The Second Open Studio Weekend...

Another Monday morning posting does not mean I will be regular in such timing, but is instead a result simply of having worked again all weekend. While I have long loved a pattern of writing journal in bed with morning coffee, this blog version of that has no easy rhythm yet…

While I continue to fuss inside this format I can report that the second weekend of the Vashon Open Studio Tour matched the first in activity at GRB Bells. We make a bit of a party around this Island institution with a table of goodies. Morning sweeets segue into afternoon savories, thanks to Stephen’s attentions. Wafting scent of cinnamon, cloves & ginger from a pot of hot spiced cider greets visitors before I am able to articulate my own verbal welcome. The tinkling bells’ song from those hundreds of silver beings on the displays quickly brings folk along deeper into the celebration which we offer for those making the trek out to our home on the edge which we call Soundcliff, being both a description & a prayer.

The studio is one of many tucked away in corners of the Island not usually so publicly accessible. We suggest walking the short distance in on our narrow road since the situation for parking is a bit limited. It isn’t much more of a hike than walking from the parking garage at any mall, but even on dull wet days we can offer expanding water views through the alders as one approaches our garden. If the day is clear, as they mostly were for this tour, our panorama might tease with fog or clouds before opening a peek toward more fulsome sunbreak vista including Tahoma Ranier>, inside the weather over Puget Sound.

The bells are a palpable expression of the joy usually more jingoed about in this season than JINGLED… they make their own music & dance a genuine jig! While working so closely with them all year, first in their silent waxy states, before the visually dull rough-casts begin to hint at resonance, I must hold faith in my intuition. I must use my imagination to find hints under their dirty surfaces at mid-polish toward a more finished complexion. All that before their vabious parts get strung, hung, wire-wrapped, & clappered together finally in forms which give them voice.

They truly ring intensely for me during that latter process, yet there is another sound I want…

I am most fully rewarded when their rhythm is rung by other hands, thus eliciting in addition the sounds of a rare delight as visitors discover their own relationship with this ancient archetype. My curious work is vindicated in a complex duet of tinkling sounds… human entrancement with something metallic.

Silly silver bells. Little toys. Ding-a-ling jewelry… miniature bits, perhaps, of poetic profundity in the physics of cast metal? Something alchemical happens… I feel this peculiar joy whenever a bell rings.

I take yet another sort of reward during these Open Studio days in the tidy ambiance of my freshly scrubbed studio. The sound system is quieted from its usual duty of masking the whine of flex-shaft & polishing motors. The recently installed track lighting showing off the results of all the previously less pristine processes for the bells displayed on wall panels, ready to sound off at the least touch… & a flow of visitors responding inside this magical space.

I hear the question frequently whether I ever get tired of the sound of the bells. No! That is a big part of my pay-package.

I have stopped fighting what could be made as a case for my own idiocy in a world gone similarly mad in quite other directions. If this niche I’ve spent nearly 25 years exploring is wasting my time, then so be it. Indulgence in joy becomes its own exponential reward.

If I were still struggling to share that joy it might be different, but each year I have become convinced again by the way they continue to find appreciative audience. They are it…


During that period some years ago, when they were being produced & marketed by others outside my studio, it was easier to listen to the down sides of more standard business notions which suggest this line of 200 designs is too much of too little. The economies of scale are delicate. I’m mostly happy that I’m a little man. A little sensitive guy. A little foolish & a little silly if I must be… which probably helps if one wants to do a business in bells. But, while I make little silver bells, I make a big bewildering range of them!

GRB Bells writes an ever surprising business on this small island. I am always amazed how many bells find homes here. Vashon might be similar, to this big bell tribe. All those choices allow lots of the essential variety for personal independence to celebrate, as befits living harmoniously on an island.

I could estimate numbers that we have already belled some 10% of our population, yet still we sold more bells at this event than ever before!

This year has continued to see the off-Island business growing as well, from the web site GRBBELLS.COM & in the several shops across the country who also help sell GRB Bells. Nancy Shaw & Company in Mystic, Connecticut, features the bells as ancillary to her selection of antique & estate jewelry, all year ’round, but with a special promotion during these holidays. Isadora in Sedona, Arizona, & Emily Benoist Ruffins Design in Taos, New Mexico, both have long been active purveyors for the line in the southwest. The latest venue to join our network is Fremont Jewelry Design here in Seattle.

Now this rare day of writing must shut itself down to accommodate a trip into the city. Life in the studio might wish for a well deserved break after accomplishing so much of preparation toward the fulfillment of other seasonal celebrations, but, this artist is married to other whirlwinds… we have appointments & parties, plus an exhibit to attend!

I love the other-reverence for this season from one of the list serves I receive:

“There are only three more shopping days before Beethoven’s Birthday!”

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