Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour

Clinton artist Teri Jo Summer sits surrounded by her hand-dyed and embellished clothing creations. - Cynthia Woolbright
Clinton artist Teri Jo Summer sits surrounded by her hand-dyed and embellished clothing creations.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Teri Jo Summer designs the kind of clothes that people tell her changes their lives. How is that possible? Each piece is one of a kind, beginning with dyeing her own silk and cutting dresses and skirts that hang on the bias, draping easily over large and small bodies with equal ease, flattering everyone.

“I don’t use buttons or zippers,” she said. The silks are so fluid that you can fold one of them into a Ziploc bag and tuck it into a carry-on when you fly. This is seriously creative.

Summer opens her studio by appointment only, so the Sept. 24 and 25 Open Studio Tour is a rare chance to see the small miracles she creates.

In New York and London, her work is sold in gallery boutiques. Summer is sufficiently renowned. The prestigious journal Ornament Magazine featured her in their Spring 2004 cover story.

Summer didn’t study fashion design in college. She had no interest in it. She grew up in Orange County, and studied organic science at Berkley. She made a bag for a midwife, and got a call from a textile importer who saw it and sent her $4,000 worth of beautiful fabric to be made into bags and jackets. Summer was launched, and since then there’s been no turning back.

Summer takes pride in the ecological soundness of her dyeing process.

She uses no immersion dyeing, that leaves a chemical soup in the groundwater. Instead, Summer paints the dyes onto the fabric, then steams them in.

Summer’s son, painter and ceramic artist Matt Wheeler, has an studio adjacent to Summer’s, so visitors could be lucky enough for a twofer.

Her handbags are in high demand, but she also has a line of coats and belts, as well as dresses and skirts – a full line of stand-alone pieces that harmonize with her other work. She works with all natural fibers; leather, silk, wool, linen, and hemp.

In addition to creating clothes, Summer hosts soirees; and “beauty and consciousness conferences.” She also holds private consultations for professional women

Here’s the beauty part. Although New York prices for her pieces qualify as investment dressing, in her Whidbey studio, the prices are wholesale.

If you haven’t seen her Clinton studio, don’t miss the chance with the Artists Open Studio Tour Sept. 24 and 25.

Deloris Tarzan Ament is the former art critic for the Seattle Times, and the author of several books, including the Washington Book Award winning “Iridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art.” A board member of the Whidbey Island Writers’ Association, Deloris lives in Freeland, with her husband and cat, where she is working on a novel.

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