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Life is a Banquet~Sorrento

Sorrento, the land of Limoncello

From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, squeezing onto the standing-room-only train, suitcases at our feet.  The ride from Naples to Sorrento took an hour. I was glad we were there before the hot summer season approached!

 

The Circumvesuviana, Naples.

When my friend and I were planning this trip, we reserved four days in Sorrento. Both of us had been to Italy before, but never in the South. There is so much to see and do in this area! Of course, four days is not nearly enough. Our wishlists included: hiring a cute driver to take us sightseeing along the Amalfi coast, taking a boat to Capri, going to  Pompeii and Herculaneum, perhaps hiking Mt Vesuvius, seeing the ruins at Paestum, and, oh yes, I hoped to meet in person an online friend and sea glass collector, Rebecca Di Donna, who lives in Torre Del Greco.

When I was a kid, my grandmother often used the cautionary expression  “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  This adage relates not only to food but to everything, really-especially time.  While I have always slanted toward  Auntie’s Mame’s “Life is a banquet” outlook, sometimes less really is more. My advice to those planning a trip; don’t overfill your dance card. Slow down and savor the details, leave room for the unexpected.

Sorrento

 

Torna a Surriento

When the train reached Sorrento, a young boy with an accordion came aboard and started playing Italian folk songs. There was a plastic cup for tips attached to his battered accordion. I made sure to leave some euros in it as we departed. I would discover on subsequent train rides that Sorrento was a regular haunt of accordion playing buskers, (but more on that later.)

Home Sweet Home

As arranged, In the town square we met Max, who was sent by our air b&b host to guide us through the maze of streets to our destination. After Naples, this resort town felt a bit like Disneyland, filled with tourist shops and higher priced restaurants.  As we followed Max, I eyed the goods displayed in front of stores-leather purses, ceramics, lemon-based gifts, resort fashions, jewelry and more. We turned at a gelato stand and went back from the street to our air B&B. Casa Torino was located above a florist shop in the heart of old Sorrento. It was airy and comfortably equipped, with a full-size kitchen, fold out couch on the lower level and an upper sleeping loft. We had a view down to the street below and could watch the interplay of tourists until a heavy rain started to pour, bringing an abrupt end to the activity below us.

The view from our apartment, rain emptied streets.

Max offered the services of a private driver for an Amalfi coast tour, and to put us on the passenger list for a small boat to Capri if we were interested. We decided to make reservations for both at the end of the week when hopefully the weather would be better. We settled into our new place and then decided to go out and explore in the rain.

We ventured out with those umbrellas bought in Vasto. The late afternoon streets were empty,  many outside displays were covered with tarps. Hungry, we shopped for cibo e vino at the local deli and fruit stands, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

Life really is a banquet!

 

We returned to our cozy apartment with wine, fresh baked pane, salami and cheese. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii-rain or shine.

Next Post: Pompeii

 

Two Nights in Napoli

After Vasto, we hopped on a bus and rode across the country from the Adriatic coast to the Bay of Naples. It was a rainy, three-hour ride. I was glad we’d cancelled the car rental and could relax and take in the scenery with no concerns. It was a nice way to transition from the peace of Vasto to the chaos of Naples.

In this post, I will share my experience in Napoli, and highlight a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.  So if you love ancient art, gritty cities, and pizza-stay with me!

This Is The City

Naples has a reputation for crime, especially pickpockets. I tried not to let the warnings I read on travel blogs make me feel uneasy or paranoid. Well-meaning friends also primed me about various scams perpetrated on tourists, especially in train and bus stations. The day before I left  an acquaintance who had lived in Italy for a few years urged me to buy a money belt, “at least for Rome and Naples.” I chose to forgo the security belts and go with what I was planning to wear-my new Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag. I feel that once you give into the fear of what might happen, its a slippery slope from there. The anxiety vibes you send out might actually attract the very thing you are afraid of.

Room with a View

We felt a tad uneasy when our freelance taxi driver, (who had assured us he knew the address to our accommodations when we engaged him) stopped to ask directions various times from street vendors in L’Antica part of town. Our uneasiness grew when he suddenly stopped the car, saying “sei arrivato”  in a no-nonsense tone of voice. He got our bags out of the trunk and gestured toward an alley, telling us the place was only a few blocks away, then hurried off.

We rolled our suitcases along the bumpy pavement, feeling very conspicuous as we looked for address numbers on the graffiti-sprayed walls of a dark alley. Vespa scooters wove around us as we walked and the heavy air was filled with the sound and smell of traffic. Children shouted up to laundry-strewn balconies and were answered by adults who peered down at us from above. It did not seem possible to me that we were ever going to find the address, and for a moment I silently wished we had kept it simple and stayed in a centrally located hotel. But we had wanted something “more authentic” and were getting exactly that.

