He created the Rocket Donuts’ rocket in downtown Bellingham and has been a contractor for 25 years designing multimillion-dollar homes in the Pacific Northwest. Now, Alexei Ford has just opened Ruckus, a downtown art gallery just a stone’s throw from the Bellingham Farmers Market.
Ruckus prides itself on combining an authenticity of the West with a modern organic appeal and rugged functionality. A love for weathered wood, leather, rust and canvas fills the carefully curated space. A painting of a ship, or one of a man playing an accordion, can be seen next to a table made from old bridgebuilding wrenches. Another table is converted from an old wheelbarrow. Onyx earrings, bracelets and belt buckles nestle alongside necklaces. Ford designed the space to highlight the artists, sculptors and jewelry he brought in.
“The quality of the people is a lot about what I want. I’m not interested in a real pretentious type of environment,” Ford says. “I want something that feels genuine and authentic to the majority of the people that will come in here.”
Ford said he wanted to create a space that people from all walks of life could enjoy. Whether it is an expensive piece, or something less expensive, he wants people to feel welcome here.
As a child, Ford had an eclectic upbringing. He moved all around California during the 1960s, he says, and he had the opportunity to play Frank Zappa’s drums as a toddler. He once shared dinner in a cabin with Bob Dylan. As he got older, he would hang out the window of the car with his Instamatic camera taking endless photos of architecture.
Ford would go on to learn welding from his father and spend time woodworking and partnering with architects. He learned how to build homes from beginning to end. Ford said he finds beauty in many places, often gaining inspiration from conversations he has with other people.
“I love entropy,” he says, referring to unpredictability or a decline into distorder, and “the idea of weathered wood, rusty steel. I like seeing the history and the origin of product. It often steers me towards what I create, and I am looking for that in artists too. I am looking for a very rich kind of authentic sense of place.”
One of Ford’s main motivations was to create a space where artists in the community can thrive and not have to be competitive. He says this is part of why he doesn’t bring in too much of his own work.
“I really wanted to give the gallery to the artists in the community and my goal is to just to participate,” he says.
Some of the canvas prints include “Tuscan Sunflower” and “Big Poppies” by Vivian Mazzola. Lorna Libert’s oil paintings of an anchored ship, “Gloria,” and horse painting “Bart, the Boy Next Door” are near the entryway, and Lucas Walker’s “Oyster House” paintings reside behind the jewelry cases.
Ford said finding jewelry that is unique and fits the character of Ruckus was a challenge. Currently Ruckus carries jewelry by locals Frank Goss and Sacha Bliese. He says he feels they really capture the combination of elegance and rawness that he was looking for.
He might be biased, he says, but one of his favorite pieces is one he got to work on with his father. “Cook on the Night Train” is a canvas print made by his father to which Ford added a frame made from a repurposed stainless-steel beer cooler door, lawn chair pieces, 1940s computer parts and an antique model train track.
Ruckus has also recently hosted RARE, Recycled Art and Resource Expo, where people made musical instruments, among other things, from recycled materials. Musicians performed using their instruments, and a puppet show with repurposed materials and props was held.
This is the kind of inclusive atmosphere Ford said he wants to foster. He said he is looking for events like this and he says he imagines being able to one day mesh events like a watercolor show for artists 70 and older with a vintage Harley Davidson show. In other words, Ford wants to create a ruckus.
“’Ruckus’ is a name that’s inspired by what it means, a cacophony of sounds, it’s a jubilance,” Ford says. “There’s a hootenanny going on, and ultimately I want that kind of energy going on.”
228 E. Maple St., Bellingham
360.220.4833 | ruckusartgallery.co