Winter in Door County can be intimidating to the summer visitor. It’s so cold! they say, and what do you do all winter? On Washington Island, the locals have answered this question the best way Door County knows how: with art. Welcome to the What We Do In Winter Gallery!
Door County TODAY approached Jennifer Perez, a member of the What We Do In Winter Gallery, to learn more about this creative cabin-fever cure.
Door County TODAY (DCT): When and how did your gallery come together?
Jenifer Perez from the What We Do In Winter Gallery (WWDW): We opened up the spring of 2010. We started out just getting together for crafting, and thought that we could earn extra money by selling our goods at fair prices. So few of us have solid winter work.
DCT: How many artists show their work at the Gallery? Are you all Washington Island natives?
WWDW: The first year there were 4 of us and last year our number grew to 8. Some of us were born here, some of us were married here, and all of us live here year round.
DCT: What are your day jobs or seasonal jobs?
WWDW: We all have other occupations…. Teachers, retirees, business owners, moms, and of course the restaurant industry is a common summer occupation for most of us.
DCT: What mediums your artists work with, and why?
WWDW: So so many! Everything and anything! Up-cycling is a popular choice for all of us. Our shop has a huge variety of mediums and it’s always evolving… woodwork, painting, furniture, jewelry, photography…
DCT: You used the word “Up-cycling” – can you tell us more?
WWDW: Absolutely! Similar to recycling. We use things that would normally be discarded or thrown away. I love broken jewelry! I use the leftover parts to recreate jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, you name it! Sara is into plastic bags, she crotches them to make can coozies, stylish handbags, and new this year – scrubbies for your dishes and cleaning needs.
Robin and Karen use old barn wood to make their bird houses. Donna uses many kind of belts from resale shops to make the seats of her chairs, benches and footstools. Our two photographers Amanda and Emily use recycled frames. They sand them, re-stain them, and age them.
Everyone in the shop has something recycled and “up-cycling” seems to be the new trendy way to let your customers know what we’re up too!
DCT: With furniture and dish scrubbies in the same gallery along side jewelry and postcards, do most of your artists consider their work functional or fanciful? And where do you get your materials?
WWDW: Both. We have the chairs that are recreated with vintage belt straps, as well as crocheted rugs, hats, bags, and scarves. Can coozies and purses made out of recycled plastic bags. We have jewelry and also offer Jewelry repair. Photography post cards, large and small framed photos, magnets and island calendars. All of us use recycled materials. Like belts for the chairs, broken vintage jewelry remade into unique pieces; quite a few of us walk out to our woods or beach and get our materials from good old Mother Nature. We have hand painted maps and a wonderful variety of decorative art. We are quite proud that most of our inventory is hand-made or re-created.
DCT: Are the WWDW gallery artists mostly trained or self-taught? What inspires the art each of you creates?
WWDW: Most of us are self-taught and we all inspire each other in so many ways. The island we live on could feed our inspiration for the rest of our lives.
One thing I personally love about our shop is that if you find a cool idea and it doesn’t seem to be your thing we will pass that idea onto the next person. We have people that work on projects together, but we all try to bring something different to the gallery.
DCT: Do you have goals for your art, or yourselves as artists?
WWDW: One of the fun things about our gallery is that you get to have, and only have to meet, your own personal goals. Whichever direction you choose is the direction you go….. One thing we’ve all learned is that every customer has a different taste, when a new idea comes out, there is always going to be that person who looks at your art and thinks it’s just for them.
What We Do In Winter Gallery is located on Washington Island, right next Nelsen’s Hall on Main Road. Open Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day weekend. Hours of operation are changing… but WWDW will be open 7 days a week.
Gallery Cast and Crew: Robin Ditello, Karen Taylor, Sara Sorensen, Jennifer Perez, Amanda Danforth, Emily Small, Donna Russell, and Michelle Mann
Door County TODAY would like thank Jennifer Perez for her time in organizing the artists for this interview, and for proving once again, that there is always something to do in Door County!
“Friend” Door County TODAY on Facebook, and check out www.DoorCountyTODAY.com, for a follow up this spring when we visit Washington Island for a look at what they did this Winter!
By: Marybeth Mattson