Best New England Art Supplies, 2016

On Saturday February 27 I will be at Artist and Craftsman in Saugus.  Join us from 2-4 for some Presence Jazz and me Signing Bezalel!

Last year I wrote a blog post about art supply stores in New England. I do travel a lot and this year I found art supply shops in York, England and Jerusalem.  New England still has the largest selection of art suppliers per capita that I am aware of.

There are some changes to my list.  I needed to revise my list simply based on my buying habits.  Two stores on the old list are not getting my business and I have added a new one.  I figured that if I am driving past one store to go to another, I probably need to rethink how I am ranking things.  My top pick has not changed since last year.

Here is my list of the top five you should visit.  My criteria is based on selection, helpful friendly staff, and price.  When I mention a chain, I am referring to a specific location.  In the world of art supplies, a lot can depend on the local manager.  I’ve found the stores close to art schools tend to be less helpful, and carry items more in tune to course requirements. These stores are also more expensive on the whole (except in end of season clearance sales).  As you see below, there is one standout exception to this rule.

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Artist and Craftsman North Boston  This is my favorite store in the region.  Artist and Craftsman supply is an excellent company and all the stores are very good. This store just had a change in management, but Nia the new manager is doing a great job.  The Saugus location is brightly lit, has a larger inventory than the Cambridge store, and has the most helpful staff of any art supply store in my experience.  I have bought a lot of paper, three 8 foot canvases, hundreds of dollars in Paintstiks, and lots of random ephemera here.  If they don’t have it, they will get it for you, and usually at a discount.  The hotlink takes you to the company website.  If you are visiting Boston, take the trip up route 1.

Blick Art Materials on the Avenue of the Arts in Boston.  This location was owned by another major chain until recently.  In it’s previous life the store definitely reflected what I said about stores near art schools.  Prices were so-so and the staff wasn’t very helpful.  All that has changed and I am shopping here once a week (one never can have too many kneaded erasers).  This neighborhood is also becoming arts focused.  If you are coming into Boston for a concert, a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, or the Hynes Convention center, definitely take the time to check out Blick at 333 Mass Ave.

Jerry’s Artarama of Connecticut  Whenever I am in the Hartford area, I find a way to get to Jerry’s.  Like Artist and Craftsman in Saugus, fabulous selection, excellent prices, and I always find some unexpected thing I can’t live without.  Jerry’s has friendly, helpful staff.  I’m not sure if they are a franchise using the Jerry’s name–Jerry’s has been around a long time in catalog and web form and this store’s site is not the Jerry’s site.  Regardless, I still make special trips when I am in the area.

100 Aker Wood Frame Shop   As I said in the beginning, there are a lot of art shops in odd places. You never know when you will run out of Titanium White while painting fall foliage.  I happened upon this shop while on retreat near Norway, Maine.  I actually went back three times in a four day period.  It was that good.  I have no idea how they keep their prices down, but they are better priced than any shop in New England.  It’s small with mostly painting and hand lettering supplies.  A gem.

Peterborough Art Academy  In the middle of the charming Depot Square in Peterborough is a classy, elegant art supply store with European flair.  It’s run by Michaela Chelminski.  Best selection of cake watercolors in New England, and lots of hard to find things like colored chalk and painter’s pallets.  Again, a gem hidden in an out of the way place.  Peterborough has a lot of art, craft, and literary life, so it’s worth a trip to explore.

Blick Boston Landmark Center  I’m old enough that I remember when this was “Dick Blick.”  This store is older, so you can find boxes of discontinued products like the Mirado Black Velvet pencil.  Staff can be cranky, and it does serve a student population; but I always leave with a bag full of goodies.  Easiest to take the Green Line train to Fenway.

Is there a place you think I have missed?  Drop us a line and let me know.

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