Wood, Paper, Stone

daily life color048 Version 2

Lately, several people have asked to see what I as doing before I moved to Mexico and started making retablos and writing this blog.  When I searched for the word “study,” today’s prompt word, in my blog files, this blog published four years ago was one of the posts that came up and since it fulfills both purposes, I’m going to run it again.

My story begins in 1985 when I went to a coffee house in Santa Monica, CA for a poetry reading. It was an interesting situation–a dual reading between a local poet I’d never heard read before and his ex-girlfriend who also happened to be pregnant with his child.  Although they had broken up and she had gone back to her estranged husband, the two of them were reading love poetry they had written to each other!!!  Need I mention that it was a packed house?  At any rate, if you’ve read my book, you know that it was love at first sight on my part.  I not only thought he was gorgeous,but his poetry was smart and funny and real and I felt I knew him from the first time I saw him.

A year and a few months later, we were married and moved to northern California where the living was cheaper and where I intended to get a teaching job to augment his early retirement (from teaching) income so he could finally become the full time artist he’d always wanted to be. Prior to moving northwards and actually prior to our marriage, when I experienced writer’s block, the man whose poetry workshop we both attended had suggested that my problem was that I “knew” too much about writing. (I had been teaching literature and writing for 10 years prior to moving to CA to write myself.)  He said the  cure would be to try an artistic discipline other than writing that I knew nothing about–in my case, art.  But I couldn’t draw or paint, I protested. So, he suggested I go to the dime store and buy a bunch of “stuff” and just play around with collage.

So, this is what I did, assembling a half dozen or so collages out the the most unlikely of materials–rubber mice, cut up thin metal jam and butter lids I’d collected on a European vacation, confetti,  paper sculptures I’d cut out of pages of old poems.  I know. Weird.  I remember one of the titles was, “Party mouse wants to come out to play, but can’t.”

Jack, our writing guru, had said to bring my results to show him at the next workshop, but I was embarrassed and so left my collages in the car when I came up to class. When it was my turn to present, he asked if I’d done as he instructed and I admitted I’d left them into the car. “Go and get them,” he directed and because he was our God and because no one ever didn’t mind Jack, I went to get them.  They were well-received, to my great surprise, and one woman who worked in a downtown L.A. gallery even offered  to exhibit them.  No, way, I protested, but I have  continued to do art of one sort or another ever since.

After we moved to the Santa Cruz area, Bob did art full time until his death 14 years later.  I never did get that teaching job.  Instead I studied metal smithing and became a jewelry maker and paper maker.  We made our living doing arts and crafts shows for the next 13 years, each doing our own thing–me, jewelry and him sculpture and ikebana vases–but in addition, we collaborated on art lamps that were constructed from river stones, bamboo, willow, basket making materials and my handmade washi paper.  Bob did the wood and stone work. I made the paper from mulberry bark and applied it and in some cases designed and constructed the entire lamp of liana, bamboo, my handmade paper and various natural materials. Some of those lamps are pictured below:

lamps 1

We sold hundreds of these lamps, each one totally unique and although we sold every one we ever made, they were extremely time-consuming and hard to transport. We were not becoming rich, but we were doing exactly what we wanted to and making art exactly according to our own esthetic, not catering to fashion or what would sell. Eventually, I started to make my own lamps as well as doing all of the paper and application of paper for his and continuing to design and make jewelry.

At one show, a man actually came in and bought our entire booth.  Every lamp, ikebana vase and every piece of jewelry!!  That, I must say, was the highlight of our joint careers.

When Bob died and I moved to Mexico, it was the end of my lamp building career. I let each of his kids choose a lamp and sculpture, I saved two lamps for myself, sold the rest, and went on to the next stage of my life.  But, since we did so many  shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, I developed this very strange compulsion which consisted of looking for our lamps in every TV show and movie that I’ve watched since then.  I had this feeling that one day I would see one of our lamps as part of the set for a movie.

Bob died in 2001, but, still, my eyes sweep the background of each movie scene.  I must admit I do the same with magazines, and actually, thirteen years ago when I thumbed through an issue of House and Garden that had a friend’s garden on the cover, I suddenly had an overwhelming sense that one of our lamps was inside.  I looked and looked.  Nothing.  Then, I concentrated on a many-page spread of the gardens surrounding a house outside of Santa Fe and when I looked closer, I realized it was the house of the man who had bought out our entire booth in Tucson–so although they didn’t show, the house pictured as the backdrop of the gardens actually was filled with our lamps!!!  I know.  Stretching it, but still.

