Sometimes a landscape is the studio




Scaling the work up to landscape and architecture gets me out in the world, responding to elements I wouldn’t experience in the studio. It also affords the room to explore freely with materials and ideas when I scale back down to more human-sized objects.

Technology has come a long way over the decades since growing up working with my family on old houses in New England. Between digital design and cordless power tools, it’s extraordinary how productive one can be. I find it immensely satisfying to wield a fine set of tools with years of experience and a vast array of materials and approaches to draw upon.



I often find myself using the same tools and materials in art making and more artisanal endeavors, including clean, plant-based finishes. This continuity gives the range of work in and out of the studio a feeling of being on a creative spectrum, and makes crossing back and forth between the realms more fluid.

Projects ranging from designing to building to finishing usually find me. I most often work locally here in the San Juan Islands, but I’m open as well to more far-flung potentials if they’re creatively interesting.

I can be contacted here.

 

Contractor License: LUMEN**796LD


In the round


 

 

I've been called on to design and create lovely spaces for others over the years. It's been a joy to devote these skills and creative drive to one for myself, especially in these tumultuous times. 

I spend a lot of time in the studio, so a space that celebrates light and curvature suits my well-being where I'm busiest, and in many ways, at my best.

 

 

Between the building of the base, erecting the yurt kit, making the windows and frames, insulating, etc, it was an intensive effort. Naturally, I was itching to get back to working in the studio, rather than on it, but such a wonderful investment in the process!

 

Amid the whirl of the world, a fine nest for this monkish soul to make and Be.

 





A sibling screen

The first screen.



In an earlier post, I shared the remaking of a landscape screen on the Oregon coast. 

This first one was purposefully more sedate, as its role was to underscore the expansive view—to empathize with it, but not distract from it.

Winter view of the new home next door.


Fast-forward five years, a new house was built right off the corner of this exquisite home, obliterating its intimacy and privacy. This development called for a sibling screen to be a veil between.








With trees and lush growth all around, this one could be wilder. And the large structure behind suggested it be more attention-seeking as well. The point wasn’t to hide the house, but to break up the mutual sight lines, while giving the eyes something besides the house to focus on. 






That it could and should be visually busier played along nicely with the need to reduce the see-through inherent in the woven slat design. When viewed straight on, the slats block the view readily. But as you move to the side, you increasingly see between the bowing slats. This wasn’t a concern with the first screen.






Some additional material that would obscure from the more oblique view was needed with this one as the angle of view stretching across the terrace, living room and master bedroom is very wide.

Screening is ideal, since it has the opposite effect of the slats: the view is best looking straight through it, becoming more opaque as you view through it more obliquely. So in combination, the slats and the screening compensate for each other's angle of view.



This provided an opportunity to play with some abstract shapes floating down the length, like sea creatures in the streaming currents suggested by the serpentine copper lines. The bowed areas that allowed the most see-through were happily most available for inserting the large screen forms.











A concern of the owner was that we’d be introducing something that could make this area feel hemmed-in. With that in mind, I made the top of the screen lean outward at the top, as if the space is pouring out into sky. 

And where the screen begins on the half-wall, it’s away from the building and starts out lightly with just the copper and screen, leaving an opening to the landscape in that corner. 

A more sensory depiction, with the ever-present sound of the ocean: 



The Lumenwave installed (2018)



It’s in these little buildings that my sculpting and architectural work really come together.

Maybe it’s a sign of having gotten more than a few miles on my tires, but I’ve been reflecting lately on the ratio of creativity to labor, and looking at projects through this lens. 

I dearly love the practice of honest labor: it does my body and monkish nature good to move about, rearranging myself and things around me. If this labor is in service of the practice of creative choice, it does both my body and soul good.

So while these little creature-cabins are indeed a serious bout of work, there’s a fine stream of creative choice at every turn. And lots of room to play with the mergence of plant, animal, insect, land and human forms that courses through my studio work.






In this installation, I chose to be very meticulous about showing up with everything needed to not just re-assemble the pieces, but to work out the little things that could only be finally resolved with all the elements together. I’d preassembled it the initial building process at my studio, but I knew there’d be no power on site and no hardware store anywhere near. I wanted to be enmeshed with the birthing process uninterrupted.

You can see two of the four copper roof sections waiting to be lifted up to the ridge beam. The curving door jamb is also a structural element.








