Retreat to Morrisburg

Tray with tiles attendees made. Auctioned and proceeds donated to

My friend Patty and I, ever the intrepid travelers,  decided to take the recommendation of our friend Sherman and drive  to the little town of Morrisburg, Ontario and join a group of polymer artists who meet once a year at the McIntosh Inn for a retreat.

We crossed the border into Canada,  pulled up to the Canadian border inspection station, and handed our passports to the border screening agent in the booth.

“Polymer clay retreat? What’s that?” the  agent wanted to know after Patty told him the purpose of our trip.  

“It’s not like a religious retreat,” Patty explained, “it’s  a bunch of artists who get together and work on their polymer clay projects.”

“Polymer clay?” the agent wasn’t buying it.

I leaned over so the agent could hear me.  “It’s like what men do when they get together with their model trains.”

“Oh!” the agent, replied, “you’re gonna throw clay at one another?”  

I had never heard of that, so I laughed as if I got the joke.  The agent handed our passports back and waved us on our way.

We had a great time, renewed old acquaintances and made new friends.  We drank Tim Horton coffee, ate Butter Tarts, wrestled with the metric system and warned our Canadian colleagues that after the U.S. election in November, we might be back to stay.  

Here are some pictures

To see more pictures, go to my Flickr site, here.



Huichol Beadwork


Rolling Stones is a leather goods store in Puerto Vallarta   For years, the owner has given space in the store to a family of the Huichol Tribe where they make and sell their beadwork.  I was familiar with  Huichol beaded objects where they embed seed beads in wax  and in fact purchased a turtle figurine on my last trip to Puerto Vallarta.   But  I was not familiar with their other beadwork until I dropped into Rolling Stones with some friends.    Here are some earrings I bought as gifts.  










If you are in Puerto Vallarta, stop by Rolling Stones leather for some fabulous leather bargains and to see the Huichol Beadwork.  Rolling Stones is located at Paseo Diaz Ordaz 802, Puerto Vallarta 48300, Mexico.



What’s Cooking at the Hacienda




I am currently living the good life at Hacienda Mosaico in Puerto Vallarta, taking a class with Richard and Jane Salley. In addition to the class and the beautiful surroundings, the Hacienda serves up some delicious meals. All of which facilitate learning and relaxation.


A Hoard of Beads from the Hermitage (and Jewelry too!)

Since I design and make jewelry, I am always on the lookout for inspiration, and there is nothing better than getting to see ancient pieces up close. Here are a few I saw at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Collections include items from the Culture of the Peoples of South Siberia exhibit and Ancient Relics of the Art and Culture of Eurasia

Some Things I Saw at the Pushkin Museum

Pushkin Museum Moscow 59

Our friend and Moscow native Dmitri told us that he passed many an afternoon at the Pushkin Museum when he was a student.    So, we had to make a visit.  In fact, we made two.   The Pushkin’s collections are housed in several buildings.  The first ones we saw were located in the main building and included ancient Greece, the Black Sea region, the Near East, Roman Egypt and Troy.  I never get tired of looking at ancient beads and metalwork although  those items comprise only a small portion of what we saw:


 Little Greek Cupids.

Beads (glass, pottery, rock crystal, carnelian, chalcedony and jet) from what we know today as Greece, Turkey and the Near East.  Dates vary from 1st century BCE  to 7th century CE.




image image image


Phanagoria, includes beads of  lapis.

  We jumped at the chance to see the exhibit  on Ancient Troy and Schliemann’s excavations.  Schliemann has always fascinated me because he came from humble origins, had a successful business career and used his money to excavate the site where he determined the Trojan War had taken place.  Before he found archaeological evident that Troy had actually existed,  most people considered Troy “a matter of myth and not reality.”

When Schliemann found the treasure pictured below, he dressed his wife up in the jewelry and took her picture.  I did not take the pictures below because my cell phone battery had decided to overheat and die.  If you click on the pictures, however, you will be taken to a link with information on the photographers.

