Open Studios tour lets the curious see how art is created

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

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BATTLE GROUND — Most days, Ann Cavanaugh spends about six hours in her art studio, tucked away in a wooded part of north Clark County, but opening her workspace to the public on Sunday provided a change of pace.

“It’s fun to interact with the people in my space,” the glass artist said. “People appreciate that you’re an artist and you’re creating things.”

She was one of 50 artists from across the county to participate in this year’s Clark County Open Studios tour, which lets the public see inside local art studios and see how art is made.

A kiln was one of the first things guests saw when entering Cavanaugh’s studio. Her art — including abstracts, landscapes and portraits, all created with glass — were everywhere. On her shelves sat containers filled with different colors of frit — powder- to gravel-sized granules that are melted into glass. Pieces in various stages of creation were on display, so guests could see how she layers the frit before firing it.

The retired public educator ran into budding artists she knew, and even told some of them that they could use her studio space some time. She also shared a couple of the techniques she’s stumbled upon: using stencils to apply layers of frit, and taking a heat gun to some of her pieces, creating a crackle look.

Linus Carleton, a glass-bead-maker from Tualatin, Ore., was impressed.

“This is well worth our time to come out here. This is really neat stuff,” he said. “She’s done a whole lot of experimentation to see what works, and it really shows. The only way you can learn to do this is by making it.”

Carlton pointed to a piece hanging on the wall and asked: How much? After giving it some thought, she valued her piece at $120, and Carlton agreed.

It was the fourth year for the self-guided studios tour, which takes place the second weekend in November. Many of the stops are in Vancouver, but plenty of studios were found in Ridgefield, Felida, Salmon Creek, Battle Ground, Camas and Washougal.

Deb Spofford’s studio, southwest of the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, was new to the tour this year, and Spofford was new to her craft.

At 50, she decided to go to design school, with a focus in textiles. She started her home decor business, Made on 23rd, earlier this year.

Visitors to Spofford’s workspace saw her use bamboo blocks with designs cut into them to stamp ink onto fabric. The fabric would be heat pressed — making it washable — and turned into products for the home, including pillows, hand bags, wine cozies and upholstery for furniture.

Guests viewed her ideas board full of magazine clippings and other images she draws inspiration from when creating her fabric designs. Spofford also employs someone to sew the fabric into products, using the industrial sewing machine in her studio.

Rebecca Broyles, an art teacher from Battle Ground, said she participated in the tour to learn from and make connections with local artists. Broyles said she hopes to invite local artists to her classroom and plans to teach a class on fashion soon.

“This is right up our alley,” Broyles said. “It’s really cool to see all of the studios. They’re very open about sharing their experiences with everybody.”

Spofford said she found the event helpful as well. Guests gave her suggestions for her products, including the thought to waterproof the inside of her smaller handbags, in case someone wanted to use one to hold makeup.

“That kind of feedback from people is really good,” Spofford said.