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.
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).