Nature and design come together at Slow Loris on Guemes Island
written by Joni Kabana
photography by James Harnois
Working from the motto “feeling strong and not in a hurry,” Jessica Lynch knows how to structure her days to include lots of time for taking walks in nature and finding experiences that inspire her screen printing work. For the past twenty-five years, she has lived and worked on Guemes Island, a small island in western Skagit County, accessible by private boat and a ferry out of Anacortes. Lynch landed on Guemes Island after attending the Ringling School of Art in Florida and the California College of Art, returning home to Washington where her parents still live.
True to the company motto, Lynch calls her business “Slow Loris,” reflecting a slow-working philosophy by producing unique hand-drawn designs screen printed right there on the island. Lynch works with business partner Arlo Rumpff, a former Alaska fisherman who made a career change and now is a highly skilled screen printer. Their typical workday consists of drawing, painting and printing in the studio. And yes, folding many T-shirts. Slow Loris has many sales outlets, including REI.
As one might imagine, deliveries on the island can be daunting, given the remote locale and dependency on boats and ferries. “We often have to rely on a friend’s business in town who has loading docks to receive huge shipments for us on pallets, then we go and retrieve them with a truck and forklift. It’s an entire dance that took awhile to perfect and organize over the years. Receiving 50,000 shirts is a big task.” Yet given the delivery difficulties, Lynch is not deterred to move away from an island that steadily fuels her creativity.
Many artists are inspired by nature, and Lynch and her small team carry their daily island discoveries into their art. “Nature always, every day influences us. On walks, I see a shadow I could redraw, birds flying above, the ocean, odd beach finds, even my dogs become designs. And I am frequently taking photos for inspiration or for reference later. With daily living in such a beautiful environment, I always feel inspired. I’m not one to get artist’s block. Fellow artists around me inspire me, a drawing by my daughter inspires me, a scene in a movie inspires me.”
Lynch encourages others to “take the jump” to try something new and not give up early in the process. “If you ever start a drawing, painting, whatever, and you hate it, keep going. Never start over. Use the experience to play around with the work you aren’t happy with and learn something from it. Often you create with abandon if you are already unhappy with the work because you aren’t worried about ruining it. When you take away the pressure to be ‘good,’ you will surprise yourself with what you can do, and it leads you down new paths.”