PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Studio tour allows glimpse of artists’ creative process

PORT TOWNSEND — An evolving sculpture park. A graphic designer returning to fine art. An acupuncturist who snips tin into toys.

They’re all here on the Art Port Townsend Studio Tour, along with more than 40 other creative types who are opening their doors wide this weekend.

The tour is free, as always, and the artistic variety is dazzling: There are sculptors who work in stone, bronze, wood and concrete, painters wielding water and oil, makers of minuscule jewelry and a builder of “whirling dervishes” that are larger than life.

Those dervishes, made of wood, copper and steel, are part of the population at Chuck Iffland’s Chimacum studio. Like the rest, Iffland’s place will be open for the tour Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m., and directions to all studios are available at www.ArtPortTownsend.org and in brochures at the Northwind Arts Center, 2409 Jefferson St., just off Sims Way in Port Townsend.

“The tour is a good way to see what’s happening in your community,” said Iffland, who sculpts all manner of faces and figures in his 3,500-square-foot studio, and then puts them out on his 5.5-acre property. The place is turning into a park, he added, with benches, paths and the nine whirling dervish figures.

Iffland encourages visitors to come by this weekend or on any other day with good weather, provided they phone 360-732-6824 for an appointment.

“They will see a whole body of work that’s in progress,” he said.

In Port Townsend proper, near Fort Worden State Park, Rikki Ducornet is another of the multitaskers opening her studio. The author of eight novels including this year’s Netsuke, 2003’s Gazelle and 1999’s The Fan Maker’s Inquisition, Ducornet is also a painter and printmaker enchanted by biology.

“I will be delighted to discuss the nature of the creative process; issues of craft, imagination, memory — and whatever else comes up,” she writes on her Art Port Townsend web page.

Ducornet’s mantra, she adds, is “rigor and imagination.”

Both are in plentiful supply on the studio tour map.

On the easterly side of Jefferson County, at 220 Curtiss St. in Port Hadlock, David Eisenhour will display his sculptures born of metals, while discussing the methods he uses to shape them.

“If you want to further your involvement in art,” he says, “I think [the tour] is a very good thing . . . It’s more inclusive than a gallery.

“And who knows? You might stumble across an artist who’s not discovered yet,” and whose work “might turn out to be a better investment than the stock market.”

Nancy Van Allen of Port Townsend, a graphic artist and illustrator who is phasing fine art back into her life, will open her Garfield Street home studio for the second time, and this year, her husband, leatherworker Doug Van Allen, will also share his art.

“I personally like showing what I do, very much,” Nancy Allen said.

The tour, she noted, is a rare opportunity to see up close the work that goes into making many kinds of art.

For her part, Van Allen will demonstrate how she imbues her paintings with a three-dimensional look. In her piece on display now at the Northwind Art Center, for example, she combines realistic elements with relief, so that her painted tree has branches that come off the canvas.

Also in Port Townsend, next door to each other on S Street, are Loran Scruggs and Jolly Wahlstrom.

Both studio tour participants turn recyclables into art: Scruggs, also a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, fashions toys from tin cans and bottle caps while Wahlstrom, a jack of many trades, rescues old glass and turns it into colorful, translucent bird baths, dinner plates and other indoor and outdoor furnishings.

Wahlstrom remembers going on studio tours in past years, and finding inspiration to create new things. “I would look at something and go, wow, could I learn to do it? Could I take a class?”

He has since learned to fuse glass — and now teaches classes himself. They’re “the cheapest anywhere,” he says, because Wahlstrom uses recycled glass.

For Van Allen, the sharing of art and conversation, wherever one goes during the weekend tour, can be perfectly enlightening.

“To me, art is important. It is a time capsule for our history; for the whole human race,” she said.

The 35 studios on the tour, Van Allen added, add up to a sweet summer day of meeting people, discovering art techniques and expanding one’s horizons.

“Last year, I went around, and it was really fun,” she said, “to look, and to talk to the artists.”

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