The Bainbridge Island Studio Tour has been going strong for more than three decades, giving people an opportunity to meet local artists and buy handcrafted art.
The self-guided tour takes place twice a year, with summer and winter editions, and this year’s winter tour wrapped up this past Sunday.
Dinah Satterwhite, the coordinator of the tour, said she first participated as an artist before getting tapped to organize the event about 12 years ago.
The studio tour has a more intimate feel to it than one might find at more traditional art showcases, she noted.
“It has a totally different flavor than galleries,” Satterwhite said, adding that the summer tour takes place entirely in people’s homes and gardens, with the winter show taking place in both homes and community halls. Artists are required to attend in person, which can result in fun conversations that often enrich any art purchases attendees might make, she said.
Whereas many galleries and art shows charge artists commissions on sales, the studio tour doesn’t charge any commission at all, Satterwhite said. The goal is to keep the event as bare-bones as possible to the benefit of the participating artists, she said.
Among the artists at the winter tour was paper cutter Elizabeth VanDuine. Starting with just a piece of black paper and an X-Acto knife, VanDuine cuts out elaborate designs. She first participated in the studio tour seven years ago before stopping for a variety of reasons, she said. This was her first year participating again.
“It’s been super busy,” she said on Sunday, noting that Sundays are usually the quietest days. “Friday and Saturday were really busy and I think that’s a little bonus of COVID — everybody wanted to come out and do this.”
VanDuine said the event is an opportunity for people who want to support local artists to get up close and personal with them. “It’s a way for the people who are wanting to buy … local art [to] meet the artists instead of through a gallery or a store or online — connecting the consumer with the artist,” she said.
Dixie Armfield works with stained glass and fused glass. She has participated in the studio tour a total of seven years, she said. The tour helps her connect with potential customers and support herself as an artist.
Through the tour, she gets commissions, meets people who want to take classes at her shop, and gets invited to other art shows. “It’s all around a good benefit for artists because we get a lot of exposure that we normally wouldn’t get,” she said.
Jeweler Mary Edwards has been participating in the studio tour for close to 25 years, she said. She got into hand-crafting jewelry after she fell in love with semi-precious stones and pearls.
“I’m a person who’s always loved color and combining color,” she said. After she began collecting tribal, antique and vintage beads, “It didn’t take long before I realized I needed to make some money out of this," she said. "It started out as a hobby and I made some pieces for my friends and it was very well received.”
Edwards said she was happy with the turnout at this year's winter tour. “I have been very moved by how many people have shown up this weekend,” she said, noting that the event was put on hold for a year amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think it’s pretty safe to say we’re all happy to be working again."
This was the first year that Pat Forro and his daughter Kolyne Forro participated in the tour. The duo create epoxy artwork and abstract acrylic paintings. Their art can take many forms, including coasters, ornaments, hand-sculpted bowls, picture frames, and river tables — wooden tables with an epoxy “river” running down the center.
Pat Forro said he learned about river tables online and loved the look of them. “I told my daughter … ‘Hey, let’s get into epoxy,’” he said. He spent $24,000 remodeling his shop and equipping it with the necessary tools. Kolyne separately became fascinated with acrylic paintings, he said, and the pair began experimenting with the art form.
The pair have participated in both the Kingston and Bainbridge farmers markets, and it was at the latter market that they met Satterwhite, who recommended they apply for the winter studio tour.
One of the biggest lessons they said they’ve learned is the importance of getting their name out as artists, Pat said.
“Any time you start up a new business … especially in the artist world, you’re jumping into a huge, diverse pool of people out there,” he said. “You just don’t know how much art is out there until you actually get into it.”
And they've found that promoting themselves and attending different shows and events takes effort, Kolyne added.
"It’s been fun, but it has been a lot of hard work,” she said. “Lots of hauling and loading and packing, and unpacking and setting up and tearing down.”
Another benefit of the studio tour is that it gives artists an opportunity to network with each other.
The Forros, who were set up at one of the tour stops at the American Legion Hall, said they had connected with all the other artists there during the three days of the tour.
Armfield said the tour can spark relationships between participating artists. “We spend three days connecting with people in the studios, and some friendships develop from there and some working relationships have developed from there,” she said.
“You meet wonderful other artists,” Edwards said. “I’m blessed to be here with these people opening their home to me.”