By March Twisdale
Welcome to our new series, focused on Island Businesses that lie well outside of Vashon Town. For the Island newbie and the occasional visitor, this network of resources, services, professionals, experts, and knowledge is almost entirely hidden from view, and discovery is not easy. Many do not advertise. Some do not even have a published phone number. Signs – when present at all – can be easy to miss on stormy nights or foggy days. I have lived here for 18 years, and despite being very active in our community, I’ve only just begun to unravel our Island’s diverse, scattered, and amazing web of skilled artisans, amazing entrepreneurs, and successful business owners … outside of Vashon Town.
The usual port of entry for this plethora of island businesses is by word of mouth. Each referral, each recommendation, each name and phone number shared is truly a gift. I experience a visceral sense of gratitude when I think of the men and women who make my life so much better … and those who considered me worthy enough to be pointed in their direction. It’s a privilege and a compliment.
This month, I’d like to share with all of you, the name, business, and upcoming Open Studio event of a man some of you already know and many of you never will. You see, Gordon R. Barnett is leaving Vashon Island! He’s not going far, but this December will be our last and final opportunity to step into his elegant and productive studio, nestled into a glorious hillside, surrounded by a garden of lovingly tended, living creativity, facing the beauty and grandeur of Mount Rainier (Tahoma) as she gazes downward at the birth waters of the southern Puget Sound.
GRB Bells reflects Gordon’s almost 77 years of self-directed artistic exploration, fostered by his courageous Northwestern Kansas parents, who supported the unique, early painting interests of their eldest son. “I did have other interests and dreamed about other possible lives,” says Gordon, on his website. But painting, and eventually jewelry-making, became one of his life’s great passions, loves, and joys. Much to our benefit.
When one thinks of the dark days of midwinter, what comes to mind? For many of us, it is sound. The creaking of tree branches as stormy winds toss them about. The laughter of children, shredding wrapping paper and discovering new delights. The scream of the kettle, the soft silence of falling snow, the crackling of the fire and, for some lucky humans, the delicate tinkling of bells as one moves about one’s day.
I cannot come close to the exquisite way in which Gordon describes his creations, and so let me tantalize you with a quote from his immensely enjoyable website: “Created for fashionable gifts and symbolic talismans, delightful in sight and sound, touching deeper sensory connections as well. Each bell rings its own story.” At www.GRBBells.com, you can pre-explore Gordon’s Bell Collections ranging from Architectural to Beings, Botanical and Limited Editions, Symbolic and Spiritual, Traditionals, and Fancies. However, the website (for all its beauty) offers only a bland taste of these delicious bells, simply by the nature of being purely visual. What is a bell when its song is absent?
This is why we want to alert our Loop readers (and all Islanders) to Gordon’s approaching departure (how’s that for a paradox?) and this one, final opportunity to step into his studio, where bells cast in silver, bronze, and gold adorn the walls, waiting to be touched, swung, caressed and gently jiggled, allowing their music to soar through the deliciously scented air.
Grab your calendar and set aside an hour (or three) on one of the first two weekends of December for your first, second, or tenth visit to the GRB Bells Studio … knowing it cannot be missed, for it will be your last. Yes, dear newbie, recent transplant, California immigrant (no, we don’t hate you), and long-time Islander who’s managed to somehow not hear of Gordon’s Bells before today … Consider yourself worthy of being invited to the Open Studio of one of our island’s much beloved, professional artists, on the eve of his new adventures in living.
In Gordon’s own words: “I own a sporadic wanderlust … Uprooting, alternating with long periods of becoming deeply, sometimes quietly, quite settled.”