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Tualatin artist showcases craft at ArtSplash

Art Barry has been woodworking for years, and will display and sell some of his creations this weekend at Tualatin's annual event

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Art Barry, an 82-year-old Tualatin resident, had this wood shop built after he retired at age 70. The smell of sawdust seeps out of the room above Art Barry’s garage before he even opens the door. Upon the door’s opening, the scent intensifies, pulling at memories of workshops and bookcases and sanding things by hand.

Inside the shop are wooden shelves, tables and cabinets, all made by Barry and coated in dust from years of creating. Strewn about the room are patterns for projects both past and future, and wood scraps just waiting to be transformed. At 82 years old, Barry has the time to create as much as he wants and now a place to show it off — his work will be on display and for sale at ArtSplash in Tualatin starting Friday, July 24 through Sunday, July 26.

“Most people just don’t know how to do it,” the Tualatin resident said of woodworking. “It takes a lot of mistakes before you get where you’re happy with it.”

Barry’s first introduction to the craft came way back during middle school in Spokane, Wash., and he continued to create into adulthood. But his projects were limited by space and time — a retired microbiologist, Barry’s years were filled with hospitals, labs and universities, leaving few moments for other creative outlets. Combine that with a wife and four kids, and his days were full to the brim for decades.

And since woodworking is neither a quiet nor a portable craft, Barry tended to find himself oil painting when a creative mood struck. But even that, he said, was limited.TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Both with woodworking and painting, Art Barry's favorite part of the process is simply creating.

“I’ve always been interested in art, but I never paid much attention to it. But I started painting when I had time. I started with oils, and I just tried a whole bunch of things,” he said. “It started very slowly, because I had kids to take care of and all of that.”

Barry laughed. Not only were there children to raise, but he’d chosen a demanding career that required year after year of higher education, allowing for few breaks in between. He continued plowing ahead with his schooling until age 30 when he earned his PhD, then worked for 20 years at the University of California, Davis.

“While I was doing that, I finally got to the point where I didn’t have any classes, any homework. Just work,” Barry said.

The small break in routine was enough to let him toy with his love of art somewhat more regularly, to create in a way that he previously hadn’t been able.

Then at age 50, Barry quit his job at the university and moved with his wife Diane to Portland. With a couple scientist friends, he started a business called the Clinical Microbiology Institute off Tualatin-Sherwood Road where he’d work until retiring at age 70.TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Art Barry built these bookshelves, along with most of the other furniture in his and his wife's home.

“I didn’t want to get old,” he said in explaining his long career.

Meanwhile, living in a larger house in Tualatin than they’d had in California, Barry was able to use the garage as a wood shop, and he set up an easel for painting in the living room. Later, Barry had a room built over the garage for his woodworking — today, the house is filled with furniture that Barry made, with a quality indistinguishable from the rare professionally-made pieces in the home.

“I made that,” he said, pointing to a computer desk. “And that,” he said, gesturing to a table under the living room window. A foot stool by the door is his, too, as are the small wooden trinkets sitting on the shelves. Upstairs, a bookshelf reaching more than 10 feet high is Barry’s creation. And at the beach house where he now does most of his painting, all the furniture is Barry-made there, too.

“I finally ran out of pieces of furniture that I can make, because what can I do with it?” he said. So Barry finds himself painting and creating smaller wooden art that can be stored more easily than a set of drawers or a table and chairs. Most recently, he’s been building frames for his watercolor paintings, mirroring the project that first got him passionate about woodworking several decades ago.TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Using a scroll saw, Art Barry is able to use patterns to make wooden creations.

Just like Barry’s wooden furniture, those frames are scattered around his house, displaying his favorite paintings from over the years. Seascapes and sunsets and flowers, each doing their parts to brighten up the home. But really, it’s Barry doing his part to brighten up the days of those who stop by.

“Since I was in the medical field, I always felt like I was doing good for other people. That was terribly important to me. I like to think that I’m doing good with my paintings,” he said. “(I like) creating. Just the chance to get an idea and develop it to the point where you’re happy with it. That’s easy to say — it’s not easy to do.”

As sunlight pours through the windows in a room that smells of sawdust and tools, Barry stands in the middle, surrounded by creations that he built by hand. It seems that at least once or twice, his craft turned out exactly as he’d hoped.

See the work, and more


ArtSplash Art Show and Sale; Northwest artists will showcase their paintings, photography, jewelry, ceramics and more


• Friday, July 24, noon to 9 p.m.

• Saturday, July 25, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

• Sunday, July 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Tualatin Commons, 8325 S.W. Nyberg St.


For a complete schedule and further information, visit tualatinoregon.gov