Dec 21, 2017

Studio 12b - Horsie

My friend, Sampson, built this rocking horse on the left for Danielle when she was a baby. It had been repainted several times. It had some pretty straggley black yarn for a mane and Horsie had fierce un-horsie eyes.

Now grown up, with her own baby on the way, Danielle's family commissioned me to restore Horsie to its glory.

I gave Horsie new eyes, a mane of real horse hair, a lovely dappled paint job and tried to rename him Happy the Appy. I believe the family still calls him Horsie.

Renamed Happy the Appy

Dec 20, 2017

Studio #12a - The Cottage

The Asian Fusion Collection, installed at Valley Girls Gallery (now the Carmel Valley Art Association) in 2005, and the same little red table in our living room today, under a Melissa Lofton painting of Big Sur and holding stacks of knitted squares about to be sewn into a lap robe.

Studio #12 - The Cottage

In the 7990 Cottage, the Give Someone You Love the Boot series was born, short-lived because I needed David’s help pouring the three gallons of slip into the gigantic boot mold and pouring the excess out of the mold.

The mold came with its own simple design. During the greenware stage, I sanded off the original designs and built more satisfying creations. I boldly posted my designs on my website, not imagining an order of 25 to a country club in Hawaii for a western-themed event. The boots were the prizes awarded.

Dec 19, 2017

Studio #12 - The Laundry Room +

We moved into our love nest about three weeks before our first marriage ceremony, dubbed the IRS wedding, on December 31, 2003.  You’ll hear about Wedding Number 2, Valentine’s Day, 2004 elsewhere in the blog.

At 7990 I packed most of my studio paraphernalia into the dark and rather gloomy laundry room and shared my creative space with the washer, dryer, a cat box and the water heater.
In this space, and spilling into the kitchen and onto the decks by necessity, I painted one little Jack Russell terrier sculpture for the Carmel Art Festival and the next year four plaster-cast dogs for CAF and five resin cat sculptures for a spin-off fundraiser.

Although I enjoyed painting the little terrier, the clean lines of the elegant Egyptian style dogs in 2005 allowed for exquisite details - layers of paint, tiny lines, many dots, applications of beads and other adornments. The CATZ, sponsored by the Monterey Symphony, the Mozart Society, Chamber Music Monterey Bay and the Carmel Music Society,  were PizziCato, MagnifiCat, Meowzart and Kitty Bouquet.

Tout Uncommon, Pied a Terrier, Haut Diggity Dog and Cinnabar represented four of the local retail shops. All dogs and cats were sold at auction to raise money for charities.

This event inspired me to organize twelve local artists to paint “Musical Chairs” for the Carmel Music Society 12th Night Auction/Dinner Dance. Once again, my studio spilled out of the laundry room, this time, onto the deck, where I spread a drop cloth and decorated two matching straight back chairs.

At 7990 my garden expanded from a few herbs in a pot to an acre of Sugar Pie pumpkins, artichokes, beans, tomatoes, and flowering herbs and this, too, became part of my outdoor studio, with a potting shed that held all the usual tools plus a mannequin names Kate Hepburn and a little corner with old wood, brushes and a few acrylic paints for sign making.

 When the tenant in the guest house moved on to greener pastures, I moved myself in lickety-split and spent the next few years amid myriad projects before the next folly took control of my desires.

Dec 17, 2017

Studio #11 - Above the Market

The studio above Carmel Valley Market: 800 square feet with two big rooms and the only unit in the building with its own bathroom.

Others more transient that I lived in a couple of the units: the red-headed, balloon-blowing clown and his wife lived behind their bike shop on the first floor facing the alley, a down-on-his-luck poet slept in sawdust in the woodworker’s back room. I was next door to an alcoholic hairdresser who sometimes slept in her chair at the salon and whose every utterance and popping cork and musical accompaniment was heard clearly through the paper thin walls. I was above the deli and and the pet groomer and down the hall from the chiropractor. The aromas were a mix of bleach, pastrami, flea soap and the herbal tea blend of the week. I added varnish, glue and ceramic glaze dust to the atmosphere.

