Photos by Joshua Melin
Heather Daveno shows off her hats, which are made from reused items such as coats.

North End Arts Tour: Beyond What Meets the Eye

By Christy Wolyniak

Last weekend, local Ballard artists came together, handiwork in tow, and demonstrated that sometimes art is just transforming ordinary, everyday materials into a masterpiece.

Take stained glass, for example.

“If you're a control freak, this isn't the hobby for you,” said stained glass artist, Karen Seymour. “You need to cooperate with the glass. You're not really cutting the glass; you're encouraging it to do what it's going to do anyway -- break.”

Seymour made her first stained glass table in 1998 and has continued the art ever since. She now teaches a Do-It-Yourself class once a month and has self-published two books for those motivated individuals.

Stained glass pictures took on quilt-like qualities, with different colors and broken shapes cooperating and interacting with each other. Seymour's Koi pond tables were her most popular item, reflecting a variety of hues and shapes on the floor. She had other items on display, as well, such as colorful lanterns hanging from the ceiling and frozen, glass flowers adorning a vase.

Seymour was just one of a group of local artists who opened up their home studios last weekend for this year's North End Arts Tour. The Seymour Stained Glass Studio in Greenwood hosted five artists' handcrafted art, from stained glass lanterns and tables to fine woodwork and interesting hats worth asking about.

Woodworker Geoff Carson knew his cherry table was missing something, so he collaborated with Seymour and added stained glass ginkgo leaves on the sides of the table. The gingko leaves became one of Seymour's most popular items.

For Carson, it wasn’t enough to just sit idly by in life behind his desk.

“I sat behind a desk with a pencil in my hand for a number of years and I wasn't making something for me by me. I wanted to create something with my own two hands,” said Carson.

Eventually, Carson turned his hobby of 30 years into a business, Carson Woodworks. Resting warmly in a corner of the Greenwood studio were handcrafted tables, mirrors, fly boxes, and even i-Pad stands.

“My wife wouldn't let me start my own business until I finished her jewelry box. I finally got all the pieces and finished it in a few months so I could start my business,” Carson laughed. The jewelry box had long been a running joke between the couple, with Carson having promised his wife it twenty years prior.

Most of the wood that Carson uses is local, but some is shipped from exotic places, such as the zebrawood used in his “Hinode Kagami” mirror, which means “Sunrise Mirror” in Japanese. Another wood, Maple burl, which is a growth on the tree, made for more rustic-looking boxes.

What he gets excited about, though, is working with cherry wood.

“It is a dream to work with cherry wood. It's easy to work and is a very polite wood that doesn't twist and crack,” Carson said.

Another artist, Heather Daveno, took “refurbishing” to a new level. Literally.

More than just items that hold in heat, her fur-trimmed hats are a prime example of reuse and recycle. Daveno took coats and felted the material to transform them into new hats, fit for a cold winter day. August Phoenix, Daveno's company that sells hats and other items, is what she calls her 'one-woman business.'

Daveno's work began when the heads of her friends in her medieval reenactment group got chilly, so she began to make them hats out of old coats. Today, much of her work is due to heritage hats.

“A lot of people will bring me coats from their grandparents who passed, so they can still wear their grandmother's coat,” Daveno said.

Every hat offered surprises and hidden qualities that made it one-of-a-kind. Designs on top of a Russian manuscript-inspired hat replicated hand-illustrated manuscripts. The science fiction genre, Steampunk, and cultural influences such as Tibet gave her hats character and intrigue.

Daveno still uses the bartering system with her customers, accepting the coat itself as partial payment, which she will then reuse to make other hats.

“All of these hats have either a cultural or time-period influence,” Daveno said.

Daveno delicately held another hat, pointing out an earring attached to the top like a tassel. Pieces of an old belt buckle or wings from a Christmas ornament sat peacefully in the folds of a hat as if it had found a new purpose.

Among these artists was Lael Smidt, who made dichroic glass jewelry by fusing two colors of glass together in a kiln; and Jennifer Robinson, who displayed her delicate Asian brush paintings.

For many of these artists, Seattle is a hard market to sell. Many go elsewhere to sell their goods, like Daveno. Because of this, Daveno said she would like to see more support for local artists.

“I encourage people to buy art from whoever is making it,” she said.

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