Pretty in purple: Whidbey Island artists plan lavender farm affair

Ceramic artist Lyla Lillis, owner of Earth,Woman and Fire Pottery, helped organize this year’s Artist Invasion of Lavender Wind Farm. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Ceramic artist Lyla Lillis, owner of Earth,Woman and Fire Pottery, helped organize this year’s Artist Invasion of Lavender Wind Farm.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

This weekend the strong aroma of lavender that circles in the breezes above Darst Road will be infused with creative juices. Dozens of tents will pop up along the fields of the Lavender Wind Farm Saturday as Whidbey’s artists stage an invasion for the second year in a row.

Beginning in 2006, a traditional festival was held at the Lavender Wind Farm for four consecutive summers and served as a fundraiser for the Washington State University Extension service. But in 2010, farm owner Sarah Richards felt the time and cost associated with putting on the event was too much for her small staff too handle. When she broke the news to the usual participating artists, they refused to see an end to their days among the purple plants. In lieu of the festival, the artists banded together and set up about 14 booths in which to showcase their art and mingle. They deemed it the Artist Invasion and had so much fun during their first intrusion, they called the troops back for 2011.

“The environment at the farm is just so nice that we can hardly resist going there,” organizer and ceramic artist Lyla Lillis said. “Nearly all the artists that attended last year are returning this year. Some because their sales were great, but mostly we just like being amongst the lavender, the beautiful scenic views and being with each other. It is like a working vacation in the art world.”

Lillis said despite the cool, foggy mornings the event saw last year, there was a slow, steady flow of visitors across the two days. She said people took their time viewing the art and lingering in the lavender. This year, the invasion has expanded to include at least 24 artists and a gourmet lunch provided by Angelo’s Caffe. There will be artists in action in the mediums of basketry, oils, acrylics, watercolor and fiber arts and a recycled glass art yard.

“I am looking forward to having all the artists settled in their respective locations, having sunshine glistening on my pottery, sitting back, sipping a piping hot cup of coffee from Angelo’s Caffe and watching all the visitors admire the artists’ work and the hard work Sarah Richards has put into the Lavender Wind Farm,” Lillis said.

Oak Harbor jewelry artist Barb Pearson attended the event last year and said she’s thrilled to set up camp on the farm once again.

“The nice thing about doing a show out there is just the atmosphere,” Pearson said. “I’ll be working on stuff and people are welcome to come and ask questions.”

Fiber artist Barbara Lyter will be new to the invasion this year. She said she’s happy that Whidbey’s artists are gaining another avenue to showcase their work because there’s so much talent on the island.

“All of the participating artists are doing our own advertising for the event so this is really a grassroots, or should I say lavender roots, event,” Lyter said ... I hope to see this event become a part of the art scene on Whidbey Island much like the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival.”

The event will be held from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and July 31.

Richards said the late blooming season should cause a beautiful backdrop for the artists this weekend. The Folgate lavender, which usually begins blooming mid-June, is just now ready for harvest.

“There’s going to be a lot of purple during the event,” Richards said. “One of the things that we like to do as much as possible on the farm is help the artists. We’re really delighted that they’re coming.”


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