This studio saw the biggest production of dinnerware, to use in service and sell at Ginna’s Cafe, just down the block. Under and over my designs, my friend and assistant Christine layered coats and coats of color and glazes to cups and plates and bowls, wrapped each piece in newsprint and delivered them to a local kiln for firing. Not too efficient, but our customers loved the colorful stuff painted with flowers and leaves and hearts.

Erin produced beautiful paper vessels and books.

After Ginna's Cafe closed, the studio above the market was my refuge, a place to rest while figuring out what to do next. The twenty years before had been one long catering job: for gurus real and fake, shamans and showmen, for business partners, leaders and would-be leaders, for parties and weddings and overnights in the mountains, always on the move, running my own business and/or managing a staff and driving my jeeps up and down the California coast.

It was time for me, my artist self and I. My writer, who had been not-so-patiently waiting, emerged.

It was in this studio where I accidentally whiffed Marine Varnish and half killed my thyroid and created a bunch of other chronic issues I won’t focus on (but will warn you about Marine Varnish accidentally up the nose).

It is where I settled down to create my cookbook series, Honey Baby Darlin’ -  where I realized I had something to write: 50 years of stories and recipes. The series started with my three year old alter ego, Little Glory, learning about the love of cooking at her mother’s knee on her grandfather’s farm in Ohio in 1951. I saw the project like a vision of a many-colored sunrise or a multi-layered cake with surprises inside.

I met David during this studio period and this became a familiar scene: Ginna at the big oak desk facing her iMac, tapping out ideas and words and scenes into the documents that would become her next books and David on the little sofa, singing ballads and love songs while playing his guitar.

Dec 16, 2017

Studio #10 - La Mesa

In San Diego, we found a house large enough to handle the entourage, including my son Michael (on the Chopra Center construction team), his five year old daughter, Taylor, two colleagues from Rainbow Ranch who came with me on this cooking adventure, their Dalmatian and two kittens.

My my, what a scene. How did I do it? At least our bedrooms were private and pretty quiet, and the recreation room became my studio, complete with a leather-padded bar, tiny sink and room enough for my workbench (that same piece of 4 x 8 plywood used as a bead table at Rainbow Ranch in the tipi).

I focused on ceramics here, bought time in a local ceramic studio kiln, and began producing dinner plates, chargers and service pieces for my kitchen and catering business. Thus began a long relationship with ceramics, as will become clear in the next blog posts.

The process of painting ceramics: the coats and coats of glaze, drying each layer completely before adding the next, multiple firings for different results, this fit into my hobby motto, “No Hurry.” After-hours hobbies shouldn’t have tight deadlines.  

I covered the workbench with newsprint and set up my first production line of mugs, platters, bowls and plates. For the next twenty years, in every studio and even in the kitchen during times when I had no studio or kiln, I painted plates. If needed, I shlepped my carefully wrapped and protected un-fired dinnerware collection to available kilns and finally, almost too late (i.e., close to the time my interest in ceramics peaked) I purchased my own kilns.

I can set up each of my three granddaughters for life with plates and bowls just from my kitchen cupboards. I could open a store.

The La Mesa house rec room looked out over a canyon of Douglas fir and oak trees. I opened two sets of french doors for the soft San Diego breeze. I cleaned up all my ceramic mess one night, set the plywood workbench on milk cartons on the floor, piled up pillows around it and invited family, friends and staff over for a Moroccan feast. We draped gauzy curtains around and lanterns and candles glowed on the table. We passed around huge Ginna-made platters and bowls of spicy meat dishes, couscous and rice and sweets. We drank wine and copious cups of tea out of Ginna-made cups and told stories in the dark.

Dec 14, 2017

Seabreeze Organic Farm

Stephenie and the crew of Seabreeze Farm provided the produce during my three years as Executive Chef of the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla.

Seabreeze Organic Farm in Solano Beach, the scene of many happy events, parties and opportunities to dig in the dirt with pros. My granddaughter, Taylor and I spent many happy hours at Seabreeze, feeding the doves, watching the chics grow, drawing circles in the dirt.

It was from Stephenie I first learned about crumbling bacon on a bowl of oatmeal.

I won the prize three years in a row at the Seabreeze Farm Mothers' Day Cornbread Cook Off.*

And, her partner of the era,  Chef Gordon Smith, was instrumental in helping me set up the Chopra Center kitchen. He and his twin brother, Seabreeze farmer Greg, provided lots of expertise and many laughs during that intense time. (More photos in the Kitchen Series).

