The spotlight shines on a select few in the art world. But what about the folks working behind the scenes? On the following pages, we peek behind the curtains into the world of artists who speak to the public from their quiet corners of the community.
When Eva Stone heard an NPR story that Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev dreamt the Periodic Table of Elements, she said to herself, “That’s it! I have to choreograph the periodic table.”
Ideas for dances waltz into choreographer Stone’s mind from everywhere — history, feminism, art, love, and loss. She crafts stories with dancing, often before she chooses the music to set them to.
“That is how I use my art. I could sit down and tell you a story or I could try to do the same thing with movement, but I’ll do it in an abstract manner,” she said.
Stone is the director of The Stone Dance Collective, a company she started in London in 1993 and now runs locally. She also is the producer of Chop Shop, an annual professional dance festival in Bellevue. But before she was a pro, she was a little girl growing up in Phoenix, convincing her neighbors to dance with her.
Most choreographers start as dancers and evolve into dance-makers. But Stone took the reverse route. She had to learn to dance after developing a knack for choreography. She started out as one of the least experienced dancers at Arizona State University. But her shortcomings only fueled her.
“I love a challenge. I love being the weakest one in the room. I love being the one who doesn’t know what’s going on, because I enjoy that fight to figure it out. I find it thrilling,” she said.
Over the years, Stone has experienced much success. After college, she got a dance scholarship to Harvard. She’s danced and choregraphed across the country and in Europe. But challenges and professional dance go together like the tango. Stone can only create dances at set times with real people.
“What differs about my art form from, say, a photographer or a musician or a playwright, is that the medium that they work in is not human. It doesn’t 100 percent rely on the human condition.
“I have to make sure all my humans are healthy and happy and their car hasn’t broken down — (and that) they can make rehearsal. I can only make the work when we’re all in the same room at the same time.”
Stone says that popularity for modern dance waxes and wanes. Funding often comes from generous donors. But she’s dedicated to the work because she finds the meaning of it so critical.
“Art is so important. It defines who we are as humans. It defines who we are as a community. (Art) bonds us. It makes us compassionate. It makes us more sensitive — especially using art and dance as a way of broadening people’s perspective outside of their own. It’s all those mushy hippie-dippy things that we hope that art does.” Chop Shop is Feb. 17-18 in Bellevue.
Author & Illustrator
As a child, Jessica Delagardelle loved her View-Master — you know: those red binocular-type devices wherein you’d put a circular cartridge that was filled with pictures showing things like dinosaurs, architectural marvels, and underwater life.
Raised in the Midwest, Delagardelle says the latter cartridge was her favorite, as the sea fascinated her: a place she had never visited, though she desperately wanted to.
“I found I loved the 3-D aspect of the View-Master. I just wanted to crawl in there,” she said.
Today, Delagardelle, an avid SCUBA diver, lives in Seattle and has found a way to completely immerse herself in an undersea world when she’s on land by creating the children’s book Astri: The Brave L’il Oyster.
“The book kind of started by accident,” she said. “I just kind of wrote this thing and I knew I wanted to do something creative with it, but I didn’t know what. So I kept it and put it away. Then I got really sick.”
Delagardelle developed an aggressive and rapidly growing desmoid tumor on her hip, which was further complicated by a pregnancy that ended with a miscarriage. During surgery for the tumor, she almost died.
She expected to be on bed rest for six weeks, but ended up housebound for more than eight months, and found herself with a lot of free time on her hands. Though she was convalescing and essentially learning to walk again, Delagardelle was able to build a miniature photo studio in her bedroom; she crafted a main character and an entire seascape out of wax, plaster, and clay.
“Working on this book was really good for me; it helped me rehabilitate,” she said. “And I think the lesson of the book really echoed my life because I have a choice; we all have a choice, when life throws us curveballs. We can just stand back and let it happen to us, or we can overcome it.”
Astri: The Brave L’il Oyster is available for purchase on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats. — Joanna Kresge
Growing up in his family’s violin shop on Capitol Hill, Henry Bischofberger developed an affinity for the stringed instrument at an early age. By the time he was in the fourth grade, Bischofberger already had learned to play the violin, and by sixth grade he was helping his father, Hermann, around the family’s shop, Bischofberger Violins, Ltd.
