“Wood – Orcas Island Furniture + Architectural Renderings” is a exhibit of Orcas Island craftspeople and architects to be displayed in the lobby and Madrona Room of the Orcas Center in October. The exhibit will start with a reception on Friday, Oct. 3 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. when most of the exhibiters will be present to talk about their work and their use of recycled and local woods and other materials.
“Although local woods including alder, madrona, oak and pine and recycled wood and wood furniture are the main emphasis of the show, we wanted to showcase the work of as many of the incredibly large group of furniture craftspeople on Orcas as possible and give them an opportunity to exhibit their work. We expanded our ‘only wood’ concept of the show to include other materials used in traditional as well as original ways,” said Andrea Hendrick, a member of the Orcas Center Visual Arts Committee.
“The idea of including architectural renderings seemed a perfect addition to the show. Many of the craftspeople and architects work closely together. We were pleased to have so many local people come forward to put works in the exhibit,”Hendrick said.
One of the craftspeople who uses a material other than wood to create what he calls, “jewelry for the house” is Orcas blacksmith Steve Gropp. “Although initially I worked in wood, within a few years, I had made a leap to full time metalwork as a means to support a growing family.
“Since 1996, I have pursued a full time career as an artist blacksmith making architectural iron work including railings, fireplace doors, gates, hardware and the fireplace accessories I will be showing at the exhibit.”
Architect Joe Herrin of Helitrope Architects, who owns a cabin on Buoy Bay, will have four basswood models and process drawings of construction projects currently being built on the island in the show. He says that architects could not be able to do what they do without the working relationship with the contractors and craftsman that execute their designs.
“There are some amazing craftsman and cabinetmakers on Orcas. As designers we detail how we want a building to look but without the craftspeople we would not see those designs executed. The collaboration is very important. I am a terrible carpenter and have nothing but admiration for the amazing carpenters and craftspeople on the island.
“Not all woodworking is furniture. High-end cabinetry and construction workers are great craftspeople too. They live here because it’s a great place to live and there is a demand for their services,” Herrin says.
Dale Heisinger is probably best known as a physician and for his cello performances, but he has been interested in woodworking for more than 35 years. “I got into woodworking to build things for our home. I figured if I could get through medical school, I should be able to do something with wood. That was naive,” he says. He studied furniture design and construction and took courses that allowed him to refine his skills. He will be exhibiting some of the chairs, benches, clocks, cabinets and tables that he has made using maple and alder.
Gary Sisson of Mt. Pickett Woodworking in Olga specializes in the use of reclaimed lumber and alternative materials, including sustainably harvested lumber and formaldehyde free plywood made with soy based glue. Sisson finds the antique wood for his custom cabinetry, furniture and doors from many sources.
“The reclaimed wood we use in our furniture and cabinetry comes to us from a variety of sources – barn-board from the dry Western States where the sun and wind work to create unique colors and textures, old floor joists hidden for a century beneath an early Seattle building which might be brought back as a tabletop, or even timbers from an abandoned gold mine in Eastern Washington. Thick redwood staves of an ancient water tank were used to create the pews for a new church here on Orcas Island,” he says.
Sisson will be showing one of his custom-made hutches at the exhibit. He says they are reminiscent of New England-style furnishings created by the early pioneers who settled the Pacific Northwest. “Today they are often specified by designers who use them in a kitchen as a way to break up otherwise uninteresting long runs of cabinets. This lends much visual impact to a kitchen while retaining the same storage space,” he says.
Greg Betcher says, “One of the tables that I will be showing is black walnut based with a live-edge and with a jade slab top. I also have a little jewelry box of black walnut and maple burl and a table chest that looks like a dog and is made with yellow heart and other woods.
“I work a lot with black walnut. I have some amazing wood that came from my wife’s uncle’s place. They are heavy slabs of wood that you cannot get anywhere else. I don’t do kitchen cabinets. There are a lot of other great people doing that. I specialize in unique pieces like entertainment centers, dining tables and special chests.”
Betcher has been working in wood for about 35 years. He says his style is versatile, from rustic to Asian to modern. “I enjoy working with individual clients in the design phase to build pieces that are unique and specific to their tastes.”
Among the others providing original works for the exhibit are Jonathan Loop, Errol Speed, Jim (River) Rorabaugh, Mark Padbury, Louellen McCoy, Todd Spalti, Dennis McGrath, Bill Dean, Joe Ciskowski, Thomas Wendland, Bonnie Ward, Chris Rost, Bill Trogden, Fred Klein, David Kau, Harlan Pedersen, Don Pencil, Adam Warachowski and Bert Vinson.
“Wood” will be on display from Oct. 3 through Oct. 29 and is open to the public during the Orcas Center hours of Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.