Golden diadem with pendants

Tesoro di priamo, spialla d'oro, cat. 239

Tesoro di priamo, grande diadema con pendenti, oro, cat. 10, 01

Golden sauceboat with two handles

Tesoro di priamo, bracciale lamellare con decorazione a spirale, dal tesoro F, oro, cat. 123

Tesoro di priamo, orecchino con pendenti, oro, cat. 155

Ritual Hammer-Axes

These are ceremonial  hammers. They are oversized, maybe about a foot long and are very impressive in person.

We returned to the Pushkin to see the 19th and 20th Century European Art collections.  If I had only seen the Matisses, I would have been happy.  An incredible collection you must see if you ever make it to Moscow.  Thanks Dmitri!

The Light Fantastic: St. Petersburg While the Sun Sets

I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Rather than describe it, here are some pictures take from our hotel.



  I added some pictures of St Petersburg and Moscow to my Flickr site.

Greetings From Moscow!


St. Basil’s Cathedral


Le Mutt in Red Square!

I will be posting more about our Moscow experience.  Suffice it to say that the Russians are always rushing (at least in Moscow) but I had no trouble going out and finding my way around with the help of a map and occasional requests for directions (it helps to write down the Cyrillic version of your destination just on case the person you ask does not speak English).  The people I have met have been very cordial and helpful.

Sargent Johnson and Sid Mohammed Diag on the Promenade Deck

In my last post, I wrote about my serendipitous  stumbling onto  Hilaire Hiler’s murals and Prismatarium in the Maritime Museum in San Francisco. And just when I thought the highlight of the trip had passed, another surprise was waiting for us. My husband and I wandered through a doorway that led from the lobby to the promenade deck on the beach to get a look at the ocean.  We didn’t see Sargent Johnson’s fabulous mosaic gracing the side of the building until we turned to go back into the Bathhouse.

Sargent Claude Johnson was an African American  painter, potter, ceramist, print maker, sculptor,  artist  and visionary. Born in Boston, Johnson lived and worked mostly in the California Bay Area, although he had ties to the Harlem Renaissance.    He belonged to the Communist Party for most of his life and he did not complete the Maritime Museum mosaic,  reportedly because he objected to plans to turn part of the building into a restaurant which would be out of reach for most working people.  He disdained such commercialism and thought that art should be for the masses.  Interestingly he was turned down when he first applied for a commission to work on the  Bathhouse which was being built as part of a WPA project.  He was hired after Hiler vouched for him.

Johnson created his stylized and sophisticated “Sea Forms” mosaic on the Promenade Deck  working with  a Moroccan tile cutter named  Sid Mohammed Diag.  The friendly park rangers at the Bathhouse related a few stories about Diag:  Diag could cut Arabic  letters from tile (do you have any idea how hard that is?).  He let his skills speak for him when bureaucrats and visitors to the site  questioned his ability to produce precision tile work. (Which apparently happened regularly.  Diag was a short, dark foreign looking-man)    Diag’s  response would be to take a tile, whip out an intricate shape, hand it to the offender, and continue his work without looking up or saying a word.  

Thanks to the Smithsonian Institute and its New Deal and the Arts Oral History Project, you can read a transcript of an  interview of Johnson recorded in 1964 in which he talks about his career, his art and  his work on the mosaic.  If you want to listen to the interview, try this link.

I love the Sea Forms varied shades of green and blue green and the pops of red and warm brown. You can’t really see it from these pictures but a few of the tiles were glazed in gold luster. The limitations of my photography plus the 60+ years that these tiles have faced the Pacific Ocean make these areas difficult to see on the computer screen.   Even though Johnson has worked with a limited palette and mostly abstract shapes, he succeeds in depicting a beautiful sea fantasy world that is quite different from Hiler’s.

If you are in San Francisco, go to the Maritime Museum and see the work of Hiler, Sergent and other artists who contributed to this little-known National Park treasure.

The Colorful Ways of Hilaire Hiler

Hilaire Hiler was an artist.  No, he was a jazz musician.  No, he was a psychologist.  No,  he was a color theoretician.   In fact, he was all of these things.

