Charity work ‘true inspiration’ for Washougal quilter

River Art Fair returns to Washougal for 3rd year

A selection of Heather Farris' custom-designed candle holders sit on a table at her Washougal home.

When Heather Farris was growing up, her mother ran a quilting business in Castle Rock, Washington. After some initial reluctance, the younger Farris started to make quilts when she was a teenager and discovered a passion.

“If there’s some way to be creative,” she said, “it’s always been an interest of mine.”

Farris, a Washougal resident, has donated her quilts to local hospitals and homeless shelters for the past several years. In addition, she makes hand-decorated candle holders, some of which she’s sold or given away.

A selection of Farris’ quilts and candle holders will be on sale at the third annual River Art Fair, set for Saturday, Aug. 3 at the residence of founder, organizer and artist Deborah Roberts, 1705 S.E. Washougal River Road, Washougal.

Twenty-three local and regional artists will be featured at the event.

“There’s lots of new artists this year that I’m excited about,” Roberts said. “Each year it’s gotten better and better. I’m blown away to see who comes out of the woodwork.”

A crafter’s eye, a giving spirit

With the aid of a sewing machine, walking foot (a mechanism for feeding a workpiece through a sewing machine as it’s being stitched) and a lot of fabric, Farris tries to make one quilt per week, although “sometimes that doesn’t happen,” she conceded.

One quilt can take between six and 40 hours to complete, depending on the size, she said.

“It takes a lot of patience, and it’s not very easy, which is why not a lot of people do it,” Farris said. “The amount of time that you put into it you really don’t get out of it, but it’s so much fun to do, and it brings so much enjoyment to people. Although it can be frustrating at times, when you see yourself getting better and better, like I have over the last few years, it’s pretty fun.”

Farris doesn’t necessarily have a set plan when she sits down to make a quilt.

“I just let the fabric speak to me,” she said. “Whatever the fabric is telling me, (I do). I know that really sounds kind of strange, but I let it take me where it wants to go. Sometimes I have to take things apart and put them back together.”

More recently, Farris has started to sell some of her quilts — mostly to family members, friends and friends of friends — to finance quilts she plans to donate later this year.

“That’s my true inspiration,” Farris said of her charity work. “If there’s something we can do to lift (people) up when they’re down, even if it’s something as insignificant as a blanket … there’s some that really just need some kindness.”

Farris was inspired to make candleholders after her wedding two years ago.

“I made 200 candles or something, and everyone wanted them,” she said. “They range from $2 to $12. They’re really, really affordable compared to what you can buy online. Plus they’re handmade.”

Farris said that making candleholders is “a lot less stressful” than making quilts.

“I can sit down and just kind of ‘zen,’ just chill out,” she said. “With the quilts, it’s so much more complicated. They’re both really fun to me. It just kind of depends on my mood. Do I want to be challenged, or do I want to hang out and just chill?”

Farris buys candles, holders and other materials, then puts them together “however looks good to me,” she said.

“A lot of the people that I sell them to, they prefer to buy them in a cluster, so they’re already all set up,” she said. “They’re just fun. You can go into the bathroom and have a beach candle in there and feel like you’re at the beach.”

Whether she’s making quilts or candleholders, Farris “makes it look easy,” according to her husband, Tom.

“It just seems like she whips one out one right after another,” he said.

‘Something for everybody’

Roberts started the River Art Fair in 2017 after her application to the Washougal Art Festival was rejected.

“I found out that there were only 25 artists (accepted), and I knew there was a lot more artists than that in the area. I thought, ‘That’s crazy,'” she said. “I wanted to sell my own art, so I said, ‘I have the property, and I want to do an art fair.’ I figured it would make more room for artists to show their work.”

The event grew from 10 artists and 100 attendees in 2017, its first year, to 23 artists and more than 500 attendees in 2018.

“After the first year, the feedback I got was, ‘It’s about time someone did something like this,'” Roberts said. “I think artists here were starving for something.”

This year’s fair will feature several artists from the Camas-Washougal area, including Shirley Bishop (fused glass), Makayla Blum (wood signs, watercolor and paintings), Michelle Carlson (totes, purses, backpacks and wallets) and Holly Hughes (nature and lifestyle photographs).

“Diversity and variety are huge for an art fair,” Roberts said. “There will be something for everybody at every price point.”