Bellingham and Whatcom County are home to a thriving arts community. Meeting the artist and talking about their process, their inspirations and even seeing a demonstration of their methods in action greatly deepens the experience of their work. It is that experience that will add lasting joy, meaning and memories to any piece I choose to bring home. That’s why Bellingham is fortunate to have Whatcom Artists Studio Tour each October.
It is my privilege to know and have met many of our local visual artists. Several of them are among the 40+ artists who will open up their studios to the public for two weekends: October 5, 6, 12 and 13, 2019.
The Studio Tour offers visitors insight into the creative process, work-life and work-environment of area artists. At each stop, you’ll also have the opportunity to purchase original works directly from their makers.
Whether you create your own path and progress at your own pace from studio to studio or take the convenient Brew Bus, you’re sure to gain a deeper connection with the art and artists of Bellingham and Whatcom County. Perhaps, like me, you’ll even be inspired to incorporate some of the techniques demonstrated into your own work.
Artists Tour celebrating 25 Years
This year is special because the Studio Tour is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. The self-guided tour and sale began with just ten artists in 1995. It has grown to include more than 45 artists working in more than a dozen different media.
Whether you love paint, print, textiles, photography or sculpture, you’ll find a unique version of your favorites on the Tour.
A few of the studios share the work of more than one artist. Plan your trip now to enjoy this unique experience.
Some of the Artists You’ll Meet
There are too many fascinating artists to mention them all so I’ve just listed a few that my family and I will plan to see. Explore the list of artists to choose your must-see stops along the tour.
My teen is a fan of sculpture so we’ll be stopping by Studio 31 to learn more about how artist Chris Moench makes his gorgeous prayer wheels. I’ve met him and seen his work in Fairhaven’s Good Earth Pottery market and admired the pieces he’s donated to Whatcom Land Trust fundraisers. Prayer wheels are a form of meditation. Although based on large traditional ones used in the Buddhist tradition, Chris’ are not tied to any one religious denomination or spiritual tradition. They’re inspired by peace, love, gratitude and compassion, words he inscribes on the inside of each one he creates. They often are decorated in scenes from nature and are intended to hold prayers and well wishes. Part of the art form is the motion. Prayer wheels are meant to spin and be viewed in motion. The one below was created for President Barack Obama to celebrate his inauguration and express hopes for his administration.
We’ll be sure to stop by Studio 29 to see popular Pacific Northwest artist Ben Mann. Once you know what to look for, you’ll see Ben’s work throughout Whatcom County. His brightly-colored paintings on black are striking, playful and full of everyday life. You’ll see the work of this Bellingham native in restaurants, murals, public buildings, schools, hotels and homes throughout Whatcom County. Ben has demonstrated his technique and contributed pieces to my children’s elementary school. His work has permeated and enhanced the culture of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s public spaces. He’s also recently completed a children’s book, Friendly the Fox!, about making friends with everyone, no matter how different they may be from you.
After seeing the simplicity of Ben’s approach, my kids were inspired to try it themselves at home.
We’ll also stop at Studio 30 to see the work of our friend Richard “Rick” Bulman. We first met Rick at Whatcom Art Market in Fairhaven where he has a space among more than 40 other local artists. I’m impressed by Rick because his work is diverse. He doesn’t confine himself to just one medium. In additional to grand scale paintings on canvas, I enjoy his etchings in natural stone that are augmented with paint. He also makes jewelry and explores watercolor, mixed media and drawing to name a few. If you’re into trivia, you’ll also appreciate that Rich was the model upon which the Dirty Dan statue on Fairhaven’s Village Green is based.
Richard “Rick” Bulman
I look forward to a stop by FishBoy Gallery, Studio 23, to see the contemporary folk art of R.R. Clark. I once met the artist and my teens love the bright colors and surreal style in some of his works.
A stop we won’t miss is Studio 7, Gossamer Glass Studio. Owner Brian Kerkvliet will be doing glassblowing demonstrations at 1 p.m. each day. His work includes functional art such as vases, bowls and lighting. He specializes in Murrine cane, one of my favorites, where patterns or images are made in a glass cane and then cut into thin cross-sections and those murrine are arranged. I first learned about murrine where it was made famous in the islands near Venice, Italy.
I’m also excited to see the woodwork of award-winning Slovakian artist Tomas Vrba. His breath-taking large-scale sculptures that combine metal and wood often depict animals in action in nature. He is known throughout the Pacific Northwest for his tree stump art. I’m curious to see him demonstrate some of his techniques that often employ power tools and chainsaws.
Plan your trip now to explore and learn from your favorite Bellingham and Whatcom County artists. Perhaps you’ll find that perfect piece of art for your home or office. Or you’ll find that unique gift for a friend or family member. You’ll enjoy sharing it so much more when you can tell the story of its inspiration and creation to its admirers.