BAM’s ‘Push Play’ highlights innovators, visionaries working in clay

  • Written by Deborah Stone
“Swan” by Adrian Arleo. Photo courtesy of BAM
Bellevue Arts Museum’s new exhibit, “Push Play: The 2012 NCECA Invitational,” showcases over 30 international artists who explore how the act of play expresses and expands human potential.

Held in conjunction with the 46th National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference in Seattle in late March, the exhibit follows previous groundbreaking ceramics exhibitions at BAM including “Robert Sperry: Bright Abyss” in 2009 and the much celebrated BAM Biennial 2010: clay Throwdown!”

Stefano Catalani, BAM’s director of Curatorial Affairs/artistic director and co-curator of “Push Play,” is delighted and honored that the museum is the hosting venue for the Invitational.

He says, “Ceramic art, traditional or experimental, has deep roots in the Northwest. As a museum dedicated to the exploration of art, craft and design, it plays an integral role in our mission.”

Over 200 artists responded to the call for entries to participate in the exhibition, submitting approximately 2,000 works of art. Only 33 artists were selected for the final display, including such visionaries and innovators as Adrian Arleo, Beth Cavener Stichter, Judy Fox, Kiki Smith and Christina West, among others.

The show explores the place of play in society today and views the subject in a myriad of ways. It emphasizes the joy that comes from play and how it teaches us about ourselves, our bodies and the world around us. It also delves into play’s dark, exploitive side and looks at the stories that evolve from the act of playing, which can initiate role playing, fantasy and imagination.

In furthering the concept, the exhibit delves into the open nature of playthings and how they are equipped with the ability to help establish gender roles and identity.

Some pieces appear whimsical at first glance, but with deeper study they become unsettling.

by Sam Scott Photo courtesy of BAM
Margaret Keelan’s “Hopscotch,” for example, depicts a child happily engaged in playing the traditional sidewalk game.

Look closely, however, and notice that the sculpture has the appearance of disintegrating paint over weathered wood.

This gives the impression of a wearing effect, bringing to mind the weight that life’s experiences have on the individual as he/she grows up and ages.

In Kelly Connole’s piece, “Scamper,” a group of very lifelike rabbits appears as if they are leaping out of the wall from their wooded environment. One wonders if they are they running for the sheer joy and freedom of the experience or fleeing from a predator. A description of the work acknowledges that humans’ interactions with wild things are often filled with questions and “contradictory emotions of fear and delight tempered by our desire to personify all that we encounter.”

Rabbits also figure prominently in “Gravitational Pull,” from Rebekah Bogard’s “Twilight” series. Here the creatures are lying on their backs in positions of utter contentment, amid a forest under a starlit sky.

The work evokes nostalgia for warm summer nights and that magical time when day turns into night.

In Clayton Keyes’ “Bougie Putti,” one dead and bloodied rabbit dangles from the hand of a male child, who is naked with the exception of lacy cuffs around his wrists and a powdered wig with a blue ribbon, a la Victorian style. One finger touches his lips staining them red with blood. It’s a disturbing image that explores the nature of play unchecked – without guidance of parents and society – and the possibility of the emergence of primal instincts.

Some of the pieces speak to the perspective of power structure and peer pressure within play, and the scrutiny and judgment that often comes among groups of playmates.

In “Nave,” artist Mark Chatterly writes that he pretended he was a kid again making a snow fort, rolling one ball at a time and stacking them in layers.

Instead of balls, however, he stacks large scale figures that sit one on top of each other in a tight semi-circle. They are all hunched over, leaning in, peering at one another, as if evaluating the individual worth of their teammates.

On the ground in front of them is a small rabbit, perhaps symbolizing the fear and discomfort that comes with being singled out and ostracized.

Anne Drew Potter’s “The Captains Congress” also alludes to this theme. Perched on wooden crates, a group of naked child people sit within a circle of judgment, posed in attitudes of derision and contempt for a passive defendant that is positioned outside of the circle with her back towards the group. The bullies wear silly paper hats which exaggerate their grotesque facial expressions.

Contemplation, another angle on play, is explored within Kiki Smith’s piece, “Sitting and Thinking.” With a pose reminiscent of “The Thinker” by Rodin, a young woman appears to be engaging in the mental process of play, directing the viewer’s attention inward to the realm of imaginative thoughts.

