84 artists + 44 studios = a free tour on Whidbey Island

Artist Jerry Pike lights incense to place in one of his many handmade artifacts inside his Oak Harbor studio. Pike designed the piece to produce perfect smoke rings.  - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Artist Jerry Pike lights incense to place in one of his many handmade artifacts inside his Oak Harbor studio. Pike designed the piece to produce perfect smoke rings.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

The priority for the Island Arts Council’s 14th annual Open Studio Tour seems to be location, location, location, and no, it’s not headed up by New York realtors.

Council member Sue Symons said people are always eager to attend the tour, but are overwhelmed by the number of studios, which usually amounts to 80-plus. In the past, traveling to every studio was nearly impossible. So this year, though 84 artists are on deck, there will be only 44 locations.

“The whole idea is to make it more accessible to the viewers so that more art can be sold and more artists can be seen in fewer places,” Symons said.

While some artists will still be in their individual studios, others will be in groups ranging from three to 12.

Symons said though the artists will be in groups, that doesn’t mean they’ll all be working with the same media, so visitors will see a variety of mediums showcased in one place. Additionally, she said the artists are focusing on newer works hoping to give attendees things they haven’t seen before. And another important change in this year’s event, the tour is free.

One tour participant, Jerry Pike of Oak Harbor, has deemed himself a ceramic archaeologist. Pike uses clay to create objects commemorative of ancient primitive cultures. Pike was inspired as a young boy when he was growing up in Eastern Washington. His dad would take him steelhead fishing along the Snake River where he would find arrowheads buried in the banks.

“I felt a connection with the artists from along ago and the people who made those objects,” Pike said. “I really liked that and that got me interested in archaeology.”

Though Pike was interested in artifacts, he didn’t yet have a medium for making his own, and that’s where clay came in. Now Pike has been working with clay for more than 30 years. He said no matter where he was in life, he always took clay with him and worked even when a board laid across his washer and dryer served as his studio.

“If you have the inspiration, you can work anywhere,” he said.

Pike has participated in the tour the last four years and said he always looks forward to getting feedback from visitors. For him, the tour isn’t as much about selling work as it is getting input and ideas from others. He said his studio serves as a museum for all of his pieces, including the first project he ever completed as a freshman in high school.

Another Oak Harbor artist, painter Barbara Marks, will host one of the group studios. She’ll be with Jennifer Bowman of Anacortes and local Sharon Tryon. Marks said though all three of them are painters, they use a variety of techniques.

“We all have quite different styles,” Marks said. “Sharon Tryon has a romantic impressionist style and uses watercolors, oils and acrylics. Bowman is predominately acrylics and creates large pieces of flowers. My stuff is a mixture of everything.”

Marks works with mixed media and watercolors. She started out in the art world as a carver, but when she moved to the Middle East her electric drills didn’t work, so she turned to painting.

The three women plan to unearth some smaller originals for the tour, which Marks said will be unframed and sold for reasonable prices. They also want to create a relaxed, friendly place for visitors.

“We’ll have refreshment goodies,” Marks said. “We want it to be a really fun atmosphere over here.”

Woodworkers, painters, photographers, fabric artists, jewelry makers and ceramists will all play a part in this year’s event, so there’s art to suit nearly everyone. There’s even a boat maker in the mix.

A map with studio locations will appear in the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record on Sept. 22 and in The Navigator on Sept. 24. Also, a map and brochure can be found online now at

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