We eventually found it and rang a bell on the outside of an iron security gate. My enthusiasm returned as Marco, our host, promptly answered. Siamo arrivati!  The small apartment where we would spend the next two nights was windowless and sparsely decorated on the lower level but had all the necessities. Upstairs was a sleeping loft with two beds separated by a folding screen and french doors that opened onto a balcony.  Marco gave us some tips on exploring Naples, (warning us not to go back the way we came at night).

First Things First

We headed out onto the Corso Umberto, the main thoroughfare which our small alley opened onto. To celebrate our arrival in Naples, we stopped at a nearby bar for an Aperol Spritz.

Later for dinner, we decided to try Michelle’s, the most famous pizzeria in Naples, which was a short walk from our alley. It’s a tiny place, nothing fancy. Just pizza. Many of the customers order takeaway and sit out on the street curb eating their pizza out of the box. The entire street was swarming with customers, waiting to get close to the entrance. This went on for hours. We decided to try the restaurant across the road and were not disappointed. The pizza had fresh yellow tomatoes and basil leaves with mozzarella di bufala and a great crust. While in Italy we had pizza in every city we passed through, but the memory of this one stays with me the longest.

The National Archaeological Museum

The next day, we visited the Museo di Archaeologico. An incredible museum offering four floors of sculpture, painting, mosaics and other objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the Farnese collection of antiquities. On the day we visited,  a contingent of Star Wars cosplayers were there for a Star Wars memorabilia exhibit on the lower floor, near the Egyptian collection. I wondered what Joesph Campbell would say to that!

Artemeis of Ephesus is a copy made in the Imperial period. She is made from alabaster and bronze. Her hands would have held a ribbon.

Detail of her richly ornamented dress, alabaster.

Mosaics

The collection includes all the exceptional finds from the Vesuvian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Later in the week, when we visited Pompeii I had a greater appreciation, after seeing these treasures, for the way of life that had suddenly ended when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

Memento Mori, representing life and death as the leveler of human fortunes.

More

 

Detail The Farnese Gems, collected during the Renaissance. Many were made from glass.

Ancient glass vessels

Artist pigments and mixing bowls.

From the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Room), displaying erotica collected from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Villa Farnese. The Secret Room has been opened or closed to the public depending upon the political climate and morals of the time.

Where Did the Time go?

View from the Museo di Archaeologico.

I did not attempt to photograph much of what I saw, preferring to hold the impressions in my mind, but hope what I have shared here is of interest and inspiring. After the museum visit, we walked around the streets, grounding ourselves by taking in some sights of everyday life.

The dogs of street buskers.

Door knockers are one of my favorite things to “collect” with a camera.

Gambrinus desserts and more!

We took the advice of Ornella and had a caffè and dessert at Gambrinus. It was the perfect way to refresh and get a second wind for more sightseeing.

Next Post: Sorrento

Thanks for staying with me for this many words and images- see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

A Traveler in Italy: Vasto

The dictionary (vocabulary.com) says “when you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest.”  More than any other single word I can think of, Savor describes the way I feel about my recent trip to Italy. I’m savoring the memories, the sights, the food, the great people, and already thinking about my return. Until then, I will share some of the highlights in a series of posts, beginning with this one, about Vasto, the town of my paternal grandfather’s family. Even if I had no ancestral connection to this place, I would have fallen in love with this “ancient Roman  town in the heart of Italy” and perhaps you will too!

Fishing trabucco, Vasto

As I shared in my previous post, it was through the sea glass world that I met Ornella Di Filippo, who lives in Vasto and operates a very comfortable Air B&B, where we stayed. She and her husband, Marco, were wonderful hosts-even loaning my friend Dennis and me clothing to wear (did I mention our luggage was lost in Rome?) until our bags were sent to us by the airline a few days later. I had packed for the sunny warm days that were predicted, but found myself buying an umbrella and rain slicker, because of the heavy rain the greeted us! That, of course, did not keep us from hitting the beach in search of sea glass on our first morning there.

Thunder, lightning, rain and wind-note the inside-out umbrella of Dennis!

When you live in Washington State, it takes more than a little rain to keep you off the beach!

Salsedine

We walked down a path to the beach, serenaded by birds, passing giant fig trees and eucalyptus, which made me feel like I was back in Southern California. The air was perfumed by the sweet blooms of flowering acacia trees mixed with the smell of the sea, which Italians call Salsedine.  We were the only people on the beach that morning, save for a couple of fishermen who brought their skiff in later. There were many shells scattered amongst the rocks and lots of sea glass too!

I found a beautiful marble in the shingle!

Even with all the rain, the air temperature was warm, (at least to me) and we spent the entire morning going to a few individual beaches, known to Ornella and Marco for their sea glass.

Ornella Di Filippo, now flying the flag of Tokeland in Italy!

Catch of the Day

Before our three days in Vasto were up, the sun did come out, and Ornella and Marco made sure we went back to the beach to see it’s “true colors” of vivid green and blue water. Again, we were the only people out there, except for the two fishermen.

