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Updated 05/10/15

Contact: cecil@cecilross.com

12851 Madison Ave. NE, Bainbridge Island WA 98110 - Phone: 206-780-9110

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In The Press



Island tales take shape in wood

 Source: Bainbridge Island Review  (Dec 04, 2002)

Cecil Ross’s studio, featuring wood projects in all stages of completion, is open to Studio Tour visitors

By DEE AXELROD/ Staff Writer

Cecil Ross’ tables tell tales.

The island woodworker – whose custom furniture will be among the works featured at this weekend’s Studio Tour, and who also opens a show at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts – believes the history of a tree informs the finished work.           He tries to footnote the wood he uses to sustainable sources.   “The pieces I’ve made for the show and the tour have good local history,” Ross said.  
“This coffee table was made from a big, old alder tree that came down in a storm six years ago,” he said, pointing out a low bench with clean, simple lines. 
Ross has also made benches from a Chestnut tree removed during the building of Harbour Public House, and a console table with maple from a tree taken down on a property in Port Madison.

 When Ross looks for wood off-island, he tries to pin down the provenance to make sure the source is a sustainable one.   “I am concerned about the impact we, consumers and artisans, have on our environment and how, as a builder and designer, I can influence this,” Ross said.   “I use certified wood wherever possible, source wood locally, and always try to tread softly on this earth.”
Large boards of blond wood – one nearly 4 feet high and 9 feet long – leaning against the wood shop walls are African yellow wood milled from a 1,000-year-old dead and fallen tree from the Knysna Forest in South Africa.

According to Ross, the South African Parks board locates such trees and then sells them at public auction “so that no one can corner the market.”  Finding wood can take a while, Ross says, but so can a client’s commitment to commissioning a table.   “When you spend $10,000 on an item, you want to take your time,” Ross said.  A 13-foot piece of walnut on sawhorses hints at the table it will become, a piece that has been in the discussion stage for over two years.   “On the studio tour, I don’t expect people to buy much,” Ross said, “but they will ‘ooh’ and ‘ah.’   Wood is largely word of mouth. It’s networking to get the wood and the work.”   Ross created his workspace in the early 1990s, after he moved with his wife Cheryl and their three children to the island’s north end.

Born in Durban, South Africa in 1944, Ross has been, in roughly chronological order: a professional soccer player, a draftsman-cum-graphic designer, a surfer and designer of surfboards, and a boat builder.
He says the decision to move to Bainbridge was also a move away from boat-building, a profession he calls “strenuous.”
He converted a garage to a compact but flexible wood studio, where all the tools and machinery are on wheels.
“I can get about twice the use of the space, that way,” he said.  “And that’s good, because I have a lot of tables waiting to happen.”  Studio tour-goers who might be tempted to skip the few individual studios like Ross’, in favor of the “high-yield” venues, might consider this: One learns more about an individual artist, and the process of making art, from a visit to a work space.   Ross, who served several years on the Studio Tour steering committee, agrees.
“From my standpoint, I like the small venues,” he said.    ‘It’s much more soulful to bring people into the work space. They get a glimpse of who we are in our own environment.”
The 18th annual Bainbridge Island Winter Studio Tour features more than 50 artists display arts, crafts and edibles at four local halls and three studios.
Maps to the free self-guided tour can be found at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce (Highway 305 and Winslow Way); at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, or online at www.bistudiotour.com.  For more information call (360) 779-2097.

Click here to view my work for The Environmental Learning Center now known as Island Wood.






City Hall Counter Is Ready For Generations Of Elbows

Salvaged from the Hoh River area, Cecil Ross' cedar countertop will grace the new city hall

Source: Bainbridge Island Review by Pat Andrews (Sat. Jan15, 00)

Everyone has an opinion about the new city hall building. But however divergent their views, everyone with a hand in the planning - citizen designers and city officials, artists and architects - all agree the building should be the heart and soul of the community, should reflect the island's history and character, should be a functional and symbolic convergence of community ideals and activities.

At the very heart of the building is a functional and symbolic statement reflecting those beliefs.

Artisan and boat builder Cecil Ross took on the challenge of designing and building one of two central counters that will run the length of the central lobby where most of city hall's daily business will take place, where citizens will interface with city officials and hammer out the details of island life.

