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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Get active along the Northern Neck Artisan Trail

Whatever a visitor’s art interest, it can be found on the Northern Neck Artisan Trail. Perhaps it’s pottery or paintings. Maybe it’s sculptures or stained glass. It could be handcrafted furniture or jewelry.

With 127 members across five counties, a self-guided tour can be as short as a day with a few stops or a couple of weeks if all the sites are of interest.

Visit a working studio, watch an artist at work, crafting a piece of furniture from an old barn door. Hear the story of how he began and fine-tuned his craft then purchase a piece to take home.

Meant to promote local artist studios, farms, wineries, farmers markets, restaurants, hotels, galleries and other artisanal and agri-tourism-related businesses, the Northern Neck Artisan Trail (NNAT) is designed to foster history and artisan culture.

The trail encompasses a five-county region with stops in Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland and King George counties, going from the southernmost point in Lancaster at Willaby’s Cafe to north of Dahlgren at Noah’s Ark Pottery. In between, visitors can create their own individualized tours.

Working with The Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV), the regional trail concept was presented in 2014 by Andrew Pitts, a furniture maker in Heathsville. Pitts invited Sherri Smith of the Artisans Center of Virginia to speak to artists and community members about creating a local trail and a group of participants formed.

ACV was formed in 2000 and is the state’s official artisan organization with 27 Artisan Trails across the Commonwealth.

Aside from the restaurants, wineries, parks and lodging, most of the artisan studios or agri-artisan/farms require an appointment for a visit. Phone numbers, addresses and website information can be found in the Northern Neck Artisan Trail brochures or on the website. For more information about ACV and the NNAT, visit

Here we’ve hightlighted two of the artists on the trail.

Diane Cronin Bostic’s pot begins to take shape.

In Richmond County...

Sugar Hill Tiles at Bostic’s Barbershop is where Diane Cronin Bostic creates pottery, face jugs and trivets of hand painted tiles.

A barber by trade, Bostic is a self-taught potter who would cut hair by day and head to the potter’s wheel at night when she first started selling her pieces in bulk.

A transplant to Richmond County from Massachusetts, Bostic lives at historic Sugar Hill Farm on Newland Road outside of Warsaw.

Along with her pottery, Bostic displays dozens of hand painted bisque tiles used for trivets near the barbershop entrance.

But a visitor on the artisan trail would be treated to a trip out back to Bostic’s potter’s shed, where she’d demonstrate “throwing” a piece of pottery on her wheel.

“It’s one messy process,” said Bostic, wiping clay off her clothes.

With an artist uncle, historical mason father and an architect nephew, Bostic says she has creativity in her blood.

After graduating from high school, her parents wanted her to attend art school. Instead, she started making weed pots and purchased a potter’s wheel. She worked for a lady called the “mad potter” before going into business for herself, selling her wares at shows.

The process of making a piece is very time-consuming from throwing the piece to drying, firing and glazing and firing it again.

To hear Bostic’s story and see how it’s done, visit Sugar Hill Tiles. Call 333-4254 for an appointment.

Robin Barrack wraps her handmade soaps at her shop at Cedar Run Farms.

In Lancaster County...

Cedar Run Farms is home to Handmade Soaps by Robin, where Robin Barrack turned a former fertilizer and seed supply storage building into a studio where she makes goat’s milk soaps, bath bombs, lip balm and sugar scrubs.

She was busy putting labels on her soaps when I stopped for a visit.

Barrack’s is one of 23 agri-artisan/farms listed on NNAT and one of only three agri-artisan/farms in Lancaster County.

Her shop—decorated in blues, turquoise and yellow—smelled of lavender, spearmint, rosemary and pine. A box of colorful soaps, along with a pyramid of jars of scrubs, were set out on the table. A visit to her shop also includes a visit with her 22 goats, fenced nearby. She was attending a goat show a few years ago and wanted something to give away at her booth which prompted her to start making soaps from goat’s milk.

“Once the light bulb went off, all I wanted to do was make soap. I had to make soap, had to make soap. It was an obsession,” said Barrack.

After a while of making messes in her kitchen, her husband suggested turning the old fertilizer storage building into her shop.

Making soap is about a six-week process from start to finished product.

Her busy season is summer when she makes soaps to sell at the fall farmers markets. Last spring, she had some “assistants” at the markets in Heathsville, where she took her two pet pygmy goats.

“The kids loved them,” she said.

A member of the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild, Barrack follows the Food and Drug Administration’s soap-making guidelines. A visit to her shop includes an explanation of the process, along with a visit to her nearby farm. To make an appointment, call 436-6306.


posted 09.04.2017

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