This fisherman showed me a live seahorse that was part of the catch. After I took this photo, he returned it to the sea.

Vasto is known for its fresh seafood, and we enjoyed clams, mussels, prawns, octopus, scallops in one form or another, every day. Served with local wine, Montepulciano DÁbruzzo, these were meals to savor.

La Bagnante

Vasto is in the Abruzzo region of Italy, located in the south, with beautiful views of the Adriatic. It has recieved the Blue Banner mark for its clean water and eco friendly practices. Overlooking  a long sandy beach,  La Bagnante, a modernistic sculpture perched on a rock, beckons all visitors. Her name translates to “the bathing beauty.”

Ancient Roman Roots

I was surprised to learn that Vasto has a population of about 40,000. It really didn’t seem that large to me. There was none of the heavy traffic or crowds, but plenty of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We could walk into the heart of town from Ornella’s place, following the road that paralleled the sea.

Using the photos in my grandad’s old album as a guide, Ornella and Marco took me to the places in Vasto where my family had lived, and where they are buried.

My grandfather’s handwritten caption says “The place where I was born.”

The Palazzo Palmieri-what a thrill it was for me to see the place of my grandfather’s birth!

There are some lovely churches and the relics of ancient Roman baths, so many charming sights that I feel they deserve a seperate blog post of their own. So I will stick here to my personal sightseeing, and hope to revisit this topic in a future post.

 

Famiglia Mia

Ornella arranged for me to see the inside of the house where my family lived until the 1980’s. It is now used as a kindergarten, which seems appropriate to me as my grandfather loved children.

Villa Altruda

My grandfather with his siblings, circa 1905, Vasto. What a lovely place to grow up!

 

Me and Melania, who operates the Mary Poppins childcare center. at the front door of our former family home.

Full Circle

On my last day, we visited the cemetary. This too, deserves a post of its, own, but I will say briefly, that the cimetario is it’s own little villiage, filled with family mausoleums and graves, well tended and at the same time, overgrown in places. Individualistic touches and personal remembrances are everywhere.

 

Remembering my grandfather with fresh flowers.

Salute!

I’m going to end this post here, as I savor the connection to family. It was a great privilege to recognize and honor my grandfather, Giuseppe Altruda in the town of his birth. I must say a thousand thanks, Grazie Mille, to Ornella and Marco, and family, for their kindness in helping me to locate these special places, for the wonderful meals and the sea glassing.  Ci vediamo lánno prossimo-see you next year!

 

My grandfather and me in 1981, when I visited him in Bologna.

Dottore Giuseppe Altruda, 1980, Bologna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destinazione: Italia!

On the Adriatic, my grandfather and crew sailing his boat, the Luisa V.

Next week I’ll be setting my feet down for the first time in Vasto, Italy, the hometown of my grandfather. It’s located on the Adriatic coast, in the Abruzzo region.  Having heard about Vasto my whole life, it’s always been on my list of places to visit “someday” but thanks in part to my daughter studying art in Greece and Italy this spring, the time is now! Soon I’ll be traveling with a friend to Rome, Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast before joining Sophia in Florence at the end of her school term.

How This Came About- The Sea Glass Connection

 

Full circle-from Vasto to the Pacific NW and soon back to Italy,

Through the sea glass world, I met Ornella di Filippo, who makes beautiful wire-wrapped jewelry and ornaments from the glass she finds on Italian beaches. And… she happens to live in Vasto.  I had questions about my family’s ancestral town, and Ornella was most kind and helpful. After sharing a few photos from my grandfather’s album, she was able to locate the home where he once lived and places related to my family history, including graves.

After learning so much from her, It was easy to put Vasto at the top of the list, and go from there to other, more known destinations.

We will stay in Vasto for three nights and soak up the local seafood and sights. Ornella will give us a personalized tour of Vasto and also serve as our sea glass guide, and I feel so fortunate!

 

Vasto sea glass ring

Countdown

As the trip gets closer, I am inspired to make some pieces of jewelry with Italian roots to photograph on location at ancient sites like Paestum, Pompeii, and Herculaneum.  Currently I’m making some rings with ancient coins that I’ve been saving for just the right project.

Larrissa, ancient Greek silver coin c 356-342 B.C. with old Mediterranean coral.

While near Pompeii, we will meet another person from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She has already been helpful in pinpointing places a glasser would not want to miss. I can hardly wait to visit the museum of coral located in her hometown, along with the fantastic natural beauty of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. And let’s not get started on Firenze!

There’s going to be a lot to share, and until my next blog, please follow my Instagram feed https://www.instagram.com/judithaltrudajewelry

Till then,

Ciao Bella!

