Woodworker, dollmaker enjoy BI studio tour

For two artists showing at the Bainbridge Island Winter Studio Tour this year, making art has been an adventure of self-discovery and evolution.

At the Grange Hall, lifelong woodworker Howard Julien is showing his steamed bentwood décor and furniture that he started making about eight years ago after being inspired by seeing something similar about 20 years ago.

“I was in a gallery in Eastern Canada, and I was totally intrigued. I looked at it and thought, I can figure out how to do that. When I retired, I started from scratch and developed the process and created some creatures,” he said.

He creates wooden silhouettes of animals; loons, cranes, orcas and ducks, as well as chairs and desk lamps with low-voltage LED lights and USB ports. “Every lamp in the world should have a charging port,” Julien said.

Julien has been selling his art at shows and this is his fifth time at the BI studio tour. “I love this show; such great people come through here.”

His most popular items are the two-toned herons because, “There are just so many in Kitsap County and on the island and that’s what people want.”

The pieces are made from “fumed oak” that is created by exposing wood to strong ammonia fumes that darkens the wood and gives it a stained appearance. It’s a process that’s been around for a long time and was used for making Stickley and mission-style furniture.

At the Masonic Center on High School Road, doll maker, Danna Watson uses mixed media and fabric to create whimsical dolls, feathered monochrome mermaids and colorful party hats.

“I make something that makes somebody else feel good, or makes them happy. And that’s a good feeling,” Watson said.

Her doll-making career started in her 20s when she made a Raggedy Ann doll for her sister who was moving away from home. Soon after, she started selling the dolls seven days a week at Pike Place Market in Seattle and offered them in different colors: black, purple and orange. After a time, she grew tired of the pattern and wanted to do something else.

“I threw that away and started designing my own patterns, and it just kept evolving,” said Watson, who decided to make her creations from recycled materials. “I didn’t have money, so I was really the first recycler. I would gather stuff from Goodwill and recreate it and make awesome weird upcycling. So, it just kept evolving.”

She went on to do more art shows that led her to Chicago and Philadelphia where she participated in the wholesale craft market. Decades later and now in her mid-70s, Watson looks back on her 50-year career with gratitude to have followed her passion and for having had the opportunity to evolve her art along the way. Now, after several years spent at home due to the pandemic, she’s looking forward to what she wants to do in the years she has left.

“I just want to make art if I feel like it, not because I gotta produce. My biggest passion is travel. I just want to go and explore the world,” Watson said.

A mermaid doll made with mixed media by Danna Watson at the Masonic Center.

A mermaid doll made with mixed media by Danna Watson at the Masonic Center.

Danna Watson with one of her mermaid dolls.

Danna Watson with one of her mermaid dolls.

An orca made by Howard Julien.

An orca made by Howard Julien.