New artists on the Studio Tour

Islanders will catch a glimpse of art behind the scenes June 3 and 4 during the 31st annual Studio Tour. Seventeen local artists open their studios to the public from 10-5 that weekend. The Journal sat down with artists from the six new studios.

“It has felt so inspiring, being a part of the Studio Tour. Going to meetings and doing some of the work, we feel honored to be a part of it. The artist community has been so welcoming. We have something from [all the artists on the tour] in our house,” artist Luna Wylde laughed.

Islanders may recognize the woodwork of River and Luna Wylde. They have had a booth at Roche Harbor as well as the Farmers Market.

Although River does most of the large pieces and Luna does the smaller, the two work very much as a team. Together they create practical pieces, from tables, lazy susans, and coasters, to jewelry and keychains. The smaller pieces come from the leftover scraps of the larger pieces to leave as little waste as possible.

“I have always loved the interaction of wood and resin,” River said. She began working with wood when she was 18. The pieces during that time period were whimsical. “I got to a point where I thought why am I making things people have to dust?” River said so she began creating items people would use.

New to the tour for Luna are a series of driftwood and resin pendants, as well as carvings representing sea life.

“It has been really fun to branch out into a creative vein,” Luna said.

River is working on a new selection of wood bowls and turn handles.

“I have been told I make tenable art. I love it that people want to touch the [woodwork] that the [surfaces] feel good,” River said.

“I’m excited to have people see what more of our process looks like, and the tools necessary,” River said. Wylde Studios is located at Cape San Juan. Guest artist, Susan Hughes works with mixed media that includes sea glass and other found objects.

Acrylic painter Gretchen Allison’s studio is on Mountain Shadow Lane, near False Bay. Her guest artists include jeweler Erin Heydenreich, ceramics Lisa Lang, and acrylic painter Kim Bruder.

“I’m not a ‘draw it ahead of time’ type of artist,” Allison said. Instead, she waits for the canvas to speak to her. She was a guest artist in the tour a few years ago, and although she is the main studio and accomplished artist, she still feels like she is in the learning process.

“There is always more to learn, ways to look at things differently. I learned to throw things away without a lot of heartbreak over it, to continue on and not expect it to be perfect the first time,” Allison said. “Personally it’s a great excuse to play, it helps you see things differently.”

She started out later in life, after an extensive cooking career. During the off-season, when she owned the local restaurant Duck Soup, Allison held cooking classes. A group of women in one of those classes invited her to join their watercolor group. After that came an oil class. A trip to Costa Rica and encountering mildew that eats oil right off the canvas led Allison to switch to acrylics. She has not looked back.

“Acrylics allow you to paint fast and create a lot of effects,” Allison said. From using a squeegee or credit card to push the paint around, to texturing with spritzes of water, Allison’s work encompasses new ways of looking at the world.

On Panorama Place, you will find the studio of mother and daughter artists Pamela and Joelle Gillette.

They became interested in being involved in the studio tour after going on the tour themselves. “What an experience! We knew that it was a goal for us to be a part of the Studio Tour in the upcoming years. It took us a little while to find our home, get settled, and some time to get our studio to the point that we felt comfortable enough to have the public see it,” the Gillettes both said. “While we still have a long ways to go to have it reach our goal, we wanted to be a part of this wonderful Studio Tour community before we let too much time slip by.”

Like the Wylde’s they also have made appearances at the farmers market. Their work reflects places they have traveled, lived, nature and animals. Pamela’s medium of choice is acrylic while Joelle’s is watercolor.

“We hope the attendees learn that art can be created and expressed in many different forms, and while something may not be seen as “art” to one person, it can be seen as a “masterpiece” to another. We hope that attendees of the Studio Tour enjoy learning about the different mediums, and maybe are inspired to pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, some clay, metal, fiber, or glass, etc., and try their hands at expressing themselves,” Pamela said. “We are looking forward to sharing our studio and art with all!”

Potter Jeremy Jennings’ studio is located off Westside Road. He came to pottery after composing classical music and painting.

“Composing captures those fleeting moments. Potter captures those moments and turns them into rock,” Jennings smiled. Unlike painting or music, pottery has practical uses, like drinking hot beverages. Rather than electric kilns, Jennings fires his pots in a wood-burning kiln.

“My firing process is pretty intensive, and people that come on the tour will see how it operates,” Jennings said. He will have his kiln going throughout the weekend.

Jennings’ guest artist is ceramic and painter Glenn Hendrick.

Not far from the elementary school is oil painter Shannon Borg’s studio.

“Being on the tour, as a main artist, is a milestone for me. It has meant a lot to me personally, with all these amazing artists being so welcoming and supportive of each other,” Borg said.

Islanders will recognize the essence of one of her primary subjects, South Beach, even if they don’t recognize exact features. Art is having a conversation with the world, responding to the world. She does not want to replicate the exact copy of a place or thing, but to capture the feeling, emotion, without pinning it down too much. This enables her to respond to the world and provides something for views to respond to.

“It’s about freedom, not rendering something perfect,” she said. To those wanting to create she advised reading, learning and continue plugging away at it.

“Seeing the studios on the tour can be inspiring, seeing what other people are doing and how they work” she added.

Lois Gilbert-James works with reclaimed driftwood and copper. Her studio is located on the northern side of the island, on Upper Drive. Gilbert-James originally was a watercolorist but after moving to San Juan, her creativity took a twist.

“San Juan Island’s riches inspired me with an entirely different medium. I became intrigued with the raw beauty of worn sea glass, tumbled stone and driftwood found on the island’s beaches,” she said.

Each artist expressed gratitude to the community and attendees of the tour. “To the people who come out, thank you for taking the time to see what artists are doing. It’s a nice community experience,” Allison said.

There are several new guest artists as well this year, each bringing new work and new energy to the tour.

To learn more visit

Contributed photo
Pottery by Jeremy Jennings

Contributed photo Pottery by Jeremy Jennings

Contributed photo by Robyn Faie
Shannon Borg at work.

Contributed photo by Robyn Faie Shannon Borg at work.

Contributed photo
Lois Gilbert-James woodwork.

Contributed photo by Robyn Faie Shannon Borg at work.

Contributed photo
Kirk Firmister will be a guest artist

Contributed photo by Robyn Faie Shannon Borg at work.

Contributed photo.

Contributed photo by Robyn Faie Shannon Borg at work.