 

The Best Things in Life are (nearly) Free

“Will brake for sea glass” photo by Eric Fitzpatrick

Recently I was headed down the coast with my sister to a sea glass festival on the central California coast. Along the way, we stayed a couple nights in Ft. Bragg, to visit world-renowned Glass Beach. This post will include highlights of that journey down Highway 101 through the beaches and redwoods of Oregon and Northern California.

We began in Astoria, Oregon with a thermos of coffee and about a year’s worth of conversation stored up between the two of us.  Our last road trip, the previous March, had been to place our dad’s ashes inside a niche at Forest Lawn.  We had a lot of catching up to do.

 

Netarts, Oregon

Whatever Happened To? 

We hadn’t driven very far from Astoria when we took a side trip to find Lex’s Cool Stuff  in Netarts. We had not seen Lexi since we were living in Sunset Beach, California, way back in the seventies. Back then she made candle holders and other crafts from shards of broken automotive glass and surely must have been at the forefront of upcycled art. Our brother told us that Lexi had moved to Oregon and opened a shop. We found her tiny place on a road that overlooked the sea. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.

 

 

Lex’s Cool Stuff, Netarts, Oregon

Having many miles to travel, we moved on down the highway, vowing to return at a later date. Our drive took us through the towns of Newport, Lincoln City, and Gold Beach with scenic points of interest in between such as Devils Punchbowl, Devil’s Lake and Boiler Bay. Just before spring break, the towns were quiet, the highway uncrowded, perfect timing.

Pt Orford, Oregon

We stopped for the night close to the Oregon/California border, in Pt. Orford. This is a magical little place, with an amazing restaurant and art gallery nestled on the bluff above the small commercial harbor. We took a sunset stroll before checking into our room and then heading to Redfish for dinner. We knew this would be a special dining experience and were so glad to make it there before the final seating of the night!

Daybreak, Pt.Orford harbor

We slept with the sound of crashing surf coming through the open window and woke to a colorful sky at daybreak. We started the day with a walk on the beach as the sun cleared the hills.

 

Beachcombing

Beach at Pt. Orford

Another Roadside Attraction

We had barely said goodbye to Pt Orford and crossed the California border on Highway 101 when we had to stop again-for dinosaurs.

To my sister’s great disappointment, this roadside attraction was closed. We will have to visit the lifesize T Rex and brontosaurus another time, I guess.

We continued south on Highway 101 which offered sublime views as it hugged the cliffside high above the sea before plunging into misty stands of ancient redwood groves. Sprinkled between tiny towns, art galleries and quirky roadside attractions offered everything from redwood burls and bigfoot carvings to monumental metal sculptures and more.

The art of Val Polyanin, it was closed the day we drove by but had a telephone number on a mailbox at the side of the road. Maybe next time?

The Redwood Highway

Trees of Mystery, Klamath, CA. Monumental Paul Bunyon and Babe statues oversee the entrance to gift shop and End of the Trail Native American museum.

We stopped here to stretch our legs and for my sister to buy a redwood seed at the gift shop. The museum is really worth touring, especially if you admire Native American basketry. We drove along the Redwood  Highway, the twisting road flanked by massive trees, dark and moody. It is indeed a “Place of Wonder”.

Ancient Redwood Grove

We stopped to picnic in the LadyBird Johnson Grove.

In  Humbolt county, as we drive through the towns of Fortuna, Scotia, and Garberville, there were ample opportunities to stock up on redwood in many forms for those seeking a souvenir.

Humboldt County

Or maybe something larger?

Bigfoot Country

At the end of a long day’s drive, we emerged onto Highway 1 and reached Fort Bragg at sunset.

Without Further Ado; Glass Beach

Glass Beach, CA

We timed our trip to coincide with the tide, knowing we would have two low tide mornings to explore the beaches. We woke early the next day and drove to the Glass Beach approach. We left our car there and proceeded down to the trail along the bluff. For those who don’t know, what makes Ft. Bragg a major destination for sea glassers is the fact that it had four city dumps located right there on the beach from about 1895 to about 1969.

Our mission was to shoot some of my sea glass jewelry on location at the beach. I did see a few people on the beach picking up glass, but it is highly discouraged by the city of Ft. Bragg, which seek to protect this amazing treasure for all to enjoy. I recommend a visit to the International Sea Glass Museum, operated by Captain Cass. It will give a better understanding of what makes Ft Bragg’s beaches so unique and has well-organized sea glass collections from all over the world on display. As an extra bonus, Captian Cass will mark the best beaches to hunt for glass on the maps for sale in the gift shop.

Sea glass rings by Judith Altruda, at Glass Beach.

Climbing down to the beach, feeling the crunch of sea glass underfoot and seeing the ground shimmer as the sun comes out, is an out-of-this-world experience.

Abalone

Ravens at Glass Beach

Sea glass and Fiesta ware pottery shard

Sea Glass cove

Sunlight intensifies the carpet of glass!

