Pennsylvania is known for its rich history in American art, home to traditional and contemporary artists who showcase their craft at eclectic galleries across the state.
Cumberland County alone houses over 20 galleries and studios where community members can learn and participate in fine arts and crafts.
One hidden gem, located in the historic village of Boiling Springs, lives with a commitment to preserving American craftsmanship. The Village Artisans Gallery displays a wide selection of blown glass, pottery, turned wood, hand-woven apparel and jewelry, as well as illustrations, calligraphy and more.
“When my family moved to Boiling Springs, I became affiliated with the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (PGC), where I found my love for stained glass and developed a true appreciation for individual style,” said PJ Heyman, owner and stained glass artist.
Heyman was seeking studio space when her mother mentioned the historic 1875 brick church next door, which was for sale. Interested in the history, they decided to renovate the building to house studio spaces and a gallery.
“We started in the spring of 1995 selling 50 guild members’ work in the gallery,” Heyman said. “Now, over two decades later, we have grown to welcome around 200 artisans from across Pennsylvania and beyond.”
Along with selling fine crafts, her vision for the building included providing studio space for herself and fellow guild member Gay Foltz, a folk art carver and sculptor whose whimsical woodcarvings of cats, Santas and woodland creatures are on display.
“I met PJ through our local chapter of PGC and jumped at the opportunity of having my own studio space at her gallery,” Foltz said. “After 26 years here, I am still branching out (literally, with branches) and trying new techniques to keep my work fresh and inspiring.”
As you walk around the gallery, the “nave” is filled with work including Deborah Hershey’s collages, Royce Yoder’s pottery, Tom Laser’s turned wooden bowls and Jo Alexander’s floral and landscape mosaics, among others. Items range in price and support local master artisans in their craft.
“We want the community to feel inspired when they enter our doors and to be a place where they are able to relax and learn about different types of artform,” Heyman said.
The gallery focuses on selling pieces from local creatives. But, on occasion, Heyman will purchase items from national artists to showcase how geography can influence art.
“American handcrafts are very important as each piece is imprinted personally by the artist and made individually instead of mass-produced,” she said. “We purchase items outright from artists or offer a consignment opportunity where they can earn a percentage of each sale. Either option is keeping craftmanship alive.”
Local Carlisle resident Morgan Plant has been shopping at Village Artisans Gallery for many years and is inspired by the owner’s taste and style.
“When I get an itch for creativity, I come here,” Plant said. “My house is filled with special pieces that PJ has picked out including pottery, paintings, block prints and more. This is my go-to shop for special gifts. I want to share the experience with everyone.”
This September, Village Artisans Gallery will bring back its “Artisans Action Series”—an event series that gives the community an opportunity to meet and learn from their favorite craftsmen. This series will be part of Cumberland County’s “Best Kept Secrets Tour” and begin with jewelry artist Joan Rhodes on Thursday, Sept. 23.
We will be participating in the Cumberland County tour this fall and are welcoming a number of our artists to come into the gallery and demonstrate their craft to customers,” Heyman said. “We look forward to seeing the community again in-person.”
After celebrating the gallery’s 26th anniversary this year, Heyman looks forward to continuing to share her love for art with Cumberland County and beyond.
“I could truly fill a place 10 times this size because of all of the wonderful work out there,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to share my love for fine American crafts with our customers and featuring nice people in our gallery.”
Village Artisans Gallery is located at 321 Walnut St., Boiling Springs. For more information, visit www.villageartisansgallery.com.
To learn more about your local Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen chapter, visit www.websitepacrafts.org.
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