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The final days of my ARTernity Leave

I started my ARTernity Leave by hiking in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. I find joy and solace  by being in nature and am inspired deeply by designs found in the smallest leaf to the largest cloud formation. This year has gone by fast and I already find myself gearing up to head back into the art studio/classroom this coming Monday. This year off has been the best year of my life and I encourage any of you even remotely contemplating taking a sabbatical to do it. I have no regrets, in fact, I know I will go back to the classroom with far more energy and enthusiasm than I left it a year ago. I ended my ARTernity by heading back to the mountains. A few weeks ago I headed up the 395 and drove to Bishop’s Creek where I hiked part of the John Muir Trail, looking intensely at the vast amount of wildflowers growing along the trail, took in the massive granite rock formations, stood in awe of the sweeping views of the valley below, and sat quietly by still alpine lakes without rushing back to anywhere.

Deep breathes. Take it in. Give thanks. Head down the mountain refreshed. This has been a beautiful year.

Here’s a few images from the high Sierras trip and a wonderful blog article about my mosaic on the EastsiderLA. I most likely will not be writing on this blog anymore, but will keep it online with the hopes it will inspire even ONE person out there to take the leap, step away, take that sabbatical, and have the TIME to live, look, and refresh the soul!IMG_5325 IMG_5292 IMG_5235 (1)

The unveiling

The Echo Park “Healthy Foods” mosaic was unveiled recently and what an exciting day it was! Councilman Mitch O’Farrell announced the unveiling in front of a large, supportive crowd filled with friends, colleagues, and community members. A section of the mosaic is dedicated to local activist Isa Meksin who has always worked tirelessly for the community with an emphasis on bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to the inner city. Councilman O’Farrell presented Ms. Meksin and me with an official commendation from the city of LA. The attention and commendation was certainly nice, but the best part of the event was when approximately 20 community members and the councilman let the veil covering the mosaic drop to the floor and a Mariachi band started playing lively and festive music the minute the veil hit the sidewalk. People were laughing and smiling and dancing; a true celebration of art and community spirit.  I have met countless people from all walks of life while working on the mosaic, have heard their various stories, have accepted gifts such as a snow cone, flowers, and even a hand embroidered vest from these beautiful folks and I am honored to call this wild, wonderful, and wacky city of LA home. I MUST thank two community members who helped me grout the mosaic. Mario Morales and Martin Mayoral worked tirelessly for 8 hours on a very hot day grouting the mosaic. I cannot express enough gratitude for these two gentlemen who care passionately about their community. The mosaic is finally complete and hopefully will be there for many years. On to the next project! Here’s some photos of the day and the wall:

Unveiling the mosaic

Unveiling the mosaic


Councilman Mitch O’Farrell hands me a Commendation


Mario and Martin grout all day with me!




…..and AFTER!




I met so many wonderful people along the way



A custom tile thanks all the volunteers and donors


One of the best things about being on a sabbatical is a lack of day to day structure which frees me up to make art and do spontaneous things. This, of course, can also be a little alarming because we are all used to having to be someplace at a certain time with certain daily duties, so the lack of this regimen can take some getting used to. I got used to it fast! My husband has been working on the new World Trade Center in New York City for the last year and generally I cannot ever take time off work to visit his projects and see what he is working on, but because I am on sabbatical, I jumped at the last minute chance to fly out and attend an event at the new Visitors Center at the top of  One World Trade Center.

What an amazing experience to have the time to walk the streets of New York with no place to be, no deadlines to meet, no grades to post, just time to walk and see all the street art, subway art, and amazing architecture all around.

Having the time to look closely and experience the 9/11 Memorial was an experience I will never  forget. Looking into the two voids where the twin towers once stood was a very profound moment for me. Seeing the endless lists of names of the deceased, the water falling into the bottom of the building’s footprints, the tourists taking selfies as they stand near the memorial smiling and posing, the human throb of people all around…..well, it was quite overwhelming when I think of what happened at that very spot almost 14 years ago. I just started to cry. It was very sad to think of the incredible pain and the sadness that 9/11 created, but the memorials to the people that both perished and the volunteers that helped at that time are deeply moving and beautiful. I feel very fortunate to have had this experience while on my sabbatical. I was able to take my friend, Edgar, who is a retired NY Police Sergeant up to the new Visitors Center at the top of the World Trade building before it opened to the public. Seeing his face light up with joy at the beauty of the view and the presentation’s on the New York spirit was priceless, but he also had tears in his eyes at the overwhelming experience of being in a place he volunteered for days at a place where friends and colleagues had died. It is moments like this that convince me that the idea to stop, take time away, experience life slowly and elaborately, was a decision I will never regret. Spontaneity and the ability to take TIME for living is what a sabbatical is all about. I am proud to be an artist able to take time to create beautiful, public art pieces and was proud to see the art created in memory of those we lost on 9/11. The creative spirit renews us and gives us the tools to move forward.


