Cruising in La Conner
Arrived with strong current, always grateful to have help dockside here as it can be a challenge when tide is not slack. Left Den to attend to some small boat jobs and I took off to visit one of my favorite little towns, La Conner. La Conner is a sweet little destination town, perfect for weekend getaways, very flat and great for cycling. It was always a sort of life jacket in my mind, a place I could escape to recharge my batteries by myself when life and kids were driving me crazy when kids were small. I never did just take off for those dreamed of few days or even a week by myself with just my drawing things or even my sewing machine… but even the idea of it as some kind of possible goal or outlet for frustrations helped bouy me up in times of stress over the years.
Happily there were quite a few tourists in town, a gorgeous sunny September day, bustling in and out of the cute teddy bear store, the Italian kitchen shop with olive tasting buffet, the nice galleries and boutiques.
The Russian painter Aleksandr Kargopoltsev, a great big burly fellow whose work is quite appealing, has subject matter and size for just about any range, is working on a lovely series of paintings for a set of playing cards which will be produced next Spring. I put myself on his mailing list as they will be very handsome and at only $10, quite a nice set of cards to keep or give as a gift. He is soon off to the Russian motherland to help his aged mother back home on the farm. He listed an impressive list of preserves he plans to make up and leave her larder stocked with, from pounds of sauerkraut to dozens of jars of pickled beans, beer and wine. Very industrious and obviously a man of many talents and strengths. He’s been here for years, a hard worker.
I try to give antique shops a wide berth as I just don’t want to wander into that tempting pit and La Conner has many very appealing ones so please come on down! If that’s what tickles your fancy, you just might walk away with a real treat. It was already after 3 when I started out so I was hoofing it rather fast, dashing in and out of most shops and did manage to buy only one small item at Wyman Park a fabulous gift shop on a main corner. I always find something swell there for our home or as a Christmas present and sure enough, I found something perfect and small for my mom but of course I can’t tell you what it is! She is allergic to “stuff and things” and really only wishes for consumables but this is a lovely small useful item that will be perfect in her minimalist décor. Shhhh….
The Museum of Northwest Art has a very lovely gift shop and I escaped there too without swiping the plastic. The current show is northwest glass so I gave it a miss as we will be seeing lots and my time was short. It’s always worth going in though, a very nice small museum.
Fabric D’Eva, a new quilt shop which opened last January, caught my eye and I did fall victim to 5 nice Fat Quarters of quilting fabric from a line I have not seen elsewhere. “Necessities” by Marcia Derse of MDD Studio. They have a real hand painted attitude and will make a nice little visual bite wherever they show up eventually in a quilt or art garment. The shop owner, Wally, was a very helpful and knowledgeable fellow. He and his wife are both quilters and he showed me his nice blue and white quilt on the wall. Their new website goes up this week and he hopes to be busy dealing with shipping and handling from it soon. His wife has a long arm quilting studio around the corner.
Bunnies By The Bay has moved their little shop into town into a tiny store front near the Hotel Planter! Gasp! I asked if that meant that the house was closed?? The clerk assured me that it was still worth a walk up town, has evolved into a design studio and workshop for whirligigs among other things!! OK, I will head up there after the Quilt Museum! The Bunnies By The Bay commercial line has adorable baby items, so cute and just scrumptious, mouthwatering but it’s always been the actual house that has been a huge inspiration to me and my own house over the years.
The La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum in the historic Gaches Mansion is always worth a trip up the hill, hosts excellent top class quilt shows with international artists and the old mansion is an excellent venue. Too bad no photos are allowed. The current show is Japanese quilts and Ainu embroideries from Japan. Exquisite, fascinating, scintillating color and patterns shift and shimmer as they flow down across the quilts, typical of the Japanese approach and style. Lots of hand appliqué and mostly hand quilting. In January 2007 I had the great good fortune to spend an entire day at the Tokyo Quilt Show when I was there on a business trip. Wonderful! Read more about that…
I was disappointed that the upcoming show “Material Men” does not open until October 11. I would have loved to have seen it but my annual trips to La Conner are always dictated by our American Tug Rendezvous so I can’t pick and choose when I come down so much. “Material Men: Innovation & the Art of Quiltmaking” will feature, among others, Luke Haynes, one of my figurative artists and also Leslie Gabrielse whose work is very interesting.
The clock was ticking as I made my way up Morris Street to the Bunnies By The Bay house, now called Bunnies By The Bay’s Hutch, classroom studio & retail shop. Hutchstudio.blogspot.com. The house is still a wonderland! It has evolved and changed over the years since it first opened in 1989. We moved to BC that year and we’ve visited La Conner and this colorful playful house certainly every couple of years since then. All of our homes have been modeled on this house in at least some way. Our current house where we have lived for 14 years and hope to get carried out on planks from is very playful and colorful but this house with it’s wonderfully fun fence and delightful whirligigs just really takes the cake!
I had a nice long talk with the slim young trendy fellow inside who turned out to be Chris Theiss, an artist whose exciting work I had just seen in Anacortes at The Anchor Gallery. He has been one of the main artists and designers here for Bunnies for 20 years! What a lovely job in such a great small town, what a lucky guy. Apart from his full time job for Bunnies, he pursues his own distinct artwork as well and works mainly in ceramics and paper construction. He enjoyed making those huge black and white paper sculptures for the Anacortes show as they are a real blow up of his ceramic works and something that just would not be possible to achieve in clay. He claims Maurice Sendak and Tim Burton as key influencing artists and was one of the last students (or assistants?) of the ceramic master Robert Arneson.
We shared experiences of living in small towns and the huge value and importance of reaching out and staying connected with one’s artistic “peer community” through social media and going to conferences like NCECA, the national ceramics conference. It was held in Seattle last March and I dearly wanted to go but at the last minute I just couldn’t fit it in or my head would explode. I had made plans to actually meet a fabulous handful of my ceramic figurative artists but I’m sure they all had a mind-expanding fabulous time there without me.
I managed (only just) to avoid buying any clothes at any of the very good boutiques in La Conner this year, not because they didn’t have anything I wanted but I really only had time and energy to hoof it around my intended track before things shut down for the day. Many of my favorite clothes have come from La Conner if they didn’t come out of my own sewing room!
When to visit La Conner? Anytime!! But especially in tulip season. Luscious!