Bischofberger continued to learn from his father until he graduated from Garfield High School in Seattle in 1970 and an opportunity to formally study violin making sent the musically inclined teenager across the globe to Switzerland — the same country where Bischofberger’s grandfather started what would become a three-generation legacy of violin makers.
Bischofberger studied at the Swiss School of Violin Making in Brienz, Switzerland. It was at the school where, at 19 years old, Bischofberger made his first violin and cemented his love for the art.
“It’s quite a long process of learning each step until you actually make an instrument,” Bischofberger said. “And then, it is very satisfying when you get to the end, and you’ve varnished it, and you look at it and — it makes noise!”
After he finished school, Bischofberger returned to the United States, where he worked at his family’s shop, as well as another in San Francisco, before opening his own storefront in Kirkland 12 years ago.
Located in the basement of his home, Bischofberger’s shop is a place where aspiring and experienced musicians alike come for violin rentals, repairs, and more. Bischofberger’s favorite types of customers, however, are those being introduced to the violin for the first time.
“We have so many students and families come in to rent instruments, and I always like to let even the youngest little guys try a violin,” Bischofberger said. “It just sparkles their eyes.”
Today, Bischofberger said he doesn’t really make violins like he used to. On average, it takes about 250 hours to make a violin — something he’s had less time for since opening his shop.
“It takes many years before you’re really proficient enough in this business to make a kind of living out of it,” Bischofberger said. “It’s an art, and I’ve managed to turn that art into a business, which isn’t always easy.
“We do repairs, we buy and we sell, we restore; with my experience, I can appraise instruments, and we have a big rental business too, which makes a business and a living out of it.”
The rentals are Bischofberger’s bread and butter. And while Bischofberger doesn’t personally provide the inventory for his shop, he said there is a wide selection of high-quality violins available to rent.
With more than 35 years of experience, Bischofberger is grateful to continue the legacy his grandfather started so many years ago, all while serving as a special resource for the community, a community that he’s grateful to be a part of.
The shop is located at 5807 114th Ave. N.E., Kirkland. Visitors are welcome by appointment. 425.822.0717. hkbviolins.com
— Margo Greenman
Take one look at Randie Sidlinger’s living room wall, adorned with photos of relatives with instruments in hand, and it’s clear her upbringing was a musical one. She has been playing the violin since she was about 10 years old, and was playing the piano at an even younger age. Today, Sidlinger makes a living cobbling together different musical gigs. She’s a member of the first violin section of the Lake Washington Symphony Orchestra, and she teaches violin lessons. Her music career follows her everywhere, evident in her string-calloused fingers and the music that plays in her dreams.
“I don’t see that musicians will ever be completely replaced by electronics. There’s a warmth about real instruments playing that I think is very exciting,” she said. — LF
In 2010, artist and longtime Redmond resident Suzanne Tidwell was wrapping up a certificate in fiber arts at the University of Washington when she was given an assignment to create a piece of public art that had to stay up for at least six hours.
That assignment started the wheels turning in Tidwell’s mind. Trees had been partially removed from a spot in Sammamish she regularly drove past; 20-foot-high stumps were all that remained. Why not use her fiber-arts training to wrap each stump in knitting — or tree sweaters? After much deliberation, the city approved her request.
“All 20 feet of those tree stumps were knit, wrapped, and sewn,” she said. “I had to use a boom lift to get up to the very top. We’re out there in some of the worst weather conditions, hand-sewing these pieces. We had two days to get in, get up, get it hand-sewn and installed, get down, and get out. But it launched what I do.”
After that, Tidwell’s reputation began to grow. Her tree sweaters appeared on trees in Redmond, downtown Seattle, and Auburn. The self-proclaimed “moderately novice knitter” started cranking her tree sweaters out of an industrial knitting machine to save time and frustration. She even started getting corporate commissions, which is how a series of columns inside Google’s Kirkland campus came to bear brightly colored knit wrappings.
