Casual gallery with a working studio space: Poulsbo’s Artist’s Edge introduces new direction with ‘H20’ exhibit

POULSBO — From custom frames to cobalt blue, the little art supply and custom frame shop off Hwy 305 (18723 Highway 305) has been a staple in the local artistic community for more than 25 years. But as economic times continue to shift, Poulsbo’s Artist’s Edge is getting creative with how to best serve their client’s needs.

Just a year ago, the store, focusing primarily on an extensive line of art supplies and custom framing, used the majority of their space to display merchandise. But after a unanimous vote from shop employees to curve the shopping experience in a different direction, they began to re-emerge, using the nature of the business as an opportunity to change the dynamic of the artist experience.

“We’re a casual gallery, with a working studio space,” Derek Gundy, Artist’s Edge store manager and show curator said.

While the shop is still selling what they refer to as “the art-basics” they’ve sent their less-popular products to their sister store in Silverdale, freeing up wall space to offer an opportunity to connect with shoppers and artists on a different level.

At Poulsbo Artist’s Edge first gallery show at the venue April 7, artists and enthusiasts gathered for the opening night of the “H20 Exhibit,” a juried art exhibition with theme of water.

The perimeter of the store, exposing the shop’s fresh white walls, displayed the work of more than 40 artists. Almost 70 pieces of art in a variety of mediums from acrylic, watercolor and gouache, photography, glass, copper, wood and mixed media made their debut. Even textiles, polymer clay and 3-D paper sculptures were present.

“This seemed like a good common theme to bring artists together,” Gundy said. “We’re surrounded, it’s such a part of our lives here. Its common to wait in line for the ferry, or wonder when the Hood Canal bridge might be open.”

For Gundy, a commissioned watercolor and acrylic artist, water has always been on of his true loves. In fact, many of Gundy’s pieces feature water and fish.

But Gundy isn’t the only one with a deep connection to water, and through the artist’s connections, a variety of different subjects emerged.

Sam Day, a professional oil painter based in Seattle, takes a plunge in the Puget Sound every Saturday, year-round. Even in the snow, the chilly 45 degree temperatures of the salt water don’t deter the artist, who skips the wetsuit and adds two bricks to his 100-stroke work out.

What began as a way to stay fit for Day’s great-great grandfather as a young man in the German Merchant Marine, Day said, “he used to swim around the tall ship with a brick in each hand.”

Now Day practices the same routine.

“The bricks are about overcoming obstacles,” he said. “it’s about turning obstacles into assets. The brick becomes a paddle instead of something that sinks me.”

The passionate artist admits he hasn’t swam in a pool in a couple of years, explaining it’s the chill of the salt water that makes him feel “alive.”

“Both with painting and swimming, the concerns of my world are just washed away,” he said. “I go out to swim in the sound to remember that I’m alive.”

In Day’s brick paintings on display at Artist’s Edge, he described his work was about resurfacing, coming up for air and re-surfacing from a divorce.

Diane Williams, a textile artist, created a quilt representing the bed of the Elwha River.

“It was made in celebration for the removal of the damns,” she explained. As Williams reflected on her interpretation of water, she looked to the quiet earth tones and texture of the piece by creating movement through her stitching.

“With both water and quilting, its fluid,” she said. “You have to just go with the flow of it. You just hit the foot peddle of the machine and begin to swirl.”

Carli Hillman, a student-artist at the Northwest College of Art and Design, felt privileged to have her work included in the show.

“This is my first gallery show,” she said. Hillman, a junior and student in Gundy’s advanced painting techniques class, said the support of her teacher has helped her feel empowered about her craft.

“Derek really made the show known to everyone in the class and offered opportunities to get their pieces framed with a discount,” she said. “He’s great at giving students opportunities. He really wants people to succeed at this level of art and I really appreciate that. He makes me believe that what I want to do is achievable.”

For the illustration and entertainment design major based in Chimacum, Hillman said she’s always had an emotional connection with water.

“It’s a way for me to meditate,” she said as she looked at her framed oil painting. In the surreal underwater image, the body of a woman floated to the surface as skeleton hands from below seemed to pull at her from under the water’s depths.

“There’s an emotional, internal turmoil. You feel stuck and you cant get out, like you’re drowning,” the artist said. “Its’s about resurfacing, letting your troubles go even if they’re right beneath you, remembering there’s still a light up above.”

Don Knotts, a 74-year old who refers to himself as a “salty dog”, uses his intimate knowledge of both boats and the sea to paint realistic marine and nautical seacscapes with accuracy and precision.

After hitching a ride on an old wooden sailboat out of Poulsbo, Knotts developed a love for the sea that took him around the globe.

Knotts has sailed in the waters of the Pacific Northwest, and has built a small gaff-rigged yawl and cruised the Caribbean. He spent time sailing in Tonga in the South Pacific, and many ports in between, including transiting the Panama Canal.

“I have combined my love of art, sailing and fishing into a lifestyle that continues to this day,” Knotts said.

As the artists enjoyed conversation and the celebration of a new display space for their work, Gundy reflected on his passion to serve the arts community.

“We will keep shifting and finding new ways to support artists in our area,” he said. “We’re a hub of the creative community. I hope the public realizes there’s more of a gallery space here. And this is another outlet for artists and an avenue for collectors to acquire some new artwork for their walls.”

The H20 Exhibition will hang until May 31. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For more details on the Artist’s Edge upcoming classes, workshops and available studio space, call 360-779-2337 or visit www.artistsedge.com.

— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter for the Kitsap Daily News. Contact her at sbonomi@soundpublishing.com.

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