Art in Action

The studio tour scene


What: Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

Where: Throughout Whatcom County


WHEN: 10am-5pm Fri.-Sat., Oct. 13-14

Cost: Entry to the self-guided tour is free


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Anyone watching a writer practicing their craft would likely become bored after the first few minutes.

Watching artists in action is a whole other animal.

When you’re planning your route for the second weekend of the 24th annual Whatcom Artist Studio Tour, be sure to look on the map in the detail-filled catalogue for the creative spaces marked “Demo: Daily.” They’ll guide visitors to artists such as woodworkers Karen and Vernon Leibrant, sculptors Don Anderson and Suzanne Averre, clayworker Brian O’Neill, glass artist Brian Kerkvliet, and painters Rebecca Meloy, Karen Theusen, Kristen Ingman, Joy Olney, and Cooper Lanza—all of whom will spend at least part of their tour with the tools of their trade in hand.

But even those who plan to spend less time making art and more time talking about it will help bring their creative process into focus from 10am-5pm Sat.-Sun., Oct. 13-14. Some, like sculptor and painter Shirley Erickson, have been taking part in WAST long enough to know that the first step in making someone care about your art is being able to express to them what it means to you, and where the inspiration for it came from.

“I have been participating in the studio tour for 12 years now,” Erickson says. “I have had visitors from all over the United States come to my studio. It gives them an opportunity to see where and how artists in this community work and live. I’ve even had a few visitors from Europe stop in.

“My favorite part of the tour is having people return to my studio year after year to see what I have been creating. It has been a very positive experience to have conversations about the why and how I create.”

Each artist has stories to tell, so whether you’re visiting Chris Moench and finding out how his haunting “prayer wheels” came to be, discussing the use of house paint with Terry Brooks, parsing details about Larry Richmond’s intricately patterned ceramics, talking with Tomas Vrba about how a chain saw can also be a muse, or delving into the background of one of the other 40 artists taking part in the countywide collaboration, it’s likely you’ll find out something you didn’t already know about what they do.

Sometimes, you’ll even gain insight about how the artists draw inspiration and support from each other.

“I like participating with other artists in the tour,” painter Nancy Canyon says. “The artists help each other to get out there and to let people know who has something that would be a good fit for a client’s home. In the Morgan Block Building (in Fairhaven), we share responsibilities with signage and who is providing what for our guests. We celebrate before or after the tour, and help each other by displaying something of each artist’s in our rooms.

“WAST artists are grouped in areas, which makes the tour convenient for folks. And since it’s spread over two weekends, the tour can be taken in a few leisurely trips,” Canyon adds. “People can see where and how artists create their works, and talk with the artist directly.”

Photo of Rebecca Meloy in her Cottage Industry Home Studio is by John Meloy.

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