Take a walk on the Whidbey side during the art tour

Frank Rose works on a sculpture in his space at Freeland Art Studios.  - Kate Daniel / The Record
Frank Rose works on a sculpture in his space at Freeland Art Studios.
— image credit: Kate Daniel / The Record

Sue Taves may not be able to turn water into wine; but she can turn stone into water.

Taves, who has been sculpting since the early 1990s, has been working with the theme of natural elements in her work for the past several years. Most recently, Taves said, she has been exploring waves, their shapes and volumes, the way the light plays on their surfaces.

“I think all of that is very much inspired by living so close to nature,” said Taves.

Taves is inspired by the stones around her, such as alabaster, marble, basal and granite. “When you see a certain stone, it says ‘Pick me,’ ” she said.

Summer has been a busy season for Taves and her Freeland Art Studios cohorts, many of whom have been displaying and selling their works at shows and fairs on and off the island. On Wednesday afternoon, Taves and others, such as sculptor Frank Rose, were preparing their spaces and putting finishing touches on their respective works for one more tour: the Whidbey Working Artists Summer Art Tour, an annual event which will be held in locations from Freeland to Oak Harbor from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 23-24, and Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 29-31.

The tour, which was established 12 years ago, grants attendees the chance to view and purchase works by 32 artists in 18 working studios. Some artists, such as Rob Adamson of Island Art Glass, will be giving demonstrations during the tour.

In addition to displaying her own works, Taves will be hosting two guest artists during the tour: fellow sculptor Dan Freeman and jeweler Tammi Sloan.

“I think the studio tour is a really unique opportunity for people to interact with the artists and find out what’s behind the work and the process of making the work,” she said. “As an artist if you can get meaningful feedback I think that helps you grow. Anything that increases understanding and communication is of value.”

At times, Taves said, viewers interpret her sculptures in ways she had never fathomed; two weeks ago, she recalled, a woman saw a dragon where Taves had seen the sea.

“I think it’s not unusual for people to see the forms they are attached to visually; certain pieces create certain emotions in people,” she said.

Adamson, who has been blowing glass for 45 years, and his wife, Janis Swalwell, renovated old barns on their 16-acre farm to create a number of studios and a shop from which they sell handblown glass pieces ranging from burnt orange pumpkins to cerulean blue koi and speckled bird baths and lamp shades. The Whidbey Working Artists summer tour will be Adamson’s eighth show of the summer.

Along with his wife, Adamson works with a team of four others, Don Singleton, Eric Lieberman, Brian Rubino and Steve Swalwell. He said that the glassblowers work in teams, consistently changing roles for the sake of both creativity and safety. According to Adamson, each of the blowers at Island Art Glass creates his or her own uniquely masterful pieces.

His most popular items vary, he said, as do the ideas that lend him inspiration. Adamson was recently inspired by the Japanese Gardens of Portland, Ore., and created several glass koi. For some time, glass pumpkins gained popularity throughout the United States. But, Adamson said, he enjoys every part of the art glass making process, regardless of the glass’ eventual shape.

Frank Rose, another artist at Freeland Art Studios, is a painter, photographer and sculptor. Usually, he said, he uses a combination of sittings, photography and a generic mold to create clay portraits which depict individuals’ emotions, personality and the intricacies of their features. In his studio, he is carefully molding a clay portrait of friend and fellow artist Kay Parsons, who will also be showing works during the tour.

“It is a sense of accomplishment to develop another human being and try to catch that look. It’s a very elusive thing to catch a personality in a person,” Rose said. “Photographers work on it all the time, but doing it in clay is another thing. The problem with clay is it is very easy to erase something good that you’ve done,” he explained, showing with a quick touch of his hand how very simply a detail could be deleted. “When you get down to a certain point, everything that you’ve captured that’s good and in your brain, you can’t mess with it anymore.”

Rose will also be showing works from his late friend, Ken Hassrick, a South Whidbey painter and sculptor who, among other credentials, studied under Fernand Legar in Paris. Rose assembled over 40 of Hassrick’s drawings and paintings and prints which were donated by his estate; proceeds from their sales will benefit the Whidbey Island Arts Council per Hassrick’s desire that the sale of his pieces be donated to arts education.







For more information about the studio tour, featured artists and their works, visit


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