Mask maker’s studio highlight of Camano tour

People travel to the Camano Island Studio Tour as much to explore the sweeping seascapes and laid-back lifestyle as for the fabulous art.

So as you make your way down the shoreline of this 15-mile island, be sure to stay committed, otherwise you’ll miss out on some amazing views along with one of the island’s character residents and his marvelous masks.

Mixed media and dream mask artist Jeffrey Zigulis is one of the 62 artists sharing their craft during the 14th annual Camano Island Studio Tour.

This self-guided event offers visitors a peek into 37 art studios and galleries to watch artists in action and to learn about how art, from ceramics to pastels, is created.

Zigulis has his studio way at the south end of Camano Island, where spotting the Saratoga Passage is a sure thing from his yard.

“After you get here you’ll either need a nap or a cocktail,” Zigulis said.

Zigulis will leave it up to the visitors whether or not they thought the trip was worth it.

“If it were me, I’d walk right in here and walk right out. Actually, I wouldn’t get out of the car,” Zigulis cracked.

Despite his wacky, oftentimes self-deprecating sense of humor, Zigulis is a master of the mask.

Zigulis began his art life as a potter, with functional pottery evolving more into sculpture.

“I have always made stuff, and for me it was figuring out the process not the product,” Zigulis said. “That’s what is so exciting for me … the problem solving.”

One problem that needed solving was how to stop Zigulis’ then young son, Matthew, and his classmates, from having nightmares.

From that problem sprouted the dream masks, which became presents for the kids to ward off the nighttime willies.

Fast forward to today when young Matthew Zigulis is now a teacher in Bellingham. His mom, Nancy, and dad have since moved to Camano from California, and Jeff Zigulis has expanded his mask-making beyond dream masks and into several mask series.

With each series he makes, Zigulis changes up the look. Some of the masks are powerful and kind of scary. Others are more playful and filled with whimsy.

“It’s the weird deal with masks. For so many mask collectors they resonate with people, whether it’s the ceremonial stuff or representational,” Zigulis said.

“There’s something primal about them. Or could be the color, or they remind you of relatives. Some people hate ‘em.”

That may be. But others definitely love them.

One fan in particular has 16 of Zigulis’ masks.

“That’s just sick, huh?” Zigulis asked.

The woman works for Morgan Stanley financial services and is now interested in Zigulis’ newest series of masks: the Money Series.

To create these, Zigulis “paints” the masks in foreign currency. He has to copy the real money to turn it into paper before it can be adhered to the mask’s clay surface.

“It was another adventure into color,” Zigulis said.

His other mask series include the abstract Painted Mask Series, the Japanese Paper Series made from sophisticated silk-screen washi paper and the Totem Series of graphic shapes.

The masks are similar in that they come with puckered lips and wiry hair. They are all also an outward expression of Zigulis’ finely tuned sense of color.

Zigulis, a surfer and fisherman, says visits to Maui and Molokai have helped him expand his color palette.

“I’ve evolved my own color sense, and I keep a color wheel nearby when I’m working to recheck and check to see how far off I am,” Zigulis said.

Though masks have become his signature artwork, Zigulis recently deviated from them to create what he is calling clay “sculptural pods” — elegant pea-pod shaped statues coated in cool, almost metallic-looking greens, silvers and blues.

“It’s a departure from the masks,” Zigulis said, “but it’s a vehicle for me. You know, I get to screwing around. I get bored pretty quick.”

Studio tour

To visit Jeff Zigulis and his studio during the tour go to 3943 Country Lane, Camano Island, or visit him on the web at www.jeffzigulismasks.com.

The 14th Annual Camano Island Studio Tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 19 and 20. Maps for the free, self-guided tour can be downloaded from www.camanoarts.org or obtained from local businesses. Call Gayle at 425-359-7974 for information.

Island time

While you’re there you can visit Camano Island State Park and Cama Beach State Park for hiking and walking trails or beach exploring. There’s also Freedom Park for the kids next to the Camano Gateway Tourist Information Center. Freedom Park has a playground, picnic areas and sculptures.

Historic Stanwood offers Heritage Park and Church Creek Park in town where two studio tour galleries are located. A third Stanwood studio is a short distance from town near Lake Ketchum.

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