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Whidbey Open Studio Tour starts Saturday
The French post-impressionist master Paul Cezanne said it took him 40 years to figure out that painting was not sculpture.
If one considers that statement against the backdrop of what it means to be an artist, it reveals the one constant truth about the creative process: It never ends.
Talk to any artist and chances are he or she will have a similar personal experience to that of Cezanne. Part of what happens in an artist’s studio is often a mystery even to a skilled, longtime artist; discoveries are continually being made and that’s what keeps the art interesting and alive. Ask an artist and they’ll tell you it’s all about process. Once a piece is finished, it is left to the sensibilities of the one who views it.
So when numerous artists invite the public to peek behind the curtain of their process during a studio tour, it’s pretty special. It’s almost like inviting a stranger into one’s most private mind; letting them see a vulnerability; an acquiescence to the muse.
Muses, prepare your artists, the Whidbey Open Studio Tour is ready.
Now in its 15th year, the annual tour sponsored by the Whidbey Island Arts Council makes it possible for art lovers to explore that special place where potters, glass blowers, painters, textile artists, jewelry makers, sculptors, photographers and other fine artists create that which grew from one such discovery, mystery, private conversation with the self. Almost 60 artists from the south, central and north areas of the island open their studios from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9 so that art lovers can experience how they work and have a conversation with them about what drives their creativity.
The easy-to-read area maps designate four categories of venues on this year’s tour: single-artist studio, two-artist studio, three-artist studio and four-artist studio.
Ceramic archeologist Jerry Pike said he’s the last studio on the north map (number 37) at his Walleyed Pike Ceramic Studio in Oak Harbor, and hopes folks will make the effort to go the extra miles to get to his countryside studio. He said he loves strangers.
“We all like to sell our work, but I find the most interesting part of the studio tour is what the strangers bring,” Pike said.
“Normally, when you walk down the street in most towns, strangers walk by without saying a word. When strangers walk into my studio they are ready for action.”
Pike said they ask good questions about his work and are a source of new information and ideas.
“Occasionally, they find things in my studio that I haven’t looked at in 20 years. They come in as strangers and leave as friends,” he added.
Pike said he has made studios out of just about any space: a kitchen table, a spare bathroom, a closet or, his favorite, a sheet of plywood on top of the washer and dryer.
“It is my home. It is where I do my best work. It’s home for the fabulous pots that got damaged in the firing process. You can see the entire clay-making process right before your eyes. A place where you can spin your own web.
I love my studio. Studios are sacred places. You want your studio to suck you in as you try to walk by,” Pike said.
Down in the Central Whidbey area, Coupeville artist Janis Saunders (map number 29) summons muses of her own.
Saunders, who produces unique braided jewelry and bright, vivaciously colored handwoven textiles said this is her second time on the studio tour.
“I am looking forward to sharing my love of weaving and kumihimo (Japanese braiding) with visitors,” Saunders said.
“I find that visitors enjoy seeing how threads become cloth and appreciate that handmade items are very special.”
This year, she gave herself over to exploring new yarns, textures and colors, using plain weave, as well as patterned, and used fine and not-so-fine yarns together, different types of rayon, silk, silk threads, knitting ribbons and seed beads to make bracelets and necklaces. Her braided scarves are made of Merino wool, silk and ribbons and are stunning in their colorful craftsmanship.
Down on the South End in Freeland, Lauryn Taylor (map number 11) will show her acrylic, mixed-media and encaustic paintings at both her Timbuktu Rock House Studio and at her coffee shop, Timbuktu Java Bar and Gallery.
It’s her first time on the Whidbey Open Studio Tour, though she has experienced tours before while a resident of California.
“It is an absolutely energizing and inspiring experience for an artist to share their space, their techniques and both their finished works, as well as works in progress with the guests on a tour,” Taylor said.
Taylor has been a professional teacher and abstract artist for more than 10 years and said she feels that opening one’s studio to tourists is an essential part of an artist’s development, especially accepting feedback about the work, positive or otherwise.
“Working as an abstract artist I find it particularly fun to hear people’s opinions about non-representational work,” Taylor said.
“Many people struggle with the concept and really want to ‘see’ something — anything — that they can relate to in the work. Encouraging them to interpret what they are seeing often yields profound insights to me about what is coming out of my work. Especially with works in progress; it’s almost like my viewers participate in the conclusion of the piece,” Taylor noted.
“Their interpretation helps me to see where I’ve been and how I want to finish the work,” she said. “It is a wonderful collaboration, again yet another gift that an artist can receive when they are open to share this very personal part of themselves.”
Down in Langley, jewelry maker Tammi Sloan and husband Steven Sloan, a kinetic sculpture artist (map number 24), are looking forward to inviting guests into their art haven for Steven’s first tour.
“Many of the visitors to my studio last year were enthralled by Steven’s rolling ball sculpture and a couple of mobiles he had made after a trip we made to see the Alexander Calder exhibit at Seattle Art Museum,” Tammi Sloan said.
“So many people encouraged him to participate in the tour this year. I had to twist his arm — only a little bit though,” she added.
“Between words of encouragement and arm-twisting, I have been working my fingers to the bone polishing metal clay charms for earrings and pendants, wire-wrapping gemstones and forging. I have been hard at work creating a new line of jewelry from my handmade texture stamps and creating some old favorites.”
Sloan said she will show visitors how to make a lump of powdered metal clay into a piece of solid metal wearable art.
Artist Mary Burks (map number 28), who creates wearable art, textiles and mixed-media pieces at her Coupeville studio, which she will share with mixed-media artist Patty Picco, said she is excited about the switch from September to October for the tour. The frantic pace of summer has been left behind, Burks said, and folks can unwind and amble along country lanes and see some art at a leisurely pace.
She also gave kudos to the tour’s crew of organizers.
“We are thankful for the volunteer effort that has gone into this enormous effort and to the Whidbey Island Arts Council for sponsoring it, and for all the artists who are participating,” Burks said.
“Visiting where art is made is special,” she said. “We hope everyone enjoys the opportunity.”
One of the main organizers of the tour is painter Kent Lovelace of Black Sheep Studio (map number 21). Lovelace said the tour is an ongoing experiment and volunteers are always looking for ways to improve the tour’s logistics.
But the main thing about the event, Lovelace said, is that the interaction it provides between artists and the public is critical.
“This is a fantastic community builder,” Lovelace said.
“It’s how I got to know all my neighbors. Living on this small island surrounded, as we are, by a lot of land, most artists are never seen. It’s nice to be able to share my endeavors with my community. It’s an easy way to see a lot of work that you wouldn’t normally see,” he said.
New this year, thanks to the sponsorship of Sound Publishing, are brochure maps for the Whidbey Island Studio Tour inserted in the Saturday, Oct. 8 editions of the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey News-Times. Tour-goers can also find them at the kiosk at
Ken’s Korner, Anchor Books and Coffee in Clinton, Useless Bay Coffee in Langley, and at all three island chambers of commerce.