The site becomes a temporary studio, especially as the details and finishing touches are fleshed out.

Note the big sheets of cardboard from the shipping process coming in handy on the ground as I was dashing in and out from crunchy gravel to oiled-wood floors. 








This design plays with contrasts: aged copper floating above white, translucent polycarbonate, natural forms defined by clean lines, natural materials set against manufactured panels. What invites these disparate materials to work together is the interplay of curves that keeps the eye moving, intermixing the elements, forming a kind of empathy between them.








At the core of my sculptural work is the ability of a still object to evoke movement. Yet, if it only suggests movement, it can feel ungrounded. What impassions me is creating objects that seem to be simultaneously at rest and in motion, as if the movement is constantly refueled by the stillness. 

These little buildings set on skids have a sense of perching, being at rest, but just momentarily. The curves arise from the flat bottom, which, instead of being adhered to the ground, floats on a shadow. 










The interior combines the smoothness of the outer surfaces with earthy burlap for a warm, intimate feel. It’s a tiny space, yet the relatively high ridge and flowing lines all around make it spaciously cozy.













Building the Lumenwave (2017-18)


The Lumencot in studio tour mode.






For the 2017 Orcas Island Studio Tour, I introduced the next permutation of the Lumencot, built as a studio space in 2015.


I called it Lumenwave, and described it as "a disassemble-able cedar laminate framework for a greenhouse, tea house, treehouse, office, studio, guest bedroom, or a free-form space for yoga, meditation, massage, relaxing, or...? 


Lumenwave prototype in skeletal form.






I loved the open-ended potential, suggesting that "maybe it's a greenhouse in the spring, a guest bedroom in the summer, a private retreat space in the fall and winter."

I wrote that I saw "every Lumenwave being a unique combination of size, surface materials, and arrangements of doors, windows and interior play. Multi-layer clear and translucent panels allow for extraordinary, UV-protected light transmission, making them ideal growing spaces for plants and humans alike."


Fitting the bones.













Due this spring is an approximately 8’ x 12’ commission, to be used as a farmstay space in western Washington, near Mt. Rainer. Here's a sneak peek at its progress.

This shows the framing covered in shade cloth mid-Fall, just as the front and rear wall curves were being fitted. The perpendicular jigging was still installed, but not for long.


Uplifting an old farm: the House (2018-19)























Before








Around 1960, a farmer needed a home, so he built one of the ranch style of the time. It was unlikely he meant for it to be anything special, and nothing much was done to it between then and the condition I found it in the fall of 2017.

Old entry





New entry







It was a grim celebration of vintage aluminum and worn out practicality much in need of uplifting. The entry featured a sliding door and mud room, neither of which were necessary for the flexible, more elegant space the owners wanted for the new direction of the farm

I proposed opening it up, making it an inviting, contemporary space some with grounding structural elements. 



One of the design priorities was to break up the flat plane across the front of the house, so I extended the post and beam play of the entry out to a relatively massive arbor, which would be softened with climbing plants. As well, the unpleasant heat pump unit was wrapped in horizontal cedar lattice, adding more dimension and helping to relate the house to the nearby barn.
Original fireplace

By the time the living room renovation was complete, the only original detail left was the fireplace mantle. I plastered over the dated brickwork and replaced the wood-burning insert with an elegant curved one. Opening the room right out onto the terrace and event garden with full-glass double doors shifted it from stale-feeling to nature-connected. A wooden floating floor adds grounding to a subdued, yet complex palette.  


Uplifting an old farm: the Barn (2019)



The original barn

Along with the outdated house, the 1960's agricultural barn at the farm was in serious need of reinterpretation. While it remains a bustling, working-farm structure, gone are the days of driving the haying tractor through it on the left, or parking the pickup in the void at the right.

Light enters now instead of large equipment. 
The farm house




We wanted it to relate naturally with the  renovated house next to it, so I incorporated the same cedar lap siding, but unpainted for a more rustic look. And the same horizontal lattice treatment wraps around the curved deck.






It was no longer appropriate for water runoff to flow right in unhindered. As there was no need to have the right opening directly accessed by vehicle or foot, we poured a foundation wall on the bottom and made a set of three polycarbonate windows for the top. The middle one opens, so there's still access for things to pass through.