Farewell, Glass Beach

After two days it was time to move on to Cayucos for the SeaGlass Festival, which will be the topic of a future post. And speaking of the future… those attractions that were closed when we passed by? Perhaps just as well, as it gives us another reason to return.

 

Sister Shadows

Auld Lange Syne Again

sunset 1 13 2014

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot

and never thought upon

summer solstice 2015

The flames of Love extinguished

and fully past and gone:

 

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Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,

That loving Breast of thine;

santa cruz

That thou canst never once reflect

on Old Long Syne?

dec4

Robert Burns immortal poem reminds us to appreciate the virtues of reconnecting with old friends and memories. On this last day of 2015, I want to let everyone out there know how much I appreciate your interest and support in my jewelry endeavors. I look forward to the journeys  that 2016 has in store!

 

Into the Wild

aldar eye

Right now, the signs of Fall are everywhere in the  Pacific Northwest. Lately I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the woods, witnessing the changes of the season. And extra lucky to have as a forest companion an 84 year old man who has spent his life working in the woods. His name is Marv Jones. His son, Bruce, who has been taking us on weekly excursions into the wild, compares his father to the original Jeremiah Johnson.

Marv reads the forest both as a living journal of current events and history book. For example, the faintest scratch along a logging road tells him a good sized buck deer was here, the direction it was headed and how long ago. Once a professional bear hunter for the State, he points to Cascara trees with bent branches, a sure sign that bear were here eating berries within the last day or two. He explains to me why one tree is left standing in a clear cut, (as a seed tree) and  recalls planting trees in the 1960s for a timber company, using tree planting machines (that were later discarded because humans do it better.) He shows me  where the timber camp was located. It’s hard to imagine that buildings once stood here, the only marker now is a tree stump with a rusty bucket perched on top.

He gives me a bear tooth for a good luck piece, which I now carry in my pocket.

Marv, photo by Bruce Jones

Marv, photo by Bruce Jones

An avid photographer, he has a keen eye for the beauty of dew coated  spider webs shinning in the sunlight or mushrooms freshly popped up from the forest floor. Speaking of fungi, the first rains of the season have spurred overnight mushroom growth.  I think about the campy Japanese horror film MatangoAttack of the Mushroom People, as I encounter mushrooms of incredible size and colors.

matango

We pick chanterelles, a highly prized seasonal mushroom by the bucket fulls…

chantrelle mushroom

chanterelle mushroom

What follows are some photographic highlights from these “sashays”, as Marv would say…

Bear claw marks

Bear claw marks

Elk graffiti-marks left on tree from where elk polished his horns

Elk graffiti-marks left on tree from where elk polished his horns

mushroom

fungi

fungi

The forest provides an inspirational photographic setting for jewelry…after years of shooting on the beach I am excited by the filtered light and moodiness of the woods.

men's copper cuff

men’s copper cuff

musroom rings 2

Mist Ring on alder leaf

Mist Ring on alder leaf

copper cuff and lycopodium moss

copper cuff and lycopodium moss

 

cuffa and mushrooms

so many mushrooms, so little time!

labrynth and mushrrom

 

black beach stone ring and maple leaf

black beach stone ring and maple leaf

After several  weekends spent tromping through the woods, I dive back into the studio with fresh ideas that practically explode off the bench!

And speaking of new work...I will be showing at the fabulous Santa Cruz Sea Glass Festival   November 7 and 8th. To see more new work , I invite you to follow me on Instagram

in progress on the bench

in progress on the bench

sea glass and eel grass

sea glass and eel grass

I have to thank Bruce and his father Marv for giving me a real insider’s tour of the forest that I have lived so close to and yet never really known before. I hope to share more photos in future posts with you.

October sunrise by Marv Jones

October sunrise by Marv Jones

In closing, hope you are having a terrific Autumn, and taking some time to enjoy the changing of the season.

 

 

The Spirit of Materials-Earth, Water, Air and Fire

metal etched and chased.2jpg

MATERIAL ~The Matter from which a things is or can be made.

The dictionary definition of material lists it as a noun or adjective, a name or a description. Used as an adjective, it describes something that is “important, essential and relevant.” 

Recently I have been a participant at several art events where the material shines through and guides the process of art making. This post will be about those materials -clay, paper, metal and wood, and show the process by which they are transformed into something new.

 

Sophia and I attended a cultural exchange workshop in Astoria, Oregon that featured six indigenous Maori clay artists from Aotearoa, New Zealand. The accompanying art exhibit, art lectures, and hands-on clay workshops were called Uku-Aotearoa-The Spirit of Materials.

baye riddell

Artwork by Maori clay artist Baye Riddel

I have not really worked with clay before, except for an ash tray I made in second grade. It was made with coiled rings of clay. It had a green glaze and marbles melted in the center. ( I gave it to my grandfather, who smoked.)

