This creative phase unfolding

At any time, one might look about and think, My life has come to this

This might be a notable moment, a potent circumstance, or perhaps a broader phase. 

My creative life has come to this: The making of light-emitting sculpture has for now receded, been supplanted by designing and making life-enhancing architectural spaces. 

1937 cottage renovation in Portland, Oregon.

Some of these are based on my Lumenwave tiny building designs, in which I create a curvaceous, dismantle-able structure in a studio setting, then reassemble it at its destination.

With other projects, I’m a hands-on designer, envisioning and remaking existing spaces with a General Contractor’s license and a fine set of tools.

You can check out my portfolios of earlier work here, including furniture and various phases of light-emitting sculpture.

Follow the creative flow on Facebook and Instagram.


The Lumencot in studio tour mode.

For the 2017 Orcas Island Studio Tour, I introduced the next permutation of the Lumencot, built as a studio space in 2015.

I called it Lumenwave, and described it as "a disassemble-able cedar laminate framework for a greenhouse, tea house, treehouse, office, studio, guest bedroom, or a free-form space for yoga, meditation, massage, relaxing, or...? 

Lumenwave prototype in skeletal form.

I loved the open-ended potential, suggesting that "maybe it's a greenhouse in the spring, a guest bedroom in the summer, a private retreat space in the fall and winter."

I wrote that I saw "every Lumenwave being a unique combination of size, surface materials, and arrangements of doors, windows and interior play. Multi-layer clear and translucent panels allow for extraordinary, UV-protected light transmission, making them ideal growing spaces for plants and humans alike."

Fitting the bones.

Due this spring is an approximately 8’ x 12’ commission, to be used as a farmstay space in western Washington, near Mt. Rainer. Here's a sneak peek at its progress.

This shows the framing covered in shade cloth mid-Fall, just as the front and rear wall curves were being fitted. The perpendicular jigging wa still installed, but not for long.

Here it was late-fall, when it was awaiting batons along its edges and panel seams.

It has a patinaed copper roof with cedar batons.

The polycarbonate-skinned bump-out has clear on the ends with opal on the outer curve. One of the things I love most about the translucence is that it not only allows light in, but lets inner light glow out into the darkened landscape like a warm, inviting lantern.

There's a pointed arch that shows up when the door is open, and an echoing effect with the window at the rear.

It's a 9-foot tall dutch door, with the top section operable as a vent.

And a view of the back, featuring the soon-to-be glowing side, the window ajar, along with its own venting panel above. 

I'd yet to put the ridge cap on.

I'll add R23 rock wool insulation to the ceiling on installation, so those laminates and most of the ridge beam won't show. The boeards leaning on the left are the tongue and groove flooring.

Between the light and curves, the inside feels alive.

Come back 'round in a couple of months or so to see it finished!

Radiant color and curves: Lumenpear, Skyhull, and Seedpod series

Lumenpear series: Aspearsa

The studio work has been focused on tranluscent pears, boats and seeds. There's a blog dedicated to the unfolding of these series here. Some snapshots:

Pears and I go way back creatively, but now I get to mate them with all sorts of imaginings with the Lumenpear series. Perhaps one meets a snail in a garden...

Skyhull series: Slipperfin

A model rowboat hung from the studio ceiling for a while, during which time I proceeded to fall in love with hulls floating in air. The first of the Skyhull series combined a fanciful boat form with a surface that remembers its watery ways. 

Seedpod series: Waters of Mothers

Seedpod evolved from an earlier painted series that merged a seed form with abstract landscapes. Fertile ground here, starting with a translucent rebirth of a pregnant belly and its placental waters.

Beauty in the the process

The aesthetics of the studio have been on my mind while making paper the past couple of weeks, as it is for me the most beautiful of the many processes behind the finished pieces. In these phases, I’m creating flax-fiber “skin” that will later be incorporated into numerous works. Yet it’s a whole medium and series on its own.

