EWU alum adds to artistic richness and character of the Spokane community


EWU alum Steve Whitford’s wooden chess set that he carved. Whitford is now concentrating on creating usable art and small furniture in his wood shop | Photo courtesy of Tori Bailey

By Kaitlyn Engen, Reporter

EWU alumnus Steve Whitford represents an example of someone who went on to pursue his passions after college.

Whitford is an art contributor to Pottery Place Plus, the art gallery right next to Auntie’s Bookstore, where he sells his creations.

The gallery is celebrating its 40th year as a cooperative business, meaning the gallery runs off the profits of the 30 local artists—such as Whitford—that contribute their artistic work to it. It is one of the longest running co-ops in the country.

Whitford’s journey to where he is today started in 1970 when he ran his own business in contracting and design for 20 years. An injured back forced him out of his long-lived career, and he had a hard time finding work afterwards due to his lack of a college degree.

After enrolling in the Interdisciplinary Studies program at EWU, Whitford earned his four-year degree with high honors while simultaneously working a full-time position at Norlift.

Following graduation, Whitford’s interest in wooden art sparked when his wife requested a Japanese-styled wood stand. With the selling of his 1938 Plymouth to buy tools, and many hours spent in the back half of his garage, Whitford had eventually established himself in the art-selling business upon joining Pottery Place Plus.

Steve Whitford

The variation of Whitford’s art has no limits. His most notable wooden art pieces include a chess set­—which he spent 60 hours carving—and his bowls with engraved music notes. The music pieces conveyed in his bowls—“You Are My Sunshine,” “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World,” to name a few—are reflective of  the personality of Whitford himself.

“[The bowls] speak to both passions: woodwork and music itself,” said Whitford. “I like happy music. Things that make people smile.”

Pottery Place Plus contributors are not employees, even though they all work shifts at the gallery.

“That’s part of being a member of Pottery Place Plus […] We all cooperate to take care of the needs of the gallery,” Whitford said.

Pottery Place Plus contributors seem to be producing a synergy within the co-op that go past simply selling a product.

“We have duties beyond selling art,” said Whitford. “Our primary concern is not selling, but creating the product. It’s a really nice group of people, they all have unique art, and all have unique abilities.”