Arthur Gonzalez’s “Service at the Villa” is another contemplative-like work. Here, the Blue Haired Fairy from “Pinocchio” sits quietly, as she muses on her past with the puppet boy.

She is posed against the wall dressed in a long skirt that contains an etching of Pinocchio’s face on it, while holding her light wand. It’s a nostalgic piece that elicits emotional reactions directed towards childhood stories which immerse readers in their fantasy.

“Push Play” is a highly engaging exhibition that shines a light on the use of clay to explore the many perspectives of play and how it helps define us.

“Push Play: The 2012 NCECA Invitational” runs through June 17 at Bellevue Arts Museum.

For more information: (425) 519-0770 or

Chocolate Man is mecca for all things chocolate

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Chocolate Man
Bill Fredericks is the owner of Chocolate Man, now open in Lake Forest Park Town Center. Photo by Deborah Stone.
Chocolatiers and chocolate lovers will be delighted to hear that there’s a new place in town to get their fix. Chocolate Man, now open in Lake Forest Park Town Center, is a mecca for all things chocolate, including 70 different chocolate varieties, a wide array of chocolate-making products, decorations, packaging supplies and even equipment rentals for those who want to experiment with the craft at home.

Owner and chief chocolate maker of the establishment is Bill Fredericks, a local man who has been involved in the business for over 20 years.

“It started as a hobby,” he says. “I made truffles to give as gifts when I was in grad school because I didn’t have much money back then. They were pretty good, but I found that if I used a better grade of chocolate, they tasted even better.”

Fredericks, an oceanographer by profession, decided to begin selling high end bulk chocolate online as a part time avocation. His home-based business grew over the years, along with his inventory.

“The chocolate was taking over my basement,” explains Fredericks. “I was keeping about 4,000 pounds of chocolate in stock at any one time. I just didn’t have enough storage.”

He adds, “I began looking at renting commercial space, but in the process, I found that for the same price I could put a front in and have a store. I decided to take advantage of the economy and the lower rents and when an opportunity at the Lake Forest Park Town Center came about, I took it. It’s a good location because it’s in a shopping mall where there’s lots of traffic, plus it’s close to my house.”

The timing for Fredericks was optimal, as he had reduced the hours of his job as an administrator and researcher in UW’s oceanography program, and now had more time to devote to his chocolate business.

He opened Chocolate Man in mid-November and slowly, but surely, many of his local Internet customers are finding their way to the shop, along with a host of newcomers who stumble upon the business while walking around the mall.

The 1,300-square-foot space has a retail section up front with chocolates made by Fredericks, as well as by other chocolatiers; a number who belong to the Northwest Chocolatiers Guild, of which Fredericks is president.

It’s the first such guild in the country and consists of a coalition of chocolatiers, suppliers, instructors, amateurs and students.

The remainder of the store contains shelves and racks of chocolate-making supplies.

There’s everything from chocolate shells, nut pastes, oils and flavorings to cups, foils and special tools.

In the back is a full professional kitchen where the magic takes place. It’s also where Fredericks holds his chocolate-making classes. He’s been teaching the craft for 15 years at both North and South Seattle Community Colleges and at the Blue Ribbon Cooking School.

“I am trying to offer a variety of classes on a weekly basis,” explains Fredericks. “I’ve only just started doing them at the store since December, but I’m already getting interest because word is spreading.”

Classes emphasize technique and range from learning to create Ganache and basic chocolate truffles to chocolate tempering and working with polycarbonate molding. In preparation for Valentine’s Day, there’s a special “Wine Truffles in a Chocolate Box” session where students will make wine truffles and French truffles and present them in a colorful covered homemade chocolate box.

“I love teaching,” comments Fredericks. “I’m a very hands-on teacher and I give lots of tips. I want students to really learn and leave the class with confidence in their skills.”

The most challenging aspect of working with chocolate, according to Fredericks, lies in the fragility of the material. He says that chocolate is not a structural food so it cannot be treated as such. But, the fact that it can be melted down and used again is definitely an asset. “If you make a mistake with chocolate, you can start over,” he adds. “That’s what’s nice about it.” Fredericks notes that most people when they begin working with chocolate tend to be impatient, especially when it comes to the tempering process. “They want to cut corners and that leads to problems,” he says. “Tempering takes time, temperature and motion – the three critical requirements – to get the chocolate to shine and snap. It’s a simple process, but sounds complicated. The best way to learn is to have someone who’s experienced show you.”

