Island Senior: Remembering Marjorie Walker
Island Senior is a regular column on the SJ Update written by Peggy Sue McRae…
A new public art project is coming to Friday Harbor in June. Keep a look out for a new installation in the Sunshine Alley Breezeway, the narrow alley next to the Palace Theatre, honoring island artist Marjorie Walker.
I remember Marjorie Walker. As a teenager I took a pottery class from her at her Little Different Studio on False Bay. More recently, I have learned a great deal more about her from Friday Harbor’s Historic Preservation Coordinator Sandy Strehlou. Sandy has been working with a research team to uncover the fascinating history of perhaps our island’s first full time professional artist for the upcoming exhibit.
Marjorie Walker came from a well off family back east, traveled the world and studied at the prestigious Art Student League in New York. She and her sister Jean arrived on San Juan Island in 1949. “We arrived with 14 dogs, four goats, Marjorie’s three-year-old son, Timmy, and knew not one soul” said Jean*. Marjorie drew in charcoal and pastels, painted in watercolor and oil, made silk screen prints, knit sweaters from her own sheep’s wool, wrote and illustrated a children’s book, but is perhaps best known for her pottery. “She’s the greatest island artist we have” said San Juan pioneer Etta Egeland*.
Among my treasures is a hand painted card that Marjorie sent my granddad Frank Mullis, “Dear Mr. Mullis, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your thought of bringing the blocks to Timmie. He enjoys them so much. Many Thanks. Wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year.” The card is dated 1-1-1??? Unfortunately the card was so loved and thumbtacked up for so long that where the thumbtacks were the paper is now gone. Hand-painted, it is captioned “Gulls”.
*The Islands’ Sounder, Wednesday, November 4, 1987, Article by Jo Baily-Cummings