Lisa Stirrett would be the first to admit that her artistic talent was discovered almost by accident.
“I’d been fishing and I caught this little rock cod,” she said, holding her hands out to measure about eight inches. “I’d been studying Gyotaku (the Japanese art of fish imprinting). So when I got home I decided to try it. I put orange paint on the fish and pressed it against a piece of white paper. It was at that moment that I said to myself, ‘This is what I can do.’”
That was in 1988. And in the years since, Stirrett has become a well-known Pacific Northwest artist. She works in metals, cast glass, gyotaku, encaustic (a form of sculpting with beeswax) and fine art painting. Her work reflects her passion for the natural beauty of the sea and her Native American heritage.
“It doesn’t take much to figure out what my colors are,” she said. “Orange and red is everywhere. But lately, I’m pushing myself to do a lot in blues and greens because that’s the most popular colors right now in people’s homes.”
Most of her work is done on commission. But she produces enough art to have a shop-full, which she opened last summer at 9536 NW Silverdale Way. Prior to that, she had a smaller studio down the road from her new location. She and her husband, Steve, bought the former Farmall Tractor building in May 2011 and spend a year renovating it.
“I’d seen this building all my life,” she said. “I’d always loved it. When it became available, I wanted to see inside it. So I called my Dad (who is a Realtor) and he got me in it.”
That was all it took. Stirrett knew the building that was built in the 1940s was just the place for an expanded studio and shop. But it took a lot of work. She had to have the trusses beefed up with metal booths, additional wood, and peeler poles. The interior walls were drywalled, keeping the original cinderblock construction underneath. New electrical work had to be done and new cement floors were poured. That surface was then acid-washed to bring out warmth and color.
But the most important feature, Stirrett said, was the old garage doors. They were saved and are now the front of the building, where clear pane glass windows reflect all the color of the artwork inside.
“This building just spoke to me,” she said. “I would have moved in the moment I saw it, but I knew we needed to do some work to it in order to make it a place people would want to come to and enjoy.”
And it is. The building has a complimentary coffee bar and sitting gallery that she offers to the public for small groups to meet. Sometimes, students or business people just come in to sit and do work while surrounded by beautiful art.
An old truck bumper, complete with an Alaska vehicle license plate, acts as a shelf over a leather sofa. Cushy chairs and a couple of iron side tables sit nearby.
“The idea of this place is that it is somewhere where I can work and where I can teach classes,” she said. “It’s somewhere emerging artists can come and talk about their ideas. It’s a place where different needs can be met.”
It’s a far cry from where she thought she’d be working.
“I was half-way through college at the University of Washington studying political science and planning on going to law school when I realized I had different interests,” she said. “But I was paying for my own education. So I stayed and finished and got my degree.”
After she graduated and was married, she knew she wanted a career where she could work at home and raise children. She has two sons, ages 23 and 20. When her oldest was just an infant, she took her fish-print idea to fabric and made a rubbing on a white infant garnet. With her son in the stroller and her works on hangers laying over the top of the stroller, she headed off to the Seattle Gift Mart, trying to find a representative to market her art.
Within a short time, her work was for sale at Nordstrom’s Made in Washington stores, shops in Los Angeles and Atlanta and at Epcot Center.
“I loved it because they just sent me orders and I stayed home and made things,” she said.
Her work expanded to workout wear with fish prints and other abstract color, and soon she found herself in a Nordstrom store on a Mother’s Day painting on a black leotard and leggings, while it was on a live model.
“There was a huge crowd around and they were announcing my name and there I was with gold and silver paint, painting from one shoulder, across the model’s mid-section and down to the other leg.”
Raising two children and working throughout the night soon wore on her. So she gave up the clothing art and began teaching classes at her home on Rocky Point.
“Everything from paper-making to basket-weaving, to teaching women how to start their own business,” she said.
During that time in the late 1990s and into 2000, she began to create in glass, steel and tile. Working with well-known masters in those mediums, including Scott Curry and Mike Dupille, she soon was creating art for public places like the Bremerton Transportation and Ferry Terminal, the Bremerton Conference Center and Anthony’s Restaurants. That led her to need a kiln of her own. At the time, it was too big for her old shop, but when she moved into her larger new location she took it with her.
Her studio sponsors events for charity and she has shows of artwork done by other local artists. She keeps regular store hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays
She has works for sale from $5 to “in the thousands.” Some pieces are as large as eight feet in length.
“I want to sell everything,” she said. “Because I need the space. I have so much in my brain that needs to come out and I need the room to display it all.”
She creates daily at the business and welcomes visitors to watch her work.
“None of this means anything without sharing it,” she said. “My studio is my place on the wall. I want it to be a place where the community can gather and connect, a place to be creative and a place that inspires.”
For more check out www.lisastirrett.com. or call her at 360 536-2772.