By Sonya Anderson

To many people, enjoying the Images Studio Tour is as much a part of their Thanksgiving tradition as eating a turkey dinner.  

The tour, which meanders through the rolling hills of Simcoe County, is celebrating its 35th year showcasing the region’s finest artists. With the backdrop of beautiful fall colours, you can discover one-of-a-kind pottery, photography, paintings, jewelry, mixed media and turned wood.

People come from as far away as London, Kingston, and the Muskokas to enjoy the free, self-guided tour which journeys through Orillia, Moonstone, the Horseshoe Valley region and the shores of Lake Simcoe.

“Everybody has their own style for taking in the tour,” says Jan Novak, the tour’s current chair.Some spend all four days of the tour weekend visiting every stop, while others will target their favourite artists. The majority of people will usually visit between four to eight studios each year.”

Gary Brierley, one of the founding members, described the tour’s genesis from a group of artists that were participating in Kempenfest. 

“Over the course of the Kempenfest weekend, we decided to form a tour based on the highly successful Bracebridge Studio Tour,” he recalls. “The idea was to provide us with more control over our show venue by hosting in our own studios or homes. This also meant that we weren’t at the mercy of weather conditions.”  

Their first course of action was to establish rules, which included a juried process to ensure a high-quality experience for art lovers. A map brochure was produced and mailed out to about 5,000 people. They chose the Thanksgiving weekend because people often return home to the Simcoe region to enjoy the fall colours. And it isn’t hard to persuade Thanksgiving guests to come along for the ride.  

Straight out of the gate, the studio tour was a smashing success. What began as a quickly hashed out plan over potluck dinners has grown into today’s 21-studio tour featuring 33 artists. A newly added element for this year is the Huronia Cultural Campus Artists. The Campus showcases the work of five of Orillia’s most talented artists under the age of 30. Offering an exhibit that promises to be contemporary and controversial, this stop will inspire a new community of art lovers.

For all of the artists on the tour, it’s an opportunity to feature new works to their regular clients while, at the same time, gain exposure to a whole new fan base. And the benefits from the tour last year-round through ongoing commission work and Christmas orders.

With such an eclectic offering of works varying in price from tens of dollars to thousands of dollars, there’s sure to be something to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budgets.

Novak recommends not thinking twice if you see something that tickles your fancy. He’s had too many customers come back to purchase an item only to find that it tickled someone else’s fancy too.

The Images Studio Tour runs Oct. 5-8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit for a self-guided tour map.

Inset photo: artist Wendy Bermingham. Photos courtesy of Images Studio Tour.

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