- Skip Thomsen was born
and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and from an early age
was fascinated by stained glass, woodworking, general art and
design, exotic cars, electronics, airplanes, Harleys, The Mighty
Sierra and the Awesome Ocean. Oh yeah, and girls.
- Some forty years ago,
he found an inspiring glass artist in his then hometown of Lafayette,
California, and learned that this person was offering classes.
The glass-art passion began.
- Thomsen moved to Oregon
a few years later and started a glass studio there. Another few
years later, he decided to combine his then-active woodworking
skills and glass art, the result being pieces such as those featured
on his Pandanus Designs Web Site (Link below.)
- He spent a lot of time
in Hawai'i from 1972-74 and was moved by the incredible splendor
of these Islands. After several moves around Oregon and even
some exploratory time in New Zealand, he finally relocated there
(the intention was to stay) in 1993. His continued awe of Hawai'i's
beauty was the inspiration behind much of his art. His studio
was then in his home in the hills of Hilo.
- As a glimpse into Thomsen's
other varied ventures over the years, he owned and operated a
large facility in the San Francisco Bay Area that was devoted
to all aspects of buying, selling, and the repair and maintenance
of exotic cars, vintage and newer. He designed and built successful
show cars, restored antique vehicles to their original condition,
and also did engine conversions. These mostly involved installing
modern engines, transmissions, and electrical systems in vintage
cars that the owners wanted for reliable daily drivers as opposed
to preserving them as antiques or collector cars. This was all
way back in the late '60s to early '70s, and another shop was
in operation in Oregon until 1989.
- In 1979, Thomsen built
a homestead on 108 acres of Oregon forest wilderness (on the
north-eastern slope of Mt. Hood), designing and building the
house, shop, other outbuildings, and the alternative electrical
system that ran the entire place. Friends encouraged him to write
a manual on how to duplicate the electrical system, and thus
began his still-operating publishing company, Oregon Wordworks.
He has written and published half a dozen books on various topics
over the years, as well as many magazine articles. He and his
then-wife also ran a companion business there, an arts-and-entertainment
newspaper with a North Coast circulation of 5000 copies.
- His last four years on
the Mainland before moving to Hawai'i were in the little Oregon
Coast town of Manzanita, where he held a General Contractor's
license and designed and built four custom spec homes and remodeled
a few more. One of his houses and the art-glass in it is featured
on the Web site.
- While in Oregon, he earned
his pilot's license and funded his flying by buying two older
airplanes (4-seat Cessna Skyhawks) and using his automotive,
machine-shop and electronics skills to refurbish them into nearly-new
condtion. During those years, his airplanes served him well by
chauffeuring his then teen son to and from boarding school, plus
lots of business and pleasure flights, as well. The airplanes
took him to auto auctions in California, Oregon And Washington,
where he was a licensed auto dealer for many years.
In their last 12 years in Hawai'i, Thomsen and his wife, Camille
have been buying old, '50s plantation style homes and bringing
them back to their original grace and charm. Never a dull moment!
And throughout the entire 19 years in Hawaii, Thomsen was never
without at least one Harley, and he rode his bikes everywhere.
He bought a few basket-cases and brought them back to as-new,
keeping the best ones around for a while. The last one, a big,
black, loud Road King went to its happy new owner two days before
the Thomsens took their last flight from the Islands.
Their last home in Hilo was a classic plantation-style that was
built in 1948 and is the first home they have ever owned that
needed no repairs or updating. Now there would be time for art
. . . but in their six years there, a twist entered their lives.
For those last several years, Skip & Camille had been making
more and more trips to California's Bay Area to visit their kids
and grandkids. It was getting ever more expensive, more complicated
and less comfortable to make these trips, so as happens with
many Hawai'i families separated by that ocean, they decided to
start a search for a possible new home near the kids. It was
a Serious Big Deal to even consider leaving the Islands.
Living in or near a big city was not an option, so they started
looking at possibilities within an hour or two of the Bay Area.
They found a great place in Forestville, California. Deep in
the beautiful Sonoma County Redwoods but at the top of a hill
with lots of sunshine, this home is three minutes from a beautiful
Russian River beach, it is near the ocean, and is quiet and serene.
There's a beautiful feeling of community there that reminds one
of Aloha, and it is now their new home. There is a brand new
glass studio behind the house, and a complete woodworking shop,
Another new twist has entered into the adventure. Thomsen has
always been interested in designing and building furniture and
has built much of what is in their own home. Soon after relocating
back to California, he got the word around and received some
commissions to build furniture in the currently-in-vogue retro-industrial-chic
style for some San Francisco clients. This turned out to be so
much fun that he is now designing and building the work that
is featured on this Web site. The art-glass is taking a backseat
to the furniture, as the demand is just not there as it was in
- So now we're up to date
in this goofy, if somewhat out of sequence bio. This is only
because many, if not most, of Thomsen's various life adventures
(experiments?) overlapped by years. For example, Oregon Wordworks
has been in operation continuously since 1989 and is still alive
and well; the flying years were from about '84 - '93 when Thomsen
moved to Hawai'i; the homestead years were from '78 - '89; and
his two mainland stained-glass studios, both in Oregon, were
from '74 - '93. There were four years as a General Contractor
in Manzanita, Oregon from '89 until '93, and there was another,
albeit smaller, glass studio in operation there, too. The auto
business was from about 1960 (!) through '89, but he continued
as a licensed auto wholesaler and shop-owner from then until
'93, dealing mostly exotic cars in the auction arena in California,
Oregon and Washington.
- Thomsen's best friend,
a guy with whom he attended Berkeley High School in the '50s,
still asks him, "When are you going to grow up and get a
- Gee, he must be very old!
- Thomsen has three kids
and five grandkids. All but one of the kids live in the SF Bay
Area, and she is in Arizona. Camille has one daughter and family,
with two granddaughters who also live in the Bay Area.