Seattle artist Julia Harrison aims to leave Homer a little more beautiful than how she found it. Bunnell Street Arts Center’s current artist-in-residence came to town with simple hand tools that she uses for carving and jewelry making and plans to leave without any artwork she creates during her two-week stay.
Instead, Harrison wants to leave it in and with the community.
Inspired by a Japanese Buddhist monk who lived several hundred years ago and carved thousands of Buddha and other religious imagery and left his works in public spaces or gave them to people he met, Harrison wants to do the same for Homer and its residents.
“That’s not the way I normally work, but I find that really beautiful and really inspiring,” Harrison said. “I’m very interested in how objects are relationships or the embodiment of relationships.”
Harrison is collecting materials to carve from around the Homer area, such as wood from the beaches. Additionally, she invites people to bring her items that they would like carved and she will adorn the items for free. Items can be brought to Bunnell and picked up at the end of Harrison’s time in Homer, she said.
“I’m going to be going around and finding things that I can work on — not like I’m going to vandalize the park benches or anything like that — but finding things that I can put back in their natural setting,” Harrison said.
Harrison visits Homer from Seattle, where she works with the Pratt Fine Arts Center as the manager of the jewelry studio. Originally from the South where she lived in Kentucky and then Tennessee, Harrison attended college in Minnesota and then lived in England, Japan and Australia before coming to Seattle to get her master of fine arts from the University of Washington in the jewelry program.
Wood has become one of Harrison’s materials of choice. She finds metal too cold and impersonal, she said. Wood has a backstory.
“A lot of my stuff come from traveling and finding things, or harvesting wood,” Harrison said. “My favorite woods that I’m using right now are harvested from my own neighborhood; to be working with a material that has been a neighbor of mine for several years is moving to me. It’s at the end of its life, it’s at the end of its road, and it’s going on to do something else for me and that’s really lovely.”
She creates functional, communicative and aesthetically pleasing jewelry that, if she hits her mark, can start conversations.
“I want to make things that will last a really long time and be a pleasure to wear and will get people into conversations,” Harrison said. “One of my favorite things is when people say, ‘This thing I got from you, people stop me on the street and we talk about these things.’ That to me is the really good thing about jewelry, as opposed to something that stays on a wall. You have to literally stand behind your choice when you go out in the world and say, “This is a thing that I think is beautiful, or interesting or engaging, and then people will choose to pick up on that introduction or not.”
Though Harrison is not displaying work for First Friday, she will hold a soap carving workshop on Saturday, May 7 at Bunnell and will be in Homer until May 15.
Carving workshop with Julia Harrison
Bunnell Street Arts Center
Saturday, May 7, noon-3 p.m.
Suggested donations of $10 for members, $15 for general public.
Julia Harrison will teach the basics of working subtractively using soap in this all-ages carving workshop. Participants should bring one or two small sharp knives – such as an paring knife, that are a comfortable fit for their hands. All other materials will be provided.
No prior knife or carving skills need, though Harrison suggests that participants should be able to chop vegetables unsupervised.
Carving Klatch workshop with Julia Harrison
Bunnell Street Arts Center
Wednesday, May 11, 4-6 p.m.
Carvers of all skill levels can bring a piece to work on by hand while spending time with other carvers and artist-in-residence Julia Harrison. Snacks will be provided.