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BIRDS, BUSES, BELLS & BEES…

This is an article I wrote which was published last week in one of our newspapers, the Loop
BIRDS, BUSES, BELLS & BEES
… all on the Open Studio Tour…

By: Gordon R. Barnett

I’ve long appreciated the reliable history of the Vashon Artist Studio Tours… always the first two full weekends of both December and May. I have come to set my studio’s seasonal clock by that schedule. Its logic is simple and useful for me whose bells often become gifts for either the winter holidays or Mother’s Day. That schedule is one of the reasons I have participated for so many years, but I wondered how some other artists on the tour felt about those rhythms… and why they become regulars.

I think most artists on the tour would agree that the process of inviting folk into the work spaces we more usually occupy in solitude becomes an important teach / learning experience. We obviously want to share,  promote… and sell… our work. We thus teach through our craft and technique… AND we look forward to learning in turn from everyone accepting our invitation. Whether or not you’re a purchasing patron, your feedback helps complete the cycle of communication which art is about.

To explore the back lanes of our Island in the bloom of spring is an opportunity in itself. Then, to be invited to explore behind the fences and gates, into the newly aired and tidied-up working spaces of such a wide variety of creative Islanders allows you to co-create the excursion in your own flavor. It is doubtful you’ll be able to cover it all.

One way to start might be to find a “neighborhood” of studios, like ours here on Dilworth Point with three artists sharing paintings, jewelry,  garden sculpture and small wearable bells. The driveway to Steve Zartman’s metal working studio is indeed next door to Kristen Reitz-Green’s small carefully handmade pentagonal studio full with large paintings.

Steve was surprised one year to see a large bus, chartered for the excursion by a group from the city, moving up the single lane drive without first checking to see if there was room to turn that rig around! Somehow they managed, and while he appreciated the business from such a crowd, I suspect there was some cost to his landscaping! He is, like many of us, a gardener. His garden sculpture is designed to enhance such living spaces, while his jewelry works on a more intimate scale.

Before moving to the Island five years ago, Kristen was a professional musician, playing and teaching the french horn. Now she’s made a huge leap into boldly painting oils on canvases — ranging from the small studies, which become her bread-and-butter sales, to richly colored large images of food […think 4-foot bowls of Fruit Loops or a huge glistening close-up of a succulent sandwich!] That she began her first study of painting with Pam Ingalls is obvious, yet that she has moved [with even more obvious individuation] gracefully into her own style in just a few years is impressive. She raises chickens & paints them alongside sensitive studies of children. One year when she had an excessive gaggle of roosters she gave several away to studio visitors… unpredictable opportunities abound on this tour!

Because I love and collect eggs, even making some myself, I’m pleased that the calendar this year makes for a late Easter so that Emily Pruiksma’s Ukranian decorated eggs will be quite in season! We share the use of wax in our work, although the hard wax I use to make the models for my lost-wax cast bells is of quite a different nature from the bee’s wax used to make the hand dipped & often sculpted candles made by Emily and her husband Shane at Fiddle Home Studio. Additionally the technique of decorating blown egg shells involves wax to develop the complex traditionally geometric patterns of a culture celebrating the spring holiday even more than the winter.

Emily’s studio is a quintessential Island experiment & experience… bringing the cycle of living and working with nature closer to completion. They keep bees, using the wax produced to add with other, sometimes also local, sources of their organic raw material. Bees are a currently newsworthy important part of our ecology, so the cows which pose on this farm for the cameras of studio visitors & the window looking from the yurt into the chicken coop, dubbed the “chicken TV” to occupy younger visitors all necessarily depend on the cross-pollination of species, including artists!