Creating Paradise – The Legacy of Little and Lewis

Our little island is a haven for artists of all genres, and creating a botanical and sculptural paradise, one that can be shared with your neighbors and visitors to the island, is an artform in itself, and exactly what David and George Lewis did. The two menpartners in love, life and business— had no idea that their simple desire to do something they loved would become an international sensation, but how did it all begin?

It was the 1980s when David Lewis made the decision to move from his home in Washington DC to be closer to family and watch his young nephews grow up—although, he humorously admits, that within two weeks of arriving on the island, he realized he didn’t particularly care for kids—he nonetheless, loved the area and was here to stay.

George Little happened upon Bainbridge while visiting the area in 1985 and fell instantly in love, making the move from his home in Houston to the island a year later. His natural artistic talents as both a sculptor and watercolor painter, combined with his love of ancient architectural ruins and sculptures, as well as his love of gardens (particularly water and Japanese gardens) inspired him to begin creating one-of-a-kind sculptural garden art and fountains, which he began selling at Bainbridge Gardens and through the Bainbridge Island Studio Tours.

George and David Bainbridge Bakers 1988
George and David Bainbridge Bakers 1988

When David bought his home on Wing Point Way in 1988, he wanted to create his own garden paradise, and having already been aware of George’s work, he purchased a fountain from him. When George came over to install it, he realized the pool it would sit in was too small, and so the two worked together to enlarge the area and a wonderful friendship was emerged. For the next few years, George continued to create and sell his sculptures and David had taken a job at Bainbridge Bakery while simultaneously caring for his (then) partner, who was quite ill (and sadly passed away during the winter storm of 1990). David convinced George to come work with him at the bakery, and it was around this time, they began to formulate their new business idea; designing and creating fountains, ponds and pools for other people. “So, when Little and Lewis was founded, we were both serving the community their morning java,” David shared.

1979 Working as Illustrator in Crete
1979 Working as Illustrator in Crete

Although designing and creating garden sculptures, fountains, pools and ponds was relatively new to David, he took quickly to George’s mentoring, drawing upon his own artistic background.  Having majored in the classics in college with a minor in the arts, David spent three years as an archaeological illustrator in Greece and Crete. “I was paid a $100 a week to draw the finds from various Greek and Minoan archaeological sites. Then I spent years working in retail where I got a bit of a business sense which helped manage the business side of Little and Lewis,” he explained. By 1992, both men had quit their full-time jobs and Little and Lewis was officially off and running.

Original Little and Lewis Garden on Wing Point WayEven before they branched out on their own, David’s Wing Point Way garden was evolving and expanding, becoming a gallery unto itself. After joining forces as business partners, they decided to open it up to the public, as clients were already coming to the garden to view and purchase sculptures they’d placed in the space, and the concept of a garden-gallery was born. Realizing this garden-gallery was a unique concept, George contacted the Kitsap Sun newspaper and said, “we are doing something pretty cool and you should come see. It was the first article on us and the reputation just grew…” And it grew and grew and grew! By the late 1990s, the Little and Lewis Garden (and the art within it) had become an international sensation, drawing visitors and clients from all over the world. Their stunning concrete sculptures and installations have been extensively photographed for books, magazines and television features, which includes Martha Stewart Living, PBS, The Victory Garden, and HGTV. Their creations focused on enhancing the softscape, mostly designed by the owners and garden architects, and they rarely worked off of traditional plans. “I cannot read plans so when clients came and unrolled their complex garden schematics…I went into a coma,” David said. “George was able to muster through. But we added detail more than the foundations to a garden.”

George, David and Martha Stewart
George, David and Martha Stewart

In addition to opening up their garden to the public, David and George generously volunteered their time and support in various island groups, such as the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, Bainbridge in Bloom, Environmental Learning Center at IslandWood, as well as lectures and workshops to many local communities. By the mid-2000s, they decided to put their knowledge and expertise in print, and their book, A Garden Gallery: The Plants, Art, and Hardscape of Little and Lewis, was published in 2005 by Timber Press.

