June Jaeger demonstrated her work with dyes during an Artist Studio Tour last weekend that brought a welcome sense of activity and vitality to Sisters’ arts community. photo by Jodi Schneider
June Jaeger demonstrated her work with dyes during an Artist Studio Tour last weekend that brought a welcome sense of activity and vitality to Sisters’ arts community. photo by Jodi Schneider
Those who love the arts in Sisters got the opportunity last weekend to see some of the region’s finest in action.

The Sisters Art Association (SAA) Artist Studio Tour celebrated four years of offering a unique opportunity for art enthusiasts to visit studio spaces of 36 artists at 26 locations in and around Sisters Country. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, September 26-27, a dynamic group of local artists showcased unique collections of work in the free, annual, self-guided SAA Artist Studio Tour.

The tour offered visitors the special opportunity to visit many of the talented artists as they worked in their studios. Most artists on the tour — whether appearing at their private studios or joined up in small outdoor groups around one home — actively demonstrated their craft. This allowed guests to gain insight into the materials, techniques and processes used in creating a work of art. Artists participating in the tour specialized in a wide variety of mediums, ranging from painting to ceramics to jewelry and textiles.

Tom Williams was on the tour on Saturday.

“We went to the studio tour last year,” he said. “But this year we met many new artists and really loved them and their art. There has been so much limited availability of things to do and something like this is a great chance to get out. We’ve seen a lot of things just today that we hadn’t seen before. I’m very impressed.”

A full-color tour guide was available at all the galleries in Sisters and many other locations. Guests selected which artists they wished to visit and put together their own tour itinerary.

It was artist Scott McAllister’s first time on the studio tour; he displayed a series of paintings of the bridges of Portland done in watercolor on Yupo paper.

“I spent a lot of time painting with watercolors, then started soft pastels a few years ago. I like the way both allow me to paint in rich colors and a high degree of spontaneity. Recently, I experimented with watercolor on Yupo paper. Yupo is a synthetic paper, so it does not absorb water, so the watercolor paints sit on top of the paper and is somewhat uncontrollable. The pigment shifts and moves, leaving some effects that are unpredictable, but adds an artistic quality to the painting that I could never plan.”

Artist Bill Hunt, who showcased his art with three other artists on the tour, took up woodworking after retiring and began creating his Fence Post Ducks, using 100-year-old cedar posts from Central Oregon cattle ranches.

He said, “I think this artists tour is a fantastic opportunity, especially during COVID-19. The people feel secure and safe outside here. We’re not in that closed area. And we’ve got fantastic weather for us, and it’s been going really well.”

Hunt worked on wooden duck heads using a Dremel tool, as visitors watched intently.

Local Potter Dave Hough had a space at J. Chester Armstrong’s and showcased over 200 pieces of his unique pottery. Hough is a “people person” and was excited to see many small groups of visitors stop by to check out his artwork in the large open studio.

“There are so many ways to sell art because of the new technology and I’ve always known that that possibility existed,” Hough said. “But the part about pottery that I love so much is not just the making it but talking to people and having them engaged in my work.”

He added, “This was an opportunity to do something different. And this morning (Saturday) during the tour I sold my first piece. So, I’m excited. I’m excited that people are showing up and that’s all I care about, talking to the public. This is my studio and it’s the first time I’ve opened it to the public! This tour actually drove me to finish my shop.”

J. Chester Armstrong’s stunning wood sculptures were a special highlight on the tour for many visitors who have seen his work around Central Oregon.

He noted, “During this pandemic I’ve been doing so much more, because I haven’t been on my road trips. I haven’t been dealing with the art world and art shows. I’ve been focused here creating, and this is the result!”

It was the first time on the studio tour for quilter sisters June Jaeger and Jean Wells Keenan, who collaborated and showcased beautiful quilts in their outdoor studio in and around the driveway between their homes (they are also neighbors).

Jaeger said, “We worked with alginate dyes and screens, designing, or creating our own designer fabric, which we use in our textile art. We couldn’t believe how many people came out to our studio and have never seen something like this before. They didn’t think that fabric could be art and were just amazed that these pieces are made from fabric. It’s educating the public.”

Stephen Gasior, another new artist to the studio tour, displayed his artwork, portraits of people, and prefers dry mediums (charcoal, graphite, pastel).

“I am grateful to have the support of the SAA and was especially excited to have my daughter, Grace, a jewelry fabricator/designer, join me on this tour,” he said.

He added, “Now that I am getting close to retirement, I have decided to make a serious commitment to my passion. My favorite subject is people, both portraiture and figure drawing,”

On Sunday evening after the tour, Archer told The Nugget, “I hosted three other artists at my studio and three out of the four had pretty good sales. I heard from another board member that some of the studios in Sisters had 143 people during the two days. That is fantastic. With my studio so far out, I am very pleased with the 50+ people we had. That is more than last year — with this year having so many issues that could have kept people from touring.”