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

Artist of the Month!

Tim Wittman

Dr. Tim Wittman sees that which is hidden within pieces of wood, hunks of clay, and his fellow human beings and helps their unique beauty come to the surface for all to see. His pieces are not your run of the mill wooden bowls, they are truly stunning sculptures.

Dr. Tim Wittman has spent his career enjoying all phases of the discipline of psychology, from teaching to research, conducting experiments, and working as a practitioner in the field. You could also say that he uses this craft to observe the twists and turns, swirls, and grain patterns to reveal the characters hiding within one of his mediums – wood. It didn’t take him long to realize that he could bring those characters out with different kinds of carving tools, highlighting techniques, and often different effects requiring him to “invent” unique approaches to their capture.


Tim shared that he has enjoyed woodworking for many years, starting out with basic construction projects, then expanding his interest to wood sculpture. “The smell of different varieties of wood, the texture, grain patterns, and shapes bring to mind all kinds of different ideas and topics. Sometimes I speak for the wood, and sometimes the wood speaks for me. Consider it a process akin to a romantic relationship; the process beginning with acquaintance and expanding to feelings, respect, understanding, and sensitivity.”


In addition to working with wood, Tim has taken clay classes from Sue Roberts and sculpted human figures. He taught me that a lot of the wood sculptors in Europe will create their subject in clay first, then repeat the sculpture in wood. He would also love to learn stone sculpture and has tried it a little, but admits that this new endeavor is mostly just ideas at this point.


He was born and raised in Anacortes and his first experience visiting Guemes Island took place in the late 1950’s when his parents took him to the island for the old Guemes Salmon BBQ. In the early to mid-60’s he spent time with other kids his age who lived on the island, riding motorcycles, hiking in the woods, and playing on the beach, thus beginning a lifetime of beachcombing that developed his eye for possibilities and topics of interest. “Guemes was, and continues to be, a very special place and it is both a joy and a blessing to live here.” He and his wife, Jackie, lived in Ellensburg for 22 years but the island called them back, so they built a home here and have lived on Guemes for the last 27 years. 


Tim’s passions have always included the artistic side of things. Shortly after graduating from Anacortes High School, he moved to Ellensburg with the goal of studying music and psychology. Eventually psychology won out when he met a professor, Dr Terry DeVietti, who “inspired in me the  appreciation for both the science and art of experimental research.” They published many articles together which eventually led Tim to additional graduate study that culminated in a doctoral degree.


A naturally curious person, Tim enjoys a variety of activities. Music has been a lifetime pleasure, both performing and composition. He’s also a devoted fly fisherman and elevated this hobby to the next level by taking a journey through the art of building bamboo fly rods from scratch, using custom made jigs and tools. 


When he’s not out catching the fish, he can be found smoking it along with other meats. Cheese-making, bread-making, canning fruits, and baking pies round out his love of cooking. Bud Ashbach recently taught him about the joys of fermentation, and he added homemade sauerkraut to his repertoire. (Is anyone else’s stomach growling?) He’s also bringing science to the food in his life. The preservation of heritage apple varieties led him to participation in a project initiated by Cornell University and the USDA, preserving the world’s first apple found in the apple forests of Kazakhstan, by growing the trees from seeds collected by university botanists.


I asked Tim if his art was for sale and he replied that he creates for enjoyment of the process itself, and is concerned that if it becomes a “business” it will become work and lose its spark. That being said, Tim will do projects on request, and he sometimes has pieces available directly out of his shop. Some of his work can also be found at the Willows Gallery on Lummi Island and at various craft fairs on Guemes Island. He is a new retiree and is considering different opportunities to display his work but will keep it close to home. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to find his pieces out in the world, but if you’re not you’ll have to be content looking at his amazing creations on the Guemes Island Arts Initiative webpage.


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