Walking into Freeland Art Studios feels starkly different from other art studios or chic gallery spaces. The roar of the industrial-calibre masonry saw and the sound of hammers hacking away at a chiseled sculpture-to-be give the studio an industrial aura upon entry. Inside, the process of creation is happening, and it’s happening all the time.
The public will have the opportunity to view and purchase the latest works out of Freeland Art Studios during its sixth annual open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 4. A plethora of artistic styles and media will be on display at the 7,000-square-foot complex on 1660 Roberta Ave, ranging from stone sculpting and cast glass to resin art. Refreshments and live music will be provided, and artist demonstrations held throughout the afternoon.
Admission is free.
The studio space, which used to be an old logging complex, currently houses 13 artists who pool rent money and often share heavy duty tools. All artists have their own style and few share the same skills and techniques, but having other artists in close proximity inevitably brings an exchange of ideas, said resident sculptor Lane Tompkins.
“We often communicate about what we’re working on and give each other tips,” Tompkins said. “Plus, we sometimes share tools like the air compressor, fork lift and other big tools. It’s a communal, cooperative thing.”
The full list of disciplines is as follows: stone and metal sculpting, photography, resin art, decorative tiling, water features, jewelry, cast glass, clay, wood carving, apparel and mosaics.
Woody Morris’ resin art offers a glimpse into an art form that, according to Morris, isn’t done anywhere else on the island to his knowledge. Resin art utilizes the chemical reaction between resin and acrylic paint to form a blast of colors that continuously react for up to four hours. Room temperature must be around 70 to 75 degrees for the right resin viscosity. The canvas is laid flat on a table with an acrylic base, and the artist drops the resin wherever they want the chemicals to react to form vibrant, psychedelic shapes.
Artists have about 20 minutes of working time before the painting begins to dry, but the colors continue to react, Morris said. Some resin painters let the resin do the magic, while some use their fingers or pick up the canvas to spread the colors.
“I’m often blown away because the resin continues to move and do its own thing,” said Morris. “I’ll come back after four hours and the resin has moved in very interesting ways that I never intended.”
Freeland Art Studios has grown ever since resident sculptor Lloyd Whannell first rented a section of the current studio building 12 years ago. Back then, the building was a multi-use structure that housed an auto repair shop. Whannell’s studio occupied a third of the back bay.
Once Whannell realized the space was perfect for an art studio, specifically art forms that require power tools, he sought other artists looking to help with rent. Morris hopped on the bus to work on his water features, then fellow sculptor Sue Taves followed and the rest was a domino effect before the entire building was rented out by 13 artists. The newest edition, painter and bronze sculptor Jeff Day, joined the studio this past summer.
“We’re zoned light industrial, so we can do things here we wouldn’t be able to do in other art spaces or even our homes for that matter,” Whannell said. “For stone sculptors, that is a huge asset. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to use many of these tools we require to do our craft.”
June 4th’s open house offers a chance to meet the artists and understand their creative processes. As loud as the industrial-calibre saw’s screech may be, it’s a signal that an artist who deals with heavy materials is at work. Seeing an artist in action is a sight that, according to Tompkins, builds a greater appreciation for art and an understanding about what goes into creating the piece.
“It’s not just about the thing sitting on the table, but how it got there and what went into its creation,” Tompkins said. “The thing that makes artists interesting to me is finding out how the idea came to be.”
The resident artists at Freeland Art Studios are only a few of the massive pool of artists on the South End. However, the studio is the largest in Island County, according to Morris, and offers a glimpse into the crafty nature of South Whidbey artists.
“I’m continually surprised by the number of artists that are on South Whidbey,” Tompkins said. “I keep seeing these people pop up and their work is great. It’s a real goldmine.”