Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wild Mustard Blooming

Today while driving back from Sonoma Valley I stopped by the Gloria Ferrera
Winery and drank in the scenery.

I wish I could have drank in some wine too, but it wasn’t in the budget.

From Alexander Valley

I was somewhat surprised that they have not pruned back their grapes yet.
Most all of the surrounding wineries in Sonoma and Napa Valleys have already finished up their winter time pruning.

I even finished up pruning some grapes for a client a couple of weeks ago.

The yellow flower in the foreground is wild mustard.
It is a prevalent weed in the vineyards.
It is so beloved that they even have a month long festival called the Mustard Festival .

Monday, February 23, 2009

Raku results

I'm not so overly happy with the blue stain under glaze that I used on the Geisha goil tile.
During the loading of the tile some of the clear overglaze was flaking off.
I had expected some unevenness but not as much that did occur.
I distilled some blue oil paint and filled in the open areas where the glaze had spalled off.
As soon as the oil paint thoroughly dries I'm going to get some painters wax and brush it over the blue stain so that
I can bring back some luster.

It's always a crap shoot when Raku firing.
Sometimes its crap and sometimes its not.

From Ceramic Studio

From Ceramic Studio

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How I spend my Saturdays.

Every Saturday I spend the day at the College of Marin ceramic studio.

I’ve been playing around with clay at the college level since 1978 and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to work in several different studios and have studied under a few iconic teachers such as Viola Frey and Art Nelson.

The College of Marin studio is one of the nicest studios that I have had the pleasure to work in.
Here you will find an incredibly supportive community of artists that work together in a friendly and ego free atmosphere.

Many of the students in this Saturday class are professional artists that work in various sculptural disciplines but there are also a fair share of beginner students as well.
The most pleasant aspect of this group of like minded artisans is that we support and help each other in any way that we can, especially the newer students who are just beginning to get a feel for the clay studio.
This type of mentoring greatly helps out our instructor who has arduous task of teaching 30 students whose skills range drastically from the very beginner to the very experienced.

Here are a few shots of the studio :

The main wing of the work studio
From Ceramic Studio

This is the glaze wing where the electric kilns are located and the loading cards.
From Ceramic Studio

At the foreground of this photo is a couple of pieces that I am about to glaze.
From Ceramic Studio

A tile . It is about 12” wide and 19 inches long.
I’ve just started applying the wax resist to the hair of the Geisha ‘s.
This piece was Raku’ed today.
From Ceramic Studio

These pots were made by one of the more experienced students.
From Ceramic Studio

One of the electric kilns loaded with a few pieces
From Ceramic Studio

An intermediate student working at the wheel. She threw some nice work today.
From Ceramic Studio

Our fearless leader, Logan Wood.
She has a wonderful style of teaching. The perfect temperament for handling such a wide range of students.
From Ceramic Studio

Today myself and another student did a raku firing.
The more experienced students who are familiar with the loading and fireing proceedures can supervise themselves .

I didn’t take any photos of us in the action of doing the raku fireing due to the pace that one has to keep when the pieces are taken out of the kiln and placed into the reduction buckets but I did click off a few photos of the out door covered kiln room.

Here’s our big gas kiln. I’ve never fired this kiln on my own or even with the tech.
From Ceramic Studio

Here’s one of our raku kilns.
We didn’t use this one today. We used the smaller portable one.
From Ceramic Studio

Here’s the raku reduction buckets.
After you pull your white hot piece out of the kiln you put it in a bucket of dried leaves and paper . The peice immediately creates a fire in the bucket . To smother the flame you put a lid on the bucket and the smoke within the bucket creates some cool looking raku effects.

From Ceramic Studio

The pieces that I raku’ed today are sitting outside .
They still smell like smoke so they are airing out.

I like the way the vase came out but I’m not that overly thrilled with the tile.

I’ll post them tomorrow and you’ll see what I mean.

Stay Creative !

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A break in the storm

Between the heavy down pouring of rain and the brief breaks of streaking sun I managed to click off a few photographs that caught my interest.

In Northern California the calla lily’s are in full bloom.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

A Leucadendron hybrid was showing off its late winter colors.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Floating like the clouds across the stormy sky these glass balls fluttered across the water.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

They reminded me of the colorful bumper cars that you see at summer time carnivals.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Preparing a raised veggie garden for spring

It was 44 degrees this morning as I was loading chicken manure compost into my truck.
I was bound for a lovely residential garden in Northern California where I would spend the day preparing a garden for the upcoming spring vegetable garden.

The vegetable garden at this home is comprised of raised boxes.
They are about 24 inches high, which I find to be a wonderful height for my short stature and ageing back.
I used 2 bags of chicken compost in the large planters and one bag in the 3x3 square box planters.
They will be planted with the summer tomatoes, squash, and peppers in mid March.

I had planted the winter veggies; spinach, kale and 3 different types of lettuce about 2 weeks ago.
I also planted some herbs too.