It was a good opportunity for beginners mind, also known Shoshin. This is a concept in Zen Buddhism that refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. Also inspiring was the opportunity to see experienced  artists build clay sculptures using age old techniques. There was a grace in watching coils of clay transform into an abstract angel, the artist’s hands building and smoothing every bit of it inside and out. The workroom filled with the energy and camaraderie of students and professionals, each making something with their hands. Maybe it was process that informed the final shape, for some it was an idea wielded and realized through process. The heart beat of it all was the building of a paper kiln. Like paper wasps building a home, the group slathered paper and mud to make a giant hive that breathed fire!

paper kiln7Step one: shelves are assembled to hold ceramics

This is an ancient, changeable and customizable method of kiln construction. The paper kiln uses simple materials-tree branches, paper and mud to construct an oven around stacked shelves of ceramics. These low-tech, versatile kilns are used in India today.

paper kiln6Wood is stacked tipi-style around the shelves.

paper kiln2

Sheets of newspaper are dipped in mud, then wrapped around the frame

paper kilnA fire is lit outside the kiln

The heat is from the fire is drawn into the structure. Coals are shoveled inside and a close watch is kept, repairing the walls as needed and keeping the fire stoked. (It was lit around 4:00 in the afternoon). Flames shot out of the top before it collapsed into itself around 1:00 A.M.

paper kiln opened up

Aftermath-a pile of burned paper, mud and wood coals surround the fired ceramics

paperkiln fired potOne of the fired pieces-organic material including mosses and shells were attached to the piece with copper netting to produce the random color and markings.

After returning home, steeped and stimulated by what I experienced, I started texturing sheet copper for a wood and metal sculpture collaboration with Jeffo . It feels great to work big-much bigger than jewelry mode. I will share more on our project in a future post.metal etched and chased

metal etched and chased.2jpg

Last week, Jeffro and I showed at the studio/ showroom of HIIH Lights in Astoria, Oregon.  Lam Quang and Kestral Gates are a husband and wife team who make handmade paper light  sculpture at their wonderful farm.

hiih barn

hiiih jeff photo

papermaking hiih 3Lam demonstrates paper making…

papermaking hiih

Wet mulch drying on the screen

 hiih papermaking

a few hours later, it starts to look like paper.

hiih show me

I need some of their lights for my display!

jeff horse hiih

Jeffro with Arabian Horse Bust, constructed from driftwood with his partner Zela Dove

jeff and zela

 

And more raw materials: piles of small wood that will eventually become part of Jeffro’s art:

woodpile

woodpile3

 

“From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.”

-Hokusai Katsuhika

 

This quote was hanging on the wall of the ceramics classroom at Clatsop Community College in Astoria. It certainly expands the art and age horizons!

Going to close post with a photo of a recently made pendant, featuring an ancient Greek coin.

artemis on the beach

Artemeis Solteira. on the beach- ancient bronze coin from Syracuse, Sicily 317 B.C

bud namaste Bud, my studio mate

Until next time-may you be inspired!

Sea Glass Safari

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“I tramp a perpetual journey.”-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

My sixteen year old daughter Sophia and I just returned home from a trip to the California coast. It was our first road trip together. We were headed to a Sea Glass Festival in Cayucos.

I was one of forty other sea glass artists, writers, and photographers, showing their sea glass creations in this idyllic little town, located close to Moro Bay and San Simeon.I met some of the sea glass world’s icons, like author Richard La Motte, and artist Monica Branstrom. The show was well organized and blessed with perfect weather and large crowds. It was a big success for me, due in no small part to my excellent helper, Sophia, whom I relied on in every way. She did not disappoint!

It has been a trip I will always hold dear, for so  many reasons: renewing bonds with childhood and high school  friends, seeing my brother and our eighty six year old father,(who drove up from Los Angeles with two accordions, two mandolins and a bouzouki for us from dad’s personal collection-I mean, his closet.) I got to meet Al and Celia, online customers who live in the area face to face for the first time- (they brought me gifts of almonds and wine!) The enthusiasm of new customers was wonderful-and promising for next years show.

Add to this the magic of the California coast, Carmel, Big Sur, Glass Beach, and the REDWOODS.

I will let the pictures tell the story, because I don’t have adequate words yet…

 

RbF8zC1NkKKD9A4fytLwgHMMoN5kmolYTplcK4fOcMgLAYspN Sophia on the rocks near Monterrey, CA

After two days of driving from Tokeland WA, we reached Pacific Grove, CA-John Steinbeck’s old stomping grounds. We spent two nights in the area near Cannery Row, going to the tide pools, hanging out with Monarch butterflies, and gallery scouting in downtown Carmel. At Rumble Seat Guitars we drooled over the vintage guitar display. When the sweet owners asked us if we would like to try any of them out we dropped to our knees simultaneously and shouted “We’re not worthy!” (Not) We left with free picks and lots of inspiration!

