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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Seven Magic Mountains

Heeeey there! No house projects today, just a rainbow of rocks! Last weekend, my husband and I took a quick trip to Las Vegas for the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival. I never leave Las Vegas loving the city, but the music was great and we made the most of our time. We stayed at the Delano, which for a LV hotel was actually wonderful, ate at our random favorite 24 hour sushi restaurant, saw THE STRAY CATS (sooooo good oh my goodness I love you guys!!!), and visited Seven Magic Mountains.

The Stray Cats obviously topped the weekend, but Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains is not to be missed! I’ve driven past multiple times, always in a rush, and I’m so glad we decided to slow down and get out this time. Human marking on the land has always fascinated me and man building weird stuff in the harsh desert is the apex. The installation is truly beautiful, massive, and totally worth a stop. I couldn’t wait to get home and google the actual build process (here you go!). When we visited on a busy Friday afternoon, it was a sea of selfies, but even so there was a lot of solitude up close beneath the boulders. The most photogenic boulders ever. These are cell phone photos; imagine what a “real” camera would do with these ice cream scoops! If you need a nudge to pull of the 15, the intended short-lived sculpture is only guaranteed to remain up through the end of the year, though plans are underway to extend the installation.

(Homeschool parents: I just found some STEAM related lessons for K-12! Even more excuses for a visit!)

Thanks for reading friends!

Palm Springs Indian Canyons

If you’ve ever wanted to look at endless photos of palm trees, you’ve arrived! We spent some of Thanksgiving week in our favorite place and spent a wonderful morning exploring the Palm tree oasis’ in Indian Canyon. Just south of the city sits not just one, but several, of the largest oasis’ of California Fan Palms (the only native CA palms). How we have never done this, I DON’T KNOW! It was an otherworldly kind of beautiful, if you are into deserts and palms and rocks. Time to do some soul searching if that doesn’t describe you. I can’t put into words, mostly because I’m a blubbering idiot, how magical it was to wander around under 1000’s of palms surrounding a desert stream. It looked fake, like a movie set, and rivals whatever you think the most beautiful place in the world is (me: tie between Alps/Mt. Rainier/Redwoods/and now this…got a lot of west coast bias in me I guess??).We skipped the largest and most crowded oasis, Palm Canyon, though we did peek at it from the parking lot, opting to hike using that term sooo loosely the lush and less visited Andreas Canyon instead. The kids did the “hike” literally in the stream and us grown humans followed the trail next to the stream. I’ve discovered that a family hike through water is infinitely more successful than a regular hike on top of dirt. The morning we visited was high 70’s/early 80’s but, with the water, I can imagine this being the hike to do on those hotter days when you still want to get out in and see the beauty of the desert. The biggest goof in a happy place.The oasis from afar. Can you see it?That up there is the parking lot. I can’t wait to go back. Totally 100% worth the cost of admission and I can’t recommend it enough.

We stayed again at our family favorite, The Twist. I’ve said it before, but the Palm Springs living is easy there when you have kids in tow. We spend hours at the pool, and they couldn’t be more enjoyable. They even had out some Christmas decorations = take my money, I’m moving in.Basically, when can I retire? And will it be a classy desert retirement in a mid-century jewel box in Palm Springs? Or a trashy desert retirement in an aluminum trailer along the stinking shores of the Salton Sea? I really can’t wait to find out which way life unfolds… xoxo