The pile of finished sheets grows, with red-oranges drying.

The flax pulp is specially processed for translucence, strength, and shrinkage. In its vividly wet state, it takes me to my roots as a colorist, and to hours spent in the darkroom as a budding photographer, watching and waiting for the floating images to reveal themselves. Now, the liquid drains and dries, leaving behind huge sheets unlike any other...  (see more of this)

Orcan Swallowtail

(Update: I didn't know in the making that this metamorphosis-oriented piece would spawn other series, in the process finishing the natural arc of the Sky House series.)

 One big difference between working on the series in Bali and here is that once again I have access to my own paper making setup, so I’m able to create high-shrinkage, translucent flax fiber paper in a gorgeous spectrum of colors, in shapes and sizes resonant with the work.

Applying my creative sensibilities in response to given settings readily evokes new forms and approaches. In this case, the owners wanted to invite in some curving, organic lines to counterbalance the straight lines and angularity of their home. And, poignantly, they wanted the piece to memorialize a family member who had recently passed away young and unexpectedly.


The piece called for a sense of rebirth, of earth releasing into sky. As I contemplated the space and the role of the piece in it, an image of a butterfly fluttered right in. In many cultures, the butterfly is associated with soul, transformation, and transcendence. Along with its fitting form and symbolism, it seemed a fine expression of their dear one’s spirit. (see more on this...)

Mandala Sanctuary: lighting the madrona tree


The sculpting, finishing, and lighting of this madrona tree was commissioned by Mandala Sanctuary, a private retreat center nearing completion at the time in Eugene, Oregon. 

The lighting needed to provide a focal point, add substantially to the ambient light level, draw little power while being on for extended periods, and work effectively with light pouring in through the skylight.

Ideally, I’m involved much earlier in a project, but entered this one well under way. It’s hard to pass up a space with richly toned clay walls, live wood edges, curvaceous lines and a passionate natural building crew. Besides, the raw tree practically begged to have its potential released.

The first step was to get the tree right with itself by carving the lopped branch ends into more gestural forms and finishing it with natural oils.

I made the paper for these pieces with a nod to the Vesica Pisces, the eye-like shape in Sacred Geometry symbolizing the opening between duality and oneness. The color play stemmed from the palette of clays and natural materials all around.

The paper needed to be rich in color, yet thin enough to allow for layering while retaining a high degree of translucence. Laying it out on a large light table helps immensely in seeing the variance in color, density and size. (see more here...)

The Lumencot: a portable studio prototype

Eight years ago, I sold my home, started traveling, living like a bird. Fell in love with words like alight, perch, and nest all over again. I’ve watched landscapes come and go, living arrangements shift with seasons, continents, and projects. Like so many other sojourners, I left behind well-worn daily rhythms and brought an inner, more fluid sense of home with me, along with a tiny cache of familiar things in a pack on wheels.

Framing the Lumencot amid winter rains.

I’ve come to tiny building from a more transient experience than many. Rather than scaling down from something larger and feeling a great letting-go, I’ve taken something on. When I first considered the quality of space I’d want to make and spend time in, it was immediately clear that the form should be—and feel—light, radiant. I wanted the interplay of structure and sculpture to evoke a sense of grounded wellbeing. What I really wanted was a nest: refuge on the cusp of freedom.
Sky House series: Home Beyond Seeking

This tiny-space medium is for me a culmination of years of intensive practice in sculpting, building, natural finishes, color, furniture making and lighting. Working with an exposed framework and translucent surface material was so natural to my creative process, it took a couple of months of building to realize that it had germinated in the fertile ground of the birdcage-inspired Sky House series. 

Natural oil glazing on wall panels with Opal polycarbonate upper panels.

It’s been a joy to see the various phases of my creative explorations integrating, feeding into the visioning and making. I see it as a work-in sculpture left purposefully unresolved: everything is accessible, available for modification as needs and modes inevitably shift.

