CAMANO ISLAND, Wash. — The 24th annual Camano Island Studio Tour kicks off Friday, giving visitors a unique chance to explore the spaces where artists create their work.
The free event includes 29 artist studios and four galleries throughout Camano Island and Stanwood, with mediums including painting and mixed media, woodworking, leather and ceramics.
Visitors can view artists' workspaces and learn about their backstories, like the inspiring journey of Delors Ruscha.
Born and raised in Spain, she specializes in fused glass – an art form of contradictions. Ruscha melts glass in a kiln at 1450 degrees, to make something both delicate and resilient. It requires equal parts passion and patience.
"I get to have a relationship with my glass. I don't always try to dominate the work, I let it speak to me,” Ruscha said.
For years, she focused on small pieces like statement jewelry. But eventually, she wanted to try something bigger.
“I thought, how great would it be to start making sculptures that represent women and what we want to say about finding who we are?" she said.
Her first piece was a colorful glass torso, but Ruscha realized it needed a solid stand for display. She was referred to renowned metal worker and Camano Island neighbor Rick Wesley.
He usually creates large-scale commercial pieces but was drawn to Ruscha’s vision and started making the metal components of her sculptures.
"It's fragile but at the same time, strong. And it needs some kind of support,” she said.
The same became true of their personal lives, when they unexpectedly fell in love. Ruscha and Wesley became partners in both art and life.
But in 2021, they received shattering news: Ruscha had cancer.
"It was devastating. At that moment. everything, absolutely everything changed for me,” she said. "I lost myself, I lost my hair, I didn't know who I was when I looked in the mirror. I felt robbed as a woman, as a human being."
Wesley stayed by her side, at appointments and in her studio. He lifted glass in and out of the kiln to help her create a large-scale piece while she was still in treatment.
"It helped me so much to realize that I wasn't what was happening to me, I wasn't an illness, that I could still be me if I looked inside of me,” she said.
That’s what she hopes other women will also see in themselves, through her art.
"The women's torso for me represents what every woman has inside,” Ruscha said. "That we're strong, that we have a path to follow, that we have a passion."
She’s now in remission and expanding her artistry. In partnership with Wesley, she created a large metal and glass gate. They’re also collaborating on a giant star sculpture, which will be displayed in a sculpture garden they hope to open in late summer.
Like the glass she fuses, Ruscha made it through fire to become even stronger - a power she believes is in everyone.
"Fear can be your energy and your fuel, to make it something positive, to move forward and to make it even better,” she said. “Life is beautiful again."
Ruscha is Venue #19 on the Camano Island Studio Tour. It runs May 12-14 and 20-21 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Maps and brochures are available at the entrance to the island, at the Gateway Building near Freedom Park just off Highway 532.