For Fredericks, working with chocolate is an artistic release. He views it as a creative outlet and particularly delights in making chocolate sculptures. As for his favorite chocolate to eat, the local man responds, “That’s like asking what’s your favorite wine? There are thousands of chocolates out there and there are some really good ones, but right now I’d have to say that I really like Madagascar Single Source by Guittard Chocolate Company. I love the floral, fruity tones to it.”

Fredericks eats chocolate almost daily, the darker the better. He says, “It’s the healthiest because it’s got all those antioxidants in it.”

Chocolate Man is located on the second floor of the Lake Forest Park Town Center. For more information: (206) 365-2025 or

Italianissimo owners to open urban-styled pizzeria in Woodinville

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Pizza StationThere’s a new kid on the block in Woodinville’s dining scene.

It’s The Station Pizzeria, brought to you by Kent and Cindy Betts, longtime owners of well-known Italianissimo Restaurant.

Due to open in mid to late February, the urban-styled pizzeria, which is located in the former Chevron Station across from the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse, will serve salads, starters and, naturally, pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven, with both take-away and dine-in options.

According to Caylee Betts, marketing director for The Station, a variety of different types of pizzas will be offered.

She says, “We’re going to have some of the ‘old school’ classic pizzas like pepperoni, and sausage and mushroom, but we’re really going to highlight some ‘new school’ styles that are more on the creative side, like the ‘Thaitalian,’ for example, that’s made with spicy peanut sauce, lobster meat and primavera veggies.”

Betts explains that the pizzas will be fired in a six-foot Woodstone oven heated between 550 and 600 degrees.

One employee will man the oven at all times to make sure the pizzas are rotated properly.

“Wood-fired pizzas take more love and attention,” comments Betts. “The dough and toppings need to be checked properly so someone has to stand constant watch over them.”

Kent Betts, who is Caylee’s father, has tweaked his pizza-making procedures over the years at Italianissimo and has arrived at the ideal pizza dough recipe and cooking process.

“He has very distinct views about pizza,” comments Caylee, “and he’s played with the dough and the temperature of the oven to get it just so.”

And if you don’t want pizza, the restaurant will have plenty of other choices available, including a variety of sandwiches on homemade pita bread, cheese and meat plates and deli-style dishes, unique salads and some featured entrees like steak tips and pulled pork.

The menu will change seasonally.

Due to open in mid to late February, the urban-styled pizzeria, which is located in the former Chevron Station across from the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse. The Station Pizzeria will serve classic pizzas like pepperoni, and sausage and mushroom, but we’re really going to highlight some ‘new school’ styles that are more creative. Courtesy photo.
In the libations department, The Station plans to offer the complete gamut of beer, wine and liquor, but it will not have a sit-down bar.

“We’re going to have plenty of local craft beers and Washington wines, but we’ll also have other wines from different parts of the country and around the world, too,” explains Betts. “Some of the liquor will come from local distilleries and we’re going to get creative when it comes to some of our cocktails.”

Betts describes the eatery’s interior as contemporary with an industrial edge.

There are cement floors, aluminum chairs and roll-up garage doors that lead to an outside patio for alfresco dining when the weather permits.

The place can seat up to 60 inside in community-style arrangements and 50 on the patio, which will also be shared by two tasting rooms on site: Patterson Cellars and Gorman Winery.

An open kitchen will allow patrons the ability to see the pizza making process and wood fire oven in action.

Betts adds, “There’s a cool vibe to the place. It’s casual, meaning you can come in jeans and shorts, yet it’s still fine dining because the wait staff will be professional and high standards will be set and maintained for service and quality of food.”

Opening a second restaurant has been in the works for Kent and Cindy Betts for a while, but initially the couple didn’t know if they wanted it to be a steak house or a pizzeria.

Staying in Woodinville was their top priority and they hoped to find something in the Tourist District.

As soon as they saw the old Chevron property, they knew it was the perfect location.

