One of my favorite cool carvings in Sausalito is one I see almost every day. It is the Miner Forty-Niner panning for gold outside our local hardware store, Waterstreet Hardware, at the corner of Caledonia and Litho Streets.
Albert, who has worked at Waterstreet since 1964, told me that Barney West carved the Miner.
Barney West, Tiki Carver
Barney West settled in Sausalito in 1958. In 1963 he established an outdoor carving studio at the foot of Napa Street near his houseboat which became known as Tiki Junction. As you can see from my recent photo, the cool carvings tradition continues in that spot to this day!
Cool Carvings at Tiki Junction
Barney West learned to sculpt wood in the Marquesan Islands of South Pacific when he survived the torpedoing of his ship in WW II. He swam to a friendly island where he was marooned for six months. West’s sculptures were carved from redwood, often using a chainsaw. Many of his pieces are in Trader Vic’s Restaurants all over the United States. Learn about the history of Tiki Junction from the Sausalito Historical Society in this excellent article. Sculptor Steve Weaver trained under Barney West and continues the Tiki carving tradition here today.
Al E. Sybrian, Sausalito Sculptor
Sausalito has been home to a variety of cool carvers; Al E. Sybrian was another one of those sculptors who left his mark. Sybrian’s beloved bronze Sea Lion sculpture sits near the Sausalito seawall where it swims at high tide and presides over seagulls at low tide. This plaque by Sybrian hangs with other locally made art in Sausalito City Hall. The beautiful high-relief wood carving titled “Flight of Youth” shows birds and clouds in a swirling abstract design.
In the forward to The Sea Lion and The Sculptor, Bill Kirsch, executive editor, writes: “Al Sybrian was a creative, soulful person who recorded his thoughts about himself, life, art and relationships in an insightful, profound and interesting manner. He spent his artistic life with absolutely no desire for fame or money. His blue-collar attitude about work, his disdain for politics, and his love of argument endeared him to friends and acquaintances throughout his life.”
The Record Plant
There are some amazing cool carvings on the entry doors to the famous recording studio, The Record Plant which is tucked away in back the Bay Model. An active recording studio from 1972 to 2008, the Record plant hosted recordings by such music greats as The Grateful Dead, Prince, Linda Ronstadt and Sly and the Family Stone. The carved doors show a fanciful band of animal musicians including an owl playing the saxophone, a pig on trumpet, a bear playing the fiddle. I did some digging on the Internet but so far I haven’t found out who carved these doors. If any of you readers have that information, please let me know!
Another example of cooling carvings that I see daily is the window of Sparrow Creek Montessori School on Caledonia Street.
Headmistress Judith Bang-Kolb based the design of the school windows on a dream. One window shows a sparrow in flight, the other a rising sun. She made her dream of the school reality by teaching herself carpentry and enlisted the support of the local artist’s community. That was the 1970s but today the Sparrow Creek Montessori School remains a beloved vital part of Sausalito’s community.
If you visit Sausalito, you’ll be able to enjoy some of these cool carvings. Until then, I hope this post is the next best thing.