Wood + art = a new look at Whidbey

Gary Leake will join 19 other wood artists at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts for the ninth annual Woodpalooza show Sept. 1 through 3. At the show

Just as Whidbey Island sprouts a wide variety of Douglas fir, alder, maple and more, it grows as diverse a group of wood artists. Twenty wood artists will join forces in Langley to show the power of wood art in the form of furniture, clocks, carvings, musical instruments, boats and more.

The Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild presents the Art + Wood = Woodpalooza Exhibition, which is free and open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 3 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. A reception is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31.

“Most furniture and wood art made today is mass-produced and often designed/built for low cost, short-term use. Woodpalooza presents an alternative that involves the talents of master craftsmen/women who make their living creating pieces that will beautifully endure for generations,” said Gary Leake, event organizer and artist.

Rob Hetler, of Greenbank, has taken part in Woodpalooza for the past nine years. He single-handedly mans a furniture business and creates cabinetry, furniture, funerary boxes and kitchen furnishings.

“I really view myself as an artist, not just a woodworker. I really try and bring something special to what I’m doing,” Hetler said.

His favorite piece he’ll show at Woodpalooza is a small box made of pink ivory wood.

“It’s very rare wood. It has a beautiful grain pattern and unusual coloring,” Hetler said. He’ll also show a lacewood box and a media cabinet made from local maple, among other pieces.

“That’s one of the things I really try to do in my work is use local material. I find people are interested in something that’s more local than exotic material,” Hetler said. With Douglas fir, elm and tiger maple growing locally, the selection of colors and grains is rich.

Whidbey has a number of woodworkers, a secret not too many islanders know.

“Most work in small one or two-person shops and though all are very creative most face a daunting task in marketing themselves and their work. Woodpalooza represents a unique opportunity for us to let everyone in on the secret: some of the best woodworkers live and work right here,” Leake said.

“It’s an opportunity for everybody to see what kind of woodworking, what kind of furniture, cabinetry is available locally,” Hetler said, adding that often, people visit his shop unsure of whether custom woodworking is for them, but when they see his work they get excited about the variety of woods and the artistic touches Hetler adds.

Hetler said he hopes the community attends the show and enjoys it.

“Everybody’s welcome. Everything that’s at the show is for sale and we should really support local businesses… I’m always hopeful that instead of going to Home Depot or some huge furniture store, they’ll buy furniture locally,” Hetler said.

“The exhibition is intended to simultaneously educate and inspire,” Leake added. “An opportunity to view a wide variety of outstanding work up close can’t help but inform that woodworking as a profession is alive and well. Further, we hope that these examples of creativity will inspire others, especially the next generation, to aspire to consider joining us as a career. The Guild invites everyone to come and experience the numerous types of woods in a wide variety of forms while rubbing shoulders with the artisans who carry on one of our oldest and most endearing professions.”


Wood creations galore are at Woodpalooza

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 3.

Where: Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 565 Camano Ave., Langley.

Cost: free.

Reception: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31.

More information: www.woodpalooza.com.