpole since 1979. We both enjoyed cups of French Onion soup and shared Ken Burn’s signature salad with salmon. A stop after lunch in the Burdick’s chocolate shop next door is always rewarding.

Read more about Ken Burns and Burdick’s Here

We crossed over the Connecticut River into Vermont. New Hampshire and Vermont, often referred to as twin states, could not be more different. Vermont is considered a separate and unique continent and indeed, it actually is. For those who might be interested in the fascinating geography of the two states this article explains it well.

Duncan Johnson and the Art of Reclaimed Wood

 Artist Duncan Johnson is a part of the revival. He has restored and converted an industrial building into his studio, gallery and living space. The building is spacious with huge windows looking over the canal that runs through the downtown.

Duncan uses discarded wood gathered from Vermont construction sites and landfills to create his “dimensional” paintings. The work has aspects of sculpture, drawing and painting and it references his interest in quilting and architecture. He prepares his palette by sanding and seaming pieces of wood and arranges them neatly for easy access.

Grant and I both expressed our admiration for the work and Grant couldn’t help having “studio envy” for the beautiful space, large work-tables, cutting and nailing tools, air filtration units, storage racks and well-lit exhibition walls. Duncan is currently working on new pieces for an exhibition this summer at the Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown. Duncan’s web site.

With no other confirmed appointments, we headed east in the direction of home, but with the intention of stopping at Harrisville Designs.

Duncan with his tools
Admiring work and storage space