Studio Tour

Fourth annual studio tour and art sale
showcases Westport artists

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

WESTPORT, Ky. – Tony Abbott has never met a hardwood that he didn’t like or that he couldn’t carve. Relying on his chainsaw to bring in some extra cash from time to time, he’s never been disappointed.

Tony Abbott

Photo by Helen McKinney

Tony Abbott crafts folk art
from Kentucky hardwoods.

He has spent many hours meticulously crafting furniture, walking sticks and even totem poles. He may be best known in Buckner, Ky., for creating the Buckner Bear mascot that resides in front of Buckner Elementary School.
Abbott, 57, originally from Kansas, came to Kentucky six years ago and it was while he was laid off from his welding job during the winter months that he first began carving wood. He dug out his chainsaw with the intention of procuring some extra work by cutting and removing downed tree limbs on his own property and for others. But in the midst of working, inspiration stuck him.
“I brought the wood home and started,” he said. Abbott gets wood from around his own property, saw mills and anywhere he might work. “I use a lot of cedar,” he said.
He is often inspired by “something I’ll see in a tree. A lot of times people will contract me to do something and if I can see it in a tree, I can do it.”
Abbott’s work can be found from La Grange to Louisville. Chainsaw carving is somewhere between a full-time job and a hobby for Abbott.
As an artform, chainsaw carving became popular in the 1980s when the Lumberjack World Championship was held in Hayward, Wisconsin. It was broadcast nationally as a new type of “performance art,” one that Abbott has picked up and mastered.
Abbott is one of many artists participating in this year’s Original Oldham Studio Tour & Art Sale held at various locations in Westport, Ky. The self-guided, free tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.
Artwork represented on the Studio Tour will include equestrian art, oil paintings, sculptures, painted gourds, wearable art, handcrafted jewelry, handcut wood engravings and letterpress printing, photography, porcelain, encaustic paintings and functional ceramics. The Westport General Store and The Tea Kettle will be open for those who wish to dine in Westport while on the tour. Also available for sale will be signed posters by Julius Friedman to benefit the Friends of Westport schoolhouse renovation project.
“This year the fourth annual Original Oldham Studio Tour & Art Sale coincides with the 10th annual River Daze Festival,” said Studio Tour organizer and participating artist Kate Fisher. “So there is a lot of excitement about having both events to showcase the Westport we know and love.”
In the past, the Studio Tour has included an auction and related events. “This year is just a very simple version of the tour. We are excited that River Daze is the same Saturday because there are so many map spots in this end of the county,” Fisher said.
Fisher was instrumental in beginning the Studio Tour, based on two well-established successful models in Bowling Green, Ky., and Chatham County, N.C., that attract visitors from surrounding states. Working from her Westport studio, Fisher crafts painted antique quilts, suede clothing and accessories, produces surface design for fabrics, and will have several artists set up with her in her home studio.
Ann Farnsley is an artist from Vevay, Ind., who Fisher invited to participate in this year’s Studio Tour. Farnsley has been a part of the tour since it began in 2005 and said “it is wonderful exposure,” for her artwork.
Originally from Louisville, Farnsley lived in New York City for a time before settling in Indiana. “I’m primarily a painter, but got into ceramics to work in a 3D medium. I paint pictures on ceramic pieces, then glaze and fire them,” said Farnsley.
She thinks the idea of a Studio Tour is great for participating artists. “Over the years I’ve found that I make more direct sales out of my own studio than in other places.” Another plus is that “people like to meet the artist personally and see the work environment.”
Farnsley will be displaying a new series of circus themed plates on the Studio Tour that she has created with Fisher. Farnsley embellished the center of the plate with a circus scene, while Fisher designed a geometric border.
“We were inspired by a traveling circus we went to last spring in Madison, Ind.,” said Farnsley.

• Tour maps are available at each map spot, Gallery 104 in La Grange, the Westport General Store and the store’s website at www.westportgeneralstore.com. For more information, contact Kate Fisher at (502) 222-9439.

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