Art from the mountainside
A unique gallery and gift shop on the Mount Baker Highway
By Brandy Kiger Shreve
If you’re in the market for a few holiday gifts to put under your tree this year, then a trip to Mountainside Gardens Gallery & Gifts on your way down from a day skiing on Mt. Baker might be in order.
With more than 80 artists and artisans showcased in the 750-square-foot gallery space a mile east from Kendall, the emphasis is on local goods and handcrafted finesse. The items range from hand-sewn aprons and crocheted dishcloths to high-end pottery and hand-dipped candles. “These aren’t things you can find at the mall or a store in Bellingham,” owner Nancy Jacobsen said. “Plus they’re local. We’re really promoting our Whatcom County artists.”
To help you with your holiday shopping list, we’ve picked a few artists to show off that can be found at Mountainside Gardens Gallery & Gifts.
At Cascadia Stoneware in Deming, Jeff and Natalie McDougall have been using both traditional methods and a hydraulic press system to produce their artisan work in their mountainside shop, and it’s served them well – their ceramic-ware has developed into a style that has found demand across the country.
Creating everything from stone slugs to platters with imprinted leaves to dinner plates, bowls and pitchers, the husband- and-wife team makes more than 80 different items that come in five different glazes. “Kids love the slugs,” Jeff said.
Jeff (left) said his love for clay began at an early age, joking that he played in the mud a lot as a kid, but it wasn’t until he was an undergraduate at Western Washington University that he found his passion for the earthenware creations.
“I used to throw everything, but the RAM press is what sets us apart from other potters in the area,” Jeff said, referring to the 1940s-vintage press machine he uses to make molds of his hand-thrown work for reproduction. “We’re using it with a porcelain-style clay that we’ve had a lot of success with. There’s a stigma against mold-made pottery, but I have a stigma against hurting my body. I can actually work and not be in pain all the time this way. It makes getting on the wheel and throwing custom work enjoyable again.”
Jeff, who has been a potter for more than 15 years, said that even though many of his pieces are produced on the press, everything is inspected and has to meet their standards before being sold in galleries. “Even when we use the press everything is still hand-dipped and painted before going through the firing process.”
Cascadia fires their work at 2,400°F, a temperature that ensures that the ceramics are durable and long-lasting. “It’s close to the same temperature that china is fired at, which makes it tough,” Jeff said. That extra durability is important, since they don’t craft their work to simply sit on a shelf – it’s intended to be used.
“They are beautiful, but we are making dishes for everyday use,” Natalie said. All items are dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. Their work sells for $5 to $100 depending on the size and complexity of the piece. They also take custom orders.
Note: They will be also be selling their work, including “seconds” at the Pacific Arts Market in Bellingham the first three weekends of December.
Jewelry-maker Kim Jacobsen dabbles in a little bit of everything, but is best known for her hemp and stoneware creations. Don’t let the fact that she’s using hemp fool you into thinking that her work is just for hippies and surfers, though. The self-taught artist is turning out elegant earrings, necklaces and bracelets using the woven fiber.
“I learned how to do macramé in girl scouts when I was eight,” she said. “I learned how to create my own knots, but it wasn’t until about five years ago when a friend of mine wanted a necklace at a store in the mall that I really got into it. I said ‘Don’t buy that, I can make it for you.’”
That necklace was the first of many. She’s since refined her process and found materials that elicit the jewelry style she had envisioned for herself. “I use a finer grade of hemp,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be the stereotypical hemp jewelry you see out there – I wanted it to be attractive to all ages.”
Now Jacobsen incorporates beads, gemstones and ceramics into her braided work, and has learned to make the ceramic pieces herself, working with Jeff and Natalie at Cascadia Stoneware to create intricately-designed pendants and earrings out of clay. “I’m putting clay pendants on leather and cords,” she said. “I’ve been learning by just playing around in my free time at Cascadia, when I’m off the clock.”
Jacobsen’s work sells for $10 to $60, depending on the materials used to create it.
Honey Glow Candles
What started as a hobby to create gifts for family and friends has kept candle maker Holly Johnston busy for the past few years. During that time she’s developed and designed her own line of hand-dipped and molded cleanburning candles that are easy on the lungs and the pocketbook.
The 100 percent beeswax candles with cotton wicks are sustainable and healthy, and you won’t find any overwhelming scents or perfumes in her work. “When you walk down the candle aisle at many stores, the smell is overwhelming,” she said. “They say it’s ‘aromatherapy’ but most of those scents have a petroleum base. That’s stuff you don’t want to be breathing.”
So she works to keep her products pure, sourcing her beeswax from local beekeepers, to ensure the fidelity of the final product. “A lot of products claim to be 100 percent beeswax,” she said, “but in reality it only has to be 10 percent with the rest additives to claim that label. But there’s absolutely nothing added to my products.”
The purity and local sourcing of her products are a point of pride for Johnston. “That’s something I pride myself on – it’s all from right here, from people I know,” she said.
Honey Glow Candles come in a variety of designs, and Johnston’s molds are often focused on nature. “I’ll make things like mushrooms and pine cones and flowers,” she said. The candles range in price from $1 to $20.
Mountainside Gardens Gallery & Gifts is located at 6900 Mt. Baker Highway (MP24). The shop is open from 10 to 5 Friday through Sunday, and can be found online at mountainsidegardens.com. x