Glass artist illuminates work of Camano Island firefighters

  • Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 10:26pm
  • News

By Katya Yefimova Herald Writer

CAMANO ISLAND — Jack Archibald leaned over a table and began to fill in the missing pieces of the glass puzzle.

The panel he’s working on will adorn the Mabana Fire Station, located not far from Archibald’s home at the south end of Camano Island.

He measured and cut a triangular slice of iridescent burgundy glass. Paper with dimensions penciled on it peeked out from the parts Archibald hasn’t yet filled in.

The finished work, he said, will represent what fascinates him most about fire stations.

“A fire station is kind of like frozen energy,” Archibald said. “Just ready to go.”

Archibald is donating the piece to his local fire station, just as he donated a glass mural at the entrance of the recently opened Madrona Fire Station.

Both works feature pieces made by Camano Island glassblower Marc Boutte.

Archibald and Boutte are part of a group of local artists who call themselves the South End Cultural Oxymorons and are trying to develop a creative identity for the community.

The group donated artwork to various places around the area, including Stanwood and Camano libraries, the Northwest Organization for Animal Help shelter, Skagit Valley Hospital and Hutchison County Park on Camano Island.

Archibald called the glass panels for the fire stations “the latest in a series of ‘art stimulus’ packages.”

The Camano Island Gateway, a visitors center and adjacent park, also boasts artwork made by local artists.

“For many people, Camano Island is a bedroom community or a little summer place, but we wanted to make it different,” Archibald said.

Archibald bought his house near the southern tip of Camano Island around 1970. He turned the old wooden house on the property into a studio and decorated it with his art: Colorful glass illuminates windows, skylights and even some furniture.

Archibald got into glass after taking a class about 30 years ago. He wanted to decorate his home, which he built himself. Next thing he knew, he was getting commissions for public art projects.

He buys glass that has been colored and treated using different techniques.

Archibald made the glass and steel clock mural at the Everett Station and the dining hall mural at Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington. He also made the entryway mural at the Portland, Ore., Fire Department headquarters. It’s called “The Engine.”

A fire station is not just a building that houses equipment and offices. It’s a community resource, and the art reflects that, said Levon Yengoyan, assistant chief of the Stanwood Camano Fire Department. “We just think it was so generous of him,” he said.

Another project currently in the works would turn some of the fire department’s rooms into galleries, with photo and other exhibits, Yengoyan said.

Archibald said he was inspired by the stained glass panel at a fire station in Seattle’s Central District, near where he once lived.

“What we are trying to do is kind of give a sense of excitement to the fire station,” Archibald said.

The glass changes color depending on lighting and the point of view, creating a sense of movement.

Movement is exactly what he wants for the Mabana Fire Station piece. He calls it a “zippy little window.”

“To me, it’s like a person. This is the head; this is the body,” Archibald said, looking down on the panel.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452,