Feb 27, 2019

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

Feb 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.

Feb 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.

Feb 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


Feb 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.


Feb 20, 2019

Tibetan Temple #4

Each of the Shrines to the Divine has a 12 x 12 inch footprint, for uniformity and to fit on shelves for display. The Zendo on the left is the first true completed shrine. By the time I built it, I had made several single walled messes before I figured out how to do tiny double wall construction.

The Japanese Tea House to the right of the Zendo was my first foray into tiny construction. The faerie tableaux in my studio history don't count. Faeries have a very free sense of scale and construction, with a sort of "anything goes" attitude. This is to scale, 1.12, as much as possible.

On the lower shelf is the final selection for the size of the tipi for the shrine honoring my Native American blood and my two years of tipi living. I made five paper models before settling on this size - had to fit the 12 x 12 inch footprint. (My tipi was 400 "square" feet).

I made the tea house following a YouTube video exactly. It is made entirely with craft (pop cicle) sticks and coffee stirrers. The best thing about this construction is the sliding shoji screen doors. And the tiny backroom with the piece of Japanese fabric that started this whole shrine thing.

During the creation of Faerie Junction in 2016, we received all kinds of interesting materials and gifts into the studio, from tree branches and leaves to stick pins, beads and fabric. A small piece of Japanese quilter's cotton with a tiny design passed through my hands. I thought, "Oooh, a Japanese Tea House in my future."

I will re-create that Tea House one day, in honor of my bookbinding teachers, who opened my eyes to Japanese art and culture. Everything I know about making clean corners, from paper to fabric to wood, I learned from them. I will rebuild it using improved construction skills. And better tiny lumber.

The cut out tiles (making room for the 1 x 1 inch pillars that hold the roof over the open temple) make perfect little finishing touches for the base.

And, of course, I stained the base red with Unicorn Spit. I expect this red to darken quite a bit after several coats. I'm going for more of a mahogany look. The tiles are also painted with Unicorn Spit, but after brushing on the blue, I dabbed it with coarse patterned paper towel to create a mottled look.

I am really excited to begin the pillars. It entails carving clay.

Love, GB


Feb 19, 2019

Tibetan Temple #3

I rediscovered polymer clay after a 20 year hiatus. Back in the early 90s, I made beads and pins and jewelry items.

This time around, I had in mind the tiny lumberyard and all my little itty bitty constructions. For the Zendo, I formed a little platter, a bowl and a vase. In the midst of the experiments, I fell in love again with this versatile medium. There are a bunch of useless polymer items around my studio right now,  a giant red flower, some art deco pillars, on the way to making tiny creations for the Tibetan Temple:

Here is the tiny tile floor, made from a large sheet of polymer clay, conditioned and rolled out to accommodate my 7x7 inch plan. After baking, I cut out the corner tiles to make room for the 1x1 inch pillars.

The wood base for the temple is three sheets of basswood glued together and framed in around the tiles.

I was attracted to Buddhist teachings because of the three essentials: (a) ethical conduct, (b) mental discipline and (c) wisdom. Along the way, I learned about making malas (another post) and painting as a meditation.

While studying Thangka painting, mental discipline was necessary, as was patience with myself and for the slow emergence of anything resembling a Buddha.

This little tile floor will be painted blue, the base stained with red.

The miter box lessons from my son, Michael, come in handy with my tiny tools. I am pretty happy with my corners.

Tulku Jamyang and his wife, Chigme, invited me often to share their Tibetan dinners. It was all very mysterious to me, big bowls of chopped meat, tureens of thick soup, flat breads and sweet pastes and sticky rices. We ate heartily with fat spoons as well as our fingers and drank copious amounts of rich dark tea with coconut butter (no yaks for miles and miles).

When I work out my Tibetan Temple, I remember Tuklu Jamyang's teachings, and translate the sacred geometry into my constructions.

I have become more patient over the years through meditations of all kinds, other art forms, knitting, of course, but the memory of Mondays with Tulku Jamyang, his quiet teachings, his generous spirit, hover around me like a sprite.

As I teach myself to sculpt with polymer clay, I'll make a teacher, a student and a Buddha.

Feb 16, 2019

Tibetan Temple #2

From The Once and Future King by TH White:

“It is God who keeps the price secret, Uther. Not I.”

“God? God? What god? I have heard you speak of so many gods. If you mean Mithras...”

Says Merlin, “Mithras. Apollo. Arthur. Christ. Call him what you will. What does it matter what men call the light? It is the same light, and men must live by it or die. I only know that God is the source of all the light which has lit the world and that his purpose runs through the world and passes each one of us like a great river and we cannot check or turn it but can only drink from it while living and commit our bodies to it when we die.”

God is in the details. Of everything. And the Light.

The Shrines to the Divine project began in early 2018. I have cataloged here in the blog the process of the first little tea house and the final Japanese Shrine, the Zendo, both built in 2018.

Along the way of my life, I have had the privilege to study with, cook for and generally be around some lovely teachers, in the name of art, or food, or spiritual advice. I have sat at the feet of gurus, pranced around the fire as a deer with a Huichol shaman on Mt. Shasta, meditated on Paramahansa Yogananda's houseboat with Steven Seagal, studied with and fed Deepak Chopra and myriad other pop culture stars, looked at Tibetan Buddhism through the eyes of the Thangka painting monk, and cooked for large groups at a retreat center while spending my nights in a 400 square foot tipi. Alison Stillwell Cameron lived next door to my mother and sparked my interest in Chinese Sumi painting, my bookbinding instructors shared Japanese print making, Shibori fabric design, marbled papers and so much more.

