SunRay Kelley Revisited

On November 29, I posted a link to a large New York Times article on SunRay Kelley. In retrospect, it’s not really good or fair reportage on SunRay; it doesn’t do him justice. Part of it is East Coast reporter snark about West Coast free-spiritedness. Part of it is that the reporter just didn’t get SunRay— that he’s not only an artist, designer, architect, and inventor, but a master builder. His mortise and tenon joints, even with gnarly lumber, are tight. He’s a carpenter whose buildings soar. There’s a joy and a spirit in both builder and buildings. The NYTimes reporter missed all this and focussed on a bunch of trivialities.

    And there was a very weird interview with SunRay’s ex-wife, who came up with some mean-spirited comments. This shouldn’t have been included in the article. Cheap shot, ex-wife-wise and journalistic-wise.

   SunRay’s way better than you’d get from this account. In my opinion, there’s no other natural materials builder in the world who’s combined such ecology, design, and craftsmanship in so many buildings on the American landscape.

   Just settin it straight…

    For anyone interested in SunRay and his work, we have posted a PDF of the 27 pages we did on him and his work in Builders of the Pacific Coast in 2004. (We do—ahem—a way better job on builders than does the New York Times.)

   For the real SunRay, click here. (To get this in Acrobat, you may have to right-click and save linked file in downloads folder.)

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

7 Responses to SunRay Kelley Revisited

  1. I read the Times article at the time and immediately dismissed it. The reporter was a perfect example of how far down the standards of reporting have become. SunRay is da man!

  2. Lloyd, Sun Ray

    have to say, i have NO skill in making anything at all.. Having said that..however.. I have looked at thousands of pics of interesting built structures..details of joining, unique materials and such.. Also, have looked at pics of much of Sun Ray's work..and

    Oh YES..they have a solid beauty… artisitic and useful and practical, and unique, all rolled into one..

    I look at pictures like this, because they make me smile, and give me a route to imagining more value, art, humor and feeling, than the general square box home….

    I only read a small bit of the writer's article… although i was interested in the subject (SunRay), I felt no connection, no pull to read this writier's words… Had no idea why this writier was assigned, but i suspected it was not his main "interest", and he wrote only to complete some assignment..I, as is now rather obvious, thought little of this writer's technique, etc, and if I were to ever recal his name, would pass on by the next article..Mayhaps this lack of skill on writier's part, explains the poor coverage of SunRay.

    All you said about SunRay's technique, Lloyd, for sure i would agree (not that I know that stuff)..but more, i would add…SunRay does all you said, and takes the mind and spirit to …………..(good places).

  3. I'll agree the writer got a bit lazy. Perhaps the article was snarky. Perhaps it didn't give credit where credit was due. It was, however, interesting to hear about Sun Ray from an outsider's perspective instead of from the choir. The two articles together make for an interesting picture.

  4. Thanks for the rebuttal, Lloyd. That kind of flippant article just confirms my extreme wariness around mainstream urban newspaper reporters.

  5. He's not conforming correctly… roast him, paint him a hint of negative so it eases the fear, how offensive this Sun Ray to make something beautiful, using imagination and art, raw material, skill and hard work. He better be perfect or we'll find the hairline crack in the sterile vaccume.

  6. shoddy journalism aside, i was happy to see this living working master featured in the mainstream press.if i'm the ironic falsetto in the choir, i'm singing: if i can make it there – i can make it anywhere -new york – new york. kudos on the new book lloyd.

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