Awaiting a clear, curving porch roof with natural tree forms for posts, and a 4' x 9' front door.


I would sleep, waken, work and play where Earth and Sky happily meet. With enough solidity that my bones know there’s sanctuary between them and the wild unknown. And a sense of expansive potential as available to me as the architectural bones are to light.

Rebirth for a well-worn screen

The original screen perched over solar water heater panels.
Part of what I love about being an artisan is that I never know what’s coming down the chute project-wise. In this case, a 95 MPH gust blows on the Oregon coast, and soon I’m leaving my beloved Orcas Island to travel 300 miles south to rebuild a nearly decade-old wind/privacy screen. 

I’d built the original as part of a much larger commission over the winter and spring of 2005-6, in which I finished the floors and walls, and detailed an exquisite, state-of-the-art green home at Cannon Beach. You can get a good sense of the place from a Fine Homebuilding article published in 2006. 
The original bamboo screen with spectacular coastal view.

The first screen was made of tam vong, a solid bamboo from Vietnam, which allows for mortise and tenon joints. The whole thing was jointed and/or bound—no nails or screws, except for mounting the posts to the copper pipes set in the ground. I cut some pine branch fencing material to form a darker, wave-like element to contrast the overall straight lines of the bamboo and resonate with the curving top pieces, and placed it between the pickets mounted on alternating sides of the rails.

Copper frame for new version.

Quite remarkable it lasted as long as it did, having been subjected to 90 inches of rainfall annually, along with salt air and at times high winds at its perch 120 feet up on a cliff. I’d saturated it with natural oil a few times over the years, which surely helped its longevity. The last time I did, I suggested building a copper frame and lashing the whole thing to it, as a way of relieving it of its structural responsibilities and greatly extending its aesthetic life... (see more here...)

New life for an old cottage

Over years, I've oscillated between studio work, teaching, and creating finely-tuned environments. With this project, I converted a 1937 carpenter's workshop into a funky Airbnb space, designing and implementing all aspects besides the plumbing and tiling.  Tucked into the backyard of a home in the inner northeast of Portland, it has a small-town vibe, despite its urban setting.

It started out as an open space, having more recently been a stone sculptor's, then a painter's, studio.

Conversations with the owner, Cybil Kavan, revealed two words that guided the organic design process: simple and sensual. 

She also shared a dream in which she'd stepped out onto the back steps from the main house to find a chasm in the backyard, with the tree of life growing skyward where the cottage would ordinarily be. That image prompted the idea of having a tree rising up in the middle of the cottage. Later, she found the wind-blown top of a cherry tree on a walk in the neighborhood…a fine addition to the sustainably harvested madrone used for the stair treads, thresholds, and loft edges.

Placing the bed above the bathroom left much more space on the main floor, which is about 263 square feet. We wanted the space to have a light, open, airy feeling, so I created a set of light-toned stairs with open space underneath, extending into the area under the landing.

Imbuing the cottage with a sense of warmth was also important, especially given its Pacific Northwest location, so we revealed the beauty of wood with natural oil, chose a yellowish cast for the zero-VOC paints, and put engineered cork on the rebuilt (and now R-23 insulated) floor.

The shelving for the mini-kitchen and bathroom was up-cycled from an old set of drawers found at the Rebuilding Center. The bathroom has a pocket door adapted from an old Mexican door from there as well.

The eclectic bathroom tile work was done by Mema Greer from her vast collection of reclaimed pieces. The remaining walls are glazed plaster and the floor is ground pebble tile.

A nearby decades-old grove provided the gorgeous black bamboo, and the posts are branches from the fallen cherry tree. Waxed linen thread was used for the binding.

Much effort goes into the things you don't end up seeing, so it's a delight to get the fine details that bring a space to a sublime sense of quiet resolution.

In the long arc of this sort of project, it's easy to focus on bringing it all to a fine conclusion. Certainly gives one perspective to step back and see where it started…

…to best appreciate the result of so much consideration and effort.