Saturday, January 31, 2009


A man from the Tohono O'odham Nation.

A traditional Tohono O'odham pendant.

Paul's thinking of a new career as a fortune teller.

Me, with a really, really big crystal.

Today, Paul and I went to a big show called the Pueblo Gem and Mineral Show.  It was the opening day of this particular show, so it was pretty crowded.  One vendor told us however that the I-10 construction had really cut down on the opening day traffic.  This show had things that I never even imagined existed.  We talked to one vendor that had bathroom sinks made of large slabs of polished fossils from Morrocco.  They were really beautiful.  I'd love to have one for our bathroom remodel.  There were giant crystals like those in the photos above, as well as 10 foot tall amethyst crystals that have been sawed in half.  I don't think the airline would let me carry that on.   We saw one giant smokey quartz crystal the size of a Volkswagon Beetle.  The price tag was 1oo,ooo dollars.  A little out of my price range.  I asked the vendor what was the likelihood that it will get sold.  She said that the odds were good, as last year at the same show they sold a larger one for 250,000 dollars.  Wow.
At this same show, we met a really nice man who is a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation here in Southern Arizona.  He was wearing a really interesting shell pendant and he was nice enough to tell me about it.  In ancient times, his people would trade with coastal groups and bring back shells.  They would make a resist of pitch made from pine sap which they would cook until it was thick and sticky.  The resist would be painted on the shells in traditional and meaningful patterns.  The one in the picture is meant to wish rain for the people.  In the meantime, fruit from the saguaro cactus was harvested and made into wine, which was then left to ferment until it became acidic.  The shells would then be soaked in the wine for days until the parts of the shell not protected by the pitch were etched.  The time required for etching depended on how much rain fell in the desert before the harvest of the fruit.  The amount of acidity in the fruit was effected by how wet the year had been.  We later met the man who made the piece in the photo and he told me that this etching process was nearly lost to time, but now he a couple other artists have revived it.  He will soon have a website and I will pass that on to you when he does.  It's amazing the things that you learn and the people that you meet when you stop to rest your feet.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Paul and Bria at Cafe Poca Cosa.

Paul skeptically contemplates his garnish.

Bria decides to sample the garnish, which unfortunately for her, is coated with chile powder.

Happy Anne.

The lovely Jenny Rice who was our server extraordinaire at Poca Cosa. 

We made it to Tucson with no air travel incidents and we even arrived early!  It's been a while since I wasn't delayed or had my luggage get lost.  It was refreshing.  We went out to dinner tonight to my favorite restaurant in Tucson, maybe anywhere, Cafe Poca Cosa.  Dinner was simply great, if you are ever in Tucson, you really should try it out.  Paul and I had great company as we were joined by friends, Anne Mitchell and Bria Date.  We were loud and silly and you might think Paul would be overwhelmed by our silliness, but he was a good sport as always.  One of the many things to love about him.  Tomorrow, we might hit a show or two (there are many to choose from!) and maybe head out to the San Xavier del Bac Mission.  I haven't been there since the renovations were complete and it is a really beautiful place to visit.
More photos tomorrow!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Well, I'm off to Tucson to see friends and to go to the Gem Show.  I know, I suck.  You'd be about the 10th person to tell me that just today.  You see, it's January in Iowa, so it's only natural that I'd suffer a little abuse.  I completely understand it.  
 I'm looking for good quality faceted gemstone beads for making earrings and necklaces to go with my silver and bronze pieces.  If I come back with stuff that I didn't intend to buy, I hope you will all ridicule me.  It's weird how that happens.  You lose all sense of self-control at one of these shows.  I stand around like a tourist with my mouth hanging open for the first half hour or so.  Then I sort of get it together.  I am always stunned by the seemingly infinite variety and beauty of objects from the natural world.  
I hope to post from the show.  Keep you fingers crossed for my self-control and my wallet.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Jackson Pollock, photographed by Hans Namuth in 1950.

