The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Wood
The Times 

Artists Flood Waitsburg for ArtWalla Event

Lane Hill debuts '10 Ton Press' space and introduces Waitsburg artists


Dena Wood

Luke Chavez looks through his clothing design portfolio with Claire Johnson. Several of his pieces are on display to the right. Luke Chavez looks through his clothing design portfolio with Claire Johnson. Several of his pieces are on display to the right.

WAITSBURG – Lane Hill debuted her newly remodeled 10 Ton Press studio, located on Waitsburg's Main Street, to a full house while hosting an ArtWalla Creative Network event on July 13. Artists from across the Touchet Valley showed up to see firsthand what is happening in the new space and to learn more about the burgeoning art scene in Waitsburg.

In his introduction, ArtWalla board member Ted Cox referred to Waitsburg as "Artsburg" because of the number of artists living and working in the community. The Creative Network is a quarterly event intended to provide creative networking opportunities for area artists to share ideas and projects in a fun after-hours setting. "We've never had a crowd this big," Cox said about the Waitsburg event.

At Wednesday's gathering Hill took the opportunity to share her vision for the space and to introduce artists Gail Gwinn and Luke Chavez, who are currently working out of the 10 Ten Press studio. Waitsburg artists Suze Wood and Claire Johnston also spoke about their current projects and invited visitors to tour their spaces, Dynamite Art + Coffee and Open Studio.

Lane Hill

Hill hails from Seattle and said she became familiar with Waitsburg when her friends Jim German and Claire Johnston and Paul and Karen Gregutt moved here. She began visiting regularly when her sister and brother-in-law, Gail Gwinn and Joe Patrick, moved to town.

Hill and her husband, Dr. Charles Hill, purchased the Main Street building and renovated it to include living spaces upstairs and a large studio area downstairs. Hill said her first and foremost goal was to create a large printmaking studio for her sister to work in.

With that goal accomplished, Hill says there are many possibilities for the building that is already being used as a rehearsal space for local musicians and as a meeting space for community groups. She envisions the space being used for workshops and exhibitions, and would love for out-of-area artists to come, stay, and teach or learn.

Hill said she also owns five "studios" (currently garages) out back that she hopes to put to use as well. Hill is an accomplished painter and hopes to offer paint workshops. She is especially interested in giving classes on sketching with an iPad, a tool she uses often in creating her own work.

Luke Chavez

Hill's son, Luke Chavez, recently moved to Waitsburg and is working from 10 Ton Press while creating his own line of designer clothing. Chavez received a degree in apparel design from Seattle Central Community College in 2006, but said he realized he was not fond of mass production and didn't want to work from a cubicle where he never got a chance to touch fabric.

While in Seattle Chavez resisted the urge to work for big companies and began designing items like wedding dresses and coats for friends. "I went to New York on a whim to do free internships and found out I am very much a west coast person!" he said.

Chavez said his initial work included women's attire, but that he now plans to focus on menswear. He said he is especially drawn to Old World techniques and tailoring. He sees each piece through, from beginning to end – from design, to paper pattern, to muslin pattern, to fashion fabric.

Chavez said he is grateful for the space, time, and beautiful surroundings, in which to create, and the fact that he only has to walk downstairs to get to work. Chavez said his goal is to develop a new line of menswear and to update his portfolio.

Gail Gwinn

Gail Gwinn has been making and showing her art for nearly four decades. She attended Santa Monica College and California State University at Long Beach, and focused on watercolor painting and drawing for many years. Her works have been exhibited throughout the U.S.

In 1996 Gwinn took an etching workshop and said she fell in love with the medium that "combines the precision of drawing, the transparency of watercolor and the richness of paint."

Today she specializes in copperplate printmaking and is thrilled with her new workspace at 10 Ten Press. "My sister built me an art studio and I am grateful! This is a great space to work in!" said Gwinn with a smile.

Gwinn said she planned to start work "tomorrow" and is working on pieces for The Froggwell Biennale Art Show, a showing of sculptors and artists that takes place every other year at Freeland, Wash., on Whidbey Island. Gwinn said she has been involved with the show for 25 years.

Claire Johnston

Waitsburg painter Claire Johnston recently opened Dynamite Art + Coffee in the former home of jimgermanbar, at 119 Main Street in Waitsburg. The coffee shop is open for coffee and treats from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., Fridays through Sundays.

The walls of Johnston's café are currently adorned with Gwinn's watercolors and etchings. Meanwhile, Johnston's own work is on display at the Studio TwoZeroTwo Tasting Room and Art Gallery at 202 E. Main St. in Walla Walla.

Suze Wood

Artist and equestrian Suze Wood offered guests tours of her eclectic Open Studio space at 145½ Main Street in Waitsburg. Wood opens her studio space to the public for a monthly Bluegrass Jam Session (which includes more than just Bluegrass) at 7 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, and encourages everyone to attend.

Dena Wood

Gail Gwinn (center, pink) laughs with Community Network visitors as she stands beside one of the large printing presses in her new studio space at 10 Ton Press. Gail Gwinn (center, pink) laughs with Community Network visitors as she stands beside one of the large printing presses in her new studio space at 10 Ton Press.

Wood, who has a background in applied, fine, and graphic arts, said she would like to provide the opportunity for local youth to experience art. Wood said she tried offering art classes for kids, but that spots ended up being filled by kids from out of town, which was not what she had expected.

Wood said she realized that with 50% of the students in the school district falling under the poverty level, funding was the problem. She has since started working under the umbrella of the nonprofit Rural Youth Enrichment Services (RYES) and will seek grant funding to provide art experiences for kids.

She said she will also use the profits from her adult classes to help pay for youth classes. "By hook or by crook, I am going to get some kids in here!" she said.

Wood's next adult class offering is a two-day "Wax + Wine" encaustic class with Seattle artist Colleen Manette. Learn more at

ArtWalla is a nonprofit, membership-driven organization with the goal of supporting and strengthening the arts in the Walla Walla Valley. Learn more at


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