Friday, December 8, 2017

Studio #5 - The Orange Orchard

Fortunately, the 1985 Ojai Fire burned around the perimeter of the Thacher School campus. When the ashes settled Patsy, our illustrious neighbor, took me for a walk in an orange orchard. Allowing Bob, the blond Labrador, to lead the way, we discussed the fire evacuation.

I said, “We spent two nights on the ground in our sleeping bags in Souel Park. We watched the fire storms leap up and down the hills and by morning we were covered in half an inch of ashes.”

She said, “We dumped the silver in the pool and the furs in the fruit locker and packed small bags, tempted to just dive in the pool and wait the fire out, but Constance waived her stick at me and said, ‘Foolish girl!’ We spent three nights at a friend’s in Santa Barbara and two days cleaning up the silver. The ranch, thank God, is fine. Here we are.”

Pasty proclaimed, “Here we are!” as if showing me a castle, and to me, it was. If her Octogenarian mother, Constance, had been with us, she would have waved one of her sticks, which, by the way, were clear plastic canes filled with plastic flowers matching her colorful outfits. Her close pal, potter Beatrice Woods, had no canes but feather boas and bright red lipstick and, at 85, when I knew her, was an accomplished and incorrigible flirt. A pottery box she had made inspired this be-ribboned chocolate cake.

What became known simply as the Orchard was a little clearing about 20 feet in diameter in the Navel orange trees. In the middle of this clearing stood a dear little shack. I am attracted to shacks. If shacks could talk!

This little beauty leaned ever so slightly to the south, undoubtedly held together with toothpicks and kindling. Slivers of light peaked through the thin and ill-fitting bat and board walls. The screen door didn’t latch, there was rust in the tiny sink.

BUT, there was a sink! And water! And power! And two little rooms, one with a stone perch in the corner, where I put my old wood stove. My workbenches fit perfectly, nestled into each corner. The views: orange trees. The smells: oranges. The world: my little Orchard.

In this clearing in an orange orchard I created a line of sleep and casual wear, inspired by Japanese paper designs. I folded up squares of fabric, dipped it in dye, let it dry, unfolded it, ironed it out and made it into things.

By then, I was redefining my studio, less bookbinding, more arts inspired by the tools, colors and skills learned from bookbinders, so precise.

And, that same summer, I learned how to use an Apple Macintosh computer.

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