After the brutal hotbox that was Art and the Vineyard, I'm feeling the need to head somewhere cool. Maybe down to the ocean.

Next stop, Anacortes!

Anacortes, Washington is a harbor town up on the northwest coast, the jumping-off point for ferries to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver, BC. It's also the site, for over 50 years, of the Anacortes Arts Festival. The first weekend of each August, they close off the main street, Commercial Avenue, from the Port all the way down to 10th Street. The north end features food booths and the Main Stage, then blocks of art and craft booths on either side of the street, with a double row right up the middle, culminating in a wine tent and Jazz Stage on the south end.

As is traditional, we're on the east side of the street in the 900 block, space 903E, right in front of the Calico Cupboard restaurant. I asked them to move us a few spaces north, to try and get some shelter from the wind that's tried to blow my booth down in previous years. We'll see if it works.

Pattern of the Month:

Will He?

I've never seen an orca in the wild.

It's not for lack of trying. We've gone on harbor tours in Alaska. Taken the Washington State Ferry to the San Juan Islands. Stayed with friends on Orcas Island, even had a gallery there at one point. Saw otters by the dock on San Juan, but no orcas.

That's not to say I've never seen one. I've literally been in the same room.

I'm talking, of course, about Keiko, the orca star of the movie Free Willy. From 1996 to 1998, he was resident at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, where they'd built a 2-million gallon seawater tank for him, with a walk-through tunnel for us landlubbers. Denise and I visited a couple of times, and I never quite got over my first reaction: Holy s---, he's huge.

I started painting orcas on pottery, as with so many other patterns, as a request. A mother and son living on a boat in the San Juans asked for a set of stew mugs with local sea life: otter, octopus, crab and orca. They've been on stew mugs ever since, and have slowly moved onto other forms: tall mugs, dessert plates.

Attempts to reintroduce Keiko to the wild weren't notably successful. He never bonded with wild pods, always returning to human contact, eventually succumbing to pneumonia in 2003. There's sharks and rays in his old tank in Newport now, but I'll always have a place in my heart for that enormous black-and-white shadow, gliding overhead.

Finally free.