Artists across Somerset county opened their homes and studios to visitors Saturday for the sixth annual open-studio tour put on by the Wesserunsett Arts Council.

Visitors had a chance to see 17 workspaces across rural central Maine in a swath from Smithfield and Mercer all the way to Ripley, Hartland and Wellington, in Piscataquis County.

On Saturday, warm sun offset a chilly early autumn breeze as people made their way across the countryside, popping in to see what local artists and craftspeople were working on and explore the homes, barns, sheds and other spaces where they produced their art. Small round yellow signs with “art” in red letters were arranged at the head of back roads and outside studios to guide people to the studios.

On Saturday morning, Heather Kerner was making felt at the kitchen table of the white farmhouse she shares with her husband and two children on Pinnacle Road in Canaan. Kerner was layering colorful strips of marino wool next to one another and adding other fabric to create varied textures and patterns. After finishing the mat, Kerner wet the wool with warm, soapy water and repeatedly agitated it before rolling it around a Styrofoam pool noodle to help form a mat.

Kerner said she started felting in 1999 and was drawn to it because of her love of knitting and working with other fibers. Felt, the oldest known fabric in the world, also seems to fit with her family’s rural life, Kerner said. Their homestead affords her plenty of space to work and she’s also thinking about fencing off an area of pasture for some animals so she can make her own fiber.

“It’s part of the total experience of living here in Maine,” Kerner said.

She started out making small felt bowls but has since switched to making handbags and framed pieces. After she moved to Canaan with her family in 2006, she started working with leather from the nearby tannery in Hartland to make bags, Kerner said.

She has opened her home up as part of the studio tour for the past few years and usually gets 30 or 40 visitors. The busiest time usually comes around lunchtime, so she usually tries to have soup or something for guests to eat, Kerner added.

“I like that it is a chance for friends and neighbors who would not usually come by to stop in and see what’s going on,” Kerner said.

This year, the open studios tour coincided with Maine Craft Weekend, when artists, craftspeople and businesses across the state, including studios, galleries, workshops and breweries, opened their doors to the public.

On Saturday afternoon, visitors gathered in the studio of painter Abby Shahn, set in the woods off a hard-packed dirt road in Solon. Shahn’s studio was warmed by a huge woodstove in the center of the space, and her oil-on-canvas paintings were arranged on the walls.

Shahn, who helped organize the first open studio tour in 2010, said it is a chance to connect with people who might not typically come to a gallery or art show but are still interested in her work. Giving people a chance to visit a working studio also helps give people a better sense of who the artist is as a person, Shahn said.

“I think people’s places are much more an expression of who they are” than you might see in a gallery, she added.

There had been a steady flow of traffic through the studio on Saturday, consisting of friends, neighbors and new visitors, Shahn said.

Outside, Shahn’s partner, James Fangboner, was showing guests around a large shrine he had built out of found objects and items he collected during his travels. The octagonal wooden pavilion is supported off the ground by wooden beams cantilevered off a fieldstone foundation.

The outside of the shrine is festooned with thousands of items, such as porcelain figurines, flags, paintings, sculptures and religious idols. In the shrine’s darkly lit interior, scented with burning incense, thousands more items, such as animal skulls, Buddhist and Hindu statues, feathers, cloth and masks filled every available inch of the space. Every major world religion seemed to be featured, a point that was intentional, Fangboner said.

Fangboner said he has spent 25 or 30 years on his shrine and normally doesn’t show it to guests.

“It’s mostly for myself, I think,” he said.

Lisa Savage, from Solon, was visiting Shahn and Fangboner with her husband, Mark Roman. She usually comes to the open studios tour but was going to have to skip this year because of a prior commitment. When those plans fell through, she was excited that she could come spend time with some of her neighbors, Savage said.

“It’s really lovely to have this in your neighborhood,”

“There is a lot of art energy in this part of Maine,” she added. “We’re lucky to live here.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire