In the same way that farmers markets and wineries offer the public a chance to meet the people who grow, raise and ferment the vegetables, meats and wine placed on dining room tables, studio artist tours offer a chance to meet the artists who paint, sculpt, fuse, hammer and weave beloved pieces of artwork.
Last year, Washougal artists banded together to create the inaugural Washougal Studio Artists Tour and give the public a glimpse inside Washougal area art studios.
Washougal mixed-media metal artist and tour coordinator Angela Ridgway said the 2018 tour attracted visitors from Camas-Washougal as well as from “the Portland area and beyond,” including several folks who were visiting Washougal for the first time.
“We were delighted with the success of our first tour last year,” Ridgway said. “Being invited into an artist’s studio is wonderful way for the public to see where the magic of creating art happens and learn about both the art and the artists.”
The public has another chance to meet Washougal artists over Mother’s Day Weekend, at the second annual Washougal Studio Artists Tour. This year’s tour will feature 19 local artists at 11 art studios. The self-guided tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 11-12, throughout Washougal.
The tour route takes visitors through the Washougal foothills, along the Washougal River and through Washington’s “Gateway to the Columbia River Gorge.”
“We heard many compliments from visitors last year on how scenic the tour drive was. Washougal is such a beautiful place that it is no wonder it attracts and inspires so many talented artists,” Ridgway said.
Following is a look at three of the Washougal artists who will take part in this year’s studio artists tour. All will open their personal art studios from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 11-12.
For more information about the tour, which is sponsored in part by the city of Washougal’s hotel/motel tourism tax fund, the other 16 artists taking part or to find a tour map, visit WashougalStudioArtists.org.
As Ridgway pointed out, sometimes the drive is nearly as beautiful as the artwork inside the Washougal artists’ studios. The drive to fused-glass artist Shirley Bishop’s studio, located a few miles off the Washougal River, proves Ridgway’s point.
Shirley Bishop, glass artist
Bishop, a Portland native with more than 30 years of professional experience in the interior design industry who returned to her love of glass art in 2013 after a Camas art festival visit prompted her to take a fused-glass class, opened a spacious art studio/teaching facility in December 2018.
The studio is located in a mobile home on Bishop and her husband, John’s, 20-acre property off Southeast Third Circle, a couple miles southwest of the scenic Washougal River Road.
“I just fell in love with it,” Bishop said of glass fusing. “When I was young, I never thought I had any artistic ability. But then, I discovered stained glass in high school. My volleyball coach was teaching it, so I took the class and found that I loved working with glass. I loved the colors and the patterns.”
Bishop, a 1979 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland, didn’t stick with stained glass, though. Instead, she put her love of glass art aside for many years while she was raising her three sons, working, divorcing and, in 2001, remarrying John Bishop, a man who supported her artistic desires.
John bought her first kiln and encouraged her to pursue glass fusing, Bishop said. Now, she owns three kilns and has taken over the mobile home the couple lived in for years while they planned and built their dream home on the wooded Washougal property.
Inside Bishop’s studio, sheets of colorful glass from the Portland-based Bullseye Glass Company take up a space where the home’s oven once stood. Another wall holds dozens of glass samples showing what the piece of glass will look like once Bishop heats it to up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit in her kiln room and a vast collection of crushed glass known as “frit” and glass rods known as “stringers” that are used to create patterns and different effects on fused glass artwork.
Work tables sit in the studio’s front room sit on an antique handmade Persian rug Bishop inherited from her grandmother. Here, Bishop teaches classes to youth and adults on the weekends — both her own private glass-fusing classes and those arranged through Washougal Community Education. In March, Bishop participated in the Washougal School District’s Washougal Youth Arts Month, teaching young artists how to craft glass panels for a finished piece displayed in Washougal Coffee Company in early April.
A back room in the studio has been turned into a fused-glass gallery, with pieces of Bishop’s diverse collection priced and ready to go home with buyers who visit the studio during the Mother’s Day art tour.
Bishop has branched out since reconnecting with glass art in 2013, taking classes on the Washington coast to learn more about creating landscapes that look like paintings crafted out of glass, and figuring out how to transfer photos onto pieces of glass art to craft unique and sentimental pieces for weddings, graduations and other life celebrations or remembrances.
Bishop says she feels like every person has “an element that inspires them creatively.”
“I’m a part of this group of women. We call ourselves ‘the bad girls,’ and I’m the youngest at 58,” Bishop said.
Every member of the group is artistic and Bishop said she felt a bit left out until she found glass fusing.
“I thought, ‘Finally. This is it,'” Bishop said. “When you find your (creative inspiration), you’ll know it.”
To watch Bishop work in her glass-fusing studio, tour her gallery and see where she fires her glass art, visit “No. 6” on the Washougal Studio Artists Tour, at 36311 S.E. Third Circle, Washougal. Bishop will share her studio space with mixed-media artist Cyndee Starr during the Mother’s Day Weekend tour.
To learn more about Bishop’s artwork or to view a schedule of her glass-fusing classes, visit her Studio 13 Glass Art website at studio13glassart.com.
Katy Fenley, jewelry artist
This will be jewelry artist Katy Fenley’s first year on the Washougal Studio Artists Tour, but some art lovers may have already had the chance to visit Fenley’s Washougal studio or see her artwork during the 2019 Clark County Open Studios Tour, which highlights artists throughout Clark County every February, or at the 2018 Washougal Arts Festival.
