> work experience
Gary Sisson was born and raised in Seattle,
Washington. The family home was built in 1890--an uncommon
Seattle residence in the post-war suburban trend of the 1950s.
As a child, the texture of the trim and well-worn wooden
flooring made a deep impression upon him. At age 14, Gary designed
and built his first boat in his attic bedroom.
In 1967 his family returned to the Cape
Cod, Massachusetts area where generations had lived before. During
high school, he built two more boats and found employment at
a boatyard, where he learned the skills of the trade from an
older crew of boatmen. At age 19 Gary started the Gulf
River Skiff Company,
constructing more than 20 classic wooden rowboats in his family’s
250-year-old barn. In his early twenties he moved to Maine,
where he built yachts at the well-known
Henry R. Hinckley Company
in Southwest Harbor.
Gary returned to the Pacific
Northwest in 1974 with his East Coast bride and found himself,
much like the early Western Washington pioneers, making homemade
New England-style furnishings to help alleviate her homesickness.
While establishing himself on Orcas Island, in the San Juan
Islands, he further honed his traditional woodworking skills
while serving as foreman, at Eastsound Bay Boats. Over the
years he helped build 17 of these unique all-wooden houseboats,
careful to retain the character of their original 1936 design.
starting mt.pickett woodworking
In the late 70’s, Gary
purchased acreage on Mt. Pickett in the Olga area of Orcas Island,
cleared the land by hand, and built his own Cape Cod-style home
and woodworking shop. He started his own company, Mt. Pickett
Woodworking, and began specializing in custom kitchen cabinetry.
It was here that he developed his signature techniques for
working with old wood, highlighting the textures and irregularities
inherent in these weathered building parts, rather
than machining them off, and using traditional methods such as
hand-planing to add texture and personalize each piece.
In those early years of business,
before Orcas Island was “discovered”,
work would often slow down in the winter. During these times
Gary would pack up his growing family into the old Landcruiser,
loaded down with their belongings and tools, and head east to
Hingham, Massachusetts, a town well known for its large stock
of impeccably restored historic homes and buildings. Here he
always had work with his wife’s cousin, Peter Bickford
who ran Bickford Restoration and Remodeling.This
afforded Gary a great opportunity to study, restore and recreate
the interiors and furnishings of many fine homes from the 19th,
and 18th and even 17th centuries.
These skills , some self-taught, some passed down to him by
older generations, are in high demand today with the growing
desire for handmade furnishings. With the
aid of his highly skilled craftsmen, Gary still labors over every
piece, lending each the unique stamp and simple grace of his
innate Yankee style and sensibility.
Gary's work has been described in:
The New York Times
Seattle Times' Pacific NW Magazine
and other publications