Stan Bitters Road Trips

Whew! We’ve been traveling intermittently over the past two weeks and both trips, oddly enough, included Stan Bitters centered pit stops. His large scale textural ceramic work and creative process have left me so inspired. And I love that these memories will now be part of my kids’ “annoying things my parents made me do on road trips” file.

First round, we hit up Sequoia National Park for a few days of camping. (Not my favorite way to shelter, but Sequoia/King’s Canyon is one of the most beautiful and underrated places in the world. It’s like Redwoods/Yosemite/Mt. Rainier all mashed up into one glorious uncrowded park. GO!) Fresno is never our destination, but we find ourselves driving through at least a few times a year so I recently started making note of Fresno gems that I want to see during our drive-bys. Obviously, Stan Bitters’ work at Duncan Ceramics was at the top of the list!

The 1969 Duncan Ceramics installations were part of a remodel to spiff up the company’s buildings and to highlight their products. Fifty tons of clay were used to create over 600 feet of clay wonders. Literally a rainbow of glazes is represented in rainbow order. And the sheer scale of the work is overwhelming.  From Environmental CeramicsWhile most pottery is extremely utilitarian, and is often beautiful in that function, there is something so moving about clay work done at such a massive scale (and in such a violent manner!) solely for human visual enjoyment. The tactile, monolithic, and kinda bonkers installations left me so happy and inspired. Never have I ever had such a huge goofy grin in a parking lot. 

While in Fresno, we also cruised downtown and viewed the remains of the Fulton Mall and checked out the large exterior mural at the Savings and Loan (I just learned there are interior ones too??!!), neither of which I photographed so just go yourself. Fresno, man!

The next Bitters-related detour was unplanned (so excuse the cell phone photos) but oh so good! A few days after Sequoia, we made a quick trip to Southern California for a big day at Disneyland. Bummed to miss the sweet Stan Bitter’s exhibit at Mohawk General Store, you can imagine my excitement when I saw it was extended into August. You better believe I dragged my exhausted and cranky kids to see yet more ceramic goodness. So worth the extra time spent in LA traffic. I highly recommend you catch it if you are in the area this month! I don’t know a ton about this installation other than it is masterfully put together in a backyard desert garden setting, the perfect way to view environmental ceramic work. FULL ON LANDSCAPE DESIGN GOALS. Stan Bitters + aloe trees = what dreams are made of. The best part was seeing so many different applications of the media in one place. Medallion sculptures, mural installations, birdhouses, screens, pots, and fountains are all in attendance. A fun house of clay eeek!!!

It’s incredible, in the span of a week, to see work created 40 years apart by an artist STILL IN IT. Still working. Even through times of obscurity and under-appreciation. While I obviously LOVE the enthusiastic creations themselves, the creative pursuit and seeing a person give their everything to their passion is so encouraging…as is the return of “craft” to public favor!

Stan Bitters, 1969Stan Bitters, 2008

I’m gonna leave you with words of wisdom from from the man himself (from his book Environmental Ceramics) that I think apply to any creative. Production & Depression > Nothing. Forget the pots. And get in it!I couldn’t resist this studio portrait…Thank you Stan Bitters for showing up and doing your work. Holy moly what a gift to the rest of us.

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Dining Room Bookshelves

How do we feel about bookshelves in dining rooms? Kinda weird, right? It’s not my preference, but with our current room/furniture arrangement, having our long and low bookshelf along our dining room wall is what works right now. I loved its previous home in the den, hated its short-lived residency in our family room (I guess enough that I never photographed it there), and kinda like it in our dining room now.

I do love that it gives some purpose to our awkward kitchen pass-thru wall and adds a pop of color to a monochromatic room. I feel the same as I always have about color-sorted books: it’s pretty lame, and sign me up.
I’m continually purging books and feel like my stacks are at such a pretty, minimal place right now! Shedding excess books has been super freeing and I highly recommend it…though this home library embraces the opposite mentality and is so beautiful!

My husband built this bookshelf, by the way. Sliding doors made of waxed luan hide uglier reads, kids books and photo albums.I have always struggled with how to style the top and I visually really like this version. A home bar would make sense, except we aren’t the boozy type and I think it’s super cheesy to have liquor on display – no offense liquor displayers! This beautiful glass set belonged to my grandparents who stored it in their swanky wet bar, so I love seeing it, but the placement of barware in here seems a little pretentious and overly styled considering. Just add it to the “pretty lame, but sign me up” list I guess!We are off camping in Sequoia this week so hopefully right now I’m not being mauled by a bear after trying to hug it. If I survive the camping/bear hugs, then see you next time friends!!! xoxo

Kitchen!