'Mural' by Jackson Pollock from the permanent collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Today is the birth date of the American painter, Jackson Pollock.  Pollock was a wildly talented and highly experimental, abstract impressionist.  He was also a deeply troubled, extremely volatile, alcoholic.  He painted in many styles during his short life, abruptly abandoning them and moving on to new methods.  Pollock once in an interview was asked whether mistakes were hard to prevent due to his wild style of painting.  He replied thoughtfully that he "does not use the accident, I deny the accident".  This quote has stuck with me and I think it's a good ideal for all artists to embrace.
The painting above was commissioned by art patron Peggy Guggenheim, in 1943.  It was painted to hang in her New York apartment.  The mural is about 8 feet by 20 feet in size and until recently hung in the central gallery space in the University of Iowa's Museum of Art.  When I was in college, I would sit for hours on a bench staring at this painting.   There's something extremely captivating about it.  Though it is clearly an abstract painting, there is something very figural going on in it that I've never been able to put my finger on.  I always found sitting there with it very inspiring and I loved to think of it as my painting.  
The devastating floods in 2008 heavily damaged 5 university buildings on the arts campus to the tune of 250 million dollars.  This all happened pretty fast, but the Museum managed to get all but 10 works of art out before the river spilled over it's banks.  Their valiant effort saved the Pollock mural along with more than 12,000 works of art valued at half a billion dollars.  The insurer, Lloyd's of London came with big trucks and took it all away for safe keeping.  The museum will not return to it's lovely spot by the river, surely a wise move, but one that makes me sad.  It is not known where or when we will have our new museum, and so our collections remain in Chicago.  Recently it was announced that a small art museum in Davenport, Iowa will soon display some of the collections until we have a new home.  It will be nice to have it back in our home state.
There had been talk that the UI might sell the famous Pollock painting to cover some flood costs.  Tempting to be sure, as the painting is insured for 150 million dollars and would almost certainly bring much more at auction.  The director of the museum recently said in no uncertain terms that this would not be happening.  I'm glad.  Some things are worth keeping, even when it's hard to hold onto them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JOHN UPDIKE 1932-2009

John Updike in 2006

There's a quote that goes something like, "If you want to understand a country, read it's novels".  I know this is a bit simplistic and yet, in a lot of ways it's true.  In the same way that novels such as 'Like Water For Chocolate' or 'The House of  Spirits' help define the zeitgeist of turn of the century Latin America, Updike defined the ethos of mid-century America.  John Updike died today in Massachusetts of lung cancer.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Even the Uglies seem to approve.

Ok, so it took me longer than I thought it would, but here it is.  I actually have a table to work at!  Which is a good thing, because I have a lot to do.  I still have some organizing to do, which I'm trying to figure out.  I have too many books and need to get rid of some (so I can get more!).  I also have a hard time with bead storage.  I have those little plastic containers that screw together and stack, which work to a degree.  But I still have trouble putting my hands on the exact bead I need sometimes.  Any storage suggestions?

I always feel great when I've organized a space in my house.  Not that that feeling always lasts long!  Inevitably, the clutter reaches critical mass, I have an organizational meltdown and I have to start all over again.  But man, do I feel powerful for a while.

Friday, January 23, 2009


My great friend, Anne Mitchell is holding a workshop along with the very talented Gail Crosman Moore not once, but twice during the Gem Show in Tucson, Arizona.  The one day workshop will explore a variety of techniques for applying color to metal.  The workshop also will delve into cold joining and metal fusing techniques for finishing your pieces.  The dates are either February 2nd or February 11th.  If you will be in the Tucson area during this time, I know that you'd really enjoy taking a class from Anne and Gail.  Check out this great class here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Well, I've been trying to get my workspace cleaned up for weeks now, with limited success.  For some reason, when I'm getting ready for a show, I fling things around like a wild monkey.  However, the holiday shows are long over and now I need to be getting it together for spring shows.  It's kind of hard to do that when you have no space to work on!  I promise you there is a perfectly wonderful 7 foot long laboratory table under all of that mess.  This picture is a few days old and the situation is a bit better than a week ago, but still just this side of being declared a disaster area.  The reason I reveal my messier side and expose myself to to your collective ridicule, is that I hope it will encourage me to get on with it.  So, by the end of the week I will finish cleaning and post a photo of my perfect, beautiful and enviably organized space.  Really, I will.  And if I don't, I know a few of you who'll give me hell about it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


We will have a new President today and I more proud and hopeful than I can possibly express.  So today, I will leave it to people who were eminently more qualified and capable to speak on and about this day than I ever could be.  I am humbled by their words.

