Melissa Werpy is not one to sit still. So when she and husband Dave roadtripped to Texas and California this winter, the pottery artist brought a little work along-a dozen mugs and four plates ready for sketching and glazing based on what she saw along the way.
"The windmills made an impression on me in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma," she said. "Then we hit Arizona and New Mexico and I fell in love with cactus."
Her plates and mugs - which can be used for wine, too - are decorated with the scenes that made the biggest impressions on her. Along with windmills or cactus, you'll find palm trees, grape vines or beach birds.
The work inspired by that three-week trip in January represent a slice of Americana and have proven popular with her customers. Werpy is firing more in preparation for the first-ever Art deTour on Friday and Saturday, June 14-15. Her studio will be among 13 art studios showcasing 25 area artists. Most are in the Alexandria area, though two are in Otter Tail County.
It's about 2,500 miles to the California coast from their Miltona home, and the Werpys made it in a motorhome. Dave drove and Melissa sat safely buckled in toward the back.
She developed a technique for on-the-road pottery work last year, when she spent time with her hospitalized mother. That meant transferring glazes with names like Sedona Sunset, Blue Isle and Buttercup into small plastic squeeze bottles, and a series of blank mugs and plates that had been fired once and were ready for glazing.
Dave would tell her if they were about to hit a bump, she said, and also if there was a sight she wouldn't want to miss.
"I always like to be productive," she said. "I can't stand to just sit and do nothing. This is something that keeps my mind engaged and creative. It's hard for me to fly someplace for a week."
She added, laughing, "Although I can lie on the beach. I can manage that for a week."
Melissa is used to travel, as Dave's career as a 3M executive brought them to Europe for seven years. She studied painting there, and work from those years hangs in her studio on Lake Miltona, including a rainy street scene from their time living in Paris. She has also painted murals; their own home includes a wine cellar she painted with faux stone walls.
"I'm hoping a lot of people come out and visit all the studios," she said.
The Art deTour is organized by the Alexandria Art Guild, a nonprofit organization that promotes the visual arts in the area. Many of the artists on the tour used to take part in the Art of the Lakes Studio Tour, organized by the Battle Lake-based Art of the Lakes Gallery.
Some will take part in both tours, but many will only do the Douglas County tour. There are also Evansville studios that will only be on the Battle Lake tour.
Stops on the Art deTour
1. JT Maui Designs Studio, 613 Quincy St., Alexandria. Features two artists: jeweler Jon "JT" Thompson; and Denise Morrow, who makes whimsical fused and stained glass.
2. Happy Times Gallery, 521 Temple St., Alexandria. Jana Tonsfeldt, bright, colorful paintings.
3. Noni Bjorklund Gallery, 316 Nokomis St., Alexandria. Features two artists: Naomi "Noni" Bjorklund, jeweler and oil painter; and Julie Smith, a potter and collage artist.
4. Northington Gallery, 107 5th Ave. W., Alexandria. Features the work of Rhea Northington and four generations of artists in acrylic, resin paintings and functional art.
5. Turning Lake Designs Studio, 4365 County Hwy 82, Alexandria. Features three artists: Wood turner Bill Seykora; stoneware and raku artist Merodie Seykora; and oil painter Leanne Larson.
6. Westridge Shores Resort, 6907 State Hwy 114 SW, Alexandria. Features three artists: ceramic and glass artist Erin Frederiksen; Stormy Hegg, a high school artist who makes pottery and glass pendants; and Ruth Hanson, who creates watercolor batiks.
7. Shoreline Gallery, 2214 Geneva Road NE, Alexandria. Features photographer Barbara Johnson, who specializes in wildlife and nature photography.
8. Art Journeys Gallery, 3404 N. Nokomis NE, Alexandria. Features two artists: Dorothy Reiner, who creates landscapes, florals and paintings of historic lake homes; and Jean Ranstrom, who paints landscapes, florals and lake scenes.
9a. Three Havens Artwork, 101 Three Havens Dr. NE, Alexandria. Features two artists: Linda Gaugert, whose work includes spacescapes and microscapes; and multimedia artist Donna Dean, who uses watercolor, acrylic, fabric and jewelry in her work.
9b. Artscape Studio, 101 Three Havens Dr. NE Studio #3. Features the work of Kathy Grundei, who paints local landscapes, florals and nature's elements.
10. Pottersmith, 2117 Ironwood Dr. NE, Alexandria. Features two artists: porcelain and stoneware artist Kate Smith and ceramics and pottery creator Phil Smith.
11. Art by Melissa Studio, 13694 E. Lake Miltona Dr. NE, Miltona. Features three artists: potter and painter Melissa Werpy; Steve King, who creates stained glass; and Katherine Bockelmann, who uses pencil, ink and oil to create drawings and paintings.
12. The Arthouse, 35059 Boys Shore Trail, Ottertail. Shirlee Daulton, multimedia pottery, paintings, prints, jewelry and fiber art.
13. Clayhouse Pottery Studio, 45671 348th St., Ottertail. Sandra Daulton Shaughnessy, pottery.