“Celebrated internationally as artists and gardeners, Little and Lewis open the gates to their renowned Puget Sound garden and share the enthusiasm that informs and enlivens their wild fantasia of plants, hardscape, and art. Water features, oversized and broadleaved plants, expansive use of color, zone-pushing tropicals, architectural emphasis, and elements of classicism and mystery-all combine to create a magical space. The authors describe how you too can achieve this kind of retreat for reflection in your own backyard. From practical advice on how to make a slow-drip natural fountain to tips on building an inexpensive Tuscan-style wall, you will be encouraged to use your imagination and take risks. Stunning photographs perfectly complement the inspiring text.” – Amazon.com

A Garden Gallery - The Plants, Art, and Hardscape of Little and LewisThe book reads like a love story to the art of nature, being outdoors and creating beauty within a private paradise, and was an instant best seller in the gardening world, winning a silver medal from the Garden Writers of America.

In 2008, a client from the East Coast said, “if you ever wanted to sell your garden would you give me first right of refusal”. That same afternoon, on a handshake, the house and garden were sold. “We had always owned the house next door so we just moved everything to the other house and never looked back,” David said. “The garden we have now is private, age appropriate, and perfect to spend lazy afternoons sitting and reading. We also had a home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for nearly 20 years. We spent a few months every year in that beautiful city, and sold that house in 2020 when issues with health made these trips more difficult.”

David and George's home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico home
David and George’s home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico home

Over the next several years, they continued to take commissions for sculptures, mirrors and paintings for clients and consult on garden designs, while enjoying more travel and time spent at their home in San Miguel de Allende. However, by 2013, George, who’d just turned 70, said “no more heavy lifting”, and although David tried to carry on the business, but without George’s daily presence in the studio, it just didn’t feel right. “Besides the last commission I did was a HUGE order for a Russian Oligarch,” David recalled. “It filled a shipping container and when he finally got the order he ordered twice as much more. I turned the order down… and retired with George.”

Little and Lewis In addition to both men retiring, the year also held special meaning to the couple, same-sex marriage had been legally recognized in Washington State the year before, and the couple officially married in 2013 (although, George had legally changed his name to George Lewis from George Little in 2010).

When I asked if they ever thought their passion for garden art and gardening would garner so much attention, David said, “Never… I just found a DVD that was made of all the old VHS tapes we had from TV appearances… I watched some of it and it brought back fond memories and a bit of detached admiration for what we had accomplished.”

In recalling the visit from Martha Stewart, David said it was a two-day affair. “They filmed 2 episodes with us. The day of filming a huge moving van of equipment and cameras arrived, a crew of 12, and a bouncer to patrol the growing crowds at the bottom of the drive, (it was no secret she was coming and her fans were ready). After the first day of filming, we went to dinner with her and some the crew and then just the three of us (George, Martha, and me) went to see the new Star Wars movie that had just opened up at the Pavilion. Although she spent most of the movie sleeping on George’s shoulder, when it was over, all she said was ‘It was too yellow’. But even though the Martha visit was pretty great, the best TV production was when PBS came to do a story on our work as part of a series called Recreating Eden. The show was to be filmed in the new HD format (the cameras were huge) and they spent 4 days with us filming our life, work and Bainbridge community. We were the only US artists profiled that year and the crew was off to Europe after they finished on Bainbridge. What was very much a surprise to us when it aired, was that they had come to film our garden and work… but the director saw and chose the love story between us to focus on. After the airing we received countless letters from all over the world from the LGBTQ community thanking us for our story and bravery for telling it.”

David and George's Garden Today
David and George’s Garden Today

Since their retirement, “David has been working on non-profit Boards, playing scrabble, gardening and being a loving husband,” George shared.

“George has been tending his orchids and bromeliads, painting, voraciously reading, and being a very patient husband,” said David.

Both David and George continue to participate in Bainbridge organizations and are “so grateful for what the community has done for us that we feel blessed to be able to give back.”

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