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2015 December 25

Christmas tree topper

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We celebrate a number of different holidays in our house around this time of year: Channukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Festivus, … .

For Channukah, we light the menorah with the traditional blessings, give trinket presents, eat latkes, and play dreidel. For Christmas, we decorate a tree, light up the porch, and give slightly larger presents. For Solstice, we eat round solstice cookies (basically shortbread). For Festivus, we have a tiny Fesitvus pole.

Channukah this year was a bit lower key than usual, as our son was still at UCSB for most of Channukah.  We saved the latkes until he got home and didn’t give presents or play dreidel.  We did light the menorah (except for 2 nights, when we forgot):


Christmas was also fairly low key—we didn’t get around to the porch lights this year, because of the rain early in the week and my son being a bit ill on Christmas Eve, when we would normally have put the lights up. We did bring in our usual live tree, and my wife decorated it. One novelty this year—we stuck on a different tree topper than usual. The clear plastic head was made a few years ago out of packing tape, using my head as a pattern. (Google “packing tape sculpture” for information about how to make such sculptures.) We had it out, because we hadn’t put it away after Halloween, so I stuck it on top of the tree. I liked the effect—particularly the way one of the branches ended up at the level of the eyes:


2011 September 19

Open Studios 2011 coming soon

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For 26 years now, there has been an annual Open Studios Art Tour in Santa Cruz County, run by the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.  Almost every year, I go to the preview show at the Santa Cruz Art League and visit a few studios of artists whose work I particularly admire (or who happen to be very close geographically to ones I admire). Even in years when I have not felt up to visiting studios, I have still bought the calendar/catalog/map of Open Studios (an essential tool if you are going to visit studios).

This year’s the studios will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

October 1st & 2nd—North County
(north of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor)
October 8th & 9th—South County
(south of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor
October 15th & 16th—Encore
(both North & South County)

The preview starts earlier and runs throughout the event:

Open Studio Preview
Santa Cruz Art League
Sept. 24–Oct. 16, 2011
Wednesday–Saturday: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday: closed
Reception: Sun., Sept. 25, 3–6 p.m.

Because the tour is spread out over the whole county, and I visit the studios by bicycle, I tend to visit only those that are within about 3 miles of my house.  In earlier years, when I was willing to spend more time on Open Studios, I would do a full day of biking to visit some of the studios in the south part of the county, but I no longer feel much like riding 40 or 50 miles to visit studios.  Luckily, almost half the studios are within my self-imposed radius, so I still have over 100 studios to choose from—more than I can reasonably visit.  For the rest, I have to be content with one piece per artist at the preview.

Last year I posted pictures of a few items from the preview show, but never got around to posting pictures from the tour itself, mainly because most of the pictures I took last year did not do justice to the work, and I did not want to offend the artists by putting out low-quality images of their work.  Just to give a taste of Open Studios, I provide a few of those here, despite the low quality (go to the artists’ websites to get their own pictures of their work).

First, my favorite potters, the Barisofs, who have been professional potters in Santa Cruz County for over 30 years.

A display in the entryway for the Barisofs' home and studio.

Although the Barisofs have many styles (and I've bought examples of most), I'm particularly partial to their face mugs (and to their red copper glaze, which they don't use in the face mug series).

The Barisofs recently announced this year’s Open Studios to the Alternative Family Education home school families:

We hope you can bring your students to as many artists as is practical during the upcoming Open Studios event.  This is the 26th year!  It isn’t a sales only type of event (though the artists do have bills to pay), but their processes are also on display with some giving demonstrations for an educational component.  Our home/studios will also be open, for more info on what we will be showing, when, and a link to the OS event webpage go to: Pottery by Barisof. We look forward to seeing old friends, and meeting new ones!

I do have one disagreement with their sentiment here: I find it better to visit the preview show and select only a dozen or so studios to visit, rather than “as many as practical”.  I find that if I visit too many artists, I burn out and enjoy the event less.  I try to visit a few favorites and a few new studios each year. I also enjoy visiting studios that are demonstrating their techniques (particularly flashy things like glass blowing, or retro-techie things like linotype printing), and wish that the preview and calendar/catalog would make it clearer who is demonstrating techniques.

One artist whose studio I visited for the first time last year is Doug Ross.

A silkscreen by Doug Ross, who has a series of bicycle prints, as well as more popular animal prints.

Always popular are Moto Ohtake‘s mobiles, though my still picture does not convey the real effect of these—you really need to see them in person (or at least view the videos on Moto Ohtake’s website).

One of Moto Ohtake's wind-powered mobiles.

2010 October 12

Open Studios 2010

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On Sunday, 10 Oct 2010, I went to the preview exhibit at the Santa Cruz Art League for the 2010 Open Studios Art Tour. The Open Studios tours have been running for 25 years now, and I go to the preview show and visit a few studios almost every year.  This year, I asked permission to take a few pictures at the preview show.  These are not well-lit professional photographs, so don’t do justice to the art work, but can give you a flavor of some of the work. Many of the artists have their own website, with pictures of their work that they have approved.  These may give you a better idea of the range of their work.

