Artist Tour – Circle of Friendship

Twenty five years ago, a group of artists realized that the best shows occurred in their own studios. They toiled for months creating new work and cleaning up their studios and gardens. Thus the San Juan Island Artist Tour was born.

“Artists enjoy sharing their world, their process as it is part of the job, so to speak,” said artist Pamela Hoke, who is new to the tour this year. “The studio tour opens the dialogue between the artist and visitors because of its ‘raw’ experiential form of relationship-building, the tour helps artist find their tribe, and art lovers to discover theirs.”

The Studio Tour opens Friday on June 3 with a sneak preview from 4 – 7 p.m. and continues through the weekend from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The tour consists of 18 studios across San Juan Island featuring 51 local artists. The tour is free and self guided. Maps can be found on the website,, as well as shops throughout Friday Harbor.

Another new stop on the tour is the studio of artist Lauren Jawer of Belle Terre Ceramics. Her studio features a light straw mod-cob showroom. This structure has the look of a cob house, but uses more straw than clay, said co-designer Jayson Loon, owner of Urban Culture, who co-designed it with Jawer, and has been busy constructing it for the tour.

“The project is a statement of producing a place of usefulness and beauty from existing materials… demonstrating how life on the island demands and helps us focus on resourcefulness and… untapped uses of our surroundings,” said Jawer.

Guest artists for the tour are Kevin Roth, who uses discarded metal, and Claire Wright with textiles. Both artist will offer workshops thoughout the tour.

Beth Hetrick will feature five guest artists at her studio, including new and emerging artists Maria Michaelson and Eben Shay.

Years ago, Hetrick and Lisa Lawrence were guest artists with Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso when the tour began. They showed in her barn, hung fabric swatches and artwork from barn walls.

“It was so fun, and the enjoyment continues,” Hetrick said.

Lawrence and Hetrick will be reunited this year, as Lawrence is a guest artists in Hetrick’s studio.

Hetrick added that her favorite experience was when a guitarist played at the studio while guests wandered through sculptures in the orchard and garden, and viewed art and paintings in the studio.

Teresa Smith, who has been attending the tour for years, is excited to be a an artist in it this year.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet the island artist, to learn about art,” said Smith. “People may get inspired to find their own muse and find teachers and art to purchase if they chose. The tour is first and foremost an educational opportunity. A chance… to see parts of the island that may not be available otherwise. It is an opportunity to meet our island neighbors.”

Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, whose studio features four guest artists, has been involved with the tour from its early days, more than 20 years ago.

“It was a venue for connecting with the other artists on the island, a great way to make friends … friends that are still connected and enjoying each others artistic journey,” Buijis-Mancuso said.

In the past, studios have received more than 300 visitors, according to Nancy Spaulding of Spaulding Studio. Most studio visitors are islanders, but more than a quarter are typically tourists, and not all are human. Buijis-Mancuso tells the tale of a great blue heron that once spent the day lounging by the pond in front of her studio during the tour. People wanted to buy the heron “statue,” not realizing this heron was a real bird.

Many of the original artists are still involved in the tour, including Mary Sly and Dan Wyatt of San Juan Silks, and Lewis and Nancy Spaulding.

“It has given the artists a chance to work together and know each other better, strengthening our artist community,” said Spaulding.

Editor’s note: Nancy Spaulding is reporter Heather Spaulding’s mother.