Aaron Loveitt is the founder and owner of Bellingham-based Altility Art Studio, where he treads the line between fine art, custom fabrication, and creative products. He’s influenced by his experiences in nature and the city, and is compelled to communicate the correlations between the two.
What brought you to Bellingham?
Jess and I moved to Bellingham from Portland about five years ago after looking for the perfect place—a combination of snow-covered mountains, forests, local recreation, and a town that’s big enough to support our businesses. Bellingham seemed to be the perfect fit, and still continues to charm us with its unique character.
Did you find your studio as part of the move?
In fact, this space compelled me to move here. It was vacant and just what I was looking for—a very good sign to relocate my studio. Low and behold, there are all these other artists down here that I wasn’t aware of at the time. It’s been a hay day down here, we’re having a really good time working hard as independent businesses and collectively. Momentum seems to be building and we hope to hang onto this area as long as we can.
What is your favorite spot to relax in Bellingham?
I often go to Locust Beach with my puppy, Reba, and a picnic dinner to watch the sunset. It’s on my bike ride home.
On a perfect Bellingham weekend, what would you be doing?
The best weekends here are often embarking on a bike or kayak trip with a bunch of friends for a night of camping and relaxing. What I appreciate is that you don’t have to go far to experience the beauty of the northwest—in fact, you don’t even have to drive.
What do you like best about your job?
I appreciate the opportunity to make beautiful things for my community. The best part of the day-to-day is that I’m part of an enclave of other artisans that inspire me to collaborate on projects and events. We like to think about how we can impact Bellingham in a creative and positive way.
How do you learn new stuff?
Every project is unique to the space and the client. I’m compelled to continue to develop my design sense. So, starting from scratch—it’s got to be a little different than something I’ve done before. It’s always by happenstance, a progression in my skillset. Learning new things happens because I become uninspired by the same design or process, and I need to continue to explore to stay interested. Creating art, and working with materials, is always a progression of experience and understanding, and there’s so much room to grow.
Do you have to learn new techniques?
I occasionally learn from other masters with specific questions or lessons. But, essentially I’m self-taught in the sense that I just get in there and create something that’s unlike something I’ve done before. I figure out how to do it along the way and allow the material to have its own voice, and impart its qualities into each project. In this way, the design is never completely defined before the project, and I allow it to evolve and develop in process. There’s always something I learn from that.
Is Bellingham a normal art market, or better or worse?
This town is enthusiastic about supporting local trades and high-quality handmade things. It’s an incredibly vibrant place to do what I do, whether that’s making quality functional ware for someone’s home, creating sculpture, or simply inspiring people about what I do. I often get a lot of traffic in here, and it’s a real eye-opener for people that this is happening downtown.
What do people not understand about what you do?
It’s surprising to a lot of people that you can actually be a professional artist or blacksmith, that I am a full-time working artist. Fortunately, working in Bellingham, it’s a community that can make that a viable line of work.
Is there something new you’d like to see in Bellingham?
It’d be a great to see Bellingham support a center of affordable workspace for artists. I’m also shocked there isn’t a rooftop soaking spa anywhere—I’m waiting for the hot tubs to merge above Railroad Avenue one day.
Is there a book that’s moved you recently?
Since I moved here, I’ve been inspired to books that give me a sense of place here in Bellingham. I just finished Living High by June Burn; it’s the story of a couple here in the early 1900s that lived first, and worked later. They resided here, but explored the region and beyond. They homesteaded a small island, and traveled to remote Russian islands and back. Then they settled down—she became a journalist, and he a songwriter. They crossed the line between gypsies before their time, and pioneers. Their old homestead is up on Western’s campus.
Is there a Bellingham restaurant or store that the world needs to know about?
What I’m most excited about right now is the Sculpture Northwest Gallery, which is a nonprofit that promotes public sculpture in Northwest Washington. It’s a great space, and a really cool building. I’m really excited about not just the potential of that gallery, but that little nook in town and what it can become.
Do you have a favorite spot in downtown?
Biasedly, the Alley District, which is this corridor of renaissance businesses and trades. It’s a wonderful spot to not just participate in, but to spend time in—whether it’s for cider, espresso, or repairing your bike
Biasedly, the Alley District, which is this corridor of renaissance businesses and trades. It’s a wonderful spot to not just participate in, but to spend time in—whether it’s for cider, espresso, or repairing your bike.
Is it really its own distinct neighborhood in a sense?
It’s become one by chance, because we are all a little different. We’re all inventing our lines of work to benefit our community in a creative way, and to inspire people. By circumstance, we all happen to be in the same corridor.
If you had to enroll at Western today, what would you major in?
Fortunately, I picked the right path. It would definitely be fine art. I’m not done exploring and learning about what I do, so it’d be more of the same. In fact, to some degree, I miss being part of an institution where dialogue and critique is part of your day-to-day.
Is there a special charity or cause that you’re enthusiastic about?
I’m excited about the Lumber and Lace Holiday Ball, a benefit for the Whatcom Hospice Foundation. That’s something I like to support.
What have I not asked you that I should?
What would I change about my business, potentially.
I’d carve myself more time to foster entirely my own design, versus stepping into other people’s worlds. I’m bridging a gap between being an artist and a metal worker, and I’m often asked to be a metal worker—something functional. I need to create more space to explore my art, which will benefit my metal working.