“Both of those events were such a success,” Fenley told the Post-Record. “I’m just finishing my submission for this year’s Washougal Arts Festival, so I’m hoping to be a part of that again. I thought the way the community came out to support the festival last year was great. There’s such a strong sense of community here, which I love.”
A mother of two teen boys — a 19-year-old who graduated from Camas High School and a 17-year-old who is a junior in Camas High’s virtual learning program this year — Fenley is still reeling from the death of her husband, Josh, in 2018, but said the Washougal community’s tight knit support has helped her through the painful transition.
“We’re still trying to muddle our way through,” Fenley said. “Everybody I’ve met in the artist community here has been so supportive of each other. And I love Washougal’s strong sense of community.”
Fenley grew up in Texas and lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for many years before moving to Washougal in 2015, and said she still gets a sense of relief when she drives back into Washougal’s city limits.
“It’s always nice to roll back into town. There’s no traffic. I love Washougal’s small-town vibe,” she said.
A former musician and tribal fusion belly dancer with a love of the Southwestern United States, a fascination for rocks and gems and a background in glass lampwork beadmaking, Fenley’s jewelry reflects her own unique style and skillful craftsmanship. Fenley uses her metalsmithing and lapidary skills to transform metals and gems — she is particularly fond of silver and turquoise — into wearable works of art.
“I fell in love with metalsmithing, although I still do some torch work (making glass beads),” Fenley said. “But combining metalsmithing with rocks and gems, bringing all of that together to create something people want to wear, really sparked a new passion in me.”
To visit Bishop’s studio during the Washougal Studio Artists Tour, stop by 273 N. Shepherd Road, in Washougal between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday or Sunday, May 11-12. To learn more about Fenley’s artwork, visit her website at bellavarastudio.jimdo.com, or view her work on Instagram or Facebook at instagram.com/bellavarastudio/ or facebook.com/bellavarastudio.
Kathy Marty, weaver
Washougal artist Kathy Marty can trace her love of textiles back to her college years in the early 1970s. She was still living in Ohio then, and she was enrolled in a wood sculpture class but found herself dreaming of textiles.
“My teacher said, “If you’re going to weave, it has to be in 3D. It has to be sculptural,'” Marty said. “So I started working with heavy ropes and manipulating them and doing abstract things for awhile.”
Eventually, Marty’s intrigue with textiles drew her attention to lands beyond the Midwest.
“When I was 24, I came West. I had become really fascinated by Japanese textiles and wanted to study at a place called Fiberworks in Berkeley,” Marty explained.
After working with a very well-known Japanese-American textile artist at the Fiberworks Center for Textile Arts in northern California, Marty made the journey to Japan to immerse herself in the ancient artform.
She was 27 years old. Alone. In a foreign country for the first time ever. And working side by side with other young women, learning about fabric tension and looms and dyes. Marty loved it, but quickly realized she would never be able to create the types of Japanese textiles she adored on her own.
“It was very laborious, but I did enjoy the process,” Marty said. “That type of weaving, however, takes a community of people to make it happen. You need multiple hands.”
When she returned to California, Marty wrote a book about what she’s learned in Japan, and she started teaching natural fabric-dyeing classes on the West Coast as well as in her native Ohio region.
Once she realized that creating Japanese textiles wasn’t her life’s work, Marty said she had a bit of “an identity crisis.”
“What was I going to do with my life? How was I going to make a living?” she said.
Classes at a community college led Marty in a new direction. She became a graphic designer and spent the next 20 years perfecting her professional craft, first as a graphic designer for the Sierra Club and then as the art director for magazines in the San Francisco Bay area, and raising her two now-grown children.
In 2004, Marty moved with her husband, Tim Tully, and two children to a five-acre plot in Washougal and fell in love with the area. She founded Camp Windy Hill and has offered week-long summer camps on her property overlooking the Columbia River Gorge for the past 10 years.
One day, Marty decided to visit the Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal and discovered a woman working on a loom in the museum.
“I hadn’t woven for 35 years, but found myself asking, ‘Do you need a volunteer?'” Marty said. “I was a little rusty at first, working with the loom. It reminded me of my college days. But I was so taken with the beauty of the Pendleton selvage. I just loved the color and the textures.”
The woman Marty met at the museum, Barbara Quinn, eventually gifted a loom to Marty.
“She passed away about a month after she gave it to me, so I think of her when I weave,” Marty said of Quinn. “She was a weaver and spinner and was one of the people who helped put the old loom at the museum together.”
In her home weaving studio, Marty now crafts colorful art rugs using the same material Quinn taught her to weave: cotton and wools scraps from the Pendleton Woolen Mills known as “selvage.”
“The colors and texture of the selvage just make me happy,” Marty said. “It can be gorgeous on its own, or I might try to figure out new color combinations.”
Marty said she is constantly trying to push herself to go beyond the basic patterns dictated by the bags of Pendleton selvage.
“It can be limiting but also very challenging,” she said of her chosen art medium.
If you want to catch Marty at the Washougal Studio Artists Tour, visit her craft studio overlooking the Columbia River Gorge at 39309 S.E. Nichols Hill Road, Washougal, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday or Sunday, May 11-12.
Can’t make the Mother’s Day artist tour? Marty will show her Pendleton selvage rugs at several shows and markets this spring and summer, including at the Recycled Arts Festival in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park on June 29-30, and at the Camas Vintage and Art Street Faire on Aug. 10, in downtown Camas. For a full list of places to find Marty’s woven rugs, visit her website and click on the “Events” tab at the top of the page.