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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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11 hours ago

Are you spending your Sunday relaxing, doing something you love, or sharing it with someone special? Wishing you a beautiful day!
#visitbishop
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Are you spending your Sunday relaxing, doing something you love, or sharing it with someone special? Wishing you a beautiful day!
#visitbishop

 

Comment on Facebook

So love bishop My late husband spent every holiday except Christmas there with our motorhome So many wonderful memories

Love the beautiful starry skies..

I'm spending my day wishing I was there. It's good to have goals! 🥰

My retirement goal!

Love it up there

Oh gosh I have so many wonderful memories of sitting by a lake or creek or river up in Bishop. ❤️

Yep. My bride of 42 years & I just returned from a week’s long visit to Bishop. We can’t wait to go back!

I lived there for 14 years. One of my boys was born there. Truly miss the Eastern Sierra. Bishop was special and still is.

Just got home from spending 4 absolutely grand days there!! Loved every minute looking forward to the next trip!

I want to go back and visit

Mt. Goode from Long Lake

Marlena Leister

when ever I drive thru Bishop I know I'm getting close to home and when I stop in Bishop it's usually to rest for a day and relax.

Paradise

Cesar Sanchez

No but some day maybe

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1 day ago

Checking the view from one of our favorite trees. Yup, another beautiful day in Bishop 😍.
#visitbishop
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Checking the view from one of our favorite trees. Yup, another beautiful day in Bishop 😍.
#visitbishop

 

Comment on Facebook

That tree in the fall is one of my favorite spots

Beautiful.oak tree!!!!!

It’s a great place to visit

It is beautiful 🤩

I forgot, when does it start cooling off up there? Is it September or October? I want to visit (when I can), but I'd prefer in one of the cooler, mild seasons (like Fall or Spring).

Was just there !!

California

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2 days ago

How many of you are familiar with these old buildings south of Olancha? Well, here's a little history about them:Motorists traveling on El Camino Sierra about 14 miles south of Olancha, have probably noticed the ruins of a few dilapidated rock buildings with accompanying other small structures and mobile homes on the west side of the highway. This would be Dunmovin. First known as Cowan's Station, it served as a way station for the Cerro Gordo feight wagons, a supply center for nearby mines, a work camp for LADWP construction workers and finally as a gas station, garage, motel and cafe for travelers on El Camino Sierra. When Charles and Hilda King purchased the property in 1936, Hilda was relieved to finally be "settled down" and renamed the property as Dunmovin...according to this little poem credited to Hilda. "We’ve moved from yon to hither Now we’re set and provin In all the world we are perhaps The only folks dunmovin" Like many such establishments, fuel efficient and more reliable cars spelled the end of Dunmovin. It closed for good in the early 1970s...and now stands as a sentimental reminder of times gone by along El Camino Sierra. Thank you for following us on Facebook if you enjoy our posts, and for sharing them with others you think may enjoy them. We sincerely appreciate it! ... See MoreSee Less

How many of you are familiar with these old buildings south of Olancha? Well, heres a little history about them:

 

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Me, driving to a Bishop, many times. Also Crystal Springs Water, too!,

Wow I never knew this existed. Going to have to check this out on my next visit. Thanks for the new adventure.

Great place to visit

At the top of the Dunmovin grade is the turnoff to Haiwee Power Plant. I worked there for a year from the summer of '78. The Espee spur line from Mojave to Lone Pine was still in operation with weekly (?) peddler freights headed to town. The China Lake Weapons Center conducted aerial operations all up and down the Paniment and Owens Valleys including strafing runs over the dam. Loved that year. I'll never forget it

Great info!

Love the history! We always chuckled at the name of Dunmovin but didn’t know the history.

Can't swear to it, but I think I remember passing those as a kid in the 50s, maybe 60s, and they were occupied?

My parents use to be friends with some people who lived there/owned it. Cant remember his name, but I believe he was a Lawyer...

HAHA--I TOLD you Tim Alls!!! ;0 LOL

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2 days ago

Nature is incredible... Photo of Norman Clyde Peak and Glacier (or what’s left of it) reflected in a small tarn at 11,600ft elevation in the South Fork of Big Pine Creek.
Thanks @deserth2o for the photo!!
#visitbishop
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Nature is incredible... Photo of Norman Clyde Peak and Glacier (or what’s left of it) reflected in a small tarn at 11,600ft elevation in the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. 
Thanks @deserth2o for the photo!!
#visitbishop

 

Comment on Facebook

Always beautiful scenery

Awesome 😎

,BEAUTIFUL AREA

We used to live there. We could look out our window and see it every day

Home Sweet Home

Beautiful

Been there when glacier filled this valley in late summer and fall. Sad to see them melt away

Great picture. Norman Clyde was one incredible men of history. Had an interesting life. Wonder if his story is being told in schools today? One case where truth is much better than fiction. <3

Ryan Johnson

Cesar Sanchez

Jana Weaver

Niki Hansen-Daniel

Next time? Jorge Vargas

California

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watermelon_snow

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4 days ago

This is the view from the top of Mt. Tom, in case you have ever wondered what it’s like up there. Many of us love this majestic mountain, but will never see the summit in person. @tarahhnasaurus is a single mom who is achieving her goals and inspiring us. Thank you for the photo!!!
#visitbishop
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This is the view from the top of Mt. Tom, in case you have ever wondered what it’s like up there. Many of us love this majestic mountain, but will never see the summit in person. @tarahhnasaurus is a single mom who is achieving her goals and inspiring us. Thank you for the photo!!! 
#visitbishop

 

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Full value, great day.

Congrats Lady!

Always wanted to climb Mt.Tom! Closest I came was living on Mt. Tom Rd!

Outstanding !!!!!!

Great view from up there.

Yes! Thanks for sharing.

Amazing!

Thanks for sharing!! Hiked up to Horton lakes about 40 years ago wanted to keep going, but my buddy’s didn’t

Beautiful but way to High for me😳☺ I don't do high things that well☺

Nice😎

Doug Foley and I climbed Tom back in the 80's. My Ma used to live in Rovana.

thanks for posting this beautiful picture...I don't think I have ever seen a picture from the top of Mt. Tom Kudos to you !

I have been there (as well as on top of Humphreys) and I can attest, the view is sublime! The rock skiing to get down is quite entertaining as well!

I want to go there

Mt Tom was the first summit I did as a teen. Until I climbed it I imagined that I'd look down onto Fresno. I was really surprised to see so many more mountains on the other side.

My oldest maternal cousin met his fate on the flanks of Mt. Tom.

Climbed to the top with Skye and Scotty on Dara’s 50th BD! It was awesome! What a view!

Rachael Nicole Banton this is the peak we see when we hike George like

Single mom, with many "friends " to take her places

Way to go lady!!! You ROCK!! 👍

Any rock climbing with that? Lol! I'd like to try it if it's non-technical. Some boulder scrambling is expected but I'd have to train to readjust to that altitude.

Wow

Matt Cunningham

Cody

💪💪 Appears taller than Ragged Mountain in Penobscot County, Maine.

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