Horse fence panel was a natural solution for spanning the guardrail. For its bottom rail, I had galvanized pipe rolled to fit the curve. Part of the design challenge was to make this whole curved section and the the straight one across the front of the deck readily removeable for access.












Trees, bushes and flowers will meld the barn into the landscape, connecting it with the event garden steps away.

Uplifting an old farm: the Garden (2018-19)


Taking on building projects can be a bit like dating: it may start out casually, but months later you might look around and realize it’s become a more serious thing. With this recent farm project here on Orcas Island, it turned out to be a two-year affair in which I renovated the 1960’s era farm house and the barn facade, as well as designing and facilitating the installation of an event garden.


The most creatively fun aspect, despite the vast physical output required, was the garden. About the time I was wrapping up the house renovation, the question of what to do with the 2.25 acre, already deer-fenced space at the front entrance arose.  It had been used to raise veggies and flowers for sale, but the farm wanted to move in a more public-welcoming direction, so I suggested a strolling garden that could host community events, continue to raise food and flowers, and be an educational landscape.


I’d been working with undulating forms and serpentine lines with the light-emitting sculpture, and it seemed a good fit for generating a vibrant, lyrical feel to this much vaster area. I’ve always seen my studio work in terms of landscape, so it was a matter of scaling it up in service of the numerous functions and features in the mix.


It was clearly an ambitious plan, which we took on knowing that it would take many years to develop it into a fine destination garden. I suggested that, for the first year at least, we think in terms of large, varying areas of meadow (indicated in pale yellow-green on the plan). 

Transposing the lines of the drawing into paths on the ground began in the deep chill and muck of early spring. With a ready supply of wood chips for the enormous task of laying them out, the process felt a lot like sketching with one eye on the ground and the other on the bird's-eye view.



The vision for this landscape wasn't just of curved lines overlaid on the quite flat existing ground, but of land forms like gentle ocean swells. Between soil brought up from trenching the lower fields and amendments like aged manure, about 200 cubic yards of material was moved by machine and hand to sculpt the land.

Early spring was also time for a flatbed of structural plants to arrive and get in the ground. 





By late spring, the meadows were in bloom, the beginning of a season-long succession of colors: poppies, cosmos, bachelor buttons, sunflowers, clover, brown-eyed Susan, daisies, and more. Along with the flowers came honey bees, dragon flies, birds, frogs, and landscape painters...






...and kids! I made a climbing structure from madrona branches as the start of a natural playscape. 

It was deeply satisfying to sculpt on this scale and feel the joy it spawned in the stream of folks visiting the farm.

New life for an old cottage (2013-14)



Over years, I've oscillated between studio work, teaching, and creating finely-tuned environments. With this project, I converted a 1937 carpenter's workshop into a funky Airbnb space, designing and implementing all aspects besides the plumbing and tiling.  Tucked into the backyard of a home in the inner northeast of Portland, it has a small-town vibe, despite its urban setting.



It started out as an open space, having more recently been a stone sculptor's, then a painter's, studio.



Conversations with the owner, Cybil Kavan, revealed two words that guided the organic design process: simple and sensual. 

She also shared a dream in which she'd stepped out onto the back steps from the main house to find a chasm in the backyard, with the tree of life growing skyward where the cottage would ordinarily be. That image prompted the idea of having a tree rising up in the middle of the cottage. Later, she found the wind-blown top of a cherry tree on a walk in the neighborhood…a fine addition to the sustainably harvested madrone used for the stair treads, thresholds, and loft edges.












Placing the bed above the bathroom left much more space on the main floor, which is about 263 square feet. We wanted the space to have a light, open, airy feeling, so I created a set of light-toned stairs with open space underneath, extending into the area under the landing.














Imbuing the cottage with a sense of warmth was also important, especially given its Pacific Northwest location, so we revealed the beauty of wood with natural oil, chose a yellowish cast for the zero-VOC paints, and put engineered cork on the rebuilt (and now R-23 insulated) floor.


The shelving for the mini-kitchen and bathroom was up-cycled from an old set of drawers found at the Rebuilding Center. The bathroom has a pocket door adapted from an old Mexican door from there as well.











The eclectic bathroom tile work was done by Mema Greer from her vast collection of reclaimed pieces. The remaining walls are glazed plaster and the floor is ground pebble tile.