Blessings can sometimes be hidden by what appears to be a problem.  Such was the case for Eileen Hudak whose job as a web developer was outsourced.  The hidden blessing was that she now had an opportunity to dream, to create the kind of job or position that would be fulfilling in a new way.  Her husband, Mark Hudak, a potter with 27 years’ experience behind him, was ready to embrace the dream, too.  After careful consideration and some physical work, this North End husband and wife team opened shop last March in Old Town as the Throwing Mud Gallery. The name of their enterprise embraces all aspects of their business, which has a fine crafts gallery in its street front, a middle room with potters’ wheels, and a back room with a cone 6 kiln.

There are 50 artists whose work is shown in the storefront gallery. Eileen has done a remarkable job of arranging all the work so that there is not a crowded sense, having so much to show in a relatively small space.  Often the work of one artist delightfully shows off the work of another in a mutually beneficial way.  Some people are happy to learn that there is quite a range of prices, so that it is possible to own original work.

Pottery classes are taught in the middle room where, Mark says, “We teach basics; we are not a college course, for example, so we don’t teach raku or sculpture.”  Included in the basics is a 25-pound block of clay that the student can use on the wheel or for hand-built items.

In the process of creating, firing and glazing, students learn about the properties of their medium, the characteristics of their clay and the glazes they can use.  For example, the glazes are locally formulated to meet the characteristics of the clay and the kiln.  Sometimes the lesson that must be learned is to not slather on a thick coat of glaze, for the glaze and the clay will be drying at different speeds, creating an unfortunate polka-dot effect.  By carefully heeding instruction, a student can produce a useful item that is pleasant to look at, will hold water, and is food service safe to use.  During September these factors came together as they created bowls for the annual Empty Bowls festival.

The classes are spread out over a six-week time span.  The hands-on instruction is for 2.5 hours per week and the student can schedule to work during open studio time for another 2.5 hours.  The cost of the classes includes all materials.  Students are asked to purchase a set of tools (usually costing around $18), which will become their personal items.

If you think you might be interested in a class, for $50 you can take a two-hour session on the wheel to see if that is something you’d like to do.   At present, the majority of students are women, (one of those random events), and the pleasant result of that is the sense of community that has evolved out of some of the classes.

In November, during Art at Work month, Mark will have a studio tour on Nov. 5 and 6.  At that time the gallery will be featuring those artists who live/work in Tacoma.  The Art Bus that usually runs for the Third Thursday Art Walk will be running for the studio tours so be sure to watch for information regarding schedules, etc.

Throwing Mud Gallery

Owners/Operators:  Mark and Eileen Hudak
Location:  2212 No. 30th, Tacoma
Phone: 253-254-7961

Class schedule:

Evenings:  6–8:30, M., Tues., Thurs.
Mornings:  10–12:30, Tues., Thurs., Sat.


One year old and going strong: B2 Fine Art Gallery/Studios

On Aug. 13, the B2 Fine Art Gallery/Studio celebrated it’s first anniversary as one of Tacoma’s dynamic galleries  “The Weekly Volcano” (August 1, 2011) called the B2 (pronounced B squared) “the hottest new gallery in town.”  In its one-year time, this gallery has garnered positive attention.

The B2’s direction is diverse, which might become the most singular aspect that will keep it afloat.  To use an old phrase, not all of its eggs are in one basket, so if one aspect of the business is slow, the activity in another can keep the doors open.

One strength of the business is that of relationships.  The gallery represents a small number of artists, a group that will probably continue to grow.  In addition, there are commercial clients that look to B2 for an artistic presence in their workplace.  For some artists work space or display space needs augmentation, so there are studios that are available to be rented.  B2 Gallery belongs to the Theater District Association and participates in the Third Thursday art walk every other month.

Another strength is the fact that the gallery is a blending.  One B, Deborah Boone, is a well-known fabric artist.  The B is squared (B2) by her husband Gary Boone, a self-acknowledged computer geek who is the managing partner in a Seattle software business, bringing business savvy to the mix.  The building that houses the gallery has a great history connected to Tacoma’s early newspaper business which is blended with a classical interior of neutral colors, white moldings, and tile floors.

Perhaps their greatest strength is the niche they have created for themselves when they established the first Beyond Crayons and Finger Painting youth art show.  The first show, held last fall, consisted of 56 pieces done by 17 students.  This year’s October show will be a selection of 75 pieces from submissions sent by students ages 7-19 from all over the world.  The plan is for this show to evolve into an annual, worldwide event.

The informing idea behind the children’s show is two-fold:  provide an early-in-life acknowledgement and encouragement of a child’s artistic abilities; and to give the child a sensibility of what an artist’s life includes.  For example, giclee prints will be made of their work so that they can sell reproductions during the month-long show.  In this showing, the students also become involved in processes such as framing and hanging. The show will travel to various venues, with the prints being shown to reduce the risk to the originals Each student receives any money earned in sales, and B2 hopes it can influence them to save that money for future art instruction.

Education will be part of the B2 package in other ways, too.  For example, there will be a two-week drawing class Sept. 6-10  (Drawing Fundamentals) with instructor Willie Bonner (contact the gallery for times and cost) and throughout the year there will be a lecture series, Verb, that will begin with Contemporary Native American Art.

Additional shows include the November through January show Cold Fusion:  Exploration Into Abstraction, the counterpoint to the current show, Hot Fusion.   The Youth Group Exhibition will run throughout almost all of October, opening on Oct. 8 and continuing through Oct. 29.  (This could be a good time to begin your holiday shopping.)



Owners and Directors:  Gary and Deborah Boone

Address:   711 St. Helens AV, Suite 100

Phone:      253.238.5065

Hours:      Tues. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If parking is a problem, you might park at the Tacoma Dome and take the trolley to its farthest destination, the Theater District and walk a few blocks downhill.

