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Every night—if I want to get any sleep—I have to climb a ladder. 

I am not Rapunzel. I just sleep in the loft of my cottage. Descending while half-awake in the morning might seem treacherous, but the ladder I climb is a sturdy work of art. It’s the color of cherries and honey, the rungs curved and sanded smooth. 

One rainy November morning, I visited the place my ladder was made: a workshop in downtown Bishop, presided over by the artist Steve White. 

The ceilings in the shop soar, and the air smells of sawdust. Steve greeted me in work overalls. He paused in sanding the legs of a dining room table, a special order for a customer in Reno. 

For twenty years, Steve White has been creating furniture and smaller works of art here in Bishop. IKEA can take a hike. You won’t find pieces like Steve’s curved dressers, stools, rocking chairs, and mirrors anywhere else, in part because of the way the Eastern Sierra landscape plays into his work. A coat hanger carved in the shape of the Sierra crest hangs in my dad’s house, and a gleaming coffee table sits in mine, its corners peppered with little round holes. The design gives the table personality, and I love the story—the round “bubbles” are inspired by ice skating in the high country. “These are the air bubbles you find in frozen lakes,” Steve said, “all different sizes, nested together.”

As a kid, Steve was always building boats and tree houses. He went to engineering school and worked for NASA for three years, but the job was mostly design and not enough building, so Steve went into business for himself. As a carpenter and woodworker, he did additions and remodels, which lead him to design wooden staircases. “I got into curved stairs and spiral staircases,” he said, “and I just ran with that for about ten years, because it combined my knowledge of math—trigonometry—with my ideas for curved shapes.” 

In Steve’s shop, I got to learn about mortise and tenons, the sneaky components you never see that keep your dining room table from tipping over. “There are definitely structural considerations when you make furniture,” Steve explained. “You need this piece to be thick enough that it doesn’t bend, but not so thick that it looks clunky. A table needs a sturdy base so the top doesn’t tip.”   

I learned about different types of wood. Pine, it turns out, is not that exciting. Elm is hard on tools. “I’m spending so much time on the labor of a piece that I want really beautiful figured wood, with lots of grain to it,” Steve said. His favorite woods are cherry, maple, and walnut.” The tall, fragrant planks that lean against the shop walls might end up as a table top, the drawers of a dresser. 

Steve showed me zebra wood from Africa, which looks just the way it sounds, and planks of spalted maple, a pale wood etched with fine black lines, carved into the tree by fungus. “Sometimes they leave the wood on the ground on purpose and let the fungus get in it,” Steve said. “Some places think it’s garbage, and they give it away as junk.” 

Rewind two decades, and Steve is making wooden staircases in the Bay. “It was going along really well—and then we moved to Bishop.” Oofta. Moving to Bishop can be, as many of us know, a blow to a career. Yet even as a kid in Pennsylvania, Steve hung posters of Rocky Mountain peaks on his bedroom walls. He knew he wanted to live near mountains.

What landed Steve and his wife Sarah in Bishop, instead of some place like Tahoe or Mammoth? Sarah wanted to have a garden. (Thank you, Sierra snowmelt.) 

“At first I thought, geez, that’s a really hot place,” Steve said. “But okay, let’s do it!” 

That was twenty years ago. “I’m really glad,” he says now. “We couldn’t have made a better choice. The mountains here are great and I expected that, but I didn’t expect the sense of community. There’s a really great community here in Bishop. It’s a real place.” 

This real place isn’t the easiest for woodworking, however. Steve can’t get lumber in the Eastern Sierra—he has to haul it from San Francisco on the rack of his pickup. Shipping is tricky, too, since his furniture needs to be wrapped in blankets. But Steve says it’s worth it. “I didn’t do my career any favors by moving over here, to the middle of nowhere,” he said. “But for me it was more important to have the lifestyle, and then figure out the work.” 

Perhaps the very challenges posed by the Eastern Sierra contribute to the sense of community that keeps Steve hauling all that lumber. Here, we all have something in common: our relationship to the landscape, no matter how we might articulate that differently. The isolation and extremity of our environment serves as an automatic icebreaker.  

“That’s why so many people care about this place,” Steve said. “Because it’s rare.” 

Impressively, about half of Steve’s customers are local, and most of them are repeat. “Bishop is not a wealthy community in general, so I’m appreciative of all the customers I’ve had,” he said.   

The three-dimensionality of the Eastern Sierra landscape feeds Steve’s aesthetic sensibility, and the landscape works into his pieces in surprising ways, from cattail wall hangings to glass-topped tables counterweighted by eighty-pound granite boulders. 

For customers looking for something smaller, Steve builds ski hangers, clocks, Sierra crest coat hangers, and tabletop art made from sedimentary rock and pinecones. “I like curves. And nature is pretty much curves,” Steve said. 

I wondered what Steve’s art might look like, had he been working for twenty years someplace else. We decided this was unimaginable. 

