Patti Warashina at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts

Tuesday, January 03, 2023 11:32 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

Before Bainbridge Island had a bridge to the Kitsap peninsula, it established its first non-profit arts organization. Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, as it came to be called, is still going strong. This mainstay of the island’s arts scene celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and it greets the milestone with a real splash: a showing of artwork by visionary ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina. 

The term “visionary” gets tossed around casually, but surely it applies to Warashina: in 2020 she received the Smithsonian’s Visionary Artist award. The occasion honored the Seattle artist for her five decades of ground-breaking work in ceramics, and for being “a defining figure in the West Coast Funk Art movement.”

Warashina’s influences include Rene Margritte, Hieronymous Bosch, and Louise Nevelson; she credits “the era of the Beatles” as another influence. What do those artists have in common and share with Warashina? The pursuit of a personal and often dream-like expression that frequently critiqued the broader culture or ignored its strictures entirely. 

As a Japanese-American raised in Spokane during WWII, and as a single mother navigating the male-minated art world in the 1960s and ’70s, Warashina saw much to resent and to resist. Yet a humorous, whimsical, absurdist take on reality characterizes her work. It is as if she takes too much delight in clay and paint to strike an overtly angry tone in the work itself. This dynamic shifted after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the rise of hateful bigotry in its wake. Warashina’s outrage is undisguised in polemical pieces like “Democracy on the Run.”  

Now in her eighties, the Seattle artist remains productive, engaged, and relevant. Consider her “Gossipmongers” tableau: figures in a circle gossip via tin-can telephones (you know, where the cans are connected by a piece of string). But at the figure’s feet those same cans have been elongated to become sticks of dynamite, each with its string snipped short to form a fuse. Warashina is telling us about social media without telling us about social media. 

In addition to tableaux, BAC has plenty of smaller ceramic pieces on display: tiny birds, a fantastical cat or two, painted plates, and cups that overflow with ridiculousness and obscure purpose. Two-dimensional works — lithographic prints and drypoint monoprints — round out the show. 

With an internationally-renowned artistin the house, Bainbridge Arts & Crafts is stepping it up in its 75th year rather than resting on past laurels. Come out to celebrate, and learn more about Bainbridge Arts & Crafts’s rich history and its plans for a bright future.

Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald is a writer and musician living on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Patti Warashina’s art is on view at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, located at 151 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Monday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. and Sunday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit

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