Local museums offer taste of Northwest art

“Wow!”  That, said Stephanie Stebich, is the number one word visitors use when they first enter the Dale Chihuly’s Northwest exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.  Stebich, the museum’s director was there to talk about the man she considers America’s most recognized contemporary artist.  That man, Dale Chihuly, is one of just a few Tacoma natives being shown this month at two of the areas largest museums.  Works by glass artist, Dale Chihuly and photographer Virna Haffer fill two of the Tacoma Art Museum’s exhibition rooms.  For a third Tacoma native, read Maggie Kelly’s article about Peter Serko on page 7.  Serko’s work is being shown across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass at the Museum of Glass.

Chihuly is indisputably one of the leaders in the school of glass but native baskets, trade blankets and Edward S. Curtis’s photographs of North American Indians influenced much of his work and collections of these artifacts breathe warmth and meditative calm into this exhibition.  Overhead, two amazing Day Island Willits canoes punctuate the exhibit.  Chihuly called them, “Some of the most beautiful canoes ever made.”

Chihuly grew up in Tacoma, attended Stadium High School and graduated from Wilson High School.  “I love Tacoma.  It’s my hometown.  It’s where I was raised.”

“I’m so proud of Tacoma for building three museums in three years,” said Chihuly.  He’s been a major supporter of Tacoma’s art scene.  So much so that Stebich said, “If you really love Dale’s work, you want to see more of it and that means you have to come to Tacoma.”[singlepic id=22 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Just down the hall from the Chihuly exhibit is the work of Virna Haffer.  Haffer has largely slipped from the American consciousness but her work spanned six decades beginning in the 20s.  A prolific photographer, she also found success as a printmaker, painter, musician, sculptor and published writer.  The sheer scope of her work is breathtaking.  Etchings share space with photograms, which share space with portraits and on and on it seems to go.  Museum staff sorted through 30,000 images at the Washington State Historical Society and Tacoma Public Library’s Special Collections to create the exhibit.

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“A Turbulent Lens: The Photographic Art of Virna Haffer” runs July 2 through Oct. 16, 2011.

“Dale Chihuly’s Northwest” runs through Sept. 25, 2011.


Peter shooting himself while contemplating his next shot of the Museum of Glass. Photo courtesy of Peter Serko

“I married the right woman.”  This affirmation was repeated a few times by Peter Serko as we sat in Tully’s, talking about his journey to becoming one of Tacoma’s most exciting photographers.  Because he married the right woman, Peter said, he could leave his family therapy practice to be a stay-at-home dad. Their first child was just a few months old then.  Two more children and thirteen years later it was decided that the three children were old enough for Dad to be working outside the home.  Interestingly, he had taught himself enough about the world of computers to be hired as an information technology person for the Vashon schools.  It was a job that allowed him to see his children, a job he has held for the last thirteen years.

During those latter years, it was, Serko said, when he was photographing his son’s participation in athletic events, that it struck him that his picture taking was a form of story telling.  That sensibility stayed with him as other elements of composition revealed themselves to him both through experience and exposure to the work of master photographers.  Serko’s “right woman,” he said with a smile, gave him a perfect birthday present:  a one-week photographic workshop with a renown Oregon photographer.  That workshop and a good digital camera were instrumental in turning Serko’s life in a new direction when he was already in his 50s.

Although he freely admitted  to having made “a lot of mistakes along the way,” Serko hopes to not only capture beauty of line, light, and color in his subjects, but also to help reframe the viewer’s perception of the subject, so it is seen in a unique way.  His example was a dandelion.  A dandelion growing up through cracks in cement would be only a weed to most people until the photographer’s lens turns it into a beautiful subject worthy of praise.  I thought of my own reaction to a book of his photos showing the interior of a building that had once been a fire station which is now transformed into a warm and inviting home.  Use of light and color, and concentration on ordinary subjects such as a faucet handle, or a drawer pull, invite the viewer to make room for the past in the presence of today.

Several local galleries and the Tacoma Art Museum have shown Serko’s work.  Daily, he walks the area around his home, on the Thea Foss Waterway, with a camera for companion.  He pointed out that he has his camera with him almost everywhere he goes, and I noted its presence during our conversation.

Serko’s enthusiasm for Tacoma and what art has done for the city was obvious in his excitement talking about his next exhibit.  Called “Transformation: Art Changes a City,” the show will be displayed at the Museum of Glass, beginning on Aug. 7 with opening day on Aug. 13.  The show will run through Jan. 8, 2012.  It will be a spectacular pictorial review of the Museum, pictures taken during the day, at night, after a rain, in the sun, covered with snow.  Pictures etched on aluminum panels. A show that celebrates what we have here in Tacoma.

As with his December show, “20/20 Tacoma”, public collaboration will be involved in this latest Serko venture.  Basically, the general public is invited to submit photos of their favorite shots of the Museum of Glass.  From the pool of pictures submitted, some will be selected to be incorporated into the show as a digital display.  This community participation will be invited and rotated over the length of the show, Serko pointed out, giving fresh views for the digital display each month.  Complete details for participating in that collaboration, as well as more information about the photographer can be found at 

Just before we left Tully’s, I asked Peter if there were anything additional that he would want to say to our readers.  His reply: “It is never too late to do something new.”

The Museum of Glass is located at 1801 Dock St. “Transformation: Art Changes a Citywill show from Aug.7-Jan 8.  Free for Museum members, $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (or $22 and $20 respectively for adding the Art Museum to the visit).  Look for announcements of special photography classes Serko will hold during the run of the exhibit.