Local couple returns to Bellevue Festival of the Arts
By KEEGAN PROSSER
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
JULY 19, 2013 · UPDATED 12:34 PM
Iris and Bob Jewett are not strangers to Bellevue Arts Week.
Founders of Wilburton Pottery, a ceramic company they’ve been operating out of their home for more than 20 years, the Jewetts have participated in all three shows that make up Bellevue Arts Week – BAM ARTSfair, Bellevue Festival of the Arts and the 6th Street Fair – since the early 90s. This month, they’ll return to the Bellevue Festival of the Arts, hosted by the Bellevue Downtown Association on July 26-28.
“Out of a lark, we just competed to be in the Bellevue Art show – and we got in,” Bob said about their first experience with doing a show. “We made a lot of money and we’re surprised.”
Bob said he got in to pottery several years ago, when he decided to take a class at Bellevue College to learn how to make garden pots. While the company started as an outlet to sell those pots, they’ve since abandoned the pots to focus solely on their decorative ceramic tiles.
The tiles come in several sizes and depict a variety of creatures and scenes, including dragonflies, frogs, rabbits and trees. In 1994, Iris and her daughters, Laura and Leonora, joined Bob in design and production. They now have more than 500 designs.
Following that first success, the Jewetts decided to take their business on the road, attending around 20 shows a year, including those in Idaho, Oregon and California. While they’ve cut down on the number of shows they attend in recent years, they still make the trek to the San Francisco Flower and Garden show.
“We have customers that bring us baked goods and sandwiches,” Iris said. “They take care of us.”
Another portion of their business – customized tiles for customers around the country – is run through the Wilburton Pottery website.
While the couple admits business slowed down greatly as a result of the recession, they continue to receive orders. Most recently they were commissioned to design a lighthouse tile for a company on the New Jersey coast.
But for Bob and Iris, meeting people is what these shows are all about. In addition to keeping her mind sharp, Iris says building relationships at festivals is an important part of their business.
“It’s nice knowing the artist,” Iris said. “It’s a big difference.”
Though the couple has had the opportunity to travel to several art shows, they insist the Bellevue shows are among the best in the country because of the high attendance and the caliber of the artists showing.
“The Bellevue shows are really competitive; a lot of people come from out of state,” Iris said.
Bob and Iris original tiles start at $15. For more about their art, go to their website.
Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Keegan Prosser at email@example.com or 425-453-4602