PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Port Townsend artists open their studios to the public

Loran Scruggs, one of the 41 artists on the Art Port Townsend Studio Tour, is clear about why she makes art out of soup cans.

“I am interested in joy,” she said. “Color is joyous for me, so I use printed tin cans for their color and glint. A lot of my work references childhood and play. For myself, play is a time of being in the moment, [with] no past or future worries: a time of joy.”

Scruggs’ place at 621 S St. in Port Townsend is among 38 studios opening to the public for free exploration this Saturday and Sunday. The 12th annual tour is all over the map, geographic and otherwise.

In addition to Scruggs, the artists who have just joined the circuit this year include Chimacum’s Tony Porto, a photographer who pairs his images with poetry; sculptor Margaret Takaki; Heather Gale, who will demonstrate hand-built pottery; and furniture maker David Kellum.

Also opening their doors are Corvidae Press and the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, both at Fort Worden State Park; Port Townsend “action painter” and poet Jim Watson-Gove, calligrapher Sandy Diamond fine-art photographer David Parris, and Elizabeth Blake, who will demonstrate “the evolution of an illustration.”

The artists’ lairs are large and small, from the 5-acre backyard studded with Chuck Iffland’s sculptures and installations to the snug, flower-filled room where Susan Hazard paints.

“I told the artists: Don’t clean your studio,” said Hazard, the longtime orchestrator of the tour.

Hazard wants the event to be unlike a gallery walk, in which everything is tidy. Instead, the studio tour weekend is for demonstrations and conversation with artists and other art lovers, while surrounded by paint and wood, clay and bronze.

At Iffland’s place at 3820 West Valley Road in Chimacum, visitors will find “The Juggler,” a big figure made of local alder and stainless steel, in the midst of a diverse sculpture garden.

Unlike at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, visitors are encouraged to touch the art — “just watch out for the steel pointy things,” Iffland cautioned. And mixed in with the tall grass, sunflowers and roses, studio tour participants will see Iffland creations that have been displayed at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle and at sculpture parks around the region.

There’s “Saint Francis,” “Corporate Heads,” “Scarecrow” and numerous other works Iffland has shaped in wood, limestone and carved, coated concrete. And since he mainly shows his work in Seattle, the studio tour is an opportunity for him to connect with the local crowd.

Like many others on the tour, Iffland will also show his work to those who make appointments — or who happen to be passing by when he’s there.

“I’m open any time people call,” said the sculptor. “I had a couple of joggers stop by this morning.”

Most of the artists on the tour are in Port Townsend, but there’s a handful sprinkled through Chimacum, Port Hadlock and Marrowstone Island.

Their broad variety of work “is representative of the huge resource of artists we have in Jefferson County,” said Hazard.

Art lovers can also visit the Northwind Arts Center at 2409 Jefferson St. in Port Townsend to see the Studio Tour Preview Show, which features selected works by the artists on the tour. Brochures and maps are also available at the center and at www.ArtPortTownsend.org.

All studios are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and admission is free, although visitors may be moved to purchase an original work of art directly from its creator.

Trying it out

Those who embark on the tour may also find themselves trying on an art form. At Scruggs’ studio, for example, the artist will demonstrate how to make a whistle using tin cans and bottle caps. Then she’ll hand out step-by-step instructions for building a biplane ornament out of a soup can.

At Diamond’s calligraphy studio at 703 U St. in Port Townsend, visitors can experiment with delicate first-century Roman cursive writing. “Collage materials will be available for guests who wish to go beyond words,” Diamond added.

Clay artist Heather Gale, at 60 Old Fort Townsend Road, welcomes children — hers, ages 9 and 11, will be on hand — and will teach visitors of just about any age how to make hand-built mugs.

Scruggs, in her artist’s statement on ArtPort Townsend.org, summed up the reason she’s opening her studio this weekend.

“I hope that my work puts an amused smile on people’s faces,” she writes. “For when we smile, we are in the moment, engaged, attentive and happy.”

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