Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge Islander rocks his art

Stone sculptor Ethan Currier positions one of his river rock figures, built in a yoga pose. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Stone sculptor Ethan Currier positions one of his river rock figures, built in a yoga pose.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Ethan Currier conceived his first sculpture in September 2001 on his father’s 60-acre farm in Connecticut. The two had been hauling boulders and anchoring them on an incline to the side of a building.

Whether it was the physics or the possibility of form, something captured Currier’s fancy.

“I saw how strong it was, and I said, ‘I’m going to do that.’ So I made a man,” he said.

The eight years that followed have mixed art, travel and enough commerce to keep Currier afloat, with nothing set in stone except the work itself.

Visitors to the Winslow Wharf Marina may have seen a stone grouping of river rock flowers and figures in yoga poses, positioned in the small patch of garden across from the Chandlery.

These sculptures, rocks brought to life by way of rods and fixative, represent the mid-point in terms of scale. His range of work also includes at one end a 6,000-pound granite stegosaurus that presently resides on a Connecticut road, and at the other a series of granite puzzles and candle holders in river rock.

Currier has become efficient at creating certain types of pieces like the puzzles and the yogis, and can in most cases quickly assemble them on site – in private gardens, for instance.

Other types of figures are a different story. Whether it’s the stegosaur or a sculpture of twin girls wearing skirts – that piece began as a single piece of rock – each piece comes with its own design constraints and dependencies. Sometimes, the rock forms the basis for the design. Other times, Currier has a specific action in mind and has to find the right rock to carry it out the vision. And he can never force it.

“As motivated as you are, you’ve got to wait for the cool idea to come,” he said. “And then you’ve got a sculpture.”

Currier hand-gathers most of his stones, usually one at a time, sometimes heading into the woods, sometimes into river beds – always asking permission when necessary. For a set of pieces completed in Spain, he commandeered an old polished granite countertop that someone had dumped outside following a kitchen remodel.

For the last several years, Currier has structured his life and his time so that sculpture making is concentrated. He travels and then returns to his dad’s farm to build and sell, until he makes enough money to travel some more.

But this past fall, he found that whether through saturation or the poor economy, his Northeast sales dried up. With his mother living in the Northwest, and having grown up with sailing, he took a job on Lake Union varnishing boats. Barely making it, with little time to sculpt, his next decision required a zen-like leap of faith.

“It’s really gutting to think, how am I going to make money? Well, quit my job,” he said.

He immediately sold two pieces and went from there; now, he’s riding a wave, living in his 40-foot 1945 U.S. Navy boat “Platypus,” moored at Winslow Wharf Marina, and working out of a Pioneer Square studio. He’s also varnishing boats on a freelance basis; one of them is just two slips up from his, an ideal commute.

Currier said as soon as he reached the Northwest, he felt like he was in a slingshot. His first months consisted of pulling back, pulling back, pulling back – and dealing with the attendant discomfort. Then, just as he’d hoped, he let himself fly.

“And boom! Off I go.”

Contact Ethan Currier at ethan@ethancurrier.com and see his work at www.ethancurrier.com.

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