the newly built World Trade Center

The 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial


Looking down at New York City from the new visitors center at the top of the World Trade tower

bronze root sculpture from a tree blown over on 9/11

bronze root sculpture from a tree blown over on 9/11

Official unveiling of the “Healthy Foods” Mosaic – June 26th

Save the date for the Echo Park “Healthy Foods Mosaic” unveiling
Friday, June 26th from 3:00-5:30. Unveiling at 4:00.



I hope you can come celebrate with the community as
Council member Mitch O’Farrell officially unveils the mosaic
I have been working on for several months. This mosaic is a gift to the community celebrating the many farmers markets in Los Angeles as well as honoring long time Echo Park activist,
Isa Meksin.
There will be fresh fruit and drinks available at the mosaic site from 3:00 to 5:30 with the
official unveiling scheduled for 4:00.
Please note there is a farmers market occurring at the site from 3:00 to 7:00, so come celebrate and get your grocery shopping done at the same time.
There are two parking lots and street parking available. The closest address to the mosaic site is:

1160 Logan Street, Los Angeles CA 90026. This is the address of a clinic next to the mosaic site.

The street is closed for the farmers market, so you will not be able to drive on Logan. The parking lots are accessible from Echo Park Avenue or Lemoyne Street. The mosaic site is a block from the newly renovated Echo Park Lake, so wear some walking shoes and stroll around the gorgeous lake full of water lilies right now.
Make it a healthy afternoon!


KCRW airs a segment on my ARTernity Leave

Wow, I was so excited to have Lisa Napoli from KCRW come on out to the mosaic. What a great lady. I don’t ever recall being on the radio, so this was a first for me. I am honored that KCRW showed interest in the year-long project I have been working on and the road I took to get there. You can listen to the show by clicking on the KCRW blog here:

Just as the interview was wrapping up, two of my students walked by on their way to the paddle boats at Echo Park Lake. These two are terrific kids and it was great to see them!


Lucinda and Miles stop by on their way to the park.

A very gregarious and animated gentleman stopped to tell me how much  he loves the colors in the mosaic. He told me he was a telenovela actor in Mexico, but now he lives in Los Feliz and Palm Springs and he was very happy to tell me he got the pants he was wearing for 1.89 at Fallas! Fallas is right down the street from me in Highland Park and they have super cheap stuff. It’s a very popular store. He made me laugh out loud. A very fun fella!


Rafael Rabago in his $1.89 camo pants!

IMG_4004I’m almost finished with the eggplant circle. I ran out of cut tiles yesterday and need to cut about six more today, then back at the wall. Thanks to photographer, Martin Cox,  for coming out today and documenting the process. He is an amazing artist, check out his website:




I know I have to get over this jet lag, but I am so excited to start cutting tiles for the eggplant circle! Look at these purples! Armed with some geometric ideas from Granada, I’m ready to get back at it!!

Gathering all the purple hues together.

Gathering all the purple hues together.

So excited to see how the eggplant circle turns out. As soon as I can get over this darned jet lag, I’ll be back on the sidewalk! NOT a good idea to use a massive, electric tile cutting saw when jet lagged. I’ll wait. I need my fingers. Look at these little eggplants!


Eggplants getting ready.




Beautiful tile design and walking the Camino in Spain

One of my goals for this sabbatical was to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I knew I didn’t want to walk all of it, but I did want to experience a taste of. I set out for Spain three weeks ago  with the intention of spending time in Seville and Granada to soak in some tile inspiration for the mosaic I am working on in LA and then head off to walk the Camino.

Tiled entryway on a Sevillian home.

Tiled entryway on a Sevillian home.


