Judith Drew Schubert: Back from a hiatus

Pastel "Chickadees in Chicory." — Photo by Mark Kotsopoulos

The doors have opened again this month at Periwinkle Studio in the Oak Bluffs Arts District. Gallery owner Judith Drew Schubert, who continued creating art during her break from the gallery, has returned from a five-year hiatus, bringing her new pastel artwork and block print textile designs.

Upon entering the studio the first thing you notice is the bright colors, especially in the hand-printed textile design pillows and curtain linens. The studio is kept clean and simple, and the pastel artwork hanging on the walls creates the peaceful setting when you walk in. One might wonder why Ms. Schubert took a hiatus from the studio, but the answer can be found in her artwork.

“I took a hiatus because I felt like I wanted to be doing something different with my art,” Ms. Schubert says. “Due to the recession in 2001, the textile industry in the country was hit hard. I didn’t sew the clothes that I printed my designs on; I bought them from manufacturers. Some of my top manufacturers went out of business, and I tried for several years to find others to replace them but they weren’t the same. I couldn’t find great clothes that people would love. It just wasn’t fun anymore.”

And Ms. Schubert decided to move on with something new.

“I began trying different things: I made clocks for a while, I painted many little butterflies on linen, and I also worked at Chilmark Chocolates,” she says. “Shortly after closing my studio I decided to do just what I really love, which is pattern-making, and I started working on a pastel piece called ‘Crows in Quince.'”

Included in the new work that fills her studio, she is showing four pastel paintings: “Crows in Quince,” “Wrens in the Rugosa,” “Monarchs in Milkweed,” and “Chickadees in Chicory.” In addition Ms. Schubert displays her vinyl wallpaper and block print textiles, hand-printed in India, on curtain panels, pillows, and fabric by the yard.

“I have a few friends that go to India for a couple of months during the winter every year, and last winter I had them take some of my designs with them and see if they could be block-printed there. So I now have matching linens and fabric that go with the pastels,” she says.

Cathy Tasman of West Tisbury, a former client of Ms. Schubert, was a recent visitor to the gallery. “I was absolutely blown away when I walked into the studio,” she says. “The drawings and the patterns and textures that come across are fabulous, and it was an amazing surprise to walk in. I was expecting to see clothes. I looked at one of the pastels and thought, ‘This would be great wallpaper,’ and then I turned around to see the sign for wallpaper.”

Ms. Schubert uses many different kinds and colors of pastel. “If I’m working on a project and I don’t have the right color pink I’ll just go online and order 20 different more. I also use hard and soft pastels. The hard pastels go on the paper in a different way, and the softer pastels go on the paper more easily.”

It is evident just from speaking with her that Ms. Schubert feels motivated and energized to show her work again.

“People have been liking what they see right now, whether they knew my old work or not,” she says. “During my hiatus, I had accumulated so much work that it was time to show it to the public. I could have easily taken another year off and added a whole new design, but I wanted to get some of what I had out in the world instead of sitting and being unseen.”

During this past winter when Ms. Schubert decided to open again, she had mixed feelings.

“I was worried all winter long: was I going to have enough work? Would I have enough time? How am I going to get everything framed?” she says and adds, “But it feels great to be back at the gallery. Even though it has started out kind of slow, just being here and being able to interact with people who appreciate my work feels good.”

Periwinkle Studio, 92 Dukes County Avenue in the Oak Bluffs Arts District, is open from 11 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday or by appointment. 508-696-8304.