If you find yourself in southern Ohio for reasons of business, family or wanderlust, I encourage you to take a trip to Chillicothe where a hidden treat sits in store. On 125 West Water Street sits a building with a plain corrugated metal front, an industrial-scale garage door with another plain door embedded in it. Nothing other than a rather small, low-contrast sign in dark red and black hints at what lies inside: the Dard Hunter Studio, a production shop first (and showroom second) specializing in paper and ceramics in the Arts and Crafts style that Dard Hunter practiced before his death in the 1960s. His grandchildren and friends and the grandchildren of his friends and the friends of his grandchildren carry on in classic and contemporary fashion with the same do-it-yourself ethic that Hunter espoused during his life. Hunter had considerable family wealth to help him do-it-himself, but the results are impressive nonetheless.
If you’re made of money, you can buy an expensive framed ceramic tile or an even more expensive print on handmade paper, but there are more modest items for sale as well. In my visit I didn’t purchase a thing, just marveling at the layers of color or distinct borders between color in the various productions ranging from completely abstract designs to the stylized representations of natural objects. The people in the studio that day take part in the ceramic and papermaking, and so they were enthusiastic and detailed in showing off old wooden printing presses and rolls of wire woven to create watermarks. Call ahead to 740-779-3300 to arrange a visit so you’ll be sure someone is in the shop.