Believing the building's architecture reflects the boat sheds of Bainbridge's early history, Ross designed the 70-foot counter with a graceful convex curve to resemble the wooden deck of a finely crafted boat, and he used old-growth cedar for planking, further tying the counter to the island's natural history.

In Forks, Ross found an old-growth cedar log that had been used as a "sill" for an old bridge on a Hoh River tributary. When the bridge was torn down, the cedar log was salvaged.

"That is why the grain is so close and so good," Ross says.

The countertop "decking" is made of one-and-a-half-inch planks from that log, cold-molded to form the desired curve, finish.

Ross laid out the entire "deck" in his yard, numbered each piece, then assembled and built the counter onsite almost entirely between Thanksgiving and Christmas, completing it on Boxing Day (Dec. 26).

"I tried to mix in different colors and grains to show the diversity that one log can have," he says.

The epoxy finish further preserves the beauty of the wood while strengthening the cedar and overlaying the surface with a highly durable finish to withstand the daily business of city hall. His materials and techniques bring together the past and present, he says.

"(W)e have been able to build legitimate Washington history into our city hall, blending high tech (epoxy, cold-molding techniques for the new millennium  (from the previous millennium)."

They also tie Bainbridge to its heritage, he believes.

"In choosing the wood, I chose cedar, glued and coated with marine epoxy to form a cold-molded structure, similar to a boat hull," he says.

"In using cedar, which is both local and arguably a renewable resource, I hope to immortalize the presence of this great Northwest resource in a gathering place for many."

Ross is a retired surfer, inveterate island-hopper, having explored islands worldwide, builder of surfboards, racing sailboats and working boats, and an internationally recognized boat designer, reflected in the counter's design.

He and his wife Cheryl adopted the Northwest for its less stressful pace of life after a few years of working with international boat-racing jet-setters.

At a home studio, he designs and builds furniture and interiors for homes and boats as well as designing and building home and garden accessories.

In the age of mass production, Bainbridge Island furniture makers are keeping craftsmanship alive


Building Modern heirlooms

Source: The Sun: Feb 5, 2000

In an article for The Sun's Home & Garden Guide, Todd Westbrook wrote: "Hidden among Bainbridge Island's blind driveways and dead-end streets, from Agate Passage to South Beach, a disparate collection of craftspeople is building furniture of both function and style, to last lifetimes as opposed to years.

The dozen-by conservative estimate-have no central organization or marketing approach and no common denominator of materials or method. Rather, they work individually on custom pieces to please themselves and their customers. They are at the vanguard of a return to quality that is unusual in the age of mass production.

At one time there  was an effort to bring the furniture makers of the island together under one umbrella for an annual Bainbridge show. That folded in 1998 in only its  second year. It was, some said, an opportunity missed.

"There is some marketability for Bainbridge Island in terms of its furniture,"   said Cecil Ross, who works in a modified arts and crafts style from his workshop off Day Road, and who took part in the now-defunct furniture show.

"But nobody is promoting us in Seattle, and we're not promoting ourselves."

Ross, who brings 20 years of boat building and woodworking to his craft, added: "We are all in our shops and doing our own things."

His furniture-ranging from benches and dining tables to Morris  chairs and rockers- adds detailing to the classic simplicity of arts and crafts styling. Inlays and curves hint at Ross' maritime past, but only as appropriate.

"The details are really important to me," he said. "But when I put my furniture in a place, I don't want it to stand out. I want  it to blend in."

Ross often visits the intended site for his custom-built pieces, to see where the furniture will go and how it will interact with the room. And he likes to know a little bit about who is buying it. Ninety percent of his sales are on Bainbridge, with a few pieces going to the rest of Kitsap county and Seattle.

The work is not inexpensive - a Morris rocker, for example, runs a shade under $3,000 - but neither is it cheaply made.

"I like to think that any piece of furniture I make will still be around in a couple of hundred years," Ross said.


 Source Bainbridge Review : Aug. 21, 99

Click the picture for a bigger image

Miller/Hull architect and city hall artists met on the future Bainbridge Island City Hall site July 23 (L-R) are Robert Hutchison, architect, and artists Michele Van Slyke, Cecil Ross, Phillip Baldwin, Elizabeth White and Gayle Bard. (Source: Bainbridge Review, Sat 21 Aug, 1999).