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BIG SUR

When I was Sophia’s age, I visited Big Sur for the first time, on a high school backpacking trip. The beauty I beheld then sort of split me apart. It continues to influence my art and spirit to this day….

cqOeBBo2OrbxIb6eCYSbO7ynVXCAJRZc2H5Z-vtLR1wLAYspN11058373_804991602921584_5754519074376785053_n Jewelry shoot on the beach at Big Sur where brown kelp, blue green water, craggy rocks, are my photographic muse.

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e-4UgrCA9-isyXSS-acLp_uK4BvTgb6kkXdoBvZEAwwLAYspNSophia on the porch at Nepenthe, Big Sur- a world class view of the Pacific and great food too!

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Warm sunny weather induced us to ditch our motel reservations and camp on the beach that night at LimeKiln Campground.

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We slept to the roaring of the ocean, a starry sky and half moon hanging over the ocean…

Cayucos

11033082_806663962754348_4549991225272723418_n Sophia and I before the show opened…

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11050234_806664009421010_297643368121479576_n Etched Mermaid drawing by our five year old friend Timber was a great display piece (and must have brought us luck, because Cayucos broke my previous sales records.)

10995749_974796942532942_949833681248639085_nThis sea glass, touted to be the world’s largest, was on view at the festival. It weighs five pounds four ounces and   was found on the NE coast of England.

 ramona girls reunion

Some of my Ramona Convent class mates, came up from the LA area-it was the first time we had been together in 37 years…( and we still look exactly the same 🙂 ) It was so moving to hug these girls after more than three decades!

Glass Beach

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I have been given sea glass from the famed Glass Beach in Northern CA, and am often asked if I have ever been there. This trip had to include a detour to see it for myself.

We arrived on a very foggy afternoon, after a day of driving North from Cayucos, through the Bay area and some very twisty roads in Mendocino County-wine county. After checking in to our motel we headed directly for the beach.

Fort Bragg has three historic dumps sites spanning from 1906-1967. Because of the rock formations and how they affect the tidal flow, nothing gets washed out to sea there. This is why there were multiple dump site, after one was filled another was started. Wherever there are dump sites, there is bound to be lots of glass. Glass that in this case did not get washed out to sea, but was sanded and shaped by right there, becoming buried under slag.

There are three beaches to find sea glass, each located at a former dump site.The most popular is called Beach Three.

beach one

I must say, after all the photos and hoopla I have heard about this place I tried not to expect too much. It is visited by thousands every year, many taking away buckets full of gravel and glass. We found tiny chips of green, white and brown colors in isolated areas.

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The next morning was sunny. We started the day with a visit to the Sea Glass Museum. It showcases well organized displays of sea glass found locally and around the world. It’s chock full of information about glass-how the color can change over time-such as sunlight turning clear glass purple, rarity of certain colors, and a black light display of ultra violet glass that glows green due to its uranium content. In short it is a great museum. We talked to it’s curator Capt. Cass about the local beaches. He marked the way down to beach#2 on a map. After purchasing his informative book, Beaches of Glass, we were on our merry way, back to the beach!

qmKpKPSJgX_BcLE-jMm8lGiUFkC_RdqxK5hDcsEYZygLAYspN Climbing down the cliff to Beach Two

N9dFmHZblHOdznMZ59K9b6eZ6VWNpiO7yzaIih_eCY8LAYspN This beach was nothing but sea glass! Crunching underfoot, glistening in the sun-I felt like I was in Ali Baba’s secret cave….

oZGylcqdV-brXwWkNOLFH7oUl1Vhe7jTe980wcLyXvkLAYspNDisclaimer-we did not remove any glass on the state beach or above the mean tide line.

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I tried to remember to breathe as we took it all in…I selected a few pieces of glass to bring home, being careful to take nothing that I would probably not use later.

10906065_10205271063389590_3450426046080873653_n “Mom are you done yet?”

I was completely sea glass satisfied, as we climbed back up the cliffs and headed on the the redwoods…

 

11009203_808556369231774_1196157412295245540_n Goodbye Ft Brag-until next time!

Avenue of the Giants

1497473_10205274294230359_159791877566701636_n There is nothing on earth quite like the redwoods-they are the tallest living things, and some of them are the oldest too…

10403001_10205267511620798_1804912203058670373_n World Famous drive- through wonder~ The Chandelier Tree. It is 2500 years old and appears to be thriving. It was worth the five dollars to drive through it!

The drive on the Redwood Highway, US 1 and 101 is a unique mix of history and natural wonders, seasoned with folksie roadside attractions. (Most all of it is free, with no admission charged.)

inside tree Inside the Chimney Tree-hollowed out inside for a great hobbit hole!

inside tree sophiaExiting the Chimney Tree

11018916_10205274293390338_672180339485177581_n Bigfoot lives!

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Pure Burlesque!

