word and images by J.B. Weisenfels
The first time I went to Terra Studios, I had a baby strapped to my chest and a toddler with her fingers wrapped in mine. That baby is now a twelve-year-old actress, singer, and stellar student. The toddler has grown to be thirteen, an inch taller than I am at 5’8” and just about the best junior high tubist anywhere. We returned last year to find that the face of Terra Studios had changed nearly as much as the heights of my children, and like children, it is as full of wonder as ever.
Terra Studios began in 1975 as a family glass and pottery studio. It’s home to the Original Bluebirds of Happiness, and you can still find those little wonders reflecting happiness on the grounds and in the gift shop. The shop, which was once tiny, is now sprawling and set beside a rather large pond—actually, it’s more like a small lake. When you arrive, you’ll see a giant chess set beside that small lake as well, standing near some breathtaking sculptures.
It was cold and dreary the last time I went there, and my family and I were mostly alone on the grounds. Though I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d fail to be impressed by this haven for the arts, it was especially impressive when nearly desolate. We explored the gift shop first—in childlike awe of the treasures we found there.
What occurred to me most clearly as we wandered through the shop was the sheer amount of work housed in that building. The art there, all of it for sale, suggested countless hours of mastering a medium—and then even more hours to make the object itself. When you hold a piece of pottery in your hand, a sculpture, any artifact, really, you are holding a life’s work. Successes and failures and frustrations and that final elation of producing work that makes the artist proud. I don’t blink at the prices on those objects, because though my medium is words and my art is hard to hold in a hand, I understand that the price is a small drop in the bucket to the amount of work that led to those objects.
The gift shop at Terra Studios is thousands of square feet, totally full of art, but it’s not the only thing on the property worth looking at. You can ring the big chimes, walk through the troll house, and take a lovely stroll through the sculpture garden. Surprises hide in every corner of Terra Studios. It’s a world of wonder, and it’s also a nonprofit.
Artists flock to the nonprofit—they make art, they teach classes, and if you go at the right time you can even catch glassblowers making their own, fiery brand of fine art. You can take a piece of happiness home with you—one of those iconic Original Bluebirds of Happiness. And one of the best parts is that there isn’t a hefty fee to visit. You can tour the place on your own, greet the big dragon, admire the mosaics, and spot some trolls, without breaking the bank.
What Terra Studios has in lieu of an entry fee is a suggested donation, and you should donate when you go. I would suggest that you donate generously. You see, art doesn’t need to be exclusive to those who can afford to experience it. Any family can show up at Terra Studios and discover the art there, all they need is the time, a dollar per person, and sets of childlike eyes that can glory in the wonder all around.