A tiled bench in a public park in Seville

Andalusia is well known for its decorative tiles still produced in the area with roots dating back to the region’s Arab past. Walking through the streets and parks of Seville and the astounding Alhambra in Granada, I indeed found much to inspire me. I spent a week with my friend and my nephew in Andalusia. My nephew recently returned from three years in the Peace Corp in Panama and it was a real luxury to spend time just listening to him share his stories of life in Panama. One of my goals for this sabbatical year was to have time to really listen, spend time in conversation, hearing what people have to say.



Tile work at the Alhambra



Tile work on a wall in the Alhambra

Geometric designs found in this region sparked ideas and got my creative juices roaring and gave me much to contemplate as I hopped aboard a train by myself headed for Sarria in Galicia to start walking the Camino.


Black and white work on the floor of the cathedral in Seville

Black and white work on the floor of the cathedral in Seville

For those of you that are not familiar with the Camino de Santiago, it is an ancient pilgrimage road system spanning hundreds of miles from France, Portugal, and other points with all roads leading to the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago de Compostella in Galicia, Spain. In days gone by it was strictly a religious pilgrimage, but nowadays there are many different reasons people choose to make the walk. For me personally, I chose to walk as an homage to my parents who were kind, generous, and lovely human beings. My father died while I was in college and mom died in my thirties. I walked the Camino as a way of reflecting on all they gave me and I also wanted to show gratitude for the way my life has turned out.

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The first day on the Camino near Sarria, Spain

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There are more than just humans on this walk:)

I know it is still unusual in the majority of the world for women to not have children, but for me it has been a blessing. I love being an artist, I love my friends and husband, my dogs, and I love having vast amounts of silence. I really enjoy silence. I also enjoy committing and volunteering time to the betterment of my community and the environment. I enjoy teaching art to children and like kids immensely, but I am grateful I do not have my own because my life is a joyful and fulfilled life without them and so I walked the Camino for about 80 (5 days of walking) miles and contemplated how we are all walking such different roads and how important it is to be grateful for the path you choose or are given to walk in this life. I look forward to returning to the Camino in the future and walking another section of it. My favorite moment on the Camino was on my second day walking. I was all alone on the road, walking through farm land, when an old farmer and his equally aging dog walked up and smiled, saying “buen Camino” to me and handed me a walnut. He held it in my hands and smiled with utter joy. I kissed him on the cheeks and hugged him and then walked on down the road with everything I needed on my back.

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That walnut made it all the way back to LA:)

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Shadow of a tree and my backpack in a town that the Camino passed through.

Here are a few links if you are interested in learning more about the tile work in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain and learning more about the Camino de Santiago in Galicia, Spain.

A brief history of the Alhambra with photos of tile work:

Brief history of the Camino de Santiago.

A documentary about the Camino:

Martin Sheen starred in a movie with his son about the Camino called The Way:

I end this post with some street art I saw in Spain. Spain has had some hard times lately, but there is much optimism and young artists are extremely hopeful about the future. I found the street art in Spain to be very exciting.


Ama que lo haces. Love what you do.




Hot sidewalk, virgin on his arm, and a free pillow

This last week was HOT. Hot sidewalk, hot tiles, hot, hot, hot, but I made progress even with heat. Some of the highlights were getting the figs and tomato circles started. The tomato circle alone took two entire days of cutting tiny pieces of tile and two days of fitting on the wall. While I was out working on the wall, a young man rode up on his bike and yelled my name. At first I didn’t recognize this man, but then I realized it was one of the kids that used to run around the neighborhood in a pack back in the day. He told me he was fresh out of prison and I commented on his tattoo of Mary (of maternal Jesus fame) and he said he got it in prison. I used to love these kids when they roamed the streets, goofing off, causing trouble, but actually looking for some sort of activity to keep them busy. I remember raising money for them to go to camp on Catalina Island and they came back full of stories about their cabins, the beach, the dark night, the food, etc. They loved it. Most of them had never left Echo Park, let alone camped on an island.

The figs are going up

The figs are going up


The tomato only needs a few more tiles

The tomato only needs a few more tiles. Orange slices and cabbage – DONE!

Frankie's socks woke me up! Frankie is another one of the kids that used to run around the neighborhood throwing water balloons from my garage roof. Love that kid....and his footwear choices!

Frankie’s socks woke me up! Frankie is another one of the kids that used to run around the neighborhood throwing water balloons from my garage roof. Love that kid….and his footwear choices!


The corn got started.