10882093_10205274293230334_5576228761421886947_nPaul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox at the Trees Of Mystery near Klamath, CA

There is a really great Native arts museum here. Walk through the tourist shop and take some time to go through the extensive displays of Native American artifacts. They have a wonderful collection of Northern CA tribal basketry and more…in their bookstore I bought a copy of Ishi, the Last of his Tribe for Sophia, a book I read at her age and never forgot.

coin shirt tribal

11081083_10205267537261439_6756248442824203054_n Sophia in the Avenue of the Giants-redwood root behind her…

sophia redwoods At the LadyBird Johnson Memorial Redwood Grove, near Orick CA

All Good Things…

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After we left the Trees of Mystery and got in line behind other cars following a pilot car past road construction, I saw a piece of cardboard in front of me and had no time to move around it. So I drove over it. As I did, I saw (to my horror) spikes coming out of one side-and it was plywood, not cardboard. Our car thunk thunked over the plank. I was telling myself I had imagined the spikes, when Sophia said “Mom-that board had nails coming out of it!”

There was no place to turn to the shoulder, so we stayed in the line of cars and kept driving until past the work site. I pulled over to take a look at the tires on the right side. They looked okay. So we continued driving, listening for the thumping sounds of a flat for another 80 miles, hoping to make it to the nearest Les Scwaab in Grants Pass, Oregon. That drive was pretty tense, as I thought about how everything in the trunk of the car, including our luggage, the  heavy glass for the display cases  and  an  accordion, was loaded over the spare tire. I REALLY did not want unload everything on the side of an isolated highway…But at least it wasn’t dark or raining. And…we made it to the tire shop, they checked it out and said we must have been lucky-no leaks!

That night in the hotel I dined on leftover kettle corn and wine, while watching Dance Moms on TV with Sophia. (Don’t worry, she had been properly fed.) The next morning we left Sutherlin OR for a nine hour drive to Tokeland-easy all the way!

11088391_357043457835709_5186675655956176216_n “There’s no place like home.”

Hope you have enjoyed this recounting of our road trip/sea glass sojourn. There is more I have to share, but will do that through the jewelry I plan to make!

If any of you happen to be in this SW Washington area, you might like to come to out 9th Annual Tokeland Studio Tour, Saturday April 18th from 10:00-5:00.

Thanks for joining us~

10314697_10205259860349521_8101924545776206772_n “That’s All,, Folks”

 

PS: Yesterday after I posted this, I got a call  from Jason at Three Crows Garage, in Westport WA, After fifteen months of restoration and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, She was finally ready to come home!

ghia Stopped at Washaway Beach to take this photo-Ready for the next road trip? You bet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Here

timbers mermaid Copper etching of Timber’s Mermaid

I am writing this post on the Lunar New Year-goat or sheep-take your pick. (I choose goat.)

Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are at a seasonal crossroads. The last weeks of winter linger, while the days grow longer and warmer.

Everywhere signs of Spring are emerging: the sounds of frog choruses at night, cherry blossoms in bud, robins singing in the early morning. The sap is moving in the trees and I feel a corresponding awakening within.  Winter’s sequestration is nearly over and it feels good to be outside again!

Something I do when the weather is good and the garage doors can stay open is etching metal (copper and shibuichi) in acid baths. The drawings of five year old Timber, daughter of Jeffro and Zela, were among my first projects.

In less than a month I will be in  California for the Cayucos Sea Glass Festival, where the theme is mermaids. Timber’s drawings will translate into great display pieces for my booth.

Here is a sneak peak at what I will be showing there:

caycous ringblue

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After a long period of grey skies and heavy rain, when the sun comes out its a call to action for beach photo shoots!

Like the changing seasons I have been developing two lines of work-one sunny and bright (the sea glass) and the other deeper and more mysterious. This has been my Winter’s endeavor. Time consuming, skill challenging, pushing my vision further. It is only the beginning, but I share it here with you:

Bacchanal Rings~

dionysus coinphoto by Marcy Merrill

Dionysos ancient Greek coin (3rd Century B.C. ) with 22kt gold, ruby, reticulated silver and 18kt hand formed band.

beecoin 2

Honey Bee coin, Ionia c. 305-288 B.C. with 22kt and 18kt gold, reticulated silver and yellow diamond. Photo by Marcy Merrill

stagphoto by Marcy Merrill

Artemis-Greek coin from the 2nd-1st Century B.C. featuring stag. 22KT,18KT gold,reticulated silver.

octo coinNymph- ancient Sicilian coin with octopus on reverse side, 22KT and 18KT gold, reticulated silver, diamonds. Photo by Marcy Merrill

In closing, I would like to share two  photos taken this past week on our beach here in the Center of the Universe!

cathenge

Daybreak-Cat Henge!

tokeland skyine1Sunset, Tokeland Skyline-Sophia and Raleigh

 

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Time to get back into the studio-hope to see you at Cayucos!