“A lot of my inspiration comes from within myself, but I’m drawn to mountains,” he said. “That’s where I wanted to be, all my life. I don’t think I could have ended up anywhere else.” 

Here in the Eastern Sierra, we’re so lucky to be home to artists of Steve White’s caliber. (Sorry, NASA.) You can check out his work at www.stevenwhitewoodworking.com or stop by his studio at 336 Hammond Street.

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14 hours ago

Thank you to the Fairgrounds!!Let's give it up for our local Fairgrounds to step into a summer full of safe outdoor fun; featuring more space for RV and tent camping, plus big events like Mule Days, California High School Rodeo, a Drive-In and Tailgate Concert series - all at the Tri County Fairgrounds, in Bishop! They're planning for a bigger and better year, bigger stage, better sound, bigger acts, and better seats! 🎥🍿--

#inyocounty #tricountyfairgrounds #driveinmovie
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Thank you to the Fairgrounds!!

2 days ago

Look at this sweet foal that was born yesterday!! 😍 Quite a Mother’s Day gift!

Photo by Julie Faber
#visitbishop
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Look at this sweet foal that was born yesterday!! 😍 Quite a Mother’s Day gift! 

Photo by Julie Faber
#visitbishop

Comment on Facebook

Awww. Congratulations momma

Hi sweet baby.❤️

Sweet baby horse.

Aww adorable

Truly beautiful ....well done Mummy ❤

Beautiful!!!

Beautiful horses!

Que belleza 😊 me encanta todo lo que tenga que ver con los caballos, lindo y hermoso día

Sara Kvaas ... not sure if you follow this page, given how we love Aspendell!

Beautiful

💞

Sweetheart.

So pretty.

So cute

Ohhhh cute!

Awww 🥰

❤️🐎❤️❗️

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5 days ago

Wishing you and your littles a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!! ❤️

#visitbishop
Photo by Betsy Forsyth
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Wishing you and your littles a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!! ❤️

#visitbishop
Photo by Betsy Forsyth

Comment on Facebook

Always enjoyed fishing the canal.

Love Bishop and the Sierras

So beautiful and amazing pictures thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

My favorite place 😍🤗

We went a couple of years ago maybe 3 yrs ago what fun times we had there🤗

Beautiful

I think the big Brownies got a few of those

That's so cute.

Love that canal

Beautiful

Thank you 😊

Put any campfire completely out!

Sweet .

Be there soon

❤️😍

So many wonderful memories there!

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6 days ago

Last year... Please #RecreateResponsibly!!!Remember this from last year? The smoke was horrific, and most of the fires weren’t even right here. Please remind ANYONE that is going camping, be it here in Inyo County, or elsewhere, to PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE!!

Earlier this week Mammoth Lakes Fire Department responded to TWO different fires that started because campfires were not extinguished properly (one was a dispersed camping fire, and the other was in an area where fires are prohibited)!! It is going to be a tough year with the dry conditions, so we need to act accordingly!! Extreme fire conditions already exist. If you make a fire, please do it in a campground where there are fire pits, and make sure it is COMPLETELY out.

Please #RecreateResponsibly !!!
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Last year... Please #RecreateResponsibly!!!

Comment on Facebook

We need to stop the lightening and get rid of the power lines. No more electricity 🥰

Just everybody use common sense. And don't forget to pick up after yourselves. Leave no trace. <3

It gripes my ass when people just don't care. It doesn't take rocket science to put out a camp fire and to know how dry it is and we have international signs where people around the world know what they mean even when they can't read. They have no heart or respect for life animal's or human. I pray we don't have a repeat of last year.

It was awful, be careful out there. Be mindful of nature.

Its sound like it will be a dry summer across the west.....be careful....barb

Beautiful

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7 days ago

If you are wondering what it's looking like up Big Pine Creek, here is a shot from a couple of days ago. It is the view up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek from the North Fork trail. Thank you to Alan Haight for this stunning shot!!

We welcome you to send your beautiful photos to us in Messenger, or on Facebook or Instagram make sure to tag us #VisitBishop! Thank you!

#visitbishop #RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #bigpinecreek
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If you are wondering what its looking like up Big Pine Creek, here is a shot from a couple of days ago. It is the view up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek from the North Fork trail. Thank you to Alan Haight for this stunning shot!! 

We welcome you to send your beautiful photos to us in Messenger, or on Facebook or Instagram make sure to tag us #VisitBishop! Thank you! 

#visitbishop #RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #bigpinecreek

Comment on Facebook

Gosh this is beautiful!

Some of the most rugged terrain I've ever seen is up that canyon! Truly an amazing part of the Sierras.

Have hiked in this region. So beautiful

I highly recommend visiting Bishop. So much to see and do. 🤠

My old stomping grounds!💕

I LOVE BISHOP! ❤

Love the picture

Went as far as june lake

Gorgeous!

Love it there!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful!🏔

Beautiful!

Nice

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