"I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love"   - George Washington's first inaugural speech, April 30, 1789

"A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with other nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye- when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and auspices of the day, I shrink from the contemplation and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking".   - Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural speech, March 4, 1801

We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature".   - Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural speech, March 4th, 1861

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance"  - Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural speech, March 4th 1933

"My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man".  - John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech, January 20th, 1961

"Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world, but the engine of our own renewal.  There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America"   - William J. Clinton's first inaugural speech, January 20th, 1993

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Yesterday, Paul and I went down to the banks of the Iowa River to watch for the Bald eagles that come to the area every winter.  We walked out across the foot bridge that crosses the river above the old Iowa River Power Company dam and although it was windy and cold, it was well worth the effort, as we were rewarded with a sight that everybody ought to get to see.  There were no fewer than 15 Bald eagles flying over the river in just this one spot alone.  The Canadian geese in these photos were very nervous about the eagles swooping among them, hunting for fish.  I would be too!  It really was an incredible sight.
Bald eagles were put on the endangered species list in 1967 when the pesticide DDT began to kill adult eagles and damaging their eggs so that they were unable to reproduce.  As if the DDT wasn't damaging enough,  farmers and ranchers felt that the eagles were dangerous predators, and so they poisoned and shot many thousands of them before they became protected.  At that time, there were only 417 pairs of eagles left in the lower 48 states.  What a sad fate for such an enduring symbol of our country and our freedom.  After years of careful management by scientists and government agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bald eagle has made a remarkable comeback with more than 11,000 birds being counted in a recent national survey.  In 2007 they were removed from the endangered list, which doesn't mean that they are safe from the threat of extinction, just a lot further from that point. 
It was so exciting to see them, especially in such great numbers.  What a great privilege.  You can bet that I'll be down there to watch them many more days before spring.

Friday, January 16, 2009


What the *%@$! is up with this weather!?  We broke all kinds temperature records in the last couple of days.  The night before, last wind chills were -51 degrees!  This is the lowest temperature recorded since they started keeping records 136 year ago.  Last night was not much better, but today we will climb above zero to 5 whole degrees!  We are so not used to this.  Last year was a horrible period of record setting weather in our state.  We had the most snow that most of us could remember,  a very wet spring, and an F5 tornado that destroyed the town of Parkersburg, killing 8 people.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn't done yet because in June we the 15 wettest days in state history.  The wet weather lead to the flooding that devastated much of Eastern Iowa, with the worst damage coming to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.  The damage estimates are around 10 billion dollars, with the University of Iowa suffering 250 million dollars damage alone.  As if all that weren't enough, late in June there was another tornado in western Iowa that struck the Little Sioux Boy Scout camp killing 4 scouts.  All in all there were 105 tornadoes across Iowa, with 98 of Iowa's 99 counties experiencing severe weather.  Now, we're having this ridiculous freezy weather.  I think we've had our share.  It makes even the most skeptical among us begin to question the possibility of man-made causes for this freakish period of weather.  
Well, to all my friends east of here, brace yourselves for the cold, it's coming your way!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Last night I had my normal insomnia, so I decided to be productive and work on some ring samples for my upcoming resin workshop.  Why do I decide to do these things at midnight?  Anyway,  I had lots of fun making these and could have stayed up all night working on them!  The square one was made with a reprint of ancient Greek text taken from the Rosetta Stone that I applied acrylic paint to. The larger of the round bezels is a mosaic that I made from bits of eggshell.  The smaller of of the round bezels is simply a scrap of pretty paper, overpainted with acrylic paint.  Once the paper (or eggshells) are set into the bezels, they are covered with resin and allowed to set for 8-12 hours and cured for a couple of days.  I wish they would hurry up, I want to wear the green one!

