Tina Beard, who is selling her longtime business, Art Escape, shows off one of the many pieces she painted over the years. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie)

Tina Beard, who is selling her longtime business, Art Escape, shows off one of the many pieces she painted over the years. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie)

Popular South Whidbey art shop draws to a close

Tina Beard knew little about art when she bought the shop. But it became a beloved island icon.

FREELAND — Whidbey Art Escape, a popular paint-your-own pottery Freeland business, is closing its doors in December after more than 15 years.

Longtime owner Tina Beard is looking for a buyer to purchase the craft store business before she retires. She’s leased the 1,000-square foot space since taking it over from the previous owner about 12 years ago.

“I have many good memories,” she said. “That’s the hardest part about leaving the community that’s been built here.”

Wednesday nights became “Ladies Night” at Art Escape years ago but no one quite remembers when. A group of women show up faithfully to chat, laugh, relax and create. It’s like a clubhouse with invisible posted signs: No kids. No men.

At a recent gathering, some said that’s part of the attraction of Ladies Night. But it’s also the presence of the person behind the pottery.

“Tina is all heart,” said South Whidbey resident Janice Tabb, who’s been a regular for about 10 years. “Tina’s personality makes it fun to come here.”

Over the years, Beard has added glass fusing, silk screen and sketching to the roster of do-it-yourself arts. She’s the consummate teacher, patiently leading first-timers through an artistic pursuit and sincerely celebrating finished pieces of work.

“I’ve only just discovered this group,” said Reece Rose as she carefully arranged small squares of glass. “I really, really enjoy it. I’m disheartened she’s leaving.”

Reece said she immediately took to the process of glass fusing. It requires arranging pieces of glass that are then melted and fused in an extremely hot kiln, which Beard operates. “Most people are not doing the glass,” Rose said, “but I love it.”

Generations of South Whidbey families have visited Art Escape and left with one-of-a-kind bowls, cups and decorations in hand, all painted inside the colorful store.

Over the years, Beard has added glass fusing, silk screen and sketching to the roster of do-it-yourself art. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie)

Over the years, Beard has added glass fusing, silk screen and sketching to the roster of do-it-yourself art. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie)

“I’ve watched many children grow up and come into their own,” said Beard, whose next adventure is driving a recreational vehicle across the country with her soon-to-be retired husband.

Jackie Ballog first visited Art Escape at age 16 when a boyfriend introduced her to the “place for pottery painting.”

“I’m 32 years old now,” she said. “I love this place.”

Beard’s the first to admit she had no arts background when she decided to buy the business in 2006. It had been located in a smaller space next to its current location at 1664 Main St.

“I worked for the previous owner but mostly I was a frequent customer,” she said. Beard says a new owner doesn’t have to have art experience and that she’ll teach the tools of the trade.

Some regular customers admit to running out of room in their home for more hand-painted switch plates, piggy banks and soup bowls so they make presents for friends.

“This was my biggest challenge,” Catherine Vance said, holding up a two-toned vase with bright colors and symbols.

Whidbey Art Escape in Freeland has been the gathering spot every Wednesday night for a group of women who chat, laugh and relax while painting ceramic pottery or creating other art. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie)

Whidbey Art Escape in Freeland has been the gathering spot every Wednesday night for a group of women who chat, laugh and relax while painting ceramic pottery or creating other art. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie)

“It’s just a fun thing coming here,” she said of the female-focused night that she only discovered a few months ago. “Everyone visits and chats and every one paints differently. That’s fun to see.”

The many pottery wheels in the back room of Whidbey Art Escape have been transformed into Backdoor Clay Community Studio as of Sept. 1 and will remain.

The business is owned by Kimberly Muller who wants to support clay artists with a public studio space and access to pottery wheels. The studio also plans to offer lessons and workshops.

Beard’s space could also be used for workshops, classes and private events, she said, and it comes with a loyal following.

Whether Art Escape gets a new owner or not, the last paint day will be Saturday, Dec. 15.

Beard knows there are at least 100 people somewhere out there who haven’t used gift certificates and she encourages them to come in soon.

She also wants to remind people with work-in-progress projects to find them or come get them and/or finish them.

Saturday, Oct. 20, might be a good day to come in, Beard said, laughing.

“It’s National Paint Your Pottery Day. Added encouragement to come in and finish your projects.”

Talk to us

More in Life

Washington’s most beloved state park turns 100

Deception Pass State Park, which draws as many visitors as the best-known national parks in the U.S., celebrates a century of recreation and conservation

Hydrangea and rose
July checklist for Snohomish County gardeners

After a slow start to summer, things should take off this month. So keep planting and nurturing.

Kid 'n Play members Christopher "Kid" Reid, left, and Christopher "Play" Martin perform on NBC's "Today" show during the "I Love The 90's" morning concert at Rockefeller Plaza on Friday, April 29, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Relive the music of the 1990s with Kid N Play and other stars of the era at the Tulalip Casino Amphitheater.

Contestant chef Brian Madayag (left) of Edmonds and West Coast team captain Brooke Williamson on “Beachside Brawl.” (Food Network) 20220616
Edmonds chef reps Pacific Northwest on new Food Network show

Barkada owner Brian Madayaga will compete on a new Food Network series that premiers Sunday.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’ (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’

This Hinoki cypress is graceful and beautiful, and is very drought-tolerant once established.

Photo Caption: Butter prints like this one pressed a design into freshly made butter as a decoration or for marketing. Today, collectors search for antique butter prints and consider them folk art.
19th century farm families’ butter prints are coveted folk art

One example with a flower-and-heart design recently sold at auction for more than $5,000.

After two years of wellness, Covid finally hit this family, but thanks to vaccinations, the symptoms were mild. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Jennifer Bardsley’s fighting COVID-19 with vaccines and TLC

But even with vaccinations, the disease is scary for people like her with less than robust immune systems.

Turkey vultures’ pervious nostrils are among the features that help them feed on carrion. (The Columbian files)
In praise of turkey vultures, nature’s cleaning service

These raptors should be revered, not reviled, for their disposal of stinky, disease-laden animal matter.

close-up of gardener's hands planting a tomato seedling in the vegetable garden
This summer, it’s smart to go big or go home at the nursery

When buying annuals, vegetables or perennials, go for the 1-gallon pots. And don’t skimp on the soil amendments and plant food.

Most Read