Studio tour shows off our artistic growth | An artist's view

Sharon Munger, like many Vashon artists, has evolved as an artist. She will take part the Studio Tour. - Courtesy Photo
Sharon Munger, like many Vashon artists, has evolved as an artist. She will take part the Studio Tour.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

I’m sure you have experienced it — that feeling of arriving somewhere, either a physical or emotional place, when you know you finally fit. My first experience with this was arriving in the early 1970s at the then-Cornish Institute. But the most profound experience was shortly thereafter, when I moved to Vashon, a decision based almost exclusively on the artistic population of the Island. I knew I was home.

This was the 1970s, when all artists were thought to be hippies living and working in remodeled chicken coops and running the gamut of street fairs. No matter — this was Vashon then and now, and it was my home. In those early days in the ‘70s, the Studio Tour was just a glimmer in some artists’ eyes. Born as the Potter’s Tour, it grew slowly into its clothes as the Studio Tour, now a twice-yearly event important to both artists and guests.

As I looked over the brochure for this winter’s tour, I was struck by the variety and richness of the offerings. Each year tour artists evolve. I was recently asked, “What’s new this year,” as if each tour was a constant repetition of the one previous. And I had to reply, “It’s always new!” Like any passion and vocation, artists are striving constantly to evolve and grow. The result is that the work pouring from the studios is different each and every tour.

To me, that drive for growth is a little like the tech industry, where the bytes are being constantly rearranged and redesigned and products made ever smaller and cuter. However, unlike many professions, during each Studio Tour artists welcome guests into their homes, studios and hearts, sharing with them new designs and ideas. The tour is the one time when an artist is not just a piece on a wall or pedestal with a name tag, but a person eager to share the how and why of what he or she does.

This year’s tour contains friends, old and new, whose work reflects that element of change and aspiration for artistic excellence. Janice Mallman, my friend since the ’70s, was a killer potter when we first met, moved into creating stunning jewelry and has recently focused her keen eye on lamps and note cards with paper imagery as she moves also into printmaking. Penny Grist hits the top of my artistic evolution list. When I first knew Penny (yes, also in the ’70s), she was a master jeweler and remains so today, but over the course of her career, she has done wood sculptures, altar boxes and now mosaics. Brian Fisher simply can’t stop experimenting and moving forward with his monoprints and steel garden art, while veteran potters Liz Lewis, Mary Hosick and Irene Otis are constantly on the lookout for new shapes, techniques, colors and clays.

Finally, Sharon Munger, one of the “mothers” of the Studio Tour, was elbow deep in hot batik wax when I first met her (yup, the ’70s again). Now she works both as a painter and in clay while shepherding Barnworks through its 29th tour year. I’ve always thought of Sharon as the Gertrude Stein of Vashon, with Barnworks being the first “salon” to invite artistic appreciation and conversation.

These are just a few of the Studio Tour hosts who will invite guests into their homes or studios this year. With 41 studios on the tour, some artists are new to the tour, while others, like me, are in and out, depending on time, whim and inspiration. Each year we create new works, some of which we love, a few of which we hate and that you’ll never see, in that constant pursuit of artistic change and growth. And like kids, we want to show you what we have done and how we have changed.

The studio tour reminds me why I came here in the first place. It is home in both an artistic and community sense for me, and each year I get to share both with my greater Island community. It doesn’t get any better.


—Chris Beck is a photographer and potter whose work will be displayed at the Waterworks studio during the tour.


The Art Studio Tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11. Some studios will also be open Friday, Dec. 3, for the Gallery Cruise.


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