For more information on my all-day resin workshop on Saturday, February 28th, contact Bead Haven in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at 319-247-2323 or visit their website here.  The class description should be up on their website soon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Today I read a letter that President-elect Obama wrote to his daughters that will appear in the January 18th issue of Parade Magazine.  In the letter he talks about how he was inspired by them to run for the Presidency and about all of the things that he wants for them.  Here's a paragraph of his letter.

"When I was a young man, I thought that life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want.   But then the two of you came into my world with all of your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day.  And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore.  I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the I saw in yours.  And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfilment in yours.  In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation".

He goes on to say that he hopes that his girls will take up the work of fighting injustices and helping others to have the advantages that they have had.  Not just because they have an obligation to others, but because they have an obligation to themselves to reach their full potential by realizing there are things bigger than themselves.  

Isn't this what we all want?  Whether we have children or not, as we get older we realize there are things more important than ourselves and that we should strive for a world where those weaker than us, young or old, are given a chance to make good in the world.  If they are given that chance, maybe they will go on to to do the same for someone else, and on and on and on. Isn't that why we're all here?

Read the whole letter here.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Mesopotamia, 2650-2550 B.C.
Gold, Lapis, and Carnelian

Lately, when I'm working with metals, I find my thoughts turning toward the ancient world.  It's not that this is unusual for me, as I've always been interested in who and what came before us.  I've been working in bronze a lot lately and of course, this tends to make you think about the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans.  But before the rise of all of these, were the Mesopotamians.  Mesopotamia encompassed what is today Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.  These days there is not much opportunity to view artifacts from this region due to the political landscape of the world.  When I read today about a rare chance to see some of these precious pieces of the long, distant past, I wanted to share it with you.  The Field Museum in Chicago will soon unveil a temporary exhibit called 'Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization'.  The exhibition runs from February 15 through July 5th.  I don't know about you, but I'm sure going to try to get to Chicago to see this one.  There's sure to be plenty of inspiration to be had.
Read more here.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Simple lunch for a lazy day

I was trolling along on the internet the other day, like you do, and I stumbled upon a a blog called "Life In Recipes: A Recipe Refuge".  Now, it's no secret to those who know me that I like reading blogs, all kinds of blogs.  I love blogs written by artists or written about art, blogs about politics, blogs that my friends write, blogs about authors and books, blogs about science, blogs about history, blogs about.... well, you get the picture!  One of my favorite categories of blog has to be, the food blog.  Food blogs are fabulous, they're like food porn!  I love the ones that are written by people who not only share fabulous recipes, but who also can take a really great food photograph.  Taking pictures of food is not easy and even the best tasting dish can end up looking really unpalatable.  The author of this blog, Heidi Robb, is a real foodie who shares recipes, ideas about food and a good measure of herself just for added flavor (sorry about the bad pun!).  Seriously though, if you like reading about food and the way that food is intertwined in our lives and torturing yourself with great looking pictures of food, this is the blog for you!  I'm dying to try her recipe for Secret Sesame Dressing, I always love a secret!  Check out Heidi's blog here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Dr. Sanjay Gupta

I read today that the Obama team is considering Dr. Sanjay Gupta as our next Surgeon General.  Usually, I am really opposed to giving celebrities important positions in our government.  I generally think there would be have to be someone more qualified for jobs like these than someone whose job, of late has been as a contributor on health issues for CNN and who seems on the surface to be a celebrity doctor.  In this case however, I think he's a great choice.  I hadn't realized that he was still an active neurosurgeon, practicing at both Emory and at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.  He's published many articles in major medical journals.  Most importantly, I think he's someone who's out there on the cutting edge of what's current in medicine.  I realize there certainly are other's more qualified to set health care policy, but a competent, familiar face might be extremely effective at helping Americans embrace the idea that preventive medicine is at least in part an answer to our health care crisis.  I think he's an inspired choice.  What do you think?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


A portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner, by John Singer Sargent, from 1887