And so it was with joy in my heart, but a little sadness to see my old friend from the neighborhood on that bike before me. I gave him a hug and he said he would hook me up with some tiles cuz his friend is in construction. I hope he can stay out of the slammer for awhile. It was good seeing that little runt!

So many folks stop at the wall and chat, talk about their lives, their jobs, their ex wives, their elderly diabetic mothers, you name it. Yesterday two very nice gals walked up, one with a massive pillow on her head. They were very interested in the mosaic, so I stopped and chatted for awhile. They asked if I wanted their yoga mat and back pillow. They said they were on their way to Out of The Closet to donate the items. I gladly accepted the back pillow and boy am I glad I did. That thing is so comfortable. Thank you, kind strangers for the back support!


I ended the week shopping at the very farmers market I am celebrating with this mosaic. It’s always inspiring to see the shapes and colors of nature’s seasonal bounty. The berries alone blew my mind, not to mention the radishes and onions. All the farmers at the market are so appreciative of the mosaic and the celebration of their crops! Next week I leave for Spain to look closely at the tile work of the Alhambra in Granada and then to walk a section of the Camino de Santiago by myself for 9 days. I know I’ll come back full of ideas for the wall. Just this week I was walking in downtown and came across two massive, gorgeous mosaics in the front of the Federal Building. I was moved to tears by the grace and beauty of these mosaics. I’ve included a few photos and feel very lucky to live in a city with such gorgeous public works outside that have withstood the test of time.


Mosaic outside the Federal Building


Mosaic with the tree of life in it outside the Federal Building


End of the week. Let’s hope next week is cooler.


Another week



Watching on a hot day in LA

Definitely felt like last week had that eclectic LA feel to it at the wall. A very friendly, young gal with pink hair, tattoos galore, and a built in air conditioning system on the back of her t-shirt stopped to watch, three very thin bike riding dudes asked to photograph their bike against the wall, and Rudy, an 80 year old vet who lifts weights and works out regularly also stopped at the wall. I thanked Rudy for his service to our country and he thanked me for making the mosaic.



yellow bike





A Few Faces

I continue to work on the Echo Park mosaic one tile at a time.  It was another week of joyful piecing together of my ceramic quilt and many fine folks stopped to chat and sit on the sidewalk with me while I worked. Here’s a few of this week’s highlights!

This gorgeous, green iguana visited the wall with his human friends. He looked regal and commanding atop his perch.

green iguana A woman came and sat down on the sidewalk and asked if she could watch me work. She was very kind and had a glowing beauty about her. She had a certain grace about her too. She told me her name was Badu and she was visiting from Dallas. She had just auditioned for a show for Amazon. She was waiting for her food order from a nearby vegan restaurant. She sat with me for awhile. I wished her luck and asked her if I could take her photo. I told her she might be famous one day…..turns out she already is. It was Erykah Badu. A very lovely lady and so was her friend.Baduotto

Speaking of lovely, here is Otto. Otto stopped by to see the mosaic with his human friend, Holly Hampton. Holly has an incredible sense of color and design, so I asked her for advice on some color combos I was thinking of using on the wall. Both Holly and Otto gave me excellent advice!

It started to rain, so we packed up and all trundled off for the day. I can’t wait to see who stops by next week. I’m really enjoying this process. Lots of fine folks walk by every day!



sitting on the sidewalk

Last week I loaded up my car with tiles, mortar, tools, etc. and set out to FINALLY start laying tiles on the wall. I knew I would need to sand off some paint and “rough” the wall in order for the mortar to stick to the wall surface, but upon closer inspection, I realized there was about 1/4 inch of paint on the wall which meant I needed to chip away at it. Chipping away paint takes a chisel, a hammer, and a whole lot of time. Luckily, I am on sabbatical and time is abundant, so I sat down on that sidewalk and chipped away, later hiring a day laborer named Rigo to help me.

