Design—and the marriage of function and beauty—was always in the air, and sea, for Brendan Ravenhill. When he was a child, for instance, his father, then chief curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, helmed an exhibit called “The Art of the Personal Object.” But it was Brendan’s childhood summers on Islesford Harbor on the coast of Maine that had perhaps the most steady, staying impact. He became fascinated by the functionality of tools and wooden boats, going on to become a year-round lobsterman, then the co-founder of Islesford Boatworks, a boat-building school on Little Cranberry Island. He studied sculpture at Oberlin and industrial design at RISD and launched Ravenhill Studio in LA, where his team of twenty makes products, they say, “that have meaning beyond aesthetics and trend.” (Their headquarters is in the corner Capitol Records plant, which once pressed records for the Beatles.)
One Ravenhill project, however, hews closer to home for Brendan, floating in his childhood haunt of Islesford Harbor: the Sea Sauna, a full-sized sculpture of a sort, part wooden boat, part elemental design where nothing is in excess. The sauna was created during the first wave of the Covid pandemic, in June 2020, coming together with the help many gifted and salvaged components and much kismet.
Now the small structure floats in the Islesford Harbor for ten weeks out of the year, available to the community for a sauna and a plunge in the cold Maine sea. Provided you have a little rowboat or dinghy to get to it, of course.
Take a look at the building process and the finished result.