We warmly welcome back Travis Skinner to Saunatimes. We first learned about his unique sauna building projects with is Snail Shell Sauna, detailed here. Since then, Travis has been involved with multiple projects, and we are happy to revisit Travis’ sauna building work with you:
Hi Travis, so when and where did you first get attracted to Sauna?
I started participating in sweats with my friends Joseph Becker and Tibor Breur. There was a regularly scheduled men’s sweat once a month in Olympia, Washington. We would get together and have a ceremony, lead by Tibor at his house.
Where are you are living and building saunas now?
I spent time building at SunRay Kelley’s homestead a few years ago and got connected with a small sauna on his property. Several years later, I have relocated my shop and home (the Leafspring) to his property in Sedro Woolley, Washington. Now we have the option to sauna in SunRay’s yurt sauna or the Anglerfish Sauna. I am hoping to take on commission projects and small teaching workshops at the studio.
The anglerfish sauna is an incredibly unique build. Tell us about the sauna’s design and manufacturing elements.
The Anglerfish Sauna is the keystone project of all my experiments. It is a collaboration piece with Travis Conn. Travis Conn is a very talented sheet metal smith who developed his style while making armor. I recognized Travis’ ability to see and work in three dimensions and I took classes with him to learn about raising and chasing. Over time we developed the idea of an architectural collective that we named the Hundred Handed Ones. The collective nature of architecture celebrates working together with many hands rooted in the wisdom of technique, skill and practice. While working with this umbrella organization the projects can grow with the skill sets of the humans involved.
You used locally sourced Western Red Cedar from NW Washington. Talk us through the process of bending cedar and how it contributes to the curving of this Anglerfish sauna form.
The Anglerfish Sauna demonstrates media based design, ie using the shapes and forms the media naturally accepts. For Example, Western Red Cedar is very pliable and flexible when wet, so one technique I learned while working with SunRay Kelley was milling cedar trees that are a little green (or wet) and then bending them into place and allowing them to dry once they are flexed.
I built a dome with SunRay and learned some principles of bending cedar and I saw the fish as a perfect chance to try this technique in a new way. We built a skeleton arch frame and then bent the cedar boards over the frame to get the contours of the fish. Once the shape was established I ran diagonal furring strips and filled the space in between the laminated furring strips with spray foam. I bent a final layer of flexible plywood over this insulation layer and screwed the scales to these final ply furring strips that were placed proportionally with the scales.
Once the wooden frame was established, we built the cantilevered wood stove tail with the aid of our friend Loren Patterson. With the tail and stove in place, I began work on the interior and Travis Conn worked on the brass exterior. One additional crafts person had their fingerprint on this project, Kevin Regan of Central Glass Works. Kevin blew the eyeball windows and the lure bulb in his glass studio.
Every craftsperson who worked on this project was influential in the design based on their skill and experience and were really a pleasure to work with, even through the head scratching :).
The anglerfish sauna is mobile. Does it travel well? Where have you and will you be bringing the sauna?
Now the Anglerfish is ready for her maiden voyage into the abyss! She is road worthy and ready to go. We really want to show this project and share our functional form. The Anglerfish Sauna showcases these principles in an experience.
How many saunas have you built? Please tell us a little bit about another one or two.
I have built several saunas in the past couple of years. The first, the Snail Shell Sauna, was a commission project for the Easterly Farm in Olympia, Washington. It is a concentric ring octagon yurt with a fibonnacci sequence entryway. The second sauna I worked on was a collaboration project with Mark Goodson of Engaging Environments, LLC. We worked together to build the Steamroller in Portland, Oregon.
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