Prize Winning Blue Cornbread

1 pound loaf pan         baking spray

1.5 cups           organic white flour
1/2 cup            blue cornmeal
1/4 cup            brown sugar
2 teaspoons    baking powder
1 teaspoon      baking soda
1 teaspoon      salt
2                       eggs
1 cup               buttermilk
1/4 cup            melted butter

Options:         1 large green onion, chopped
                        1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat pan with vegetable spray.

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. In another bowl, beat together eggs, buttermilk and butter. Mix gently with dry ingredients, folding in ingredients carefully. Place in prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until inserted skewer or knife comes out clean. Turn out onto cooling rack and cool slightly before cutting. Delicious with Ginna’s Turkey Chili.

Dec 13, 2017

Studio #9 - The Tipi at Rainbow Ranch

Ah, the tipi: the most romantic of my living spaces, the  simplest of studios. A life-long attraction to Native American lore, life style and spirituality inspired my 400 “square foot” tipi at Rainbow Ranch in Calistoga. That and the 5 x 8 room (next to the kitchen and across from the pantry) they called the “Chef’s Quarters.” Nothing inspires creativity more than necessity.

Nomadic Tipi Makers of Bend, Oregon, those same folks who created the leather tipis for Dances with Wolves, made a canvas one to my specs and sent it by UPS in a cardboard box with instructions on how to raise a tipi. The 23-foot poles came by freight in another, longer truck.

I had a pad built on the slope of a gentle hill near the kitchen door and filled the pad with gravel from the nearby quarry, laying conduit and electrical wiring underneath, which, ultimately, came up beside my bed and by my “bead table.”

With a friend I constructed a giant, egg (tipi floor-space) shaped template out of newspapers and with a utility knife cut a piece of beige remnant carpet to exactly fit inside the tipi on top of a canvas pad on top of the even gravel. The lining attached to the poles was supposed to protect me from rain dripping in and the opening at the top rarely drizzled wetness or smoke into the space.

I faced the opening east to greet the morning sun. I placed my hundred and fifty year old wood stove in the center and learned how to vent the tipi by directing the smoke poles away from the direction of the wind.

True to my Native American period, I made mostly dangly things out of seed beads: earrings, medicine bags and loom-work bracelets and belt buckles. I sat on the floor on my zafu pillow and created beadwork on a table made from a 4 x 8 plywood plank perched on four milk crates.

As always during my cooking career, there was a
studio on the side for after hours, no matter when those hours were, or how few hours were available to me. At Rainbow, my day began at 5 with building a fire and setting bread dough to rise and ended about 8:30 pm with warm milk and cookies for the guests, so productivity was not the operative goal for this studio. Even so, just sitting down cross-legged in front of the tiny fire and doing a few weavings or sorting beads or graphing a project helped settle my mind and body for the night.

Several years later while living in San Diego and cheffing at the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, my Aunt Bonne came for a visit. I showed her photos of my tipi. She said, “Well, that makes sense.”

“Oh? Why?” I asked.

“Because of that Cherokee in your father’s lineage.”

“What? What Cherokee?” News to me.

The conversation went a long way to explain my interest, not to mention Dark Sage, the imaginary Indian Medicine Man friend of my childhood.

Dec 12, 2017

Studio #8 - Who has time for a studio?

The early 90s: fly fishing and camping in summers, skiing and snow play in winter. I stashed the studio in the garage, thinking I was taking some production time off. This only worked for about two weeks. Soon the guest room bed was covered with art materials and the drawing board squeezed into the tiny space by the window.

A less significant studio, but the one Sampson’s 9 year old daughter, Danielle, after a week of playing with beads and fimo dough, dubbed forevermore Camp Ginna.

Faces painted and birthday cakes made for my brother, Jess and niece, Kelly: A German Chocolate cake for him, a Faerie Land cake for he.

Tea and scones with Sampson in Glastonbury. I can see thoughts of flour, sugar and butter in those eyes, can't you? These scones may have been the beginning of a journey into the world of baking, where art studios blurred with kitchens and food became the primary artistic expression.