Your Place: A Bainbridge Island woman invests 1,700 hours of labor into a handcrafted backyard caravan

Amazing artistic skills, and generous community help, contribute to a mobile masterpiece based on a Ledge wagon built in 1910.

KNOW WHAT WE need? We need a soundtrack. We need Van Morrison, and “Caravan.” Know why? Because if you’ve heard that song (and really; you should), it will loop in your noggin for hours, and then days, once you lay eyes on the magnificently marvelous creation in Denise Harris’ backyard.

Denise lives in a fantastic off-the-beaten-path home on Bainbridge Island that she shared with her husband, Bob Cederwall, until his death in 2013.

Blessed with an amazing array of artistic skills (Denise is fluent in embossed serigraphs, printmaking, colored-pencil drawing, stained glass and jewelry-making), the couple really harmonized over woodworking. Bob cut trees from their property and milled them in his shop, and Denise creatively carved art.

“I’d say, ‘Bob, I need a piece of maple,’ ” Denise says.

Then Denise spoke the innocent-sounding words that led to 1,700 hours of labor (three or four hours a day in the shop of co-builder Dave Sutter, for three years); an islandwide collaboration of love and talent; and, ultimately, the 13-foot-long mobile masterpiece in her backyard: “I said it’d really be neat to build a Gypsy wagon.”

Inspiration arose naturally from the couple’s love of “carnivals, carousels, color and woodcarving,” Denise says; instruction was a little harder to come by.

Stairs lead to the welcome platform, and entry, of Denise Harris’ handcrafted caravan. She and her late husband, Bob Cederwall, bought the carriage lights while traveling. “They’re made to be on the side of the wagon, with a red taillight on back,” she says. “I had to hide the wires inside in the closet.” (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

“In ‘Making Model Gypsy Caravans’ by John Thompson, he made models of wagons,” Denise says. “He talks about types and materials. He did incredibly detailed drawings; we used those. That book — this is all we had to work from: drawings and pictures.”

Those were models, mind you. This is a full-size, usable, amazing caravan based on drawings of a Ledge wagon built in England by Dunton and Sons around 1910.

“They all had names,” Denise says. “This one has a ledge overhang. There are other types; the Bowtop wagon is the easiest. But what’s neat about the Ledge is there’s more room inside of it.”

Her roomy, super-authentic wagon was built…

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