Artist’s love of trees informs his work

The studio of woodworker Cecil Ross is part of the 2010 Bainbridge Island Studio Tour this weekend. - Brad Camp/ For the Review
The studio of woodworker Cecil Ross is part of the 2010 Bainbridge Island Studio Tour this weekend.
— image credit: Brad Camp/ For the Review

The walls of Cecil Ross’ Studio are lined with slabs of maple, magnificent burls, planers, saws, hand and power tools, a wide assortment of sandpaper, and homemade carousels that hold nuts, bolts and hardware.

“If I was blind I could still probably find everything I need here” the woodworker said Tuesday, preparing for this weekend’s Studio Tour, which will feature his and six other island studios.

He’s been part of the summer tour from its beginning 10 years ago, hosting visitors to his studio, garden and home, a 100-year old house off Day Road where “Grampa” Day used to live.

The tour has been a steady source of commissions for Ross, 80 percent of which come from islanders, he said.

With every commission Ross bestows the patron with a booklet documenting the process: the selected tree coming down, the work in his shop, the sawdust pile, metalwork details and the finished piece.

Unlike the raw materials of many arts – canvas, clay, fabric – using trees, something with a lifespan, requires an extra sensitivity.

“I have enormous respect for the trees,” he said. “98 percent of the time I know where it grew, why it came down, who took it down.”

He draws inspiration from the wood itself, trying to “bring out what’s in the wood” through his craftsmanship, working with its inherent qualities rather than trying to overide them.

“I am more of a craftsman, but I bring art to it,” he said.

As a trained draftsman, he sees in three dimension, but almost always makes small models for commissioned pieces. With slabs of wood that can run $10,000, the woodworker’s addage measure twice, cut once applies.

“That first cut takes time,” he said. He often uses one log to complete an entire project ensuring that grain and coloring match completely.

In fact, he created the 62-foot counter at City Hall from a salvaged log of old-growth cedar.

To see more of Ross’ work, visit his website at or better yet, drop by his studio at 12851 Madison Avenue NE this weekend during the studio tour.


Bainbridge Island Summer Studio Tour

An eclectic mix of artist’s studios will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 13-15 for the 10th annual three-day Bainbridge Island Summer Studio Tour. The seven studios, many with artistic gardens, will showcase the work of 55 artists who will be on hand to talk about their work, and in some cases, offer demonstrations. Each venue will have live music, lemonade and light refreshments. See works in progress, raw materials, and artists’ tools. This year’s event features a wide selection of artistic mediums, including ceramics, wood, jewelry, garden art, furniture, oils, fiber art, photography, metal work, watercolors, and glass art.

This event is free. Carpooling is recommended.

For complete details including a list of studios, artists, photos, and a map, go to the Studio Tour website at Brochures can be downloaded from the website, or found at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call Tour Manager Dinah Satterwhite at 842-0504.


Lifelong artist influenced by environment

When Gayle Bair was only 6 years old, her parents took a trip to the Grand Canyon.

“Imagine having an epiphany at six and a half,” Bair said in her home on the north end of the island.

She was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the setting, and in that moment knew she had to express it somehow.

Since then, the experience has been reflected through various media, first through Bair’s paintings and since 1996, in clay.

The strata of the canyons influenced Bair’s aesthetic.

“Line is very important to me,” she said.

Her laborious nine-step process involves a technique called Sgraffito (literally, “scratched away” in Italian) and her work often depicts motifs from the environment in which she lives.

A lifelong artist, Bair feels “very fortunate” to have work she loves, and grateful to have finally zeroed in on clay.

“I’m amazed it took 50 years to find it,” she said. “The learning curve was very intense. I wasn’t your average 18-year-old who has discovered pottery. The good side of that is I didn’t have a blank when it came to subject matter or design.”

Bair develops a particular style “until it becomes a chore.” She lets new ideas “cook,” allowing her work to evolve to a new level.

To see more of Gayle Bair’s work, visit her website at, or see it up close and meet the artist at Oho Studio at the Studio Tour this weekend.

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