Once the paint was all chipped away, I was ready to tile. I knew it would take a ton of time to lay the tile because mosaic work is time consuming, but what I hadn’t planned on was all the folks that stop and want to talk about the project, about their families, the neighborhood, LA life, Cuban politics, the value of eating garlic on a regular basis, tourist season in Croatia, the best deal on radishes, etc. Honestly, loads of people have already stopped to find out what I am doing and to chat for awhile. I am really enjoying meeting people and hearing their stories. I think this is all a part of a public art piece. I was originally going to assemble the wall sections in my garage and then bolt them on, but I am glad I decided to work on site. I like hearing what people respond to, what they like, what colors interest them, etc. It’s slow going, but this is the joy of a sabbatical. I’m always pressed for time when I work at my regular job, in a hurry, and multitasking, but right now I have the luxury of sitting on the sidewalk on Logan Street off Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, Los Angeles placing one tile at a time on a wall that could sure use a little beauty and I am enjoying it immensely. It will get done on time…..whenever that is.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and Adam Bass from CD 13 along with David Bermudez from Central City Action Commitee all are very helpful and positive about the mosaic.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and Adam Bass from CD 13 along with David Bermudez from Central City Action Committee visit the wall on the day I was chipping paint. David offered to power wash the wall, but we all agreed it wasn’t the best for the environment. Mitch O’Farrell, Adam Bass, and Christine Peters from Council District 13 have all been extremely positive and willing to help in any way. A big “thank you” to them and David from CCAC.

Fireman Rugo stops and chats about his wife's grandfather who was a mosaic artist for the Doheny family.

Fireman Rugo stops and chats about his wife’s grandfather who was a mosaic artist for the Doheny family.

End of the day. More tiling tomorrow.

End of the day. More tiling tomorrow.

End of the day. More tiling tomorrow.

End of the day. More tiling tomorrow.

The wall should look something like this when it is finished

The wall should look something like this when it is finished



Cutting, sanding, piecing oh my!

Thanks to the very generous folks that gave me Home Depot gift cards as a way of contributing to the Echo Park Farmers Market, I now have a tile cutter (if anyone ever wants to borrow it, just yell) and I have been cutting tile like mad. It is very time consuming, slow work to cut larger tiles into smaller tiles. I am working with donated tiles, so I take the larger tiles and cut them down to make them work for the mosaic. I then sand them or place them in a tumbler to smooth them out. I then piece the tiles together with the fruit/vegetable tiles and if I need more, I start the process all over again. Everything takes oodles of time so it it an exercise in patience, but I DO have the year off, so I need to just slow down and be patient and take it easy on myself. It’ll get done when it gets done:) The first panel is ready to go and will be up on the wall Monday. I thought I would share some photos of the process so far, so I hope you enjoy them. A huge thank you to all the folks offering to lend a hand. I will be needing extra hands when I grout, but that is not for awhile.

Here is my very helpful husband and possessed canine helping assemble the tile cutter!



Here are a few tiles I cut in various shapes. As you can see, I have cut handles off mugs, used broken plates, and even the spout off a tea pot. Reuse! These were items that were all broken or scheduled to go to the dump.




Below is a photo of the tumbler where I toss a batch of cut and broken tiles in with sand and water and tumble them for a day until they are blunt. I love the name of the company that makes this tumbler; Thumbler’s Tumbler made in the U.S.A. Fire engine red! The tiles come out with soft edges which is important for a public art piece. Here’s a few tumbled pieces of tile and glass.


These tester tiles have various glazes on them to see if the colors will work. I fired a bunch of eggplants what I thought was a purple, but they came out a bright red, so I reglazed them and will get them back today to see if I got a purple. The notes are so I don’t forget what I used and in what combo they were applied. These two tiles are supposed to be a deep red, but I am trying two different glaze combos. Firing tiles is also an exercise in patience. Some tiles break, some glazes don’t work, some shrink, etc. Firings take many hours to fire and then cool down and you never know how they will turn out.  Fingers crossed they come out of the kiln the way I want them to. A “thank you” goes out to Sarah Simon for helping me with the firings.


Once the tiles are cut, sanded, tumbled, glazed, fired, etc.  they are laid out in many combos until I like they way they look. Here’s the first panel that will be applied on Monday.



And here is a sample of me playing with various tiles. This corner will be different on the wall, but I was playing with the idea of creating an abstract sun. One of the best things about this sabbatical is having the luxury to play with the materials, try out various combinations, walk away, come back, try again. Time is such a gift.



Shower the people you love with love……

This past Saturday was the official ARTernity Leave shower! Oh yes, there was a fancy cake with stork decorations:


and traditional shower presents such as this utlity bucket, safety glasses, work rags, and many Home Depot gift cards. Thank you to all the fine folks who brought useful gifts and gift cards to Home Depot, Lowe’s, and cash gifts to help buy a tile cutter, grout, mortar, extra tiles, etc. Your generosity is truly appreciated.





