Bellevue Festival of Arts celebrates 30th anniversary

By Laura Ohata
Northwest Asian Weekly

House of Hong restaurant owner Tan Tho Thien demonstrates Chinese calligraphy and translates names for festival-goers. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

The Bellevue Festival of the Arts celebrated its 30th anniversary last weekend. The juried event featured 200 craftspeople, and a great number of wares were phenomenally beautiful. Most of these objets d’art were priced between $50 and $150, low enough to inspire impulse buys even in the most frugal shoppers.

“The Nesting Dolls” by Artist Meg Bye got selected for the BAM Art Fair’s entrance. They are life-sized matroyskas that you can literally step inside. (Photo by Hanh Bui)

The Craft Cooperative of the Northwest hosts the Bellevue Festival of the Arts in conjunction with BAM ARTSfair and Bellevue’s 6th Street Fair. These three festivals combine once a year to form the Bellevue Arts Festival Weekend. The event plays host to 630 different artists in outdoor booths downtown.

Fruit baskets made using recycled chopsticks by Chopstick Art (Photo by Hanh Bui)

Ann Sutherland, the festival coordinator, says, “The lighting is beautiful at this time of the year. It’s so special to see the artists who make the art right there.” According to Sutherland, most of the craftspeople hail from Washington, Oregon, and California, but quite a few came from as far away as Florida.

A family-friendly event, the festival draws roughly 75,000 visitors to browse a variety of media, including watercolor, wood, textiles, sculpture, photography, metal, jewelry, glass, ceramics, acrylic and oil painting, and mixed media. This year, we interviewed a handful of our favorite vendors.

Linda Heisserman develops her own glazes for celadon ceramics (Photo by Laura Ohata/NWAW)

Linda Heisserman Pottery

Linda Heisserman specializes in celadon, a pale blue-green glaze characterized by cracks. Initially developed nearly 2,000 years ago in China, celadon spread throughout Asia, where it is considered a great treasure in Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Heisserman says, “I find celadon very restive to view.”

Heisserman became fascinated with celadon after a visit to an Asian art museum. Since then, she developed her own celadon glaze recipes, which she uses to paint her ceramics. The simple color allows Heisserman to focus more on sculptural motifs made of clay underlying the glaze.

DEVA Jewelry and Shibori

Virginia Jurasevich specializes in tie-dye silk scarves and shawls in a traditional Japanese style called “shibori.” Although there are many techniques employed in shibori, Jurasevhich specializes in three in particular. The first is called “nui,” in which tiny knots are stitched into the cloth with a needle and thread, and then bound before the dye bath. The second method is called “arashi,” which means “storm” and made by wrapping the cloth around a pole. The third style is called “itajime” a type of pleating, folding, and clamping to a board to create geometric patterns. Jurasevich says that, unlike printed cloth, each shibori scarf is quite labor-intensive and a one-of-a-kind work of art.

Hung Nguyen is a watercolor painter in the Seattle area (Photo by Laura Ohata/NWAW)

Hung Nguyen Watercolors

Hung Nguyen worked as a visual designer and illustrator in the aerospace industry and television before turning to watercolor art. When asked about why he likes to paint boats and harbors, Nguyen says that he likes the way water changes color as light is reflected and refracted on the waves.

Waka Ozawa makes purses out of vintage kimonos (Photo by Laura Ohata/NWAW)


Waka Ozawa says that she loves coming to the Bellevue Festival of the Arts because she sees the same customers every year. “My repeat customers know to come see me early on Friday morning when the show opens,” says Waka, “They come because they want to have the first choice of my purses.” Originally from Japan, Waka makes purses, vests, and blouses from vintage kimonos and obis. “I came here in the 1970s as an exchange student,” says Ozawa, “So I have been in the United States a long time.” Ozawa says she enjoys the unique combination of Eastern and Western influences in her work.

Cindy Ayala reuses natural textiles to make intricate scarves and jackets (Photo by Laura Ohata/NWAW)

Ayala Originals

Cindy Ayal uses recycled materials to make intricate long wool coats that look like peacock feathers, and funky scarves punctuated with reused button accents and ribbon remnants. “I do a lot of felting, and work with boiled wool,” says Ayala. “I prefer working with all natural fibers like silk, wool, and cotton.” Ayala uses complicated patterns and time-intensive appliqué to create festive and unique overcoats and scarves.

Akiko’s Pottery

Akiko Graham makes pottery. A native of Hokkaido, Japan, she lives in south Seattle near Burien, where she spends her days making tableware on a commission basis. Graham’s ceramics exhibit a casual elegance, glazed in soft white or earthen tones, and they have earned the attention of celebrity chefs and restaurateurs. Her roster of patrons includes Tom Douglas, Wolfgang Puck, and Shiro Kashiba, among many others. In-spite of the fame, Graham welcomes any assignment, large or small.

Marc Matsui Ceramics

Marc Matsu has been making ceramics in the Seattle area for 40 years (Photo by Laura Ohata/NWAW)

Marc Matsui got lucky. While attending Sammamish High School, he studied pottery with Regnor Reinholdston and Sam Scott, both professional ceramicists. Since then, he earned a degree at the University of Washington, and continued making pottery full-time for more than 30 years. Matsui’s relatively simple bowls are glazed in gorgeous, saturated colors. Sometimes, Matsui’s work includes simple, sharkskin-like textures. Matsui’s work is good enough, that today he supports his family by selling most of his pottery through galleries on the East Coast. (end)

For more information about the Bellevue Festival of the Arts, visit

Laura Ohata can be reached

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