Many of Tidwell’s installations would seemingly get installed overnight, leading passersby to assume it was a form of guerrilla art sometimes referred to as “yarn bombing.” While that isn’t exactly what Tidwell does, she embraces this moniker.
“I like the idea of the work being temporary,” she said. “I have this inner idea that we become complacent to what we see every day — you can walk through an environment and not even pay attention to it. But when something changes, all of a sudden people look around and take notice.”
While this ephemeral aspect of her art falls into that guerrilla movement, the reality is her work takes considerable time, manpower, and financing to install. “I wouldn’t go through that much trouble just to have someone cut it down, and that’s why I’m a bit of a Girl Scout when it comes to asking for permission,” she said.
Lately, Tidwell said her work is evolving. She’s working more with welding to create her own art structures, but she still incorporates fiber whenever possible. Sometimes, she’ll pick up a pair of knitting needles and make something useful from the yarn recycled from previous exhibits, like creating pink hats for the women’s march.
Tidwell is currently participating in an exhibition with fellow artist Paul McKee at the Method Gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood through most of November. suzannetidwell.com — JK
Mercer Island resident Joe Iano’s connection to photography dates back some 40 years, when he was a teenager with a camera and somewhat nascent interest in the craft. Though he had very little formal training (“I took one serious class in college,” he notes), it’s rare today to find Iano without a camera in his hands, photographing whatever piques his interest.
“My fondness for black-and-white images, and my interest in recording the urban landscape, are very much influenced by André Kertész,” explains Iano, who credits the late Hungarian photojournalist for opening his eyes to photography’s impact.
One of Iano’s favorite assignments is photographing the local small-theater scene — something he has done for years, and largely on a volunteer basis. It’s common to find Iano in the wings, shrouded in shadows, and quietly snapping photographs of the activity onstage.
“I love being around theater and theater people, especially while theater is being created,” he says. “It’s a vicarious thrill, being a small part of something that fascinates me and I can’t imagine doing myself.”
The theater community appreciates his photos, and his camera offers access to all the fun post-show parties.
Iano’s photographs were exhibited earlier this year at Suzanne Zahr Gallery on Mercer Island. “She’s doing a fantastic job of bringing interesting work to Mercer Island,” he raves. “Anyone following the Eastside art scene should visit her space and meet her.”
Does he have any favorite photographs in his portfolio?
“I can’t pick a favorite. I’ve been so fortunate with the opportunities that have come my way. Every now and then, an artist tells me that my images have changed how they see their own work. That’s pretty special.”
Iano’s work can be found on Instagram (@joeiano) and Facebook (facebook.com/ianophotography).
— Todd Matthews
Mark Chenovick could not have picked a worse time to start as SecondStory Repertory’s executive director.
It was 2010, the organization was $107,000 in debt, and The Seattle Times had reported that the fringe theater on the second floor of Redmond Town Center was on the brink of closing forever. A fundraising campaign prior to Chenovick’s arrival had raised some money, but it wasn’t enough to balance the books. Chenovick applied for a job to replace the outgoing executive director.
The title might sound esteemed, but Chenovick didn’t draw a salary for the first six months. Instead, he and longtime managing director Jen Klos focused on controlling costs and preventing insolvency. Seven years later, the pair has paid off more than $60,000 of the debt and stages more than a dozen productions every year, all on an annual budget of approximately $250,000. They also have proved themselves to a board of directors that is pleased by the pair’s ability to keep the 86-seat theater a viable entity.
“The board is just super-supportive,” said Chenovick. “They understand that we know how to make the theater happen, and they understand the amount of work that we do to keep this place open.”
Theater always was important to Chenovick. As a child, he performed in community theater in his hometown of Helena, Montana. In early adulthood, he moved to Seattle to study performing arts at the University of Washington. After college, he performed throughout the United States and Canada in touring productions, and performed on a cruise ship in the South Caribbean. He also learned behind-the-scenes skills working as a production manager and technical director. Even his former day job remodeling residential homes taught him something theater-related: how to build sets.
