Artists open their doors

Oak Bay Artists’ Studio Tour returns for 12th year

Examples of Finnish weaving by Jean Betts.

Examples of Finnish weaving by Jean Betts.

Oak Bay artists will open their doors to visitors this weekend for the annual Oak Bay Artists’ Studio Tour.

During this 12th year, 22 of Oak Bay’s established and emerging artists will use their homes and studios as backdrops to display the products of their creativity in a variety of original watercolour, acrylic, oil, fibre, photographic, woodcut, glass and pottery creations. The juried tour, which is produced by Recreation Oak Bay, will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 5 and 6, from noon to 4:30 p.m.

Education is a key factor in artist Jean Betts’ decision to join the studio tour. “I’ve been on (the tour) for about three years,” she said. “I’m a weaver. I weave, spin, dye and now I’m teaching beginning weaving.”

Textiles is an art that needs explanation, she said. “It’s really neat to interact with the public and also give them an idea of where textiles come from. I’ve been weaving, spinning and dyeing for almost 40 years – I hate to admit that,” she said. “Textiles is always an education thing, people have no idea. I spin at public events and a lot of children don’t know where fibre comes from – with weaving and spinning, education is sort of the bottom line.”

Betts’ decorative and useful textiles will be featured at her home studio at 2215 Florence St.

“I enjoy it very much,” said artist Claire Christinel, who will feature her still life and West Coast landscape oils and acrylics in her studio at 2347 Hamiota St. “It gives me a real sense of community. Neighbours, people your kids went to school with, people from all over come. Many people who have moved from other places in Canada (come). It gives them the opportunity to go around the community.”

While many of this year’s participants have not yet achieved household-name status, some can claim international recognition, including Christinel.

“I lived in France twice. I studied fine art there and I sold a number of pieces in France and quite a few in the States, and back east – it’s pretty exciting,” she said.

She also finds art is a great way to reach out and help others. “If something stirs my compassion, I’ll often participate in fundraising events. I’ve done a number of events that were international for the Red Cross for Japan and Africa. All the time the arts community shows support in that way.”

Betts studied in Japan for six months and uses a variety of techniques, stitching and natural dyes to create her work. “I still weave a lot of silk scarves, but my students are into tea towels,” she said. But those tea towels are more than utilitarian. “You can still use these tea towels every day, but they are really nice. That’s so much nicer than to make something that goes into a drawer and isn’t useful.”

Along with purchasing useful items, the studio tour is an opportunity to learn more about art. “A lot of people feel intimidated going to an art gallery because they don’t understand art. This is an opportunity to go in a relaxed manner in the tour. Enter a home where the artist greets you at the door. It’s great to break down the barriers and ask questions and not feel embarrassed,” said Christinel.

The two-day Oak Bay Artists’ Studio Tour is free. Brochures with artist descriptions and a tour map can be found in the Nov. 2 Oak Bay News and at Oak Bay recreation centres, the municipal hall and the Oak Bay library as well as at businesses on Estevan and Oak Bay Avenue and through participating artists.