Some of my favorite pieces did not photograph at all well (I had no control over lighting or placement of pieces, and the gallery was crowded, so these were just quick snaps to remind me of what I had seen). This selection represents more which of the snapshots came out ok than which pieces I liked most. Larger 3D pieces came out better in the photos than 2D pieces, small 3D pieces, or pieces behind glass. Because the preview show has to squeeze 300 artists into a small gallery, really large pieces were not allowed.


Black Boar Head

Black Board Head by Marilyn Mackenzie (clay)


You can see a wider selection of Marilyn Mackenzie’s work, most of which is too large for the preview show, on her website.


Mount Fuji In the Moonlight

Mount Fuji in the Moonlight by Steve and Bonnie Barisof (stoneware)


The Barisofs have been my favorite potters for decades now. You can see a wider selection of the Barisofs’ pottery on their website.


Durga on Her Tiger Bike

Durga on Her Tiger Bike by Anna Oneglia (oil on canvas)


More work by Anna Oneglia is available to view on her website.


Little Red Wrenching Hood by Matthew Cole Scott (assemblage)


More work by Matthew Cole Scott can be found on his website.


Shaman's Bowl

Shaman's Bowl by Larry Worley (Basketry)


More work by Larry Worley at his website.


Filigree Carved Gourd

Filigree Carved Gourd by Kris Mangliers


Kris Mangliers has several mentions on the Internet, but none of them seem to be home pages.  Do your own Google search if you want more info.


Empty Nest

Empty Nest by Leslie Benson (paper and thread)


Many more sculptures can be seen on Benson’s website.

2010 September 19

County Fair with Pictures

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My family did go to the Santa Cruz County Fair as I mentioned earlier, and I did take a few (over 200) photos.  I’ve selected a few of the highlights of the fair to include in this blog. We took the bus (which doesn’t usually go to the County Fairgrounds, but the SCMTD added an extra route this weekend).  It took about 2 hours from our house to the fairgrounds—about the same time it took me to bicycle last week.  Because of the travel time, we decided to spend most of the day at the fair (5.5 hours), getting the first bus to the fair and the second-to-last one home.

The theme of the fair this year was “Apple Pies and Family Ties”, which was well done in the winning kids’ garden display:

garden exhibit

I believe that this was the winning garden display in the junior division. I particularly like the terra-cotta person.

The first thing we did on getting to the fair (after paying our $10 admission fees) was to watch the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs.  As it turned out, these piglets are not from Alaska, but were born in California (at another county fair) 2 months ago.  Who knows what happened to the ones they started the summer with.

Racing pigs hurdling the first hurdle (Strawberry in the lead)

Here are three of the racing pigs at the first hurdle, with Strawberry in the lead.

A typical start to a pig race.

Here we see the start of the last heat of the pig races, with one pig facing the wrong way in the starting gate.

After seeing the pigs race, my wife’s thoughts and mine turned to pork, so we went to the Corralitos Sausage booth:

Locally made sausages are my wife's and my first choice of County Fair food.

We were planning to go back later for apple pie (from Gizdich ranch), but we never got around to it.  We did get drinks (Green Tea smoothie for me, lemonade for my wife, soda for my son) later in the afternoon, but a funnel cake as a late-afternoon snack meant none of us had room for pie.

After the pig racing, we went to see the best-dressed-goat competition.  I was not in a good position to get good photos (wrong side of the arena), but I did get one of a goat in sheep’s clothing:

Not being a farm boy, I sometimes have trouble telling sheep and goats apart, but this little girl (dressed as Little Bo Peep) was definitely trying to mess with my mind.

While the judges were mulling over who won the best-dressed-goat competition (and the kids bravely tried to keep the goats from escaping over the straw bales), we went to look at the livestock barns.  I’ll spare you all the pictures of cute pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle.  You really don’t get the full effect of the barns without the olfactory component anyway.  Actually, the 4H kids had done a superb job of keeping the barns clean, and these are open-sided affairs so there really isn’t that much odor, even in the pig barn.   You do have to see the emu from the petting barn, though:

Head of the emu in the petting barn.

The emu was probably the most popular animal in the petting zoo. It was very fast to grab carrot slices left on the top of its fence, and was not averse to reaching out for more.

I also have to show you some of the model railroad exhibit, though I’ll spare you the numerous close-ups of the indoor display and just give you two shots from the outdoor display:

about a third of the outdoor model railroad layout

There is an enormous model railroad exhibit that gets bigger every year. This picture only includes about a third of the outdoor setup.

accident at Bob's Biker Bar

If you look closely near the center of the previous picture, you'll see a small turquoise building. Here is a close-up shot of just that tiny part of the layout. (We liked the use of cement blocks to make the tunnel also.)

