Sand Sculptors of the Copacabana

     There’s a lot of coffee in Brazil, or so the song goes.  There are also a lot of poor people.  According to some estimates, Brazil has the largest number of people living in poverty in Latin America.  

     Artists don’t let the lack of traditional materials stop them from creating.  And sometimes, the need to feed one’s family provides more motivation to make art than than waiting for one’s Muse.  These forces converge on the beaches of Rio De Janiero where artists have found a way to make art and money from the sand and the ocean.   

     As you stroll along the beaches,  you pass by realistic, intricate,  larger-than-life sand sculptures.  Looking is free, but if you want to take a picture,   you stuff a few Reals in a can chained to a post in front of the sculpture.  The artist spends the day with the sculpture, to maintain the fragile sand and water creation and to keep an eye on the  can of money. 

     In the pictures above, you can see the artist stretched out on a blanket behind the sculpture.  He raised his hand in thanks when we stuffed some money into his can. We, in turn, thanked him making our walk on such a beautiful beach even more special.

To see another incredible Brazilian sand sculpture, click Here
For more information on sand sculpture click on Sand Castle Central

My Neighbor Bob’s Urban Garden

     My neighbor Bob has created an unexpected  jungle paradise (complete with a bright blue Macaw named Barbra) on the sidewalks of South Philadelphia.  In addition to lush flowers, vines and elephant ear plants, Bob’s garden boasts an above ground wooden Koi pond complete with gurgling fountain and contented goldfish.  Loki, the aptly-named pussy cat,  has left the goldfish alone  in favor of  lying in wait under cars parked on the street, and terrorizing the hapless  pigeons who venture under  them to  escape the summer sun.

     Aside from window boxes,  most urban gardens are locked up in community land plots or in containers hidden from the street.   Bob shares his garden with the world.  You don’t need an invitation to smell the flowers, say hello to Barbara or play with Loki.  Bob’s urban garden has suffered surprisingly little vandalism which tells me that the passers by are truely enjoying this little nature sanctuary in the middle of a gritty urban landscape.  If you click on the “view all images” bar above, you can enjoy my neighbor Bob’s garden, too.

For more information on urban gardens, go to 
Rough Terrain Urban Gardens and
Urban Garden

Recycled Materials in Art

I make lampworked glass beads. This summer, I have been having  fun making beads from recycled glass I find on the street.  I use colbalt blue wine bottles and aqua colored Bombay Sapphire Gin bottles. Trash day is like a shopping spree only I don’t need any money! What could be better?

There is a rich tradition around the world of using recycled materials to make art. Most art from recycled materials comes from so-called Third World Countries. The patchwork quilt is the one we are most familiar with in the United States.   As we become more of a throw away society,  however, the recycled materials movement has found its way to our affluent shores.

Here are three links where you can find more art made from recycled materials. Happy dumpster diving!

Indigo Arts
Oakland Museum of California

Zulu Telephone Wire Baskets

   Gold, diamonds,  coal and all kinds of metal come from mines in South Africa.   South Africa also has a rich tradition of craft work including beading (more on that later) and basket weaving.   Zulu miners took discarded pieces of brightly-colored phone wire and applied traditional principles of Zulu basket weaving to come up with basket designs that are complex and colorful.  The basket pictured above, which I bought on a trip to South Africa,  is just one example of this gorgeous art form.

When materials speak to you  and you listen,  anything is possible.

For more information on Zulu baskets, press Here.

The Spruce Goose


     Most people say that Howard Hughes was crazy, but some people call him a visionary.  He was probably both.  During World War II, the United States government charged him  with solving a design problem:  Make an airplane capable of carrying a large number of troops that can land on water.  And don’t use materials vital to the war effort which meant no metal. 

      Hughes’ solution was to build a plane out of laminated wood, and the Spruce Goose was born.  People were incredulous. Congress was furious. Hughes’ funding was pulled and his partner quit.  The plane sat until the end of the war.

       We all know that wood can float, but could the Spruce Goose fly?  Hughes put the skeptics doubts to rest when he flew the plane in 1947.  That was the first and last time the Spruce Goose was airborne.

        For a while it was kept in a huge domed building in Long Beach, California  where I saw it.  My reaction to the Spruce Goose was similar to what I experienced walking  through Cathedrals in Europe or cave dwellings in New Mexico.    Seeing it, it is hard to believe humans could make such a thing, much less that it could fly.  If you look at my pictures, (Click on the “View All Images” bar above) you’ll see what I mean.

     Howard Hughes suffered a sad fate, but he sure built one beautiful flying machine.  If you ever have the chance to see it, don’t pass it up. Today, the Spruce Goose sits in the Evergreen Avaition Museum in Oregon.   For more infomation, click  HERE. 

Philadelphia Murals


Philadelphia is a city of row houses.  That’s one of our claims to fame.   We used to be an industrial city and row houses provided cheap shelter for the people who worked at places like the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Stetson Hat Company.  When a row house was torn down,  however, a party wall was exposed that was pretty ugly.  We also battle a graffiti problem.   

The Philadelphia Mural Arts program  began as a way to beautify the City and to combat graffiti.  We now have beautiful murals in all parts of the  City.  They are a vibrant reflection of life and character  of each neighborhood.

The pictures you see here are of two of my favorite murals.  There are lots more.  If you come to Philadelphia,  you should ride around and take a look at them.  For more information on the mural arts program, go to