IMG_1477This gift card proudly announced “It’s a trowel!” Thanks, Nicole.

IMG_1507This gift card is mucho macho. Thanks for the MAN CARD, Tracy and Allan!

There was yummy food like home made chili and stew, gluten free brownies, artisinal cheeses, wine, wine, and ,more wine.

But the best part about the shower was the sense of community, generosity , and creativity that abounded. A line of tables was set up on the lawn and for 5 hours folks dropped in and made tiles in the shape of pomegranates, corn, and other fruits and veggies that will be placed in the Healthy Foods mosaic. A few kids made pinch pots with the extra clay. There was a lot of chatting, laughter, and getting to know each other and this is what the shower was all about. I am very grateful to all the folks that attended and gave me gift cards to purchase a tile saw, grout, extra tiles, mortar, etc., but I am even more grateful for the friends and support and the beautiful time we had on Saturday. Thank you to everyone for celebrating art and community. A special thank you to Nicole for all her help, Holly for staying and cleaning up, James and Sarah for the table and chairs loan (and for loaning their 7 year old daughter to help out), Alyse for helping with the tile making, and, Benj for always helping.


Martha in front of the drying tiles (and pinch pots)

Here’s some photos from the day. Lots of tiles were made. People ha a good time talking and making tiles together which is why I had the event in the first place. The gifts and the food were wonderful, but the main reason I didn’t do a Kickstarter campaign was to get people together, making tiles, and sharing the experience as a community. What a beautiful day! Check this blog for updates. The mosaic will take some time to assemble and create, but I will be posting updates along the way.


Making grapes!


At the tile making table.


Jooj groovin’ on her corn tile!


Virginia proudly holding up her fig leaf tile!


When are you going to cut that cake?????


A whole lotta tile makin’ going on!

Once again I want to stress to women out there that have opted not to have children,cannot have children, etc. that there are many paths to walk in this life. We can give birth to a whole array of creations we can offer up to the world. I am very grateful for the path I am walking and encourage other women to walk the path they need to walk in life with joy in their hearts.

Art for the LA River

One of my goals for this sabbatical year has been to create some artwork for or about the Los Angeles River. I have always loved that water way coming down the concrete channel, making its way into downtown LA. As a kid, I was enchanted by the cat heads painted on the storm drain release doors. I love the feel of concrete mixed with self planting wild trees, the power lines, and the general feeling of a wild, urban waterway. I am excited that the river is finally getting the ecological attention it needs and look forward to some of the changes that are coming to the river. A little over a week ago I got a call from the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp. asking if I could possibly create a mural relating to the river for an upcoming community workshop. They needed it ASAP and it had to be a paint-by-number.



I haven’t seen a paint-by-number painting since the 70’s. I have never painted a packaged paint-by-number, let alone create an original 8 feet long one in 5 days. Of course I said “no problem” and stayed up until 2:00 in the morning sketching out some ideas.

The next day I sent off two sketches relating to the river and Miranda at the River Corp. emailed me back with their choice for the mural image. I immediately went and bought a massive roll of canvas and set to work on creating my first ever paint-by-number.

A few days later, the numbered canvas, a bucket of acrylic paints, brushes, and myself rolled up to a massive warehouse along the LA River and waited for the community members to arrive to fill in the numbers. This mural project is part of a program called “Rio Vistas” whereby each dead end that leads to the river in Elysian Valley will be transformed into a small parklet with landscaping, play areas, and an art element. This transformation will be in a series of steps over the next few years and the mural making project was part of the kick off. There were student volunteers from Sotomayor High School Learning Academy and employees from local companies helping plant edible plants, create river signage, and painting the mural I designed. The kids were terrific and truly enjoyed creating a mural in less than two hours. The mural is on canvas that can be moved from site to site. It turned out great and I learned quite a bit about color gradation and value and patience as I filled in every section on the canvas with a number that corresponded to a paint number key. I was thrilled to be part of this event. Here’s some photos of us working together to create the mural. It was a fun day with an amazing community spirit. I am grateful to have been asked to be part of the day and am grateful my sabbatical schedule allows for this type of impromptu creativity.


For more information on the RiverLA  Program, go to this link:



The image is a close up of the power lines and bicycle. There’s a new bike and pedestrian bridge slated to be built across the river this year which will make it much safer to cross the river.





It was difficult to photograph the entire completed mural due to its size, but you can get an idea of the entire mural in this photo.


