Presented by Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA)
“Enriching and Connecting our Island Community”

Presented by GICCA

“Enriching and Connecting our Island Community”

Les Eelkema

Les Eelkema is a life-long “re-purposer/fiddler/try-it-and-see-what-happens” kind of guy who finally found time in retirement to wander and experience the art world with no time constraints. He’s currently fascinated by metal and the varied art experiences it can offer. From repurposed, rusted, beach finds to the radiant beauty made possible by heating copper or the chemical effects of patinas on steel, every day in the studio offers new surprises. Some days are spent creating a new look by altering or reversing a metal treatment process tried the day before. Other times, he’s struggling to match a look he created months ago. But for Les the joy is in the daily surprises, and challenges, that each new effort presents.

 

The journey towards Guemes Island started for Les and his wife Bonnie on a “What should we do?” drive back in the early 2000’s. After almost 40 years in the retail furniture business on Whidbey Island, they were looking for a getaway weekend place to unwind. Their plans to build on South Whidbey weren’t working out so they took an afternoon to look around the Anacortes and Skyline area. On a whim, they took the ferry to Guemes Island and a day later they bought their lot and started planning their getaway! After building on Guemes in 2006, they began to see the creative side of the island on weekend stays and were drawn to the woodcarvers, weavers, woodworkers, potters, musicians, painters, jewelry artists, and more. People were friendly and willing to share their techniques and ideas; willing to just talk! In 2015, Les and Bonnie decided to make Guemes Island their full-time home and they’ve never regretted it! 

 

Les currently spends his shop time forming metal and facing canoe paddles with art designs. These relief designs may depict waves and sunsets, plants and leaves, abstract forms, or whatever inspiration he’s feeling. Prior to this format, he made trailer birdhouses out of license plates and found-metal scraps. His inspiration comes from the joy he receives from trying something new. A year from now, he might be trying something totally different.  Les was raised in a family where they always had pencils, paper, paint, cardboard, and more available, so he had no excuse to be bored. Commenting on his formative years, Les said “With creative tools available at a young age, one finds few limits to creativity. I thank my parents for giving me the freedom to not ‘stay within the lines’!”

 

While his Celebration Paddles, trailer birdhouses, and formed metal wall art take up most of his day, he tries to take time to read and take walks on the beach. He also has a ‘67 Pontiac GTO that he needs to get back on the road. I asked Les what comes after he can no longer bend and form metal, and his reply was something we should all aspire to: “I’m trying to master the art of daydreaming so I can turn pro.”

 

You can find Les’s work displayed locally at the Scott Milo Gallery in Anacortes, Earthenworks Galleries in La Conner and Port Townsend, and Penn Cove Pottery in San de Fuca. He welcomes the time to talk shop with anyone who wants to drop by to chat and see his work process. Just give him a call!

Les Eelkema is a life-long “re-purposer, fiddler, try-it-and-see-what-happens” kind of guy who finally found time in retirement to wander and experience the art world with no time constraints. He’s currently fascinated by metal and the varied art experiences it can offer. From repurposed, rusted, beach finds to the radiant beauty made possible by heating copper or the chemical effects of patinas on steel, every day in the studio offers new surprises. Some days are spent creating a new look by altering or reversing a metal treatment process tried the day before. Other times, he’s struggling to match a look he created months ago. But for Les the joy is in the daily surprises, and challenges, that each new effort presents.

 

The journey towards Guemes Island started for Les and his wife Bonnie on a “What should we do?” drive back in the early 2000’s. After almost 40 years in the retail furniture business on Whidbey Island, they were looking for a getaway weekend place to unwind. Their plans to build on South Whidbey weren’t working out so they took an afternoon to look around the Anacortes and Skyline area. On a whim, they took the ferry to Guemes Island and a day later they bought their lot and started planning their getaway! After building on Guemes in 2006, they began to see the creative side of the island on weekend stays and were drawn to the woodcarvers, weavers, woodworkers, potters, musicians, painters, jewelry artists, and more. People were friendly and willing to share their techniques and ideas; willing to just talk! In 2015, Les and Bonnie decided to make Guemes Island their full-time home and they’ve never regretted it! 

 

Les currently spends his shop time forming metal and facing canoe paddles with art designs. These relief designs may depict waves and sunsets, plants and leaves, abstract forms, or whatever inspiration he’s feeling. Prior to this format, he made trailer birdhouses out of license plates and found-metal scraps. His inspiration comes from the joy he receives from trying something new. A year from now, he might be trying something totally different.  Les was raised in a family where they always had pencils, paper, paint, cardboard, and more available, so he had no excuse to be bored. Commenting on his formative years, Les said “With creative tools available at a young age, one finds few limits to creativity. I thank my parents for giving me the freedom to not ‘stay within the lines’!”

 

While his Celebration Paddles, trailer birdhouses, and formed metal wall art take up most of his day, he tries to take time to read and take walks on the beach. He also has a ‘67 Pontiac GTO that he needs to get back on the road. I asked Les what comes after he can no longer bend and form metal, and his reply was something we should all aspire to: “I’m trying to master the art of daydreaming so I can turn pro.”

 

You can find Les’s work displayed locally at the Scott Milo Gallery in Anacortes, Earthenworks Galleries in La Conner and Port Townsend, and Penn Cove Pottery in San de Fuca. He welcomes the time to talk shop with anyone who wants to drop by to chat and see his work process. Just give him a call!

LES EELKEMA, 

Celebration Paddles

LES EELKEMA, Variety of Work

LES EELKEMA, Repurpose Wall Art Piece

Find more examples of his work here!