Doug Blystone: Folk Artist


Irene Torres

Doug Blystone, posing with some of his hand-carved walking sticks. Don Tjossem, KP News

Doug Blystone is a featured folk artist at Marnie Farmer’s Vintage and Antiques shop on Key Pen Highway North and 134th Street, where he displays and sells his artwork: bentwood furniture, walking sticks, wind chimes and even a gong.

“Doug was my first consignment artist,” owner Marnie Kirk said. “He’s sold eight or nine pieces here. Doug has quite a following. It’s a pleasure to have his work in my shop.”

Blystone, 59, said he worked as a landscaper in San Diego where he collected materials during the time he spent outside. “I’d see something, a feature, and play off that feature of the natural wood,” he said. His work was featured in the magazine section of the San Diego Home and Garden Showcase Home of the Year in 1982. He had been working in different media, painting rainbows for a children’s hospital and airbrush painting Halloween masks, before moving to Wauna 30 years ago. He now supports himself with his art.

Collecting raw materials from local properties, Blystone first decides on a design. He can spend as long as 48 hours building a single bentwood, fan back chair. He builds the framework using a basic pattern, bending switches of willow or hazelnut that have been soaked “to keep them springy when the sap’s up in the springtime,” he said. He uses a pneumatic pin gun followed by Sheetrock nails to assemble the pieces. “When the switches dry, they shrink some, so I tighten them up and treat the chair with Watco oil, which penetrates, binds the wood and brings out the color,” he said.

Some of Blystone’s pieces in Marnie Farmer’s are dog faces inspired by pet photographs and beaded heads inspired by Mayan art. His challenge is “to create art that is recognizable, maybe tell a story or send a message using the natural features I see in the wood,” he said.

Blystone works in a small garage shop using “mostly hand tools.” In summer, he works outside under a roofed shelter next to his garage where “there is more room for larger pieces.” He said he wants to “to capture the feeling of the animal world.” He also draws from fantasy and his personal concept of mermaids.

Blystone is a fan of the sculptor Rodin and said he gets some of his ideas from Impressionist paintings and Native American art. But he is also inspired by folk artists who are not well-known, even those who make carved wood signs that relay a story or identify a business.

Blystone’s favorite creation is his large wall hanging, a 4 1/2 foot by 18-inch wooden sculpture of a mermaid swimming with a sea turtle that he sold for $300. His whimsical walking sticks are priced at $40. Other pieces range in price from $20 to $500. His three-piece furniture sets are $2,500.

Blystone said he prefers custom work for clients. He likes to collaborate with people who commission his work “to make the art more personable. I’m not afraid to try any medium—wood, metal or clay—if anyone has ideas they want to see brought to life.”

For more information, call Doug Blystone at 857-2432 or at