“Hmm. This looks like a blanket, and this one was probably a blazer,” artist Maggie Lancaster said. A specialist in hand dyed silks and wool braided rugs, Lancaster sorted through her fabrics.
One corner of her studio is devoted to recycled, cut up materials she purchased from local thrift stores.
“If I like the colors I’ll buy it, but it must be wool. I’m very strict about that,” she added, as her quick fingers shaped a basic design.
This weekend, Aug. 23 and 24, she’ll be displaying her rugs at the Historic Crockett Barn. And some of Whidbey Island’s other elite artists will open their studios to the public, revealing the often private and personal operations behind their trade.
The Summer Art Studio Tour is organized by the Whidbey Working Artists, who designated 19 sites. For Dan Ishler, a hand thrown pottery artist, the show is a welcome departure from art’s increasing mass production and an introduction to local talent.
“There is so much competition in the area for imported art from Target and Wal-Mart that can sell it for less than it takes for me to buy the clay. I think it’s important for people to buy American art. One-of-a-kind art,” Ishler said.
In 1995, Ishler and his wife closed their production studio in Montana and sold all their manufacturing equipment except for a potter’s wheel and an electric kiln, choosing to focus on one-of-a-kind pit fire pieces and crystalline glazes.
Inside his Oak Harbor studio, the finished pieces give it a museum-quality look, contrasted by high-tech machines, rudimentary tools and pop culture icons James Dean and Marilyn Monroe plastered on the walls.
During the tour, Ishler plans to fire up his backyard pit (Southwest Indian style) and sprinkle salt and copper onto pots.
For artists Ann Wilson, Bev McQuary and Nikki Farias, best friends for 12 years, this will be their second show together. Wilson and Farias have studios four blocks apart and every Tuesday the group meets to have drinks, talk art and “get the creative juices flowing.”
“We used to call ourselves the triplets of Coupeville. Now we’re Randy and the Widows, or Whidbey Island’s Dirty Old Women,” Farias said.
Wilson, 72, is a watermedia and pastels artist. Her backyard is filled with sculptures, inside jokes (a cow donning a hat), and a “tree” filled with painted tennis shoes.
“My art style must reflect my New York roots as it could best be described as eclectic often with a touch of humor. Often told by observers that they see no consistency in my art, I accept the observation as a compliment,” Wilson wrote on her Web site.
Farias works with mixed media, oilbars, acrylic, watercolor and felted purses.
McQuary is a handmade glass bead-maker. Depending on the weather, she plans to schlep a propane torch to Wilson’s this weekend to make on-site jewelry.
Aside from individual studios, people can visit the Gail Harker Creative Studies Center, a school for art and design on paper, stitched textiles and other multimedia. Five of their graduate students will display work. This mash-up of painting with contemporary stitching overtop is still an emerging art form, employee Sabrina Bradley said.
“Gail’s work is helping to produce artists here and all over North America,” she said.
A full listing of artists, locations and directions can be found at www.whidbeyworkingartists.com.
There will be an artists’ reception Friday, Aug. 22 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Historic Crockett Barn in Coupeville. Many of the weekend’s artists will pull from their collections, and it is open to the public.