If you like Phil Smith’s wee little houses for wee little folk, you might want to look closer at them.
In addition to the regular wee-house door, you might spot even tinier doors etched into the side.
Because, well, perhaps those wee folk have their own wee folk.
“I think of them as novels without words,” Smith said of his clay houses. “You make up the story. What’s happening in there?”
Smith and wife Kate Smith, also a potter, are the featured artists on this year’s Alexandria Holiday Arts and Crafters Tour, during which area artisans decorate their homes for the holidays and invite the public inside to shop. It coincides with the deer hunting opener weekend. This year's tour is Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 7-9.
The tour began in 1984. While other crafters and groups also hold sales, the crafter’s tour is unique in that homes are selected to participate.
The Smiths moved to the Alexandria area two years ago from Minneapolis, where they worked closely with the busy Northern Clay Center. They were also considering Lanesboro, but chose Alexandria because the location appealed to them. It was so quiet they could hear the wind in the trees, with a studio separate from the house, and not far from Carlos State Park.
They also wanted a vacation destination, so that summer visitors would be drawn not only to their gallery, but to their studio, which is open to the public by appointment and offers six pottery wheels.
“For 20 years, I’ve had a dream of having people come and work,” Kate said. “For me, I feel like throwing clay is so therapeutic. I’m a former nurse, and it’s been healing for me.”
When you visit the Smiths' home (they call themselves the Pottersmiths), you might be struck by the color – or rather, the absence of color. The exteriors of their home, gallery and studio are all white, and so are the interiors of the gallery and studio. Along with skylights, the non-color allows in more natural light, and it also helps keep things clean.
Much of Kate’s porcelain is also white, which she hauls to the Twin Cities to fire at a special kiln that reveals a soft gray outline.
Kate finds it challenging to explain why she uses so much white.
“I ask myself that frequently and I am not really sure,” she said. “I think what it is is sometimes the color detracts from the form.”
Form is important to her. She strives for an ineffable feel to her pieces, a magic proportion that feels right. Her pieces also include images meant to evoke memories or thoughts, such as hummingbirds or dragonflies.
Their work encompasses both art and craft, they say, and aims for an emotional connection with the viewer.
For the tour, they will offer pieces in a variety of price points, from around $8 to $80. There will be refrigerator magnets, mugs, platters, vases, bowls and urns, as well as Phil’s little houses, which can hold sticks of incense.
Other artisans in their home will bring faith-based art, Christmas ornaments, soaps, mittens, and many other items. Expect snacks and hot apple cider.
If you go
What: 35th annual Holiday Arts & Crafters Tour. Eight local homes open to the public, selling locally-made, juried arts and crafts. All homes include multiple artisans.
When: Thursday, Nov. 7, from 4-8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 8, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Watch for signs leading to these addresses in and nearby Alexandria:
5550 CR 21 SW
613 Quincy St.
316 Nokomis St.
4365 Co. Rd 82 NW
3608 Carneva Acres NE
2117 Ironwood Dr NE
13694 E. Lake Miltona Dr NE
101 Three Havens Dr NE