“There are wineries nearby, a hotel, the trail and the ball fields,” notes Caylee. “There’s a lot going on in the area, which attracts lots of people.”

She adds, “Actually, about 30 cars go through that roundabout per minute.”

As for deciding between a steak house and a pizzeria, once the Betts set their sights on the space, there was no question in their minds that it was going to be a pizzeria.

Everyone involved in the project has been working hard to prepare the restaurant for its opening and there’s been quite a buzz about it in the community.

“I think people here are really excited about having another place to eat in Woodinville,” says Caylee. “And those who know Italianissimo are especially excited because they know the quality of food and service at The Station will be equally as good. It’s just a different concept.”

In summing up The Station, Caylee emphatically states, “It’s exactly what Woodinville needs.”

Hometown boy opens brewery in Woodinville

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Twelve Bar Brews 003 (2)
Photo by Deborah Stone Kirk Hilse likes the challenges of making beer and recently opened Twelve Bar Brews in Woodinville.
Kirk Hilse discovered microbrews in the early ’90s when they became all the rage in the Seattle area.

A recent UW grad, he would frequent the Latona Pub on Brewers’ Nights when local brewers would bring in their ales for customers to sample. Meeting the brewers inspired Hilse to attempt to make some beer on his own.

“One of my roommates and I put together a 10-gallon brewing system using old, beat-up kegs as cookers,” says Hilse. “The first batch we made tasted a bit weird, but it was good enough to drink. We began experimenting with brewing different kinds of beer and eventually, I built a nicer brew system that was much more effective. It became a really fun hobby.”

Over the years, Hilse honed his brewing skills and he often told his friends that if he ever decided to quit his day job, he’d consider becoming a professional brewer. “I saw it as a possible midlife contingency plan,” he comments. “I joked about it, but I was actually half-serious about someday opening my own microbrew business.”

In the interim, Hilse worked as a senior software engineer for a manufacturer of music recording equipment and then as an engineer at Microsoft.

Science has always been the local man’s strong suit and he refers to himself as a “mad scientist,” who enjoys the lab-like environment that brewing creates. “I’m fascinated by the processes,” he adds. “Making beer is a simple process, but it takes years to master. I like the challenges, and the final product makes me proud.”

It was after Hilse experienced a major career burnout that he turned to brewing in earnest and decided to open a brewery and small tasting room. In searching for a location for his business, there were basically two areas that attracted him: Georgetown and Woodinville.

Both were affordable in terms of commercial square footage, but with so many of his brewing friends in Georgetown, Hilse opted for Woodinville in order to minimize the competition.

Another compelling reason for his choice was familiarity with the area.

“I graduated from Woodinville High School back in ’86,” he explains. “I’m a hometown boy and this is home turf for me.”

The dream became reality for Hilse on November 1 when he opened the doors to Twelve Bar Brews. Located next to Haight Carpet and around the corner from McLendon Hardware, the brewery and tasting room has already created a buzz in the community. In a few short months, Hilse’s beers can be found in more than a dozen restaurants and bars on the Eastside and in Seattle. Currently, he makes three ales: India Pale Ale, India Black Ale and a five-grain Pale Ale.

“The India Pale Ale or IPA is malted towards the dry side, making it highly drinkable rather than malty and hard to get through,” notes Hilse. “It is quite pale in color and has a slightly toasted malt character. Five different hops are used during the brewing and dry-hopping for this IPA, giving it a moderately complex aroma with strong citrus and floral notes and a hint of pine.”

Hilse describes the India Black Ale as strong, with a relatively dry feel. It has hints of coffee, although there isn’t any coffee in the beer.

Pale Ale, the newest of the trio, is a made with rye, oats, two kinds of barley and wheat.

“It has a lot of flavor and it’s awesome in summer,” comments Hilse. “But, it’s actually selling well now.”

A fourth beer, Imperial Red, will be available in time for Valentine’s Day. Hilse says this one will be less bitter, but still retain a strong hops flavor. “It’s a maltier beer,” he adds, “and it’s the least dry of all the beers we make.”

Hilse emphasizes that his beers are clean and dry and serve as a platform for the hops, which he always likes to showcase. He feels their popularity is due to the fact that they’re very drinkable. Twelve Bar Brews produces 15 barrels of beer on an average of once a week. Hilse expects this number to increase when he gets more fermenters. The local man is delighted with the response to his product and notes that his business is growing by three times the rate he had projected in his initial plan.