Today, SecondStory Repertory annually produces seven mainstage shows, six shows geared toward youth, and a range of monthly improvisational performances. “For our larger musicals, we sell 60 to 75 percent of every show,” said Chenovick. “Kids’ shows are selling out every Sunday. We are very busy.” — TM
The day after a performance of Village Theatre’s Into the Woods in late September, wig master Douglas Decker was pruning the wigs. He had Cinderella’s wig pinned to a dummy head and was teasing the hair back to life with every backward stroke of the comb until the strands formed a slight dome on top. After restyling her partial up-do, he spritzed the long, wavy brunette strands and pinned them up with rollers before moving on to Prince Charming’s wig.
Decker is among the few wig masters who works full-time creating and styling wigs for theater productions. And Village Theatre, which operates in Issaquah and Everett, is among the rare theater companies to employ one.
After graduating from University of Colorado with an undergraduate degree in theater technology, Decker was part of the stage and wardrobe crew for the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, where he learned “how to do wigs.” Decker took an opportunity to be the wig master for a summer theater in Wisconsin in the late ’90s before taking the full-time position at Village Theatre in 2002.
Anyone who had the opportunity to see Into the Woods, might be surprised that 18 wigs were used in the main show, and that’s not counting all the wigs created for the understudy actors. Some of the wigs were over-the-top, including the curly conglomerate of colorful strands that are the stepsisters’ wigs. Other characters, like the baker’s wife and Cinderella, are very realistic. The baker’s wife has long red tresses that are effortlessly secured in a messy up-do. The color and style are so natural-looking, and that can be difficult to create, Decker said.
“I spent a lot of time getting the baker’s wife’s hair right,” he said. “And we did a wig for a lot of reasons. Some of it is because our shows run for so long. We do 60 to 80 performances of each show. Having to do your hair every day for that many days, and trying to get it to look right that many times — hair just doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t work.”
Some of the wigs he’s built from scratch, and the baker’s wife — which was previously used in a different show and adapted for Into the Woods — was hand-sewn. He turned the cap inside out to reveal hundreds of tiny knots that he and his assistants tied with a hook to build the wig. Hand-tied wigs can take 20 to 30 hours to make, he said. Other wigs are purchased commercially and adapted for each production. Many of the wigs are made with human hair from Asia and run upwards of $500 each. In the skinny hallway outside his office are wigs in gallon-sized bags stored in plastic tubs. Over the 15 years he’s worked at Village Theatre, he estimates creating hundreds of wigs, each one with its own challenges.
To say that he’s busy is an understatement. Decker said he often arrives at the theater around 9 a.m. and doesn’t leave until midnight. He also picks up union jobs for the Seattle Opera and the 5th Avenue and Paramount theaters.
“That’s showbiz,” he said. “If you want to keep doing this, you have to take what comes.” — Shelby Rowe Moyer
Black ants with wire legs appear to crawl on much of Humaira Abid’s artwork. They’re a common feature in her meticulously crafted wood sculptures — an army of insects that always marches through her body of work.
Abid, who grew up in Pakistan, uses her art to start conversations about women’s experiences that can be considered taboo to discuss. She says the ants help spark dialogue.
“I grew up in a society where we were discouraged to talk about issues. I mean sex, puberty — even motherhood (and) fertility issues. You were discouraged to show your undergarments. No discussion over menstrual periods.”
It is her passion to further pull back the curtain on the intimate experiences that make up womanhood. She fearlessly uses woodcarving, a male-dominated art craft, to uncover the stories of women and girls. In her first solo exhibit, now on view at the Bellevue Arts Museum, she examines the unique perspectives of female refugees finding new homes in the Pacific Northwest and Pakistan.
“Women do not get to tell their sides of the stories, especially about intimate details like what they could bring with them … no one asks them these questions,” she said.
Her work includes wooden suitcases, a carved breast pump, and painted portraits that all speak to those experiences. Like the feeling of being stuck between longing for the past, but hoping for a brighter future — at a loss of knowing where home really is.
Abid works out of her house in Renton, but her native region plays a major role in her art. Her exhibit features works inspired by a shooting at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2014 that left 132 children dead — including a 5-year-old girl named Khola Altaf. It was her first day of school.
“After that incident,” Abid said, “I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘What if that was my daughter?’” humaira.com.pk — LF