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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vashon Island Art Studio Tour Continues Dec. 10-11

We all hope to have meaningful holidays, but beyond religious and cultural meaning, how about making your purchases more meaningful too? Your support of local artists, artisans, food producers, craftspeople, and the shop owners who sell their wares helps not only your home town but also our nation's economy. And you end up with better merchandise.

Welcome to the first in a series of posts about ways to BUY AMERICAN  AND BUY LOCAL when selecting gifts this year.

Pottery pitcher and tumblers by Liz Lewis, who also provided the photo.

Start the month of December in a delightful way with the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour, only a short ferry ride from either Seattle or Tacoma. Held every May and December, the self-guided tour takes place from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday this weekend and next, Dec. 3 - 4, and Dec. 10 - 11. It includes dozens of different studios to visit, some with more than one artist, selling things you would never find at a mall. Each one contains the essence of another human being's creative vision and interpretation of their world and its beauty.

Two views of a handmade bell by Gordon Barnett

Meet and speak with these artists. In some cases you will see them at work. Ask questions. When you can tell the recipients all about where their gifts came from, how, and by whom, they were made, those gifts become even more special.

I asked a few questions myself, of island potter Liz Lewis, who is promoting and participating in the tour.

"This Holiday Tour will be the biggest ever!" she said. "The Tour has been a regular event on Vashon for over 30 years, morphing from a potters' tour, to the Barnworks watercolor show, and then the combining of resources to produce an art tour that includes whoever is making art and wants to be involved. On Vashon, that's a lot of artists!" Indeed. You can take a look at an interactive map and links to individual artists on the event's website, here.

Lewis told me that the twice-a-year tours provide the framework for her production cycles, meaning she has a great selection to offer customers. "I love to present my pottery for sale directly from my studio," she said. "For one thing, it is direct and personal. And for another, it gives me great motivation to hose down the studio! I try to be available to do wheel demos during the Tour which makes the process come to life for visitors."

Vashon Island, less than 14 miles long and about three miles wide, remains a rural and peaceful place just minutes from the urban lifestyle of the mainland, the kind of place where a creative person can find the quiet and inspiration they seek. That might be why its population of not much over 10,000 people includes 1,500 individuals who dedicate their lives to the arts, in one form or another. You will find the quality and sophistication of their work equal to anything a big city can offer.

If you don't live nearby, you can plan your visit as a weekend getaway. Stay at one of several B&Bs, found through the link below. Hungry? No problem. The island offers many distinctive eateries that offer healthy, delicious food.

On behalf of all the artists, Lewis extended a welcoming invitation: "It is a fun excursion to come over to the island with a carload of friends to tour the many unique art studios, talk to the artists, and do some shopping." I never need an excuse to visit Vashon, but the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour would make a good one. Remember, the link gives you access to the sites of individual artists and views of their work.

Other helpful links--
Ferry Schedule:
Dining and Lodging on Vashon Island:

Copyright 2011 Candace J. Brown     All photos courtesy of the artists and not to be used without their permission.

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