Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Mission San Juan Capistrano

 Here I stand before the ruins of the original cathedral at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, in California. A friend and I went to the ocean and made a visit to this small town north of San Clemente. I had been there once, over 50 years ago, on my first sojourn west. This visit was a whole new experience.                                                        You may have heard of this place because of the festival of the swallows returning  to build their nests here every March, after their long flight back from Argentina.  There was even a hit song about it, way back when. It is a significant part of California history, as it was one of the many missions founded by Saint Junipero Serra , this one  in 1776. These missions were established by Spain to expand their territory and spread Christianity to the  indigenous natives, here it was the  Acjachemen tribe.  But an earthquake in 1812 caused thus great stone church to collapse, leaving only this wall of niches. I seem pretty small in comparison.                                                                                                      I loved all the history that is displayed here. I learned that after Mexico won independence in 1821 the Governor, Pio Pico, sold the land and mission to a Mr. John Forster. He just " happened ' to marry the Governor's sister, who was a 30 year old spinster at the time. Connections are all. But Mexico lost this land  after California  became a state in 1850. The Catholic bishop petitioned the US government to have the mission returned to the Catholic Church. In 1865, not long before his death, Abraham Lincoln did just that.                                                                                   Today the mission is restored to beauty. There is an existing chapel; historical exhibits; gorgeous rose and flower gardens ; and a reminder of the preciousness of life, today.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Lavender Farms Forever

Who doesn't love Lavender? Here I am at the Red Rock Lavender Farm in Concho, AZ. Where , you may ask , is Concho? It is a town, quite a spread out area, to the north of Show Low, in the White mountains, where I come to get out of the summer heat. I have to thank my gardening friend, Daysy, for this tip. We gardeners are always interested in learning  about plants.                                           This farm was started back in the 1990's. It was supposed to be an orchard and vegetable endeavor, however the lavender used for landscaping became a commercial boom. There are now 35,000 plants, of various varieties. I am near a sweet smelling Vera variety. The altitude here is 6,100 feet high, and very windy. Off in the distance are red rock formations,  but not quite like Sedona, where I live and produce my art.  Now they grow grapes as well, producing wine , and following in the steps of Southern France. They have a tasting room, where  I really only liked the Rose variety, but then taste is so individual, and people left with cases of something.                      Their  gift shop tantalizes you with handmade soaps, dish towels, cooking  items, anything to get you to leave behind your dinero. I bought two plants as well, which I plan to use in containers for now. It was an adventure, and who doesn't like that?!


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Calligrapher, Hard at Play

Calligrapher , Hard at Work, could be a good title here. I just spent a wonderful weekend retreat in the Prescott forest. I call it " summer camp for grown ups", although some might debate the label. Here I am copying out some lettering for a small book I am creating.                                                       I have been a professional calligrapher, based here in Sedona AZ, for  decades. I am a member of the Calligraphic Society of Arizona, referred to as CSA, for all that time. Most of the members are in the Phoenix area, and that is where all the monthly workshops and meetings are held. Unfortunately , I really do not attend very often, due to the distance. But this was two nights in a church camp, with bunk beds and the cafeteria. We stayed at Emmanuel Pines, and they could not have been more helpful and accommodating. This was a special occasion, a chance after Covid to gather as a group.                                                                                         The teachers were fellow members, and the variety of  projects  impressive. For example: Making hanging paper "weathergrams" to leave in trees outside or our rustic cabins. Will they be susceptible to the weather?  Of course. Must art always be  " permanent," or can it just exist in the present? Nature seemed to be the theme ,and it was exciting to write on wood for one project, then creating three in a mobile. We  cut out  stencils to apply to a blank page ,and used both the negative and positive spacing. 
Throughout the days, I was working on the technique for a small book, which I actually almost finished. There was a dedicated lesson on making books from envelopes. We calligraphers are a frugal bunch. That was a challenge, but I did wake up early and go through the process in my head, before I got up in the frosty morning. Maybe I will change the title of this blog. It was fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Feathered Mystery