“It’s exciting, but it’s kind of crazy,” he says. “Right now, it’s a two-man business, so we’re stretched pretty thin. We’re just focusing on getting our beers out around town and on tap locally.”

Down the line, Hilse would love to open a brew pub in Woodinville, but with the economy being the way it is currently, he knows that won’t happen for some time. Meanwhile, he’s quite content with his midlife career change.

For information: (425)482-1188 or

Studio invites guests to paint and sip

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Canvas 01
MJ Robison, owner, though partnering wine with art was the perfect combination. Courtesy photo.
It’s not so much the actual process of painting that brings people into Canvas! Paint and Sip Studio, but rather the experience of being with a group of people engaged in a creative pursuit together.

“It’s just a fun activity to do with friends,” explains MJ Robison, owner of the Kirkland business. “It’s therapeutic and relaxing, and you don’t have to worry about whether you’re artistic or not. Our artistic team members, all who are passionate about art, show you how to paint a specific picture, guiding you step-by-step, and everyone leaves with a completed painting.”

The subject matter, which varies from day-to-day, includes such scenes as the Seattle skyline and the Eiffel Tower, as well as floral arrangements, nature settings, champagne glasses and wine bottles, musical instruments, animals and holiday themes.

“We are focused on offering enough paintings often enough to allow people the chance to paint the one they want,” says Robison.

“We introduce new subject matter each month, but we also keep some of the popular ones around.” She notes that all of the paintings emphasize bright colors, adding, “They’re cheerful, happy paintings because living here, we definitely need a contrast to all this Northwest grayness.”

Guided painting sessions, which include all materials and instruction, are offered at specific times during the day and evening, as well as on weekends.

bCanvas 5
Canvas! has special family days with discounted rates for kids under 12 and is also available for children’s birthday parties. Courtesy photo.
For those who just want to come and do their own thing, however, there are also various scheduled open painting periods.

While painting, guests can imbibe in a beverage or two from the studio’s full-service bar, and when the pictures are drying, they can peruse assorted items made by local artisans that are available for sale in the small boutique within the studio.

“We want to support local vendors,” says Robison, “and we’ve chosen some really nice gift items. We put them up front by the windows to attract people passing by and I think they add to the whole art gallery vibe. They’re inviting and get people to come inside. Once they enter, they see how upbeat the place is and how unintimidating it is.”

Robison, who runs Canvas! with her daughter Laura, has a background in business and consulting, but she’s always been involved with art.

For several years, she owned a number of paint-your-own-pottery shops in Washington, Oregon and Virginia.

The paint-and-sip concept attracted her attention because she thought the idea of partnering wine with art was the perfect combination. “It really married the experience,” she adds.

The local woman notes that the concept is not new, as there are several similar type studios around the country.

She says, “It’s been very popular, especially in the South. What’s great about it is that everyone, young and old, can participate.”

Canvas! has special family days with discounted rates for kids under 12 and is also available for children’s birthday parties. Additionally, it hosts bridal showers, bachelorette parties and corporate events, among other occasions.

“Companies really seem to like to use the experience for team-building sessions,” comments Robison. “It doesn’t require any special ability. Anyone can do it and everyone accomplishes something by the end of the session. It’s a great way to bring people together.”

As for working with her daughter, Robison remarks that the situation is very rewarding.

She comments that Laura, who is a recent UW grad in communications, brings a fresh approach to the business, as well as skills in event planning.

So far, Kirkland is the only location for Canvas! but Robison hopes to open other studios in the area in the future. She chose Kirkland because of its reputation for supporting the arts and for its sense of community.

“There couldn’t be a better place to open the first one,” she says. “The space is great. It’s full of light and it’s in an ideal location that gets a lot of foot traffic. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback since we opened last July.”

Robison and her daughter spent four months getting the studio ready and they set the benchmark high with the intent to use this first location as the template for additional locales.

“It’s such a fun business because people want to come here and they have a great time,” she says. “They leave happy and that makes us feel good. That’s our reward.”

For more information about Canvas! Paint and Sip Studio: (425) 822-2266 or