Recently Don and I met internationally known painter and sculptor, Joseph Kinnebrew, most recently of La Connor, Washington .
We went to The Quarry, his home, guesthouse, extensive gardens and event space just outside of La Conner. He and his wife wrestled this abandoned quarry into fertility and beauty. The abandoned quarry is a very dramatic backdrop for Kinnebrew’s design experience, vision, artistry, time and marketing skill. The Quarry is so many things it is hard to define in a simple phrase. Everything at The Quarry is non-traditional. For example, in our title of this adventure we mention Skagit Valley Bed and Breakfast. There is no breakfast.
As we went through the gates and up the hill that sprouts from the flat farm land, we were enveloped in greenness, running water, blooming flowers and dramatic spaces. We drove past the guesthouse and further up the hill to his residence, and the event space. Kennebrew came out of his home and welcomed us. We laughed and joked around getting to know each other. A few minutes later his partner Bonnie Deutsch returned home with groceries and joined our little group. Joe's wife Ellen passed away several years ago. Joe and Bonnie gave us a short tour around the quarry and its three connecting ponds. Deutsch called the koi in the ponds and they rose up in response to eat what she scattered on the water. There were two enormous koi, one black and a white one which was about 18 inches long.
As we walked around the ponds, Kennebrew talked about the design of the gardens, about three types of fig trees, the bamboo that forms the basic outside walls around the paths and other botanical choices he’s made over the years. Anyone’s who’s ever had a parking strip knows that a garden is not the result of just one year’s planting and this is very apparent from the mature specimens in evidence.
The water features, including the three ponds and several waterfalls, took engineering as well as design and were executed over 10 or more years. We were amused by a sculpture over the large pond of a series of white women’s bathing suits progressing into the water, called The Mockettes.
Joe pointed out the different “rooms” of the garden and how they worked for weddings and other large events. One smaller space has been used by a wedding couple for the giving of the vows. The audience can see and hear speakers from the lawn across the large pond. The quarry’s stone walls with the cushion of the plantings make a natural amphitheater. Another room was appropriate for a small musical group, to accompany a performance or to entertain guests during a fundraising or business event. After talking with Joe for a while and getting use to his sense of humor and little jokes he slips into his art piece titles, I wonder if he considers his definitive areas as "rooms with a view".
As we went around the two ponds and across the third, we were at a smaller building that serves as an appropriate space for large seminar breakout sessions. We completed the circle back at a tent with roll-up walls, heaters and enough space to serve dinner to 214 seated guests.
As we walked back to the tent, we noticed a kayak with space for three people, displayed as if it’s sculpture, hanging under a shelter. Kennebrew told us that it’s a genuine Bidarkiq, Native-Alaskan design of an open ocean voyaging kayak, with room for two paddlers and one guest - a Russian Orthodox priest
One of the most wonderful features of the public spaces is the careful placement of Kennebrew’s sculptures. Dramatic, large, colorful geometric elements, winged creatures (look especially for his Icarus and companion and an amusing American Flyer piece) as well as surrealistic sculptures incorporating poppy-red high heels are strategically placed.
Anyone of the public would not be admitted to Kennebrew and Deutsch’s private living spaces, but we did get a tour of the gallery in the foyer as well as the stairway down to the guesthouse. The non-traditional stairway gallery was beautiful: botanical paintings flowed down the walls, interspersed with windows. At the bottom, there was a small pool that we walked across.
The guesthouse has very gracious spaces: a suite with bedroom, bath, and sitting room, and another bedroom-bath with living room, and one kitchen between the two. It can be a romantic get-a-way, a place to relax, a think-tank for brainstorming, or just a place to kick back and enjoy with a glass of wine. The views from the front are across another garden with sculptures, through to the Skagit River valley and farmlands. When the leaves are off the trees, the river and sound are visible from the side.
So, just what is The Quarry? I think what Joseph Kinnebrew has created is an artistic gallery of his life and his works. It's a living and ever changing brochure. He wants to share his philosophy: "No art, no history." As Joe explains, cultures that contain no art have no history. We recognize the achievements of people by the art they leave behind. At The Quarry Kinnebrew art is for sale, the guest house is for rent, the event space is available, but most importantly guests are welcome. If you call while Joe is home, he might take the call himself if he's not in the middle of a painting . . . or a glass of wine.