Hit the road for art

Today is the day to see what you may never have seen before. And tomorrow, too.

This cabinet by Clinton furniture artist Ed Fickbohm is a good example of his inclination toward modern

Today is the day to see what you may never have seen before.

And tomorrow, too.

This weekend is the Whidbey Open Studio Tour, the annual fall roundabout that features 92 artists this year who will open wide the doors to their private work spaces.

Some of Beth Wyatt’s jewelry looks like it comes from the deepest recesses of the sea.

Other pieces look like they could pass themselves off as insects. Perch them on some bushy branch and they’d fit right in.

Wyatt is a Clinton artist who creates wearable sculpture out of vitreous enamel, sterling silver, gold and pearls.

The resemblance her work has to nature reflects her love of the outside.

“I spend a lot of time with plants and love the different forms of plant life,” Wyatt said.

“I’m amazed by what happens with a plant as it pops up from the ground, grows as it does and then dies.”

One vitreous enamel-on-copper sterling brooch, entitled “Urban Heat,” engulfs a theater-red ring of glass with a perforated silver edge and delicate cut out of a silvery center. The sea’s most colorful anemones might have been the model for this piece, with its quality of rarity, unlikely to have a twin.

A pendant made from sterling silver and pearls is poetically called “Winter Berries…to Reflect the Moon Enso and Convey Concentric Peace.”

Wyatt explains the flowery title of the piece like someone who pays attention to shifting planets and the heavens that rule them.

“A dry winter’s curled leaf, austere, with hollowed stems, captures the moon enso before it disolves into — just bliss, in the hope that three berries reflect the light, and convey concentric peace,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt comes from a background in ceramic sculpture and when she became interested in metalworking, she thought jewelry would be an easy place to start. Wrong.

“It is incredibly complex and attracts an amazing group of artists,” she said. “Metal artists will try anything. They’re gutsy.”

Wyatt has found her niche among the Seattle Metals Guild and said there is a strong contingent of museums and collectors that take an interest in work that is being done in the Northwest. She mentioned the Tacoma Art Museum as being a tremendous supporter of metal jewelry artists.

Wyatt said she loves working with metal because of the variety of textures it allows an artist. Sterling silver is very malleable and reactive, she said, and when she experiments with various techniques the metal can span the spectrum of going from something sharp-edged and rectilinear to something absolutely smooth and curvilinear.

“There’s a lot of layering of enamels; letting one layer react with another layer,” she said. “Patterns emerge, but a lot of it is spontaneous because of the variables such as the amount of enamel I use, the temperature and the time in the kiln.”

Wyatt said it’s this unpredictability that makes it exciting.

“I wish to lead viewers of my work to ‘see’ at a non-verbal level in the hope my abstractions, just as they are, reflect the undefinable and extraordinary silent essence which is everywhere and in everything,” Wyatt said.

This being her third time on the open studio tour, Wyatt appreciates the direct feedback she gets from people who visit and reconnecting with people she hasn’t seen in a year.

“I also spend a lot of time talking to the other metalsmiths who come through the tour. We love to talk about tools and techniques.”

Wyatt’s work can be seen in various shows throughout the year at MUSEO gallery in Langley. She’ll have a show there in May featuring enamel, metal and clay mixed-media in addition to her jewelry.

New to the tour and also in Clinton, where two carmel-colored Highland cows keep an incurious watch over his endeavors, is the airy and inviting new studio of furniture sculptor Ed Fickbohm.

This artist creates a variety of colorful offbeat pieces using steel and polychrome wood.

Not only is it refreshing to see a furniture craftsman use a combination of wood and metal, but Fickbohm’s inventive use of vibrant colors and asymmetrical forms gives his tables, cabinetry, armoires, rockers and benches a one-of-a-kind playfulness.

That’s definitely by design, he said.

“I was never interested in making straight furniture,” Fickbohm said.

“I impose my own intuitive design on the wood instead of ‘bowing to the wood’ in the ‘perfect woodcrafting’ style of traditional furniture makers. I use wood, but it’s secondary to the design.”

Fickbohm has fun with color and said he is influenced by looking at other artists, particularly the work of painter Richard Diebenkorn. Fickbohm spent some time in Santa Monica, Calif. where the blue ocean-soaked scenery provided Diebenkorn a muse for his famous “Ocean Park” paintings noted for the vibrancy of their light-drenched colors; colors to which Fickbohm is drawn and uses in his own work.

Unique, humorous, sun-bleached, playful, funky, imperfect, living, skillfully-made, casual, cool, slanted, sideways yet sturdy — these are words that come to mind upon seeing Fickbohm’s decidedly modern pieces.

Here’s an artist who can forge metal and get excited by the offered remains of an aged myrtle tree. He said he sees the potential in every piece of wood he encounters, and luckily for tour visitors, the possibilities for wood, married to metal in Fickbohm’s designer’s imagination, are endless.

The Whidbey Open Studio Tour is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow.

A South End preview exhibit is presently open at the Open Door Gallery + Coffee in the Bayview Cash Store in Langley and at the Crockett Barn in Coupeville through the end of the tour. Pick up a ticket at either location, or close to the ferry dock in Clinton at the Island Framery, or, on the north end of Oak Harbor at the Deception Pass Gallery.

The $10 ticket includes a tour guidebook, map and calendar.

For more info, click here.

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