 Another portrait of Isabella by Anders Zorn done in 1894

The courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Venetian-style exterior of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Do you have a favorite museum?  I have been to many wonderful ones and it's impossible for me to choose just one.  A museum that truly stands out in my mind is one that I had never heard of before until a trip to Boston a few years ago.  Before my trip, a friend who had lived there told me that if I did no other sight-seeing, that I must go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  That's quite an endorsement, given all that there is to see in Boston.  This particular friend knows me well, so I decided to take her advice (Luckily, I had plenty of time to see much more of Boston as well!)
I had never heard of Isabella Stewart Gardner before (surprising, given that art history degree!) and I didn't have time to research the place before I got there.  I'm glad I didn't because what I found surprised me and simply took my breath away.  
Isabella lived from 1840-1924 in Boston.  She was an eccentric and somewhat scandalous socialite who had a passion for art.  She and her husband travelled the world buying masses of art along the way.  They bought paintings, statues, carvings, jewelry, tapestries, furniture, books and architectural elements among many other things.  They bought works from unknown artists as well as pieces by the old masters such as Botticelli, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Raphael and contemporaries like John Singer Sargent, Degas, Matisse and Whistler.
When her husband died in 1898 Isabella decided to build a museum in the Fenway area of Boston.  She directed that the museum be built as a palace to house all of her fabulous treasures and as a residence for her until her death.  The museum opened in 1903.  Upon her death in 1924 she endowed the museum with 1 million dollars for it's maintenance, stipulating that everything should be left in it's place and never be rearranged.  She spent a great deal of time assembling the collection and arranging it's placement in the house and I think she felt she had made perfection.  Perhaps a bit controlling, but also maybe a way to be remembered long after she passed away.
Nothing in the museum was moved, per Isabella's instruction until 1990.  One morning in March of that year, thieves dressed as Boston police, broke into the museum and stole 12 works of art worth 500 million dollars.  Three Rembrandt's, paintings by Degas, Vermeer, Manet and others were stolen.  The perpetrators were never caught, though an FBI investigation is ongoing.  The theft remains the largest art heist in history.  Such a shame, but the missing paintings in no way effect the impact that the museum has on visitors.  The frames in which the  paintings had been hung remain empty on the wall in their spots in an attempt to honor Isabella's wishes for things to remain unchanged.  It's as if the frames are waiting patiently to be reunited with their paintings.  Despite Isabella's mandate that things should not be moved, the museum manages to not be a stagnant place.  In fact a separate building is being constructed to house pieces purchased since Isabella's death.  I doubt she'd mind, as long as her original ideal remains unaltered.
An afternoon here feels more like a ramble through a wealthy art collector's home than a day in a museum.  There is a performance hall where concerts are given on some evenings and on Sundays and a lovely little cafe to have a quiet lunch in.  The crowning glory of the museum has to be the courtyard.  The building has a glass roof under which is the most beautiful interior garden that I have ever seen.  There are flowers blooming in every season and special exhibits such as a display of 20 foot hanging nasturtiums every April. 
If you get a chance to visit this special place, I hope that you will.  I promise that you won't regret it.
If you want to learn more about this remarkable woman and her palace, check out an excellent book called: The Memory Palace by Patricia Vigderman or go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum website.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


We had lunch with some friends today and then went to Starbucks to have some coffee and hang out and we ended up staying all afternoon.   I think Paul could live there.  It has all of the essentials of home: coffee, a comfy chair, free WIFI, snacks and a bathroom.   I mention all of this here only as an excuse to post this funny picture of him at Starbucks from a few weeks ago.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I hope you had a great first day of 2009.  We sure did, because our Hawks won the Outback Bowl today in Tampa.  The Hawks beat the University of South Carolina 31-10.  ON IOWA!  GO HAWKS!  Can't wait for next year!


Resolution.  What a funny word.  It has a lot of different meanings listed on Wikipedia.  When you're speaking of the New Year's type of resolution, it's committing to reforming or changing some aspect of your life.  Lots of other uses of the word have more to do with clarity.  I'm hoping this year that making and keeping a couple of resolutions will actually bring change and clarity to my life.  It's not like my resolutions this year are anything earth shattering.  They're kind of the same old, same old, get healthier and take specific steps to have better organization in my life.  It's just that this year I feel like it's time and I feel ready to do it.  So all my friends out there, hold me accountable and ask me how I'm doing with it once in a while!
Are you guys making resolutions this year?  I'd love to hear what you're all thinking about changing in your lives.  If you are making resolutions, good luck and I hope we can all keep them!