I feel closest to the source of all the light when I am being creative.

The top image above floated across my Facebook timeline, posted by a friend. It is an art deco painting by Vittorio Zecchin who died in 1947. Look him up. He blows my mind. The Dominican nuns never showed us his paintings in Art Appreciation class.

When I saw this painting, not just the goddesses themselves but the intensity of the colors hit me like a whack in the chest. The moment pushed me into the long talked about Tibetan temple, because I had to get involved with those colors.

As a dedicated DIY nut job, I set out to make some fabric for the backdrop to the buddha's throne. Although I used red and gold on black in my first draft of the fabric pattern, the colors of the shrine with mimic those above in Zecchin's: orange and purple and violet ...with some red.

I took a photo of the finished 12 x 12 canvas and shrunk the design to the size of a postage stamp, repeated the pattern to fill an 8.5x11 sheet of paper-backed silk for printing, and voila!

A tiny silk curtain of my own design.

Feb 15, 2019

Tibetan Temple #1

When I begin a project, I often have no idea where it will take me, creatively. I do know that I will learn something new, develop a latent skill, or just be amazed.

As part of my Shrines to the Divine project, the Tibetan Temple (working title - I don't know the name of the piece in the beginning, either) is featured because of my deep appreciation for my Tibetan Thangka painting teacher, Tulku Jamyang Rinpoche, at a monastery in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Every Monday for three years we sat cross-legged on the floor of the one-room cabin he shared with his wife and two small daughters. Our workbench was his 3 year old's pink plastic play table. We drank roasted teas out of thin porcelain cups. My knees creaked.

Here, I have rolled out a sheet of polymer clay for the tile floor. While doing these mundane tasks (roll out, score, bake, build) I remember the patience of the Tulku when he corrected the shapes of the buddha's ears by guiding my hand. (I am left handed. He is not).

The base of the temple will be approximately 8x8 inches, following my 1.12 scale for the whole Shrines to the Divine project. I am using balsa and basswood, easy to saw and glue and manipulate and yet still structurally sound.

Tibetan Thangkas are scrolls, usually hand-painted and gilded by masters, which tell the stories and parables of the path of the buddha. I was drawn to the meditative ritual of the painting of thangkas, the sacred geometric patterns on which each buddha is precisely designed, the shapes of ear, nose, toe, nostril.

After about six months of drawing nose, ear, lips, eyes, brows, fingers, toes, hands, I risked a question to the ever-calm monk beside me, who also drew shapes - ears, nose, knuckles - with his very sharp pencil.

"Tulku," I began... "uhm, how long will I be doing body parts?"

The room was quiet as he continued to draw shapes I knew he had been drawing exactly the same for many many years.

He looked up at me with the kindest eyes.

"As long as it takes," he replied.

This polymer clay tile floor will be bakes for 30 minutes and then painted with Unicorn Spit, my current paint of choice. For the temple, for sure, because of its intensity of color. I believe it will be blue.

One of the other thing I love about creativity are the tools. On the right is a knife from my mother's silver flatware service, perfect for scoring tiny tile floors. Also, a ruler that Allan, husband #2, gave me in 1974 out out of his tool kit. I left the man, but I learned a lot from him, and he adopted my son, and he gave me this ruler. And an eraser. I still have both.

Below on the right is a bone paper folder my friend, Cary, gave me when I was deep into the creation of the book studio at the Barnyard in Carmel, also in 1974. The skills learned from my various and talented bookbinding teachers inform all my art projects.

"As long as it takes." Lesson in Buddhism for the day.


Feb 3, 2019

Lucky Valley Press author, Judy Tatelbaum

Recently a  friend came to visit. After she left. I sent her a copy of Inspiration for Living.

Here is a quote from her thank you note:

"Dear friend of 5o+ years!

"What a lovely surprise to receive your thoughtful (and beautifully printed) gift of Judy Tatelbaum's latest book. Her first book, The Courage to Grieve, was a huge help to me after my mother's death back in the early 80s. She also helped me "let go" of my mother in a profound Gestalt therapy session - I had to tell my mother goodbye - I felt like I was jumping off a thousand foot cliff when I actually said the words... I am looking forward to reading the book. I think Judy is a very wise person. Thank you with all my heart."

From the Introduction to Inspiration for Living:

"For me the joy in writing is the opportunity to
inspire others. In 2009 I began writing a free
monthly inspirational email newsletter. I sent it to
people I knew, and they sent it on to people I didn’t

"Although I am known as an “expert” on grief, I
wanted to write about all kinds of aspects of living. I
thought I’d have about a year or two worth of ideas,
but as of today I have written over 100 articles, and
I am not done. My readers kept requesting that I
combine all the newsletters into a book to which
they could refer. At last I have done just that.

"This is not a book to necessarily be read in order
or cover to cover. It is a book full of ideas to encourage
the reader to live life ably and fully. Just open
up to any of the articles that strike you or close
your eyes and pick one. Hopefully you will find a
spark of inspiration, some moment of insight that
fits just for you.

"Know that it is a pleasure for me to have written
these articles. Thank you reading them. Thank you
for using these ideas to enhance your life."
– Judy Tatelbaum