Inspiration comes in many ways. In these dark and cold winter days, a sale can light up an artist's creative spirit. So it was for me. I recently sold two masks at the Wyatt gallery, here in Sedona, AZ, where I live and work. I  realized it was time to complete  this large  "Feathered Mystery." It  spans some eight inches wide by 20 inches  to the tip of its feathers.                                                    
    I'm not sure people realize all the processes involved in  a complicated creation such as this . First comes the raw clay to form my  dimensional  concept. I usually work in series, so this has some relationship to previous masks of this size and style. I have to think ahead to what will be  the final effect and colors.. Fortunately,  I own feathers of exotic birds that a dear friend of mine with an aviary sends my way. Birds naturally molt, so there is no harm to any creature,                                                                                   Clay is at its most fragile when just dried. Lots of clean up, and sanding is necessary, and it's tricky handling such a large size Next the colors are applied. I do use premade low fired glazes since they wear so well and fire so brightly. Then it goes into the kiln to about 1800 degrees. It will come out strong  enough to go into its last firing. This is a  primitive firing, using natural combustibles. Potters have been using this style forever. Everything turns dark, so it must be cleaned up to show off the decorative  colors.

I have a very reliable way to hang these creatures. Copper wire wrapped in yarns to accentuate and soften the hangers. Finally the feathers. Here I also added some turquoise and coral in among the feathers. This brings up the innovative side of my brain. Lots of hours, days, even weeks to finally complete. Just wanted to spread a little insight into my creative process. Comments?

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Calligraphy for the Holidays

Here I am, demonstrating my calligraphy, with watercolor, at the Sedona Arts Center  yesterday. 
Nearing all the holidays, that was my theme for my demo in their front lobby yesterday. I sell my calligraphy cards and prints there, so it is relevant to what our visitors are seeing me creating . Thanks to Taylor also.                                                   Each card I make is decorated by hand, with watercolor or gouache, a non transparent color. This is what I usually write with,  although a new stash of colored inks are working well on envelopes Those inks  are almost permanent , lately leaving a nice red  stain on my fingers. I was told by staff member Debra Shinn, that  I should consider this my badge of honor.  Cate , the high school artist working there, made a lovely video of my hand actually painting, which is on Facebook  also. It was kind of exciting to see the actual sequence of brush strokes. Check it out.                                                           My technique here, is to write out  my original, then print on card stock, so it will not bleed when I add wet paint. I can do many alphabets, but people seem to like the Italic style . I like using  Uncial also, which is on my sign . Each card  is a one of a kind. Watercolor is tricky. Once you make your "mark" it stays. Corrections usually make it worse, so there is always an element of surprise, even for me!                                                                                           I don't know if people are aware, but I taught Calligraphy at SAC for fourteen years, and then went on to teach at NAU for five years as adjunct faculty. I see my demos as a way to educate the public  about the beautiful art I love . 


Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Art of the Cat

Opened the kiln today and what did I see? Cat bowls. One where it is only the cat, and then a little whimsey, when I added the mouse. I could probably name it "El Gato mira al Raton"= the Cat looks at the Mouse". But that's a lot of words when you are writing very small with a paintbrush at a weird angle. Yes, everything is drawn freehand . I like creating animal pieces. I have made ceramic boxes with a horse on the top. It helps to have a creature that can be somewhat stylized, so it is easily representative.                                                                                 I make each bowl shown here by hand, using a white porcelain clay.. Then I take my tiny paintbrush, dip it into cobalt blue oxide, and draw all the lines and letters you see here. Over that I pour a thin coat of a clear glaze, which  lets the design show through. I  high fire this in my kiln, enough to put in the microwave and dishwasher. Yes, those are the main questions that buyers ask.  Here in The USA they are very clear that all glazes must be  lead free, so that is why its's not bad to buy American. Sounds like a sales pitch? It's not . Simple truth.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Follow the Mask

 Here I am , following my passion and creating masks again this summer of 2022. This one is what I call  a miniature mask. All is relative, n'est-ce-pas? It can  can fit in your hand, or hang on a very narrow wall.  There are  guidelines for a "true miniature", something about an inch equaling a foot. Not my thing, although I do like to make tiny pots also. This creation, titled " Yellow  Secret" is part of my on going series, called " Small Spirits".                                  There are so many influences on my work. I used to travel with a very small sketch pad, about the size of this mask. I would go  to a museum in Mexico, for example, and stay for for three hours and make little drawings. Or I would be  in some archeological place and draw what I saw. When I was invited to Hopi dances in their Plaza,  the sketching would have to be in my head, but it was there. So I am not certain what left the largest influence to my style in this field . Anyway, most often the masks tell Me what to create.                I am currently showing these works  at the Wyatt Gallery at  Hillside, on 179 in Sedona, AZ. I invite you stop by and take a look.