Story by Sarah Ruppenthal
Once a year, Mike Worcester ties a bouquet of balloons to the mailbox fronting his family’s glassblowing studio/gallery in Kula. Beside a glowing furnace heated to 2,000 degrees, he sets out the tools of his trade, flanked by a tray of refreshments.
A few miles away, oil painter George Allan is making similar preparations in the bright, spacious studio adjacent to his home. As he sets up an easel with a blank stretched canvas, his wife, Janet, brews a pot of hot tea and makes sure there’s plenty of seating.
The Allans and the Worcesters are part of Maui Open Studios, an annual, islandwide event that connects art lovers with Maui’s visual artists. On self-guided tours that take place over three consecutive weekends in February, visitors get a backstage pass into artists’ workspaces, observing techniques, asking questions, and getting to know the talents behind the creativity.
“Seeing the process firsthand, you come to understand the value of the pieces we create,” says Worcester. “It’s not just a visual experience; it appeals to all of the senses — you can feel the heat, hear the roar of the furnace and smell the burning blocks of wood.”
Carolyn Quan, a photographic artist who used to own a gallery in Lahaina, compares Maui Open Studios to “an artistic scavenger hunt.” She stumbled upon the concept in San Francisco, and was inspired to launch Maui Open Studios four years ago — the first of its kind in the Islands.
“The event is open to any artist who works in a visual medium,” Quan explains.
For many, Maui Open Studios is a unique opportunity to interact with the public, and perhaps make a few sales. “Even though we have a working studio that’s open on a regular basis, we’re off the beaten path,” says Worcester. “This event is great exposure for us.”
For Allan, the tours offer much more than a chance to showcase his work. “It gets a little lonely in the studio sometimes,” he says, “so I like having people to talk to.” Allan says he transitions into teaching mode, showing his guests how various paints and colors work. “It’s a mini-lesson and it’s great fun.”
This year, more than fifty local artists will open their studio doors and share their creative spaces with the public — and they’re hoping you’ll drop by. For more information, visit www.mauiopenstudios.com.