Anyway, we are about to come to the end of this very wandering tale.  Last night I watched a movie I’ve been putting off seeing for years.  My friend and I had just spent two hours trying unsuccessfully to link my MacBook Air and my Samsung Smart TV.  I was exhausted and decided to just watch Netflix on my computer. Not feeling like scrolling through a hundred different films, I  clicked on “Life of Crime” with Jennifer Aniston.  The movie was actually rather engaging and not the slapstick comedy I had envisioned, and I stayed the course.  And it was in the very last scene that it happened.  As the antagonist female was heading for the bathroom, there on the back wall was what looked like –ONE OF MY LAMPS!!!  Four different times, I got glimpses of it.  When the movie ended (great ending by the way) I replayed the last 5 minutes.  Tried to freeze frame.  Scrunched my eyes up.  Yes!  I was so sure it was one of my own small lamps–not one we’d collaborated on, but one of the first I’d done where I’d done my own design, execution and even the wiring.

Of course, I told Forgottenman, who happens to live 1500 miles away but whom I talk to at length via Skype each day.  A few minutes later, he Skyped, “Is it this one?” with a perfect screen shot of the  lamp.  Yes, indeed it was.  I remembered thinking I should cover the cord up with something.  I remembered hand drying the paper with a hairdryer so it would shrink over the willow branches.  I remembered binding it tightly with wax linen and spraying it with fire retardant.  I remember making the handmade label and where I tied it on–at the bottom where the willow branches joined.

So, though I may have flaked out and quit the actor’s studio I attended while I was in L.A. studying film production and film writing—retreating  with my tail between my legs as soon as casting directors actually started coming to see what we were up to—there was one of my lamps, bravely rising to the occasion–hanging securely on the wall and facing up to the camera like the star I knew it would one day be. Like a proud parent, I bask in its reflected glory.

It is one of my humble little lamps, non-assuming and plain, but here it is below, for all the world to see:    

Version 2imgo (1)

As well as a few  more elaborate lamps by Bob Brown & Judy Dykstra-Brown made of Stone, wood, handmade washi paper, waxed linen and willow.

daily life color056 daily life color053 daily life color052 daily life color051

 

The prompt word today is study.

20 thoughts on “Wood, Paper, Stone

  1. Debbie

    Oh Judy – what a great story and what great art you created. Thank you for reposting it for us newbies.
    Believe it or not my first visit to an art gallery was only a couple of years ago – my daughter and I visited the one in Indianapolis – I was totally shocked by my reaction – so much beauty. And while we only visited one floor – the older art pieces – for the first time in my life I felt such an appreciation for it.
    Art has never really been part of my life and I need to change that. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lifelessons Post author

      Thanks, Debbie. I loved reading your comment and hope you go back and visit the second floor soon. I really started visiting art galleries with my husband, as I grew up in a very small isolated town and not much art was available. Traveling through Europe museum by museum with my husband-to-be really opened my eyes!!

      Like

      Reply
      1. lifelessons Post author

        To produce those lamps required a number of huge stone drills, cutters, sandblasters, kilns, and a twelve foot diamond saw in addition to band saws, saber saws, table saws, lathes, routers,kilns, etc. that were impossible to move to Mexico. Nor did I have the skill Bob had in operating all of them. I used smaller tools for my silversmithing and paper making–in addition to studios full of 20 ton presses,Hollanders, pulp beaters, forms, drills, torches, etc. that I left behind to “simplify.” It was definitely a two-person operation and part of the reason I talked Bob into moving was that combined with traveling to and setting up shows, it was an exhausting if satisfying process. He was sixteen years older than I was and I knew it was killing him. Unfortunately, we waited too long for him. But, he loved producing these complicated extensions of himself. It took me four years to clear out the seven art studios full of tools and supplies in our house so I could sell it. The man loved tools, many of which he made himself. Our huge stone core drills made use of missile-tracking hardware we bought at a used equipment sale at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. His diamond saws and the Hollander he made me used the casings of all of of our broken down appliances as they occurred: a refrigerator and a dryer. My pulp beater was made of our modified old washing machine agitator. My paper studio was made of old cast-off doors and an entire slate roof that covered one side. Bob loved making studios and tools as much as he loved making his sculpture and lamps. He was a true renaissance man. We lived in Boulder Creek for fourteen years and in that time he built 5 extensions onto our original two studios–one for each new art avenue we ventured into.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Marilyn Armstrong

    That is, first of all, a wonderful tale, full of all kinds of truths and subtleties. Love and art, the high and the low.

    I do love your work, but you know that. You have a wonderful, joyful, honest eye. And the little piece I have is one of my treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lifelessons Post author

      I’m so glad you are enjoying it..Better than enjoying it myself, actually. It had your name stamped on it from the first–even when I didn’t know you. Did you know it predated Morrie as well as you????

      Like

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Author Interview – Shawn L. Bird – “Grace Awakening” Series (Young Adult Fantasy) “Murdering Mr. Edwards: Tales from Canterbury High” (Short Story Noir) & Poetry Collections | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  4. Pingback: Over Learning – Nicolas Heartmann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.