Sunday, March 3, 2019

Tibetan Temple #6

I build Shrines to the Divine entirely for my own enjoyment. There is no goal, no show in mind, no beginning, middle or end of the project. I am just creating temples, exploring the skills learned, both as an artist as well as a human.

And what amazing discoveries I make along the way. So far with the Tibetan construction, I have learned how to: make a tiny tile floor out of polymer clay, a pattern in Unicorn Spit with a paper towel, make little figures out of three clay rolls and sculpt a Buddha head. Below and in the next post, there are pictures of successful golden fishes sculptures and the collapse of clay columns in the oven.

As an artist, I always feared sculpting. Not that these are ready for prime time, but the activity itself, at least with polymer clay, is so forgiving and quickly rewarding. With clay clay, you're working with cold mud. And water. Very messy. And your hands are always cold. And wet.

I made all the first Buddha heads in my living room in front of the fire on my tiny lap desk and a tiny tray of tools. Although the light is not ideal for tiny sculpting I can easily make forms and shapes and do the detailing later at my well-lit workbench.

I have designed art using the Tibetan Golden Fishes of Prosperity before, but these are the tiniest. I covered the 1x1x9 inch posts with sheets of polymer clay, thinking that the golden fishes would attach well, which they did.

It took quite a long time to condition the white clay, roll out the sheets and wrap them around the posts, and even longer to make 16 pairs of golden fishes to perch on the post corners.


Now that I look at this picture, the first unbaked column with the fishes dwarfs the Buddha head inside. I can see I've got some scale to work out. But the fishes are beautiful and so, I continue to make and attach them to the columns of clay.

I made all sixteen pairs, attached them to the columns and perched them on stands to harden the clay in the oven.

In high school, I excelled at Industrial Arts, taught by a Dominican nun named Sister Mary Augustine, OP, who was my idol. She lived to a ripe old age in the convent. The last time I saw her, shortly before she died in late 80s, she had a printing press in a tiny room on one of the lower convent floors, with a handwritten sign on the door that said, "The Little Crackpot in the Basement."

In high school, she'd roll up the sleeves of her habit and dip her hands into the wet clay slip, or tie her veil back with a piece of rope so it wouldn't get caught in the wood lathe.

Sister Augustine taught me a lot about focus, of which I had little at the time. She gave me a safe environment in which to explore the universe of color light and form. She encouraged us to make mistakes. (I recall a fellow student, Kathy, her motto about all mistakes in Industrial Arts class: "Just put two grooves in it and call it an ashtray."

Sister Augustine would have been proud of my golden fishes. The fit beautifully into the spaces made for them along the column edges, Golden Fishes of Prosperity swimming toward their goal.


I marvel at what you can make, sitting in the living room in front of the fire.

In the next post, I'll share the details of the collapse of columns. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Lucky Valley Press author/friend, Sharon Mehdi

 When I first met Sharon Mehdi, I thought she was a stand-up comic. She made me laugh until  my jeans burst at the seams.

Then I discovered all kinds of interesting things about Sharon: labyrinth walker, healer, teacher, writer, public speaker.

She told me she wrote a book, so I ordered it and, after I read A Curious Quest for Absolute Truth, my respect for this woman grew. Not only was she funny, but she could write, and express deeply felt things.

As the Board Member in charge of books and authors at Art Presence Art Center & Gallery in Jacksonville, I asked Sharon to read from Curious Quest several years ago. It was such a hit, we ask her back every year.

Not only that, Lucky Valley Press (David & Ginna) helped Sharon re-publish A Curious Quest for Absolute Truth, as well as the Great Silent Grandmother Gathering and, my favorite, Eleanor Bobbin.

One morning, over coffee at the Good Bean in Jacksonville, Sharon asked if she could read this little manuscript to me. "It'll only take a few minutes," she said

I love to be read to. And she's so funny. And, Eleanor Bobbin really does have the potential to save the world.

Here's what Sharon wrote for the back cover of Eleanor Bobbin and the Magical, Merciful, Mighty Art of Kindness:


"As this book goes to print, the world is once again in chaos. Rancor and retribution rule the day. Greed, fear and demagoguery have been crowned Kings of All That Is.

"And yet... and yet... hidden beneath the helplessness there is a glimmer of light. So faint it can be seen only in the darkest of dark night.

"If this tiny flicker had a name, it might be called forgiveness, compassion, kindness or love. Such little words. But the one thing I know for sure is that they can create miracles. They can make the impossible possible. They can heal lives. And sometimes, whole communities. Just ask Eleanor Bobbin."

If you're looking for a book to send to all your friends
around the world to remind them, Eleanor Bobbin is it.

Buy all three books. The ride inside the mind of Sharon Mehdi
 is worth it. She should be President.

Love, Ginna

P.S. Eleanor Bobbin kindly includes an uplifting Apple Dumpling recipe.







Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Lucky Valley Pres author, Charles Osborne

Charles Osborne’s Boss is just in time for the
Pebble Beach Centennial

 “Without Sam Morse, Pebble Beach 
  would be a West Coast Coney Island.”
                 – Bing Crosby

“A newspaper dubbed my grandfather “The Duke of Del Monte” and although he pretended to be embarrassed by the title, I believe he liked it. Del Monte was more than a chunk of some of the most beautiful land on the planet. It was a style of life that included golf, tennis, polo, beautiful mansions and beautiful people having a good time. He enjoyed being in charge of that. In fact he wanted people to damn well know he was in charge. Damn was one of his favorite words.

“He died when I was 22 years old while I was studying art at the University of California at Los Angeles, living above a merry-go-round on the Santa Monica Pier and working as a cue-card boy at NBC, none of which really met with my grandfather’s approval. Still, the man was a big influence in my life and in the lives of many others, a benevolent despot who ruled the Monterey Peninsula.

“His friends called him Sam and his employees called him Mr. Morse. People referred to him as S.F.B., and that is how he stylishly signed his paintings and documents.

“The family called him Boss.”
– Charles Osborne, from the dust jacket of Boss

Monday, February 25, 2019

Sculpting Polymer Buddhas #4

I am not well-set, nor do I have the bandwidth for, taking pictures of my hands while creating.

Following are all the photos of my Buddhas over the course of three days. All the facial features are exaggerated, not on purpose.











The top not and hair aren't right proportionately and you can see from this side view, he has a flat face.



This guy looks like a cross between a British peer (doesn't it resemble a powdered wig?) and Deepak Chopra. The bindi on his forehead helps the overall look.




Last night's sculpture looks like Yul Brynner as Mongkut, King of Siam. And my latest student still doesn't have much of a face, and without armature, she'll always have to be sitting down.














The week's work. Self-imposed Polymer Sculpture Class 101.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sculpting Polymer Clay Buddhas #2


Just Buddha's Head.


In the interest of keeping my self-imposed sculpting lessons simple, I scrunched up a ball of foil and rolled out some clay to cover it for a head. (I learned the hard way not to bake any polymer clay thicker than about 1/4 inch; it takes forever, you're never quite sure if it's baked all the way through and it smells if it gets scorched.)

I stuck a quilter's straight pin into a cork for something to hold onto. I scrunched the foil head down over the pin with a dollop of hot glue. With a small ball of clay, I pressed out a disk to cover the foil and form a head, making it slightly oval in shape.


I marked the lines for eye, nose, lips and chin, and made about 24 little pieces for these additions.


Polymer clay is so forgiving. After its warmed up (conditioned) it stay supple for a long time an can be worked over and over again before it is baked.


These eye sockets turned out to be a bit much. The instructions called for little clay eyeballs, but I toned them down with Tibetan slits for eyes.

The facial features on my first Buddha turned out a little exaggerated; next time I'll make my tiny body part pieces tinier.

Not bad for a rank beginner.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sculpting Polymer Clay Buddhas #1

In typical DIY style, I took up the challenge of building my own Buddha for the Tibetan Shrine to the Divine. Ah, well, more of a dare, really.

It was my girlfriend, Eunice.

She said, "You're going to make it yourself, right?"

I laughed. "No, no," I said. "I draw the line at sculpting a Buddha."

"I dare you," she said.

Well. To the left here is my very first attempt at modeling polymer clay, beyond rolling balls and sticking holes in and calling them beads.

Once again, I followed a YouTube video. Everything here was made with little logs of clay - legs, arms, torso, head.

I was pleasantly surprised. Although these two figures (the teacher and his student) have no discernible faces, they do have shapely bodies and good posture. If you get too close, the student looks like a cat and the teacher resembles a Martian from a 50s movie, but I like the wrinkled pants and the fat cushions on which they sit.

I modeled these two little figures while listening to an audio book in front of the fire. Everything I needed fit on a paper plate. I have abandoned knitting until the fall, imagining spring is around the corner and soon I will be planting seeds, but meanwhile, why not teach myself to sculpt?

Now, Buddha here looks more like Caspar the Friendly Ghost with a bad Gibson Girl hair do. Holding an empty cereal bowl.

More work to be done.

Love, GB












Thursday, February 21, 2019

Tibetan Temple #5

Even though I did not complete this Buddha head out of Basswood, I am posting the idea to show the sacred geometry of drawing  a Tibetan Buddha.

Just the geometry itself is beautiful to me. These images are posted all over my studio. They calm my spirit.

I have been attracted to Tibetans and their teachings, as well as their good-natured selves, since the early 90s, when I first heard Lama Tarchin Rinpoche speak on a friend's houseboat in Sausalito. One of my most memorable stories (another post) is about the daily goings on at Steven Seagal's home during the year I was his personal chef. I used to say I was "surrounded by monks, music and poetic musings," as a steady selection of starlets, stars and sycophants sat down to table with Steven, his family, his entourage of assistants and his monks.