Camano Island Tour is an opportunity to visit 32 artist studios

In the two decades since its launch, the Camano Island Studio Tour has grown into a five-day, two-weekend event.

This year, 32 studios and galleries are participating, showing just about every type of art imaginable, including jewelry, woodworking, photography, sculpture, fabric art, pottery, glass, l watercolors, acrylics and pastels.

“It just became this massive, once-a-year event,” said Karla Matzke, co-founder of the tour which is now celebrating its 20th year.

Some 3,500 people have come to Stanwood and Camano Island in recent years to see the art and watch the artists at work.

The annual tour not only benefits the participating artists. Stores, restaurants and other businesses in Stanwood and Camano Island are also seeing increased sales, Matzke said.

It’s a chance to see two blown glass artists at work – Mark Ellinger and Stan O’Neil – and woodworking artist Russ Riddle, whose “Tree of Harmony” won first place in the Schack Art three-dimensional category. Center’s Juried Art Show earlier this year.

This marquetry cabinet by Russ Riddle was crafted in curly maple, African sapele, walnut, and African rose ivory wood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Riddle grew up in the Los Angeles area. He said he “played” with woodworking as a child, but became more interested in it after learning part of the trade from his father and a carpentry course in college.

Riddle said he became more drawn to artistic and creative forms of woodworking after moving to Camano Island in 1998, where other artists encouraged him.

He began with marquetry or inlay work, making a design using pieces of wood.

The inspiration for many of his pieces comes from things he observes, such as the influence of a trip to China reflected in a series of paintings that a Japanese businessman said reminded him of his home.

Or see the leaves of nearby ginkgo trees turn golden in the fall and have their shapes incorporated into a table where they seem to float downstream.

The wood often grows in unusual ways. Riddle said he tries to find ways to include these unusual patterns, called figures, in his work.

Sometimes it’s a wave pattern that when exposed to light appears to be 3D, he said.

Hall table by carpenter Russ Riddle.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Hall table by carpenter Russ Riddle. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

“It’s fun to use the different patterns and textures you get with wood,” Riddle said.

Matzke, the co-founder of the tour, operates a 3,000 square foot gallery and 10 acre sculpture park on the southern part of the island.

The gallery will present the works of 20 artists indoors and around 50 outdoors during the tour.

Matzke said Camano Island’s reputation as a creative hub dates back to the early years of the 20th century, when artists, writers and musicians began settling there.

Even though people have come to previous tours, artists are always trying something new, she says.

Glass artist Mark Ellinger is an example. Long known for his work on Glass Quest, the annual clue hunt for artistic glass balls, he recently tried out a new set of hot-sculpted owls and hummingbirds, she said.

And there’s enough to do on Camano Island to experience a full day of activities, including hikes, restaurants and a state park, Matzke said.

“It’s a fun getaway for the day,” she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you are going to

The Camano Island Studio Tour kicks off Friday and continues through Mother’s Day weekend. It resumes for a second weekend on May 19 and 20. Hours each day are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no charge to join the tour. Download a map of studio locations and find more information at camanostudiotour.com.

Visiting tips

Look for signs: Each studio is designated by number on the Camano Arts Association map. Signs that say “CAA Studio Tour” show the way to each location.

Choose your day: Some people like to go on the first day, others prefer to wait until the second weekend when it might be a little less crowded.

Map your strategy: Determine which artists and galleries you really want to see. The galleries are spread across the nearly 40 square mile island, so travel times from studio to studio vary. If the crowd seems a bit large in one studio, drive to another and then turn around.

Add to today’s agenda: Also remember to schedule time to explore the area, by visiting one of the nearby beaches, parks or restaurants.