Break out the bubbly and streamers! Tour des Arts turns 30, July 14 to 22.

What began as a modest idea in the fertile mind of potter/musician Stanley Lake in 1989 has grown from 12 Eastern Townships artists and one sponsor that first year to 35 artists and 70 sponsors in 2018.

“The idea was mine and I’m still here,” said Lake from his Dunkin studio recently. “But the Tour is dramatically different today.”

The concept remains unchanged – promote artists and artisans in the area and provide insight into the creative process by showing them at work in their studios. But now it is a major economic engine, drawing 7,000 visitors over nine days in July, fuelling local restaurants and retail shops, spawning related cultural events, and providing artists over a wide spectrum of disciplines with a very real percentage of their annual income.

“The major change came after the third edition, when we became a juried event,” Lake recalled. “I used to travel to other shows like a gypsy. Now I can stay at home and sell from my door. I meet people, get feedback and orders, and hopefully, inspire kids to consider this alternative lifestyle as a reality.”

Vanessa Yanow is new to the Tour this year, showing her innovative glass and tex- tile jewelry from her studio in Abercorn. With her deep background in artist organization, she was tasked with promoting the anniversary Tour, as well as building an inventory. “I taught myself flame-work glass blowing, and the jewelry is the result of sculptural investigations,” she shouted over the clatter of an industrial embroidery machine. “Fine art and jewelry are in constant conversation in my work. Plus, I’ve always been a pyromaniac!”

Mark Zimmerl has been a Tour vet since 1995, and both stunning paintings and whimsical raku ceramics fly out of his vast Brome space. “The Tour means being connected to the artistic vibe of the area and all these people working out of love. It is also the steadiest and most lucrative show of the year for me.” Apart from beavering away in his studio, Zimmerl is offering workshops for the first time this year. Go to his website mgz.ca for more info.

Ceramicist John Davidson is also new for 2018, and he has been firing the raku kiln at a furious pace in his West Bolton workshop to build up enough stock. “It’s hard work, but great, though,” he said. “The opportunity to be on the Tour spurs me on to dig deeper into the process of ceramics. It’s very exciting, creative and fun. And I’ve learned a lot.”

The 30th Tour des Arts runs July 14 to 22 in nine Townships’ communities on the west side of Lake Memphremagog. For more info go to: tourdesarts.com