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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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20 hours ago

Who loves to get up where the oxygen is thin??!! Mt. Langley is one of the many 14,000' peaks here in our backyard. If you are coming this way, make sure to check out the current guidelines and state regulations. www.bishopvisitor.com/covid/
#KeepBishopOpen #KeepInyoOpen
Thanks, @wanderlena82 for this awesome shot!
... See MoreSee Less

Who loves to get up where the oxygen is thin??!! Mt. Langley is one of the many 14,000 peaks here in our backyard. If you are coming this way, make sure to check out the current guidelines and state regulations. https://www.bishopvisitor.com/covid/
#KeepBishopOpen #KeepInyoOpen 
Thanks, @wanderlena82 for this awesome shot!

Comment on Facebook Who loves to get up ...

I went up to 12,500 at Ski Apache in Ruidoso, N.M. My head nearly exploded.

Yep. I feel so amazing in high altitudes.

Very well done. I’ve never been over 12,000 and that just about ended me.

Why cant we post pics on this site anymore?

Been there a couple of times. Better than Whitney

Congratulations!

BEAUTIFUL

I like those kinds of places. You can get a natural high. I think I've been there before. Hope to get back there soon. <3

Badassery

Great photo! Looking great @ 14k+ ❤️

Definitely has a great view

...would have done it 40 years ago

How come females look so good after bagging a peak, but guys look tuckered out?

Mammoth parade starts at 11:00

Always head up to Whites Mountain for Ancient Bristol Cone Forest.

Awesome

Been up there.

My friend Jack McBroom from Hemet climbed the highest 14 peaks on California in about four and a half days. Not sure that is still the record but I know it was for awhile. Sports Illustrated did an article about him.

Hayden Pester adding this to our list

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2 days ago

In case you need to do a little reflecting today....

Thanks for the beautiful shot of Honeymoon Lake, @biffnix
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen #MaskWashDistance
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In case you need to do a little reflecting today.... 

Thanks for the beautiful shot of Honeymoon Lake, @biffnix  
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen #MaskWashDistance

Comment on Facebook In case you need to ...

So beautiful California gold 😊😊❤❤

Reflection pix are my fav 🤩

Oh my, unimaginable beauty! Stunning!

Beautiful

So where exactly is this lake?

Just amazing!

Beautiful

Incredible!

See you there 4ofjuly

Can’t wait to get back up there!

I love it!

I like that you can go there even when you aren't on a Honeymoon. Even single folks go there. <3

So which side is up? Lol Great shot 👌!

Maayan Damti

Gorgeous.

Can't wait for August 1st will be there a whole week

Absolutely beautiful

Sharp knife and a shave! Awesome.

That water is like glass!

How beautiful

Hot creek. Much good for skin! Be respectful of native americans!!!!

Amazing

Hopefully we'll be able to go up there Labor Day weekend.

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3 days ago

The night sky here sure is something magical. 😍

Thank you, @Pat Pester for this beautiful shot!
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen
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The night sky here sure is something magical. 😍

Thank you, @Pat Pester for this beautiful shot!
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen

Comment on Facebook The night sky here ...

Amazing! Don't see this very often!

The stars at night are beautiful. Miss them

Just beautiful. One of many reasons I love going there

Just spent 3 days there. Beautiful as always.

Missed my annual trip this past Memorial Day weekend, the beautiful Eastern Sierras Lake Sabrina South Lake etc were always so peaceful & tranquil to visit!

Absolutely amazing 😉

So beautifulth thanks for sharing 😊😊❤❤

13 days..... I We’ll be there!!!!

South Lake

This is at bishops??

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6 days ago

Happy Friday!! Ahhhhh, Big Pine Creek, looking sooooo good!
Thank you, @Pat Pester for the photo!
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Happy Friday!! Ahhhhh, Big Pine Creek, looking sooooo good!
Thank you, @Pat Pester for the photo!

Comment on Facebook Happy Friday!! ...

Beautiful!! I wish I would be there!!

Such breath taking beauty! I so 💙 the Sierra's, and have many awesome memories of my times there. Thanks for sharing! 🌞

I love second lake especially for the view of temple crag

Just magnificent!

Great picture love Bishop

I wish the same as you Mary!

Was up there last week. Weather was perfect. Hiked up to Chickenfoot while I was there.

Still having earthquakes?

Been there! Beautiful!

Wonderful picture

Spent fathers day week there

Love the Sierras.

Beautiful!

Remember doing this hike. Gorgeous

So beautiful

Headed that way soon! 🏕

Beautiful

Sure hope to get there soon.

Very peaceful setting.

Breathtaking

Beautiful

What a godly view. On the hwy. drive you can see Snow on top of Mount Whitney mountains, so awesome during in month of June when its hot

Mt. Sill ! Sally Spear Molé. Stephen Busch . Do remember climbing this mountain Stephen ? That was an adventure !

I used to live in the town of Big pine many years ago

I wish !!!

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7 days ago

We love seeing folks doing their part to #KeepInyoOpen by wearing their face coverings! #lovebishop
Thank you, Chris Bubser for Congress for this cool shot!
#visitbishop
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We love seeing folks doing their part to #KeepInyoOpen by wearing their face coverings!  #lovebishop
Thank you, Chris Bubser for Congress for this cool shot!
#visitbishop

Comment on Facebook We love seeing folks...

Thank you for doing your part. Just get used to it, we're in it for the long haul. It doesn't hurt to err on the side of caution. I would.

Best little town in the West. I hope you're all hanging in there. Stay safe so I can visit this fall!

I love Bishop because of it’s proximity to Death Valley and the Sierras. On a motorcycle!

A family hiking out in the mountains on a warm summer day..... with masks on. This has to be the stupidest photo on FB all day.

Ah, wearing a mask outdoors in the Sierra's. They're obeying their globalist masters. Good little sheep.

What a sad picture that this family appears to be out in the countryside ,away from people, wearing a mask..

You don’t need masks if you are outside hiking with your family.

Makes no sense to go up to the mountains for fresh mountain air just to breathe in your own co2

The masks with the exhale feature on it does not block your droplets from exiting and infecting the people around you.

That is not the Bishop I grew up in. We didn’t live in fear‼️ Bishop as lost it’s way. Sad fir a beautiful area ,

What time does the 4th of July parade start ?

masks are nonsense,, please stop

I really miss living there. Be back soon.

Enough of this bs. No way I would go hiking in the mtns and wear a mask. Just may as well stay in the cesspool known as LA County and breathe the air here with a mask on.

Hopefully the mask wearing works, cause the social distancing and all the sanitizing isn’t...

Wearing masks in fresh mountain air & sunshine. Just can't fix stupid.

More crying 😢 about wearing a mask. Pitiful little babies!!

Guess I won’t go this year👎

Jeeping this 4th of July!

More sheep

Looking good!

Yellow star,mask..same thing advocated by the same types of people.

No more masks.

Missing hometown

Lived in Bishop early 90's. Can't believe what houses cost there now!!!

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