Making an Impression with Russell Studio
By Kerri Regan
With VisionNovember 2015
By Kerri Regan
Photos: James Mazzotta
The sleek, cube-shaped printer hums gently on Ryan Russell’s desk, midway through creating a tiny model of a house – each layer so small that it’s impossible to see with the naked eye.
The slow-but-steady process parallels the architect’s approach to building a more vibrant community – one home, one parklet, one invention at a time.
And although the 2003 Central Valley High School graduate could have lived virtually anywhere after obtaining his master’s degree in architecture from the University of California at Los Angeles, he chose to return to Shasta County and establish Russell Studio, which provides architectural and 3D printing services.
“There were more opportunities for architects in LA, but I felt called back here,” Russell says. “This was the place I was supposed to be. I’m trying to have influence in a place where there’s space to do so. I love any project that I can see will help Redding become a more lively, active, fun place to be.”
He’s a visionary who fell in love with 3D printing at UCLA, and in his home office’s printing lab, he creates prototypes for designers, artists, inventors, hobbyists, students, teachers and businesspeople to bring their creative ideas to life.
The technology industry is growing here, and he wanted to be able to turn inventors’ sketches into prototypes. “I can bring their ideas to life,” Russell says. “The client can touch, feel, see and understand what they’re getting.”
3D printing is useful for people who are inventing bicycle parts or phone cases, for instance, because they can test it and see if it works. A company in the Bay Area had him create a prototype of a rechargeable battery case so they could ensure that the enclosed battery was able to “breathe” properly.
As a child he “loved to build stuff ” using K’nex, Legos and Lincoln Logs. “I also really loved to draw – I had design sense even when I was little,” he says. And even as a junior high student, he knew he wanted to own a business. “I had an elective where we used a program to build a home in 3-D, and I put rooms in weird places,” he says. “I look back in my life and see lots of moments where architecture was there.”
Russell has been married for two years to Suzanne, who owns a hair product company. They worked at a local restaurant together 11 years ago, lost touch, then reconnected after nearly a decade. The couple cofounded the Northern California Anti-Trafficking Coalition, which aims to eradicate sex trafficking in the North State. In September, they spent two weeks in Cambodia, working with trafficked teens. “It was a crazy experience and I’m still trying to reconnect myself with life in Redding,” Russell says.
While there, the Russells spent time working with the employees of a new day center, which provides free counseling and job training. They also provided entrepreneurial inspiration for the center’s clients as they look for healthier employment alternatives. “They have business dreams – some want to start restaurants, one wants to open a salon. We talked to them about building businesses and having a vision,” Russell says.
Representing his own vision, sketches and photographs are neatly tacked onto Russell’s office walls; a 3D printed vase sits near his laptop. His goal is to bring more contemporary, sustainable and aesthetically creative residential and commercial projects to the North State. He helped “parklets” in front of the Coffee Bar and for a downtown event in September, and he designed the sleek Heritage Coffee Shop in Shasta Lake.
“I hope my projects catch people’s eye, and they say, ‘I want to go check that out.’ With all my projects I want to create a real sense of place, where they can go there and feel like they want to be in that space. Whether it’s a parklet, a coffee place or their own house, I want them to think, ‘This is unique and special.’”
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