Why Art? It’s Got to be Love!


The Holiday 2018 Vashon Island Visual Artists Studio Tour will take place on Dec 1st-2nd and 8th-9th, from 10am-4pm each day.  Brochure/maps are available at most Vashon businesses, or go online at VIVArtists.com.

I recently recounted to a few of my students the story of how I became a potter. I was in college and signed up for an extracurricular pottery class.  There were a few young, adventurous potters both in the college and in the town, committed to practicing their making skills and building various kilns–a wood fired kiln out by the athletic field on campus, a salt kiln in someone’s back yard… Raku? Of course, let’s try it! Despite having no ceramics department at our school, we found great mentors– role models who were living their work, and working very hard. I was hooked! But I couldn’t yet voice my desire to live this life. It seemed presumptuous. I could barely center a piece of clay!

Since that time, I have never stopped making pots. Why pottery? Clay is, for me, an irresistible medium. I like that I make functional items, though in this age of 3D printers and industrial production, are my hands and passion even relevant? Yes! These days, beautiful hand crafted objects, made thoughtfully, are valued by many folks.

My studio mate, Marla Smith told me of her beginnings with pottery at a VIVA (Vashon Island Visual Artists) “salon”–a gathering of clay folks on the island. When she was a young student at Western WA University, she walked past the beautiful brick buildings that housed the pottery studio and saw the activity and pottery through the window. “I want to get in there!” She enrolled in a class with a teacher who used the “un-teaching” method of instruction. So she started rolling out the clay with a rolling pin. “I had found my people.” Marla’s pots for the upcoming VIVA Studio Tour (Studio #8) some 45 years later, are carefully constructed from fine, textured, porcelain slabs (rolled out with a rolling pin) cut and pieced to create delightful functional vessels that seem at once both quirky and elegant. She has many stories to tell about doing clay on Vashon back in the day!

I decided to ask several more Art Tour artists “How did you begin working in your chosen medium? What do you love about your material/process?” Here are some responses….

Will Dacus, Stray Cat Woodworks (Studio #33 on the Art Tour)
“Wood as a medium amazes me. Each piece has its own individual qualities of grain, color, and texture. Exotic as well as domestic woods offer me a broad palette to work with. I begin with a form in my head, but truly the wood tends to dictate the final shape. I love the tactile quality of wood. Each piece calls out to be touched.” Will has been working with wood for 25 years.

Erin Schulz

Erin Schulz, Erin Schulz Studio (Studio #3 on the Tour):
“Drawing and painting realistically has been a life-long passion of mine. With that, all my daily endeavors incorporate this passion — carving out plenty of time and space to paint. One of my early art carvings occurred while teaching literature and composition in Chongqing, China. With a BA in English and high unemployment rate in the late 80s, China was the land of opportunity.  China offered not only a job, but the opportunity to paint, in oils, affordably. I found a realist master at the provincial university in Sichuan and cheap art materials. It felt decadent.  Once back in the US, an MS and tech-sector job enabled me to continue this lavish pastime.”

Bill Cleaver

Bill Cleaver, William Henri (Studio#28 on the Tour):
“I choose to bring my Hoquiam roots, my Wild West expertise, and my dance with high-end fashion into a culmination of all three. Wm Henri is the line I design and create in my studio on Vashon Island, located in the Salish Sea near Seattle, Washington. Connected to my pioneering family, informed by the Western style I painstakingly studied and mastered, and inspired by great design and artistry in fashion. Wm Henri seeks elegance, simplicity and functionality. In the spirit of true “cowboy” design that in fact was an amalgamation of so many cultures blended together, I embrace the blend of industrial, Americana and organic style.” -WmHenri.com

Sue and Janet Willingham

Sue Willingham, The Willingham Weavery (Studio #11):
“Many weavers are following in the footsteps of their mother but for me it was the other way around. When my daughter Janet married and moved to Nova Scotia in 1994, on a whim she took a weaving class and loved it. After that her phone calls were full of weaving jargon and explanations which went over my head. In order to communicate again with my kid, I enrolled in a beginning weaving class. That’s all it took – I’ve been hooked ever since. I enjoy all parts of the process – the planning, winding the warp, dressing the loom, the weaving itself. The interplay of colors and structures, the challenge of being accurate when threading the loom, the satisfaction of creating a useful textile –these motivate me.

Janet and I teach classes together each winter in my studio. Seeing the eyes of new weavers light up as they make their own cloth is a delight!  Sharing a passion for weaving with my daughter who lives a continent away keeps us close. Weavers in Vashon’s weaving community are among my best friends. In short, weaving is at the center of my life.

Visit the studios!  Grab a friend or two and visit new studios and old favorites!