The Paint Escape in Freeland lives up to its name

Posted in Feature, Visual Art

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
July 9, 2013

Just go to your “happy place.” You’ve heard it before.

Lucky that it’s not hard to do on Whidbey Island, especially at the Paint Escape on Main Street in Freeland, where you can paint your own pottery, try your hand at fusing glass or throw a pot with clay. Here’s an escape designed to put a smile on your face.

On a recent visit, this reporter felt a sense of ease just walking through the door to the lively, make-your-own pottery shop. The décor is colorful and light, with a variety of ceramic and fused glass pieces adorning the walls and counters. People of all ages were gathered around the tables smiling and being creative, while co-owner Susan Barrat was there to welcome everybody to join in the fun.

The Paint Escape co-owners Susan Barrat and Tina Beard sit among samples of the art projects to be done at this summer's workshops for children. (Photos by Claire Moore)

The Paint Escape co-owners Susan Barrat and Tina Beard show samples of the art projects to be done at this summer’s workshops for children. (Photos by Claire Moore)

“We offer a multi-age space, with little ones, as young as two – or even younger – slapping paint on a coffee cup that they’ll be able to give to grandma or grandpa,” Barrat said.

“We have little bitties here, and we have senior citizens. We get experienced painters, as well as complete beginners,” she added.

Barrat was delighted by the scene in her shop.

“The feeling in the studio as people work, it just shows on their faces, and we have the joy of working here, soaking it all in,” she said. The feeling of contentment emanates from our customers and it constantly rejuvenates us.”

Barrat referred to her business partner, co-owner Tina Beard.

For those who might have concerns about embarking on the process of creating a special piece of pottery, Beard noted that the shop is equipped with idea books, stamps, stencils and plenty of resource materials.

“Even though ‘paint your own’ is like a blank canvas, we believe that anyone who has ever painted in a coloring book can do the same thing on pottery,” Barrat said, reassuringly.

Both women are available to help patrons recreate designs or patterns onto pottery, which they can then paint in a preferred color scheme.

“We’re always willing to assist,” Beard said, “but we never actually do the artwork for our customers.” The Paint Escape owners are much more interested in helping folks to find their inner artist, and said a large part of what they do is to guide customers to find their own artistic skills.

“Time in our shop is about the process of being creative; of remembering a time when we didn’t doubt ourselves or our abilities,” Beard said.

Fused glass adds to other colorful displays that adorn the Paint Escape shop.

Fused glass adds to other colorful displays that adorn the Paint Escape shop.

Week-long summer classes are currently in session at the Paint Escape for children age 7 and older through Thursday, Aug. 8. These workshops follow a weekly theme, such as “Northwest Exploration” or “Meet the Masters,” which includes the creation of three works based on Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, or Georges Seurat, plus a 3D clay piece modeled on the style of Keith Haring.

A clay workshop for youths ages 13 to 18 will be taught by Sharon Warwick from July 22 to 26. Samples of work from all the summer session projects are viewable in the shop’s window.

Always looking for ways to offer a variety of creative activities, the co-owners added glass-fusing three years ago and were pleased to add an easy-to-use ceramics studio, which is accessible to customers seven days a week. The ceramic studio features six wheels, a hand-building area, a slab roller and a wedging table.

The Paint Escape’s Clay Studio Membership Program, they noted, is unique on Whidbey Island and allows novice and experienced ceramic artists alike to enjoy the luxury of having their own studio without making the investment in equipment and supplies.

Beard bought the shop seven years ago from its original owners, and Barrat joined her in the business three years ago.

“We believe wholeheartedly that: ‘There is an artist in each of us, waiting to be discovered,’” Beard said.

The Paint Escape is at 1664 Main St. near the intersection at East Harbor Avenue.

The studio is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. “Ladies Night” is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

Sizzling Summer Sessions at the Paint Escape:

  • July 8 to 11 (4 days) 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., “Creature Feature,” ages 7 to 18; $100 fee
  • July 15 to 18 (4 days) 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., “Northwest Exploration,” ages 7 to 18; $100 fee
  • Aug. 5 to 8 (4 days) 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., “Meet the Masters,” ages 7 to 18; $100 fee
  • July 22 to 29 (5 days) 10 a.m. – noon, Clay with Sharon Warwick, ages 13 to 18; $135 fee
  • Thursdays; July 18 to Aug. 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Adult Clay with Sharon Warwick, $120 fee; $100 with membership

For more info, call 360-331-3166 or go to

Claire Moore is a retired graphic designer and writer who is delighted to be writing for Whidbey Life Magazine. She can be reached at



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