From Loropetalum chinese

An added extra bonus in this garden is the built in work bench and sink which came in very handy today as I spread out the terra cotta pots and scrubbed them clean before adding new soil and plants
From Loropetalum chinese

When I designed this garden about 10 years ago I found a neat old bronze hose bib knob in the shape of a watering can and had it mounted on the faucet .
Despite its rather large size, it fits comfortable in your hand as you turn the water on and off.

From Loropetalum chinese

The winter citrus crop was in full fruiting mode. - Yum, I pocketed a few lemons.
From Loropetalum chinese

From Loropetalum chinese

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A photo essay for

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

I’d like to thank Michael at for this opportunity to submit this photo essay on a project that I worked on at Squaw Valley California which is adjacent to Lake Tahoe.

The clients that I collaborated with were old friends. We had previously done several projects together over the past 20 years so we had an established report.

The house at Squaw is a vacation home. It is lovingly used during the winter ski season and the summer boating and hiking season.
The homeowners expressed their desire to build a terrace that could be enjoyed all year round regardless of the heavy snow fall. For this specific reason we agreed that a built in snow melt system should be installed to keep the terrace and seating areas free from snow build up.
The heat coil hydronics system is installed in the stone seating and the stone flooring thus providing a snow shovel free patio.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

Dining and cooking alfresco was high on the wish list as well as a warm roaring fire to cuddle around on star lit evenings.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

There was the issue of privacy. In consideration for the neighbors who had a second story view into the newly developed area along with my clients own sense of exposure we knew that a privacy screen was required. During the course of the preliminary design meetings we came up with the idea of a metal crafted privacy screen that could weather the extreme weather conditions. A local metal smith , Mountain Forge in Truckee CA fabricated the screen out of copper and forged metal . It depicts the Squaw Valley mountain range beyond and even includes one of the ski lifts.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

After visiting the site to measure the existing site and building conditions and shooting the grades I presented the clients with three preliminary design sketches to get the design dialogue moving.
After much discussion we settled on the half round circular sitting area situated around the eco conscience gas fired fire ring.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

With the basic design intent determined I set forth in drafting up the construction documents.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

It was a given that my business partner, Miguel Chavez would be constructing the project.
He is a master stone mason with an articulate eye towards detail.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

During the construction the crew of 5 moved up to Squaw. They lived in the guest house above the garage during the week and I drove up on Fridays to review the weeks work and to solve any insitu concerns that may have arisen during the week.
It was a blissful 3 month long summer project.

As with many projects , there were some changes, additions and revisions during the construction.
We found that there would be a better pedestrian flow of traffic if the railing between the old deck and the new terrace was removed.
And a natural stone water feature was added much to everyone’s delight. It was the homeowners idea and it was a great one !
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

When discussing the surface treatment for the lower flat portion of the property we came to the conclusion that an artificial turf would be an excellent solution, it provides a maintenance free play surface for the kids and family dog.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

The planting scheme had to stand up to some pretty rough growing conditions. Squaw Valley receives a tremendous amount of snow and can have hurricane type wind.
The local grazing wildlife includes deer , copious bears ( who visited the job site several occasions ) and terrible little burrowing creatures.
I chose some natives along with some tried and true plants known for their successful performance in this high altitude location.
Some of the trees chosen were : Picea pungens ( Spruce), Abies (Fir) , Populus tremuloides ( Aspen), Acer palmatum ( Japanese Maple) , and Prunus ( flowering Plum)
Shrubs included Salix ( willow) , Physocarpus (ninebark), Spirea and Arctostaphylos ( kinnikinick berry ).
A drip irrigation system was installed.
From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

Out of courtesy for my clients a price for the installation is not available.

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

Sunday, February 1, 2009

When you catch up with your past.

Have you ever had the opportunity to see one of your gardens mature ?
Like put on 20 years ?

Today I visited and worked in a garden that I designed and installed about 17 or 18 years ago.
I can’t exactly remember the dates.

It was a delightful opportunity.

Trees that were just 4 or 5 feet tall were now 20 to 30 feet tall.
Some shrubs and trees had weathered the years well while other proved not to be hardy enough to survive the challenging climatic and wild life conditions .

In the view below, I had some native Rhododendrons planted on the knoll under the native oaks. They were history. But some of the low growing conifers had survived .
I had some low growing ground cover in the foreground but after about 10 years or so they got too woody and were replaced with some rosemary, santolina and artemesia.

From Alexander Valley

The small Cotinus purpureas that was planted from a 5 gallon container now stands about 15 to 18 feet tall and the lilacs are about 12 feet tall.

From Alexander Valley

I pruned the espalier apple trees in the vegetable garden.
The trunks are now able to stand easily on their own.
The fruit spurs ( hundreds of them ) were a real treat to see.
From Alexander Valley

Another surprise was the Pineapple guava tree. in the center of the vegetable garden - It was all grown up!
From Alexander Valley