Hobbit Shop

Jim Unwin builds a potlatch box with hand-carved Native American emblems on each side in his studio, the Hobbit Shop, in Long Beach. A potlatch is a feast celebrated by indigenous groups of the Pacific Northwest where gifts are given.

During the annual Peninsula Arts Association’s Fall Open Studios Tour, Linda Marsh looks forward to not only demonstrating some of her pottery techniques to visitors but also offering them a chance to play with the clay themselves.

“We try to show them what we do and let them do it, too,” she said.

The Long Beach, Washington potter has participated as an artist in the event for about six years. Now, she’s the chairperson who oversees it. Being involved year after year, the purpose and value of the tour still resonate with her.

“It is a good group of varied artists coming together to promote art and art enrichment,” she said. “You get to meet people and talk to them about their interests and get reactions from people.”

During the tour, which kicks off next Friday, Nov. 29 and runs through the weekend, 17 studios and galleries along the nearly 28-mile stretch from Ilwaco to Oysterville will welcome guests to observe demonstrations, speak with the artists and peruse their creations.

According to Marsh, the tour is a way to introduce people to different forms of artwork and celebrate the arts. Guests have the opportunity to learn from nearly two dozen artists over the weekend. It’s also a good time for people to get in some holiday shopping, she said.

Cultivating personal interaction

Cathy Hamilton, who creates intricate decorations using primarily seashells, wood and other natural materials, will also encourage visitors get a hands-on artistic experience by making a seashell tree ornament during the tour.

She recently joined the Peninsula Arts Association and is new to the studios tour this year. Since most of her sales are conducted online through Etsy and she no longer shows her work at galleries, she appreciates opportunities like this to connect with clients face to face.

“Unless you’re looking online,” she said. “I’m not really out there.”

Though her schedule doesn’t allow her to attend as many markets and festivals as she used too, she could never give them up completely, partly because she enjoys that customer interaction.

“It’s nice when they come up to your booth and they just can’t take the smile off their face,” she said.

Her work room is set up inside her house, so for the tour she will open her garage and give people more space to create ornaments and browse her collections.

In addition to hosting demonstrations and activities, many of the artists put up decorations and offer snacks to create a festive atmosphere. Marsh said it’s especially fun to watch the kids, who enjoy playing in the clay while their parents browse and shop.

A coastal connection

Instead of planning a demonstration, watercolorist Eric Wiegardt, who is native to the Pacific Northwest, will use the time to show new work and speak with patrons.

Although his gallery is open year-round, he is often away teaching throughout the United States or Europe. During November and December, however, he comes back to the studio-gallery that he set up inside his great-grandfather’s house along Bay Avenue in Ocean Park in the early 1980s.

While his work has impacted both the national and international art scene, it bears traces of his coastal upbringing. In general, his pieces tend toward impressionistic and interpretive, capturing and communicating his feelings toward a certain subject matter rather than a realistic replication.

His paintings, including the recent Tide Point series, capture his recollections and feelings of being around the water.

“It does get under your skin,” he said. “It certainly affects my subject matter.”

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