Tiffany Lange is piecing together giant walnuts and horse figurines that will soon be on stage when the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet opens its production of "The Nutcracker" in December.
On Saturday the puppeteer was working with two assistants, papier-macheing, painting and carving foam with an electric carving knife to bring the set pieces to life while visitors passed through her studio at the Creative Alliance.
Lange is among 150 artists participating in the 28th annual Open Studio Tour, a program organized by School 33 Art Center. The tour, which continues Sunday, includes artists across the city opening their studios to the public.
"Puppets have always been a big draw to get folks that have not experienced the Open Studio Tour ... into a studio like this, to get them touring around," Lange said. "It's a little less traditional than your painter or your photographer."
Yet there are plenty of those, too. Lange is one of eight artists in residence at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown, just down the hall from artists such as painter Alfonso Fernandez, sculptor Alice Gadzinski and photographer Adam Davies, all recent additions to the building.
"For us it's a great way for people to come and see the new and artistic talent," said Jeremy Stern, exhibits and program manager for the Creative Alliance.
Lange has participated in the tour before. But at least 20 new artists joined this year.
"It's grown a little bit every year," said Flannery Winchester, cultural affairs associate for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.
Cheeny Celebrado-Royer and Taha Heydari, who share a studio at School 33, are among the newest artists in the Federal Hill building. The recent Maryland Institute College of Art graduates moved into the space in mid-August, and it's the first time they have participated in the Open Studio Tour.
"I think a lot of the artists who stay in Baltimore do a lot for the city and it doesn't get noticed," said Celebrado-Royer, who believes the tour "opens up a conversation between the public and the artists, and also sharing what we do and how we can potentially work together as a community to help the city."
The tour kicked off with parties Friday in Hampden, Highlandtown, Pigtown and Station North.
Lange said this type of outreach is something she'd like to see more often, rather than once a year.
"To have open galleries, open studios almost like on a more regular monthly basis would be great, and continue to help the arts grow in Baltimore," she said.
This year's tour features artists from abstract painters to furniture makers. Gadzinski, a paper-mache artist, is another new face on the tour. She describes her whimsical work "like if Lawrence Welk and 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse' like were in a car accident."
"I like this kind of thing works better than a gallery show because this feels more honest, whatever that means," she said. "My work in a gallery show can look very like, not as fun as the environment I make it in.""
This year's tour includes new spaces in addition to new artists. Motor House, an arts incubator in Station North, is opening its doors to the public.
And the Foundery in Port Covington joined for the first time as the only arts "maker space" on the tour. The Foundery will offer workshops Sunday on laser-engraving pumpkins, power tool pumpkin carving and 3-D printing for the public to observe.
"They're a very diverse group of artists, and they all work with very, very different material," Winchester said. "So you're going to see just a lot of really different techniques and materials."
The Open Studio Tour continues 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Specific studios' hours are listed at school33.org.