Salamander Forge
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I was born in 1954, in Seattle, Washington. The second son of an architect father and artist mother, began a lifelong exposure to building, design, and the arts. From early on, I developed a strong interest in art and making things, as well as a passion for the outdoors. At age 16, I broke my back in a rock climbing accident. During the long months of the recovery process, I began work on my first large scale wood sculpture, a 7' totem pole in the Northwest Coast Native style.

I graduated from Mercer Island High school, class of 1973, using my many art classes for the required vocational credits, setting a school district precedent. Immediately after graduation, I made a trip to Finland and Leningrad, Russia on a travel/study design scholarship. I attended college at Colorado College and the California College of Arts and Crafts, focusing on anthropology and studio art—primarily drawing, printmaking and ceramics. I also pursued a vigorous program of rock climbing and mountaineering, climbing many, many peaks and crags in the Rockies, Tetons, North Cascades, and the Utah desert.

2000 feet up, Dihedral Wall, El Capitan
2000 feet up
Dihedral Wall, El Capitan - 1976
In 1975, I moved to Orcas Island for a construction job. This beautiful mountainous island in the American San Juan Archipelago has been my home base ever since.

In 1976, during an extended sojourn in California's Yosemite Valley, I made several ascents of the vertical 3000' wall of El Capitan, as well as a climb of the awe inspiring, relentlessly overhanging, West Face of the Leaning Tower.

In the fall of 1978, a climbing partner and I were trapped by a sudden violent storm high on the difficult North Face of Mount Shuksan. The desperate days and nights that followed, as we made our escape in harrowing conditions, took us to the limits of our endurance.

The following summer, I set out alone from Deer Harbor, Washington in a 16' open rowing boat and headed north, up the wild west coast of British Columbia. Seventy days later, after many adventures and much wind, I reached Petersburg, Alaska.
Small boat, big waves, Vancouver Island circumnavigation - 1980
Small boat, big waves
Vancouver Island circumnavigation - 1980

In 1980, my friend Mary and I made an 800 nautical mile circumnavigation of Canada's Vancouver Island, in the same small boat.This 80 day wilderness odyssey was our first ''big date", forging a bond which has endured to this day.

Over the next five years we made even longer and more ambitious journeys by rowing boat and kayak. We supported our adventures by living frugally and doing a variety of carpentry, remodeling and repair projects at home on Orcas. We traveled with the most basic of equipment, a minimal budget and no publicity or sponsorship of any kind.

The most demanding voyage of all was a 4 1/2 month trip to the North Atlantic coast of Canada. After a transcontinental baggage handling expedition, we set out from the interior of the island of Newfoundland. Traveling in a 16' rubber, canvas, and wood folding kayak, we descended a rocky river to the coast and paddled west along the north shore of the island, for over a month.

Catching a coastal steamer headed north, we followed the summer breakup of the sea ice to the rugged and remote coast of Labrador. Taking to the water once again, we paddled north, along the barren and desolate but very beautiful shoreline. Seventy miles north of the Inuit village of Nain, we were finally forced to retreat by Arctic gales and the encroaching ice pack.

At work in the forge - 2006
At work in the forge - 2006
In 1984, we purchased 6 acres of densely forested land on Orcas Island. While living for 3 winters in a tent, we carved out a homestead and built our home. In the 4 years between 1986 and 1990, I took a break from construction work and made a living as a commercial fisherman in Southeast Alaska. In 1991, our first son, Forrest was born, followed a few years later by his brother Robin.

In 1992, I finished construction of the present shop building. Although initially I used the shop for woodworking, within a few years, I had made a leap to full time metalwork as a means to support a growing family. Self taught in the metal arts, I began to amass the tools and skills required.

Since 1996, I have pursued a full time career as an artist blacksmith. A steady line of wonderful and imaginative clients have supported us and made the business what it is today. I feel exceedingly fortunate to be doing what I love to do.



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Photography by Bill Dean, Mary Gropp, Steve Gropp, Martin Taylor

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