Weekend Warriors | Clinton artists share their love of fine arts and crafting in weekend workshops

At Sweetwater Creek Farm Studio, instructors take students on a day-long journey to create a piece of art from start to finish.

Susanne Newbold adds the finishing touches to her gourd. Newbold teaches gourd decorating classes at Sweetwater Creek Farm Studio.

At Sweetwater Creek Farm Studio, instructors take students on a day-long journey to create a piece of art from start to finish.

The studio offers workshops for any level, all for the opportunity to try something new.

“You never know who is going to walk in the door and surprise you,” said Sandy Whiting, co-owner of the studio.

That is part of the appeal of the studio — to try something new. Whiting said some people who come in are intimidated to start something new, but eventually find themselves able to relax in the artwork.

Whiting has worked in the Clinton studio for nine and a half years with fellow owner Susanne Newbold. Together they began teaching workshops five years ago. These past two years, however, the workshops have really taken off, Whiting said.

The studio offers a variety of  classes every weekend with eight different instructors. Whiting teaches classes on bookbinding, printmaking, monotypes, accordion books, watercolors, book covers and photo transfers.

Newbold teaches how to create gourd vessels using wood carving, wood burning, pyrography and weaving techniques. Newbold also teaches handmade bookbinding and book accordion classes as well.

Whiting and Newbold continue to further their own art, and show at various galleries on Whidbey Island and off the island.

Classes are also offered with other instructors, which include designing dye for silk scarves, leather-bound journals, basket twining and wire twining.

Whiting said having different teachers every weekend results in a wide selection of classes. Plus, it’s fun to try new things, she said.

Both Whiting and Newbold were teachers in previous endeavors. Newbold was a chef and culinary instructor while Whiting taught English as a second language.

Newbold jokes she’s still a culinary teacher, but works with a different food product — a dried gourd.

Newbold enjoys interacting with her students and watching them successfully create something they weren’t sure they could do.

Newbold begins each of her lessons with a freshly-cleaned gourd for each student. She does the prep work before each class which includes cutting open the dried gourd and cleaning it inside and out. Newbold said gourd innards are nasty, so unless the student wants to try their hand at cleaning it out she prepares it before class.

Once the gourd is clean, students paint, burn and carve on their round canvas. Some make baskets and some like to put imagery on the gourds, such as trees. Newbold finds illustrators often have great gourd decorating skills.

With bookmaking classes, Whiting uses layered images, patterns, colors and textures to create the cover and inside of the book. She teaches her students to incorporate monotypes, handmade papers, gel medium transfers and drawings into their books.

Whiting’s favorite class to teach is printmaking because there are so many things to explore, she said.

“There’s a zillion things you can do with printmaking,” Whiting said.

She said trying new things challenges the way people normally think. Whiting sees this example specifically in her class teaching reverse painting on Plexiglas. Artists tend to paint dark colors first, but with Plexiglas, that concept is reversed.

“People enjoy having to think a different way,” she said. “It’s fun to watch people develop, that’s part of the excitement we get out of teaching.”

Whiting said she enjoys watching people blossom and become comfortable in the workshop. She wants to see her students try art they haven’t practiced before.

There’s nothing to be afraid of in the workshops as long as students have a good time, she said.

Classes are typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. so students can complete an entire project. Each class can hold up to eight students.

Whiting hopes to develop more fiber art classes in the future along with more classes in bookmaking and book arts.

“We want people to leave with a successful and positive experience, to learn something and continue to work to expand their ability,” Whiting said.

“And a piece of art,” Newbold added.


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