After taking a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gig Harbor’s annual Open Studio Tour is back. Sort of.
Earlier this year, 27 artists had planned to open their studios for the three-day tour, but nine have opted out due to COVID-19 concerns. Eighteen artists are still participating in studios in Wauna, Fox Island, Gig Harbor and South Kitsap County. The studios will be open Sept. 17, 18 and 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Masks are required at each studio.
Potter Dan Barnett’s ceramic totems will be for sale during this weekend’s Open Studio Tour. Courtesy of Dan Barnett
Ceramic artist Dan Barnett and his jewelry designer wife, Miriam, share a studio in Gig Harbor. They are long-time OST participants. For many years, Dan was best known for his utilitarian objects — plates, bowls, vases and the like. Recently, he’s been experimenting with different shapes and forms with varied glazes and coloring that he turns into sculptural totems.
“I arrange the individual pieces into totems after they’re fired. It makes for interesting and surprising combinations,” he said.
Jewelry designer Miriam Barnett will participate in this weekend’s Open Studio Tour. Courtesy of Miriam Barnett
Miriam Barnett, who just retired from a long career as executive director of the Pierce County YWCA, makes jewelry. To her, the tour is an opportunity to connect with people and teach them about art.
“Dan and I have been working on our crafts for more than 40 years,” Mariam said. “Creating is what keeps us whole, balanced and happy. We love doing the studio tour because it allows us to share our passion for the arts with others. We believe the arts save lives.”
Painter/photographer Bill Wachtler will have a tented area set up outside his Gig Harbor studio so visitors don’t have to be concerned about being indoors. To him, the tour is a way for artists to connect with one another and the public.
Artist Bill Wachtler’s pastel painting “Blue Heron” will be on display in his studio during this weekend’s Open Studio Tour. Courtesy of Bill Wachtler
“It also gives us a chance to talk about our motivation and our philosophy about why we do what we do, and how we do it,” he said, adding that it’s also an opportunity to learn what visitors are interested in. That, in turn, can provide ideas for future art pieces.
Gig Harbor woodworker Brad Stave’s studio is located just across the Purdy Bridge. As a wood turner, Stave says he tries “to celebrate the beauty nature has provided.” While he’s turning a piece, he thinks about the color and texture he can add later to enhance what’s already there.
Brad Stave will have turned-wood bowls and other artworks for sale during this weekend’s Open Studio Tour. Courtesy of Brad Stave
Stave is sharing his studio with jewelry designers Karen and Norm Geiger. The Geigers share a passion for jewelry metalsmithing and lapidary, and, although their styles are different, they both use traditional methods in their casting and fabrication. They look to nature for inspiration and have a special fondness for sea life and the American Southwest — and rock-hounding. Their pieces often begin with selecting a specific stone, then the design flows from there.
Potter Wanda Garrity has been an OST participant for several years. Her studio is next door to Stave’s. Garrity discovered how therapeutic and satisfying it is to work with clay after a 25-year Air Force career.
“I needed to drastically decrease the effect of job stress on my life, so I decided to take a pottery class,” she said.
Wanda Garrity will open her pottery studio to the public during this weekend’s Open Studio Tour. Courtesy of Wanda Garrity
It was a good move. Today, her work is available in several art galleries, but, to her, the studio tour is important because it gives her a chance to talk to people about the process of making art and she’ll be demonstrating how she uses a wheel to create her work and the various firing techniques she uses.
“The goal isn’t just to get customers and sell our work; it’s about creating a greater appreciation of art,” she said.
Other artists participating in the tour include painters Donna Trent, Barb Field, Cathie Johnson, Janie Friemann and Marty Robinson; print-maker Lea Basile-Lazarus; fiber artist Maureen Reilly; jewelry designer and knife-maker Michael Hoover; glass- and fiber artist Shirley Lane; photographer Rick Alway; potter Becky Horkan and stone sculptor Pierre Mollinet.
Painter Cathie Johnson is showing her watercolors during this weekend’s Open Studio Tour. Courtesy of Cathie Johnson
The tour was founded in 1993 by the late Al Johnsen, a Gig Harbor painter and potter who had taught art at UC Santa Cruz and founded a similar tour there. One of Johnsen’s beliefs was that a tour should educate the public and introduce the community to artists as people who actually create things with their hands. He also felt that participating in the tour would encourage artists to “dig a little deeper and try new things” so they could show new, fresh work every year. His hope, and the hope of the tour artists, was that knowing more about art and how it’s made might inspire others to celebrate their own creative spirits.
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For more information and to download a printable map of the tour, visit gigharboropenstudiotour.org.
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