I will start this post off by stating “I am not a fan of showers.” There. I said it. When I got married and my sisters threw me a shower, I asked that we all meet at the Pasadena Swap Meet where everyone had twenty bucks to find me  something as a shower gift. We would all meet up in three hours back at my house, drink wine, and see who found the weirdest item!

Needless to say, it rained. No swap meet. Just wine:)

I don’t know why I hate showers so much. I just don’t like playing silly games, cooing over gifts, sitting around chatting about getting married or having babies. I think I am missing a gene, the same gene that makes women want to have clean houses, have matching cutlery, use air freshener, and bake. I watch commercials where the woman of the house is so concerned about stains, spills, smelly rooms, etc. and I can only think “why don’t the men ever worry about this stuff?” I don’t get it. Anyway, I digress.

Please understand, I am not against these things, I just don’t like doing them. I am happy for my friends when they throw showers and do not hold it against them. And so….I can’t believe that I am doing this……BUT


         I                       AM                        HAVING                    A                              SHOWER!



Yes, folks, a shower. I figured since I am on an ARTernity Leave, I needed to have a shower. This year is about giving birth to community based projects and the first one is the Echo Park “Healthy Foods” mosaic, so I figured I better have a shower to welcome the 40 foot “tiled ball of joy” into the world. On December 6th from noon to 5:00 (pop in any time) we will gather at my house to celebrate, however there will be no poopy diaper games or toilet paper dresses to be made, but we WILL be making tiles for the mosaic and eating delicious cake. There will be chili, vegan soup, salad, wine, coffee, not just cake.

A big thank you goes out to my friend, Nicole, who is helping me with the shower. I tried to register at Home Depot, but alas, Home Depot does not have any online registries. While I was looking for information on Home Depot, I came across a wedding website that stated “And for the man of the house, Home Depot offers and in-store registry.” Ummmmmmm, news flash – WOMEN SHOP AT HOME DEPOT. Oy vey.


Anyways, if you are free and would like to join in on the festivities, come on by! Maybe it will even rain! If showers OF ANY SORT are not your thing, I understand. I’ll see you at the swap meet.

Ask and you shall receive

I was thinking to myself two days ago how I could really use a large cork bulletin board for my work space in the garage, but I just didn’t want to BUY one. I was thinking how great it would be if I could somehow acquire one for free. I was also thinking that I needed to learn more about the proper way to cut tile with a hand held saw, but figured I would get to that later when I was actually cutting tiles. I decided yesterday to take my big dog, Jones, up to LaCanada and hike on the Gould Canyon trail which is a lovely shaded hike in the foothills. As I neared the trailhead, I noticed there were a lot of large items on the sidewalks of this very swank neighborhood and then I figured out it must be BULKY ITEM day in LaCanada! I am like Fat Albert and his friends when it comes to trash and reveling in the possibilities of converting other people’s trash into my treasures, but I had my dog with me so I just put blinders on and drove on. It was difficult keeping my eyes on the road, not on the cornucopia of sidewalk discards, but when I turned the corner to park near the trail head I couldn’t believe what I saw. You guessed it……a large, cork bulletin board complete with a set of silver push pins leaned against a trash can! Holy Toledo! It looked brand new! Coaxing my 90 pound dog into the front seat, I hopped out and slid that bulletin board into the back of my car. I had a great hike and took that board back to my garage!


Thank you LaCanada!

THEN while working in the garage, my neighbors’ dad came walking by on his way to get his hair cut at the local barber. He said he would be staying with Katy and Amy (who, by the way, besides being great neighbors, also own the world’s greatest eye glasses store until late next week. Jim O’Connell is the kind of dad that can fix stuff and build stuff. My dad was that kind of dad too. Dad had every power tool known and so did my mom! Well, Jim pops his head into my garage and proceeds to tell me that he heard about the mosaic I am working on and offers his expertise if needed, as he has built up many bathrooms and done many tile jobs. I enthusiastically accept his offer. Jim shows up yesterday and proceeds to give me points on getting the perfect angle cut, using a grinder to cut and sand, and his tips on which wet tile saw to buy. A big thank you to Jim for taking time to share tips with me and for his general enthusiastic attitude.


Jim cutting into the tile

I’m telling you, ask and you shall receive. You never know what might be on the sidewalk one morning or who might be ambling by your garage!

