Most islanders have seen the work of Ethan Currier displayed all around the island; in front yards, at businesses, and of course, the Stone Sculpture Garden at the Winslow Wharf near Doc’s Marina Grill. Others on the island know Ethan for his marine maintenance work via his company, Bainbridge Island Yacht Management LLC. But how does an avid sailor and expert marine maintenance man become a rock sculptor? I sat down with Ethan to find out.
Ethan grew up in Connecticut, spending much of his time sailing with his family. Sailing was his passion, and as a teen he left home to work in the mega yacht industry. Over the course of the next five or six years, Ethan sailed approximately 60,000 miles, traversing back-and-forth across the Atlantic, sailing his way through the western hemisphere, including most of the coastlines from Maine to Venezuela and from Panama to Southern California.
In the off season, he worked for his father’s landscape company. It was during those times that he was exposed to the structural aspects of creating rock retaining walls, cutting stone, and securing boulders to foundations using stainless steel rods and epoxies, that was when it hit him, “I (realized) I could build sculptures using rock, by putting steel inside of them, and that’s where it all began, and I pretty much knew immediately that I was going to be doing that.”
Ethan is completely self-taught, creating his first sculpture when he was 21 years old, which sold quickly. Feeling encouraged by the sale of his work, he adopted a hybrid work/art lifestyle. “I built some (sculptures) in one season, and sold them right away, then I went back to work on yachts for a year and a half and I had enough money to take the (next) summer off and just make art. So, I did that and I made enough money that I could go away that winter and go back and do it again the next year,” he explained.
“I had a lot of resources being that my father was pretty well established where we lived in Connecticut so getting into art shows and getting references was pretty easy, plus we were in that economic boom – I sold a huge dinosaur one year after I started doing it for about the equivalent of a half year’s salary crewing on boats, which was substantial encouragement,” he said. By 2008, the recession was taking its toll, and no one was spending money on non-essentials and his commissions were drying up, so Ethan decided to take a job in Seattle—not in the yacht trade though, as he noted “I was exhausted with that industry at that point.”
Ethan enjoys working outdoors and it didn’t take long to appreciate that the Pacific Northwest was more suitable than the east coast for outdoor work, so he bought a trailer and loaded up all his rock cutting equipment and other belongings and moved west permanently. A few months later he bought a boat and moved to Bainbridge Island where he began to establish his marine business and grow his reputation as an artist.
Granite is Ethan’s preferred medium because of its durability, although he does occasionally use marble, basalt, serpentine and river rock. His sculptures typically produce little waste because he prefers to highlight the natural beauty of the stones he collects for his sculptures as opposed to carving something out of a large block of granite or other rock. Although he sources his rocks from quarries and other rock sellers, he also enjoys taking day trips out to the Columbia River Basin to look for that perfect specimen. Ethan doesn’t purchase or acquire random rocks in bulk, he spends time examining each rock, then forming his sculptures on site, this enables him to let the shape of the rocks “speak” to him, allowing him to envision the sculpture they’ll become before bringing them back to his studio for cutting, polishing and assembly.
In addition to his local island sculptures, his work has been placed in private and public collections in more than twenty U.S. states and seven countries. You can also see his work throughout the courtyard at The Ravine (behind the Bainbridge Apothecary and Tea Shop and Island Life Artisan Gifts).
His sculptures range from figures, animals, abstract, benches, sailboats and puzzles and can be found for purchase on his website at Ethan Currier (ethancurrierart.com).
Last year Ethan bought a 36-foot landing craft boat, similar to the Higgins boats employed in WWII, which were used to transfer personnel, vehicles and other equipment directly onto foreign beaches and water-only accessible locations. He’s spent the last year converting the boat into a floating shop, studio and leisurely space for family and friends to enjoy time on the water. However, it can also be used to transport his equipment and supplies for both his marine business and his sculpture work. He’s equipped the boat with solar panels, which allow him to power everything requiring electricity and it’s even capable of powering his small yacht. He jokingly described it as “turning rocks into gold using the power of the sun.” In truth, the landing craft encompasses all that is Ethan—rocks, tools, boats and a bit of relaxation.
There was additional inspiration behind the landing craft. Ethan has frequently noticed the difficulty many of the beachfront homes on the island, and elsewhere in the Puget Sound, have with steep driveways with narrow access, making delivery and/or removal of large items like landscaping materials (and debris) or furniture and hot tubs difficult. However, accessing the homes by their beachfront using the landing craft (which can hold up to 8,000 pounds, including skip loaders and forklifts and has a ramp for easy loading/unloading), would simplify the process. Going forward, he’s considering transforming his company into a coastal landscaping business which would specialize in beachfront and dock design, via access by the water.
Unfortunately for Ethan, disaster struck over the Labor Day weekend when his studio was broken into and the majority of his rock cutting equipment and supplies were stolen. It’s a devastating hit, not just because of the monetary value (approximately $15,000.00) but also because its hacked away at his sense of safety and tranquility, something he’s always loved about island living.
The thieves appear to have known just what they were steeling as well, Ethan noted, because they only took his expensive rock cutting equipment, such as drills for stone, gas and electric saws, a welder and compressor, and specialized drill bits and saw blades worth hundreds of dollars each—leaving behind other valuables such as a stereo, amp and bicycles.
If you’d like to help Ethan get back on his feet, and back to creating his wonderous sculptures, you can donate to his fundraiser at: Fundraiser by Ethan Currier : Bainbridge Stone Sculptor robbed of tools (gofundme.com) or head to his website and purchase his work.
To subscribe to The Island Wanderer Blog, click here.