Art Tour: Sage, felt and wool 

By Bob Hurley

On the itinerary this week are two more artist studios that are new to Rappahannock — and to next month’s annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio and Gallery Tour.

Michael Sage, Sage Gallery

A former real estate broker and mortgage banker, Michael Sage left his business in 2005 to make a transformational change in his lifestyle and found his passions — photography and music.

Michael Sage and guest artist Ryn McKenna at Sage Gallery, part of the studio and gallery tour Nov. 5-6.
Michael Sage and guest artist Ryn McKenna at Sage Gallery, part of the studio and gallery tour Nov. 5-6. By Bob Hurley

After a two year “walk-about” exploring and photographing the American West, and then performing and producing music shows in Asheville, North Carolina, Sage landed in Rappahannock County in 2015. His captivating photographic compositions — both realistic and surrealistic — will be on display at his studio. The Sage Gallery is located on the grounds of the former Farfelu Winery near Flint Hill.

Sage’s personal bond with nature is beautifully reflected in his photography. “For me, nature is not something you just walk around in,” he says. “All of us are part of nature, and once we get in that mindset, we see the natural world as we’ve never seen it before. The ‘magic’ is everywhere, and all I do is put a camera in front of me and take the picture.”

In his landscape portraits, Sage works tirelessly to capture and present the world as one might actually experience it. His Sequoia Project, a 10-by-40-foot portrait of California’s “President” sequoia tree, is a must-see on the tour. More recently he has developed a technique what he calls “Sage Surrealism” — a process where he modifies his photographs to give them a surreal effect — think Van Gogh.

Joining him at Sage Gallery is guest artist Ryn McKenna whose paintings, textile art and nature-inspired objects will be on display. Of special interest are McKenna’s “Meditation Wheels” crafted from feathers, bark and other objects found on her local walks.

Dabney Kirchman and Jennifer Heverly, Blue Ridge Artisans

These artists met when their children played band music together at Rappahannock County High School. Their friendship and interests led to the opening this year of their delightful new studio below The Cottage Curator, one of the new galleries on the tour located in Sperryville.

Fiber artists Dabney Kirchman and Jenn Heverly at their new Sperryville gallery.
Fiber artists Dabney Kirchman and Jenn Heverly at their new Sperryville gallery. By Bob Hurley

Both artists work with wool, but in very different ways. Kirchman creates handmade, multi-layered wall hangings from felted wool. Transitioning from painting to weaving, she fell in love with the centuries old felt-making process. “I wanted to create art I could touch,” she says. “The density and color combinations of layered felt, the history and mechanics of the felting process, all of it gives me such joy.” That joy is reflected in her vibrant works, often inspired by her love of nature.

A dyer for more than 14 years, Heverly uses a variety of techniques to create her sophisticated palette of luxury yarns and fibers. Like Sage, she was in the real estate business, but left after the birth of her first child. “I was looking for alternatives and took a dying class,” she says. “The light bulb went off and I decided to become an independent dyer working out of my house.” That led to a successful venture with her wool selling at textile arts festivals and online. Her distinctive artisanal textiles are also available in one-of-a-kind, ready-to-wear hand-painted silk scarves, and hand-dyed and hand-knit hats, scarves and other accessories.

The tour

This year’s Artists of Rappahannock tour is 10 to 5 p.m. Nov. 5-6. Tickets ($10, good for both days) available at the tour headquarters and gallery at the Washington School (567 Mt. Salem Ave., Washington). More information at and

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