A whole lotta HEATH!!!!

Yesterday I met the amazing Lisa Bookstein at Heath Ceramics. I felt like I had made a pilgrimage to Sausalito and met the tile Goddess of California! Seriously, I had one of the best days of my life yesterday meeting Lisa, walking around the Heath factory and seeing the massive kilns, the artists working on their gorgeous designs, the sample colors, and the boxes and boxes of tiles that Lisa so generously donated to me for the Echo Park mosaic. I loaded up my car with tiles in all sorts of green hues and a few warm colors too! A massive thank you to Lisa and Heath for the generosity and willingness to share with a community over 375 miles away. I now FINALLY have all the tiles I need to complete the mosaic. Back on the 580 freeway driving back to LA, tiles rattling in the back of the car, I feel so fortunate to have so many people supporting this project and so happy to see grey clouds forming over the Berkeley hills promising rain.


and um….what about MONEY?

The first thing I would ask someone on a year sabbatical is “how the heck can you afford to NOT work for a year???”

Some teachers get paid on sabbatical and some don’t. I am in the latter grouping, which means I had to save up in order to go on this sabbatical. No, my husband is not supporting me financially and it always gets my ire up when people assume he is. I saved like a squirrel for several years and am giving myself a meager salary whilst on the sabbatical. Honestly folks, we don’t need as much as society tells us we need. I am not buying any new clothes this year, am eating simply, and trying to keep it very simple on all levels. Let’s just say the 99Cent Store and I are dear friends this year. It is all worth it to have TIME. I keep on harping on TIME because we are all rushing around, working long hours, and lack time to fully live it seems, so although I am living on half my salary this year, I don’t even mind being broke because I am rich in TIME.


A new skill

I have been wanting to take a letterpress class for years now, so I signed up for a one-on-one class at De Milo Press and had Annika show me the ropes! I learned how to ink the plates, what type of paper is best, and how to operate a table top press. The press I used was about 100 years old. I made cards for my up coming shower (look for the shower post soon.) It took all day to make 100 cards, but there is nothing like receiving a card in the mail that has been made by hand. I wanted to create a card that wasn’t computer generated, but rather crafted one by one. I don’t know about you, but my spirit is enriched when I hold a hand made object in my hand. It feels good. De Milo Press offers small, intimate letterpress classes and a whole array of handmade cards and stationary:

Look at the mechanical beauty of this efficient table top press:


Time to LOOK

Teaching is like an efficient watershed system; A really great teacher provides water in an efficient and optimal manner, channeling that water and enabling the student to grow. I pour a lot into my job. I love teaching, sharing information, creating something new together, etc. There is a real joy in tending to the minds of the young and witnessing growth on a very personal level, but along with this constant tending comes a certain depletion and this is why I feel it is imperative for a teacher to take time away from the classroom/studio. How can I continue to inspire if I myself am lacking inspiration? Basically, my watershed needs more rain!

I’m now on month three of the sabbatical and I’m already filled with inspiration and am excited to share what I am learning, excited to share with my students the information, the stories, the patterns and textures I have witnessed so far. One cannot teach if one is not learning. I believe the classroom/studio is a place to experiment, try new things, explore, explore, explore and not repeat the same lessons/curriculum year after year, but a teacher needs time away from the classroom in order to replenish. Several weeks ago I went on a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons to hike and explore the natural world off season. I stopped at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson where I was inspired by the architecture and the collection of paintings and sculptures.

I also visited The Colter Bay Visitor Centers where I viewed a small, but well done exhibit on Native American art. While I was there I met an artist named Guillermo Martinez who makes drums and flutes. His musical instruments are beautifully crafted and we chatted for awhile. Turns out he used to live right down the street from me in Los Angeles and we have mutual friends. I asked him if he would be a guest artist in my class next fall and he agreed. Once again, this sabbatical has given me the gift of time to go out and explore and make new connections.

Although I love a good museum exhibit, I honestly find more inspiration from being outdoors, out on a hike away from the bombardment of urban life, far from cars and freeways in a quiet place where my senses can focus and experience the artistic wonder of nature.

Having the time to hike with the time to stop and stare at the patterns of an autumn leaf, a slow moving snake, the mineral veins of a rock, etc. have given me at least a dozen ideas for new lessons and an invigorated sense of being. Line! Pattern! Texture! I’ll leave you with the sound of Aspens from the Grand Tetons.