When Sheri and Toby Ten Eyck first opened Wandering Oaks Fine Arts Gallery and Glass Studio, the couple’s goal was to showcase, inspire and teach local artists.
Seven years later, Wandering Oaks Gallery features pieces from local artists and the Ten Eycks. Sheri offers glass fusing classes and Toby has his own personal art studio.
In the gallery, you can see art done by Edward Schmid, William G. Baldwin and Stefanie Fields. The fused glass art is done by Sheri.
Sheri started experimenting with glass fusing because of Craig Mitchell Smith, an expert glass artist based in Lansing, Michigan. Her love for this unique art form grew over the five years she worked with him before she and Toby moved back to Washington and opened their gallery.
“We were there around the glass and started playing with it, and the other artists would let me play around, and Smith would fire things when there was space in the kiln, and I just got hooked from there,” Sheri said.
Neither of the Ten Eycks had much artistic experience in their early years. Toby felt the need to try something new while attending college at Michigan State University and decided to pick up a how-to-paint kit from Michaels.
His love for painting grew and never ceased. In the back of Wandering Oaks gallery is Toby’s painting studio. It features a vibrant mural painted by him, in front of which is where he creates his paintings. His paintings are for sale throughout the store.
He enjoys getting to share his art “not for the money but just that someone feels so connected to it that they’d want it,” he said.
Sheri now spends time teaching others about glass fusing. She offers classes on Saturdays and each class features a different project. On Saturday, Jan. 28, the project was hot air balloons.
“It's fun to introduce people to glass,” she said. “People come in and say, ‘Oh, I’m not very creative’ but everybody’s creative in some way.”
Jennifer Hays, who took a class about five or six years ago, has now grown to love working with fused glass.
“It was a great opportunity to create in glass what I saw in my imagination. She provides instruction but lets you work at your own pace,” Hays wrote in an email.
Chantal Chaplain, who took a class back in 2019, now runs the gallery once a week.
Chaplain was inspired to take a class after her sister came across the sign outside Wandering Oaks Gallery advertising glass fusing classes. At the end of the class, Chaplain talked to Sheri about doing a work exchange and has been working with them since.
“They are just lovely human beings, and it’s nice to have new friends too,” she said.
“It’s so unique,” Chaplain said about working with glass as a medium. “The fun is what happens in the kiln. You set your glass up and hope that it turns out the way you’re envisioning.”
Toby enjoys owning an art-centered business and sharing art because of reactions like Chaplain’s.
“Part of the sharing is that story of finding something out about yourself that you didn’t know was possible,” he said.
For further opportunities to share their art and other local artists’ work with the community, Wandering Oaks Gallery participates in the monthly Art Walk.
The Art Walk is part of the First Fridays events that the Downtown Bellingham Partnership hosts.
“It’s an open-house style event for people to come and explore new businesses. We typically have 20 to 25 businesses that participate every month,” said Nathalie Wagler, Downtown Bellingham Partnership’s events and promotions coordinator. “It’s an exciting way to get people downtown and explore a wide variety of businesses.”
The Ten Eycks continue to share their love for art while managing Wandering Oaks Gallery, participating in the Art Walk and hosting Sheri’s glass fusing classes every Saturday.
This place holds a lot of meaning to the Ten Eycks, and through growing Wandering Oaks Gallery together, they’ve learned a lot.
“The meaning is we made something happen,” Toby said. “It’s not quite like having a kid, but this is our baby.”
Tristyn (she/they) is a city life reporter for The Front. They are planning on majoring in visual journalism. This is her second-year at Western. In Tristyn’s free time, they enjoy thrift shopping, being outside, going to music festivals and hanging out with her roommate’s cats.
You can reach them at Tristyn.firstname.lastname@example.org