We’re still living in what I call “phase 1” of our kitchen redo. Phase 1 started, and was mostly completed, soon after we moved in but some recent finishing touches have made it as good as it’s gonna get until we move on to bigger (probably not major…though I’m taking suggestions!) changes in the future.The kitchen was pretty decent when we took ownership of the house so we opted to do a lot of surface updates to visually streamline the space instead of major renovations. We installed maple floors, removed wallpaper, removed some decorative trim, painted all cabinetry and walls, painted the pocket door bright yellow, swapped lights, put in a new range hood and faucet, and added new hardware on doors and drawers. Just those semi-easy, semi-cheap changes made a huge difference. We kept the existing appliances and sink (all beige whomp whomp, except adorable original black oven!) and the grayish tile counter (which isn’t my favorite because GROUT but isn’t awful either).

BTW, all sources at the end :)

Our ugly, old beige dishwasher finally gave out a few months ago and I was ECSTATIC to get a clean-looking white replacement. We were really close to buying this Kitchen Aid, when we remembered Sears and bought this model from Kenmore instead…both made by Whirlpool, just sold under different brands. They are nearly identical inside but the Kenmore has the plainer exterior look that I was searching for. And it was majorly on sale for Memorial Day. I am so so happy with it (proof of middle agedness)! Bonus, it fits like 50% more than our previous dishwasher so there has been a 50% reduction of dirty dishes covering what little counter space we have. Hooray!

Also, we finally finished all the trim work, thus officially concluding phase 1…a mere 5 years after we started. Ha.

Here is the workhorse side of the kitchen, looking so fresh with that new dishwasher…
(Isn’t this the cutest 60’s looking toaster? Our old one crapped out a few months ago and when I went to buy a new one, this sweetness was waiting for me!)

Behind the pocket door is our laundry room (which has seen some recent action too that I hope to share soon), a small walk in pantry, and garage access. I LOVE the convenience of having the laundry room located right here in the work zone, but am grateful for the option to close the door on that clutter sometimes!The other side of the room opens to our small entry and front door. Over there, we have an eat-in-kitchen space, an original built-in desk area, and a gross old fridge (which never makes it in photos UNTIL TODAY. I cover it with artwork and pictures, my controlled area of complete chaos, to hide all the beige). I love having a table in the kitchen with kids and this vintage one that we’ve had since we got married is still indestructibly holding strong. Chairs are cheap knock offs that I’m completely ok with my children wiping meals all over. The desk, across from the table, is an original adorable and funky feature that actually gets a lot of use. We store art and homeschool supplies here as well as the day-to-day household office type stuff: mail, bills, stationary items, phone book, junk drawer, etc. I try to keep it clean since it is the first thing you see when you walk in the door, but it often serves as our cluttered drop zone. That hole in the wall is a pass-thru to the dining room.
All in all, not a bad refresh. I’m so thankful we didn’t need to dump in more time, energy and budget into this hard working space to get it to an enjoyable place while we wait to spend a little more on new appliances and countertops. Here’s where we started and how far we’ve come. Way less beige, way more crisp… The plan is to continue with a bright white kitchen for “phase 2.” Mostly because it lets my unavoidable hoard of colorful vintage dishware and cookware shine. I’d love beautiful, moody walnut kitchens but really think the bright, light vibe we have now is the right move for this house…and walnut cabinets with the maple floors sounds over the top, right?

Our next changes will be in a year or so and include white solid surface counters, some kind of colorful backsplash tile (why doesn’t these come in chartreuse – heartbroken), a new sink (white or stainless, undecided), a new white fridge, and a new cooktop (maybe with a gas conversion). We’ve considered building new cabinetry but honestly are pretty happy with the existing layout, and since we would probably go white again, the cost AND HASSLE don’t seem worth it.

The only thing we might change with the layout is adding a few feet of counter space by moving the wall oven to lowers. But it’s such a cute detail and I’m not sure how much moving it would even improve our day-to-day. I love having an eat in kitchen (maybe one day we’ll make it a built-in banquette like this gorgeous one!) and I love the charm of that weird original desk so I wouldn’t want to mess with those spaces.

We sometimes think about opening up the oven/cooktop wall partially to the den, but I’m not sure what we’d gain other than backyard views and the den then becomes even more confusing of a space. Living through a full kitchen remodel in our first house where walls were torn down and my husband custom made all our cabinetry was brutal, and is a project I’m not looking to undertake again if the improvements aren’t massive. What would you do if this was your kitchen??!!

 

SOURCES

pocket door yellow – Behr Lemon Lime
walls and cabinetry – Behr Ultra Bright White (more info about painting them here)
cabinet pulls similar
lights -discontinued Jonathan Adler for JCP
wood floors
dishwasher
blinds
vent – Broan similar
sink faucet
soap dispenser
canisters – vintage
fruit bowl -discontinued Jonathan Adler
hanging mugs – vintage Franciscan Starburst
clock
mixer
toaster
blender
yellow pot – vintage Dansk
table – vintage
chairs similar
desk stool similar
entry light
entry mirror

Thanks so much for stopping by!!! xoxo Jenny