After the model railroad, we went to the poultry barn. I’ll spare you the cute-chicken photos and the turkey photos, not because I think you’d be bored, but because the little cages in the poultry barn interfered with good photography, and I’m embarrassed to admit that none of the photos in the poultry barn were worth the trouble of cropping and uploading.

After getting a hot dog for my son (who had not partaken of the Corralitos sausages earlier), we went to see the Sea Lion show, put on by the Moss Landing Marine Lab, just a few miles down the road. The show is essentially the same every year (but we go to the County Fair for its traditions, not for a lot of novelty).  They did all the classic tricks with sea lions:

sea lion doing flipper stand

The flipper stand relies on a flexible back and strong front flippers. Note: sea lions have the strong front flippers to do these stands, but seals do not.

Sea lion balancing a ball on its nose

Sea lions have good eye-nose coordination and strong, flexible necks, making it fairly easy to train them to balance balls on their noses.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a shot of the combination flipper-stand and ball balancing, which is really the classic circus act for sea lions.  After sitting in the sun for the sea lions, we wanted some shade, so went to see the floriculture exhibits.  Most of the cut flowers were wilting (today was the last day of the fair), but the ikebana and bonsai exhibits were looking good.

Ikebana featuring a protea

The ikebana display had many fine arrangements, and this was probably the strangest of them. We found the large protea a rather striking display, but I'm not sure how much the orchid added. Some of the other ikebana were more graceful, but this one was the most memorable.

14-year-old Bonsai of Japanese juniper

There were several fine bonsai on display, but this classic Japanese juniper will have to stand in for the whole show.

After the floriculture buildings, the indoor gardens, and the orchid greenhouse, we went to the Yesterday’s Farm exhibit of the Agricultural History Project, which now has a very fine collection of  farm implements and machinery, including a lot of old belt-driven and pedal-driven machine tools.  This is also where the handweavers and spinners show their art, and the old gasoline engine collectors putter with their machines.  I’m not much into internal combustion engines and old cars, but the antique car barn did have a couple of fine old bicycles.

old bikes in the antique car barn

Behind this finely restored penny-farthing is a 1900 Columbia chainless safety bike, that uses bevel gears and a rod transmission.

While our son went to the carnival rides to see if he could find ones tame enough for him (like me he is somewhat susceptible to motion sickness), but large enough to accept teenage riders, my wife and I looked at the fine art displays, crafts, and collections.  I’ll spare you the weird collection pictures (like the collection of Betty Boop memorabilia), mainly because most of the collections were in glass cases and I do not have polarizing filters for my digital camera, so the reflections spoil the shots.  I have to show you one of them, though:

scary chair from a collection of doll's chairs

This rather scary chair was part of a large collection of unusual doll's chairs. The toes under the hassock are particularly creepy.

I’ll also spare you the numerous photos of sculptures in the Fine Arts Building, though I think that some of them were quite successful.  I don’t know if artists ever get commissions or patrons as a result of the County Fair, but they certainly get a lot of people viewing their work: far more than one would get in a gallery around here.  I will close with just one picture from the Fine Arts Building, a piece that I doubt I would have seen anywhere but at the County Fair:

Leg-shaped lamp in pique assiette

I think that this work in pique assiette should be titled "Leg of Lamp", but I somehow suspect that it isn't.

We did not get to see all we wanted to at the Fair (the tractor parade conflicted with the sea lion show, for example, and my wife still hasn’t had a chance to tour the Rodger’s House), but five and half hours was enough for us.  We’ll get another chance next year.

Leave comments about your own experiences with county fairs this year.

2010 July 8

MIT Museum

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I’m in Boston this week for a combination of family vacation and the ISMB conference.  Yesterday, my family did a self-guided tour of the MIT campus and visited the MIT Museum. It was a mercilessly hot day (Boston is having an unusual heat wave), so my family was unwilling to do the usual guided tour, but we did do about half the self-guided tour (concentrating on the air-conditioned buildings, rather than outdoor stuff).

The high point of the day was the exhibit Gestural Engineering: The Sculpture of Arthur Ganson. These mechanical pieces were whimsical, beautifully made, and mesmerizing to watch in action.  Still photos do not do the sculptures justice, but it seems that there are DVDs available from Arthur Ganson’s website.

We had a decent lunch at a combination Thai/Szechuan restaurant across the street from musuem.  I’m not used to the high synchronization of East Coast lunchtimes:  the restaurant was jammed when we got there around 12:30 but suddenly emptied just before 1.

We ended up our MIT visit at the MIT Coop, where we bought a few fantasy books to tide us through the week here. The Coop is a decent college bookstore, though I tend to prefer Stanford’s bookstore.  I get a bit sad when I think about what an awful bookstore my campus has—I guess our students don’t read (or, at least, don’t buy books) and our campus is too isolated to get non-student shoppers.

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