Hilaire Hiler was born in Minnesota and died in Paris.  He has a Philadelphia connection having studied at the University of Pennsylvania and briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. After living and studying in various cities around the United States, he left for Europe around 1919 and made a living playing jazz in the Montmartre district of Paris.

The old order of the 19th Century had started to crumble by the end of World War I. Life seemed all the more precious for those who had experienced the horrors of the war first hand. People were questioning  the wisdom of old values with their rigid rules of conformity.  World War I had exposed a generation of young people to places and cultures they would never have otherwise seen and it opened them to new possibilities.  What if everything they had learned was wrong?

Paris was a Mecca for creative people in search of nurturing and support for their art.  They  could not find it at home, but the bohemian and eccentric could find community and acceptance in Paris.  African American artists of the time  could live and work in  Paris  without the constant onus of the historically ingrained racism they experienced in America. Many of the expatriates  settled in Montmartre.  Press here to watch a short video of Paris at that time.   Press here to get some idea of what Montmartre was like when Hiler arrived.  Press here for an article.

Hiler had reportedly attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to make his father happy before he clarified what was important to him, embraced his artistic side and left for Paris.   I have read varying accounts of Hiler’s time in Paris:  That he played the piano with a monkey on his shoulder.  That he owned or managed a club.  That he played the saxophone.  Our guides in San Francisco told us and several web sites confirm that he painted a number of murals on the walls of nightclubs in the district.  But none of them remain today because when Hitler invaded Paris in 1940, the Nazis embarked on a program to eradicate what they termed “degenerate” art.  Hiler’s murals were among the many works they destroyed. 

Which means that the only place left to see Hiler’s  murals (recently restored) is the lobby of the  Maritime Museum in San Francisco.   It is reported that when Henry Miller first walked into the lobby and saw the murals, he asked Hiler to teach him how to paint.

Here are some pictures.



In his later years, Hiler’s art became more abstract as you can see from his work on this site but his exploration of color and the infinite possibilities for its expression was always a central focus in his work.

As a jazz musician, Hiler used musical such as tone and harmony to describe color.    “The harmonious relations of structure and order presented in a new way, in the nature of a continuum. Relations of degree, and those of geometric progression of color-form, replace relations of simple analogy—or in turn of contrast, by opposition. As the sequential relations of Structuralism design resemble those of natural growth, it may be termed organic. In this sense, it is like certain kinds of music.” (Hiler, Structuralism, London, Heal & Son, 1955).  From Hiler, Hilaire Biography, download here.

The Prismataruim


 This blog post only scratches the surface of  Hiler, his art and his fascinating life.  If anyone has additional information and would like to share, I invite you to leave a comment.

Serendipidy in San Francisco

I discovered the work of Hilare Hiler and Sargent Johnson by pure serendipity.


I was in San Francisco with my husband. We decided to do the tourist thing and take a tour of Fisherman’s Wharf.  Only I thought the tour started an hour later than it actually did. In a different spot.  So we went to the wrong meeting point an hour after the tour left.  This didn’t seem like a good beginning to our day at the time.

We wandered by  San Francisco Maritime National Park and I saw a Park Ranger who told me was a tour starting soon. National Park tours are free so what did we have to lose?  We got tickets and found we would be the only people on the tour.

Our Ranger  guide was soft spoken,  knowledgeable, and wore rain hat and two pairs of glasses.  San Francisco eccentricity?   She led us through a museum, a art gallery and by the shore  while telling us about the indigenous people of the area, the early settlers and   the history and geography of the waterfront.   We learned that building materials were in short supply in the early days, so some sailors beached their ships and used the wood to build houses.  As a matter of fact, the  Maritime Museum located in the nearby Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building. housed the remains of a hull of a wooden ship what was almost  200 years old.   Would we like to see it?  Why not? We followed her into the building and our adventure began.

The National Park web site mentions that the building was built in 1939 as a WPA project, but it did not prepare us for what the colorful, surreal murals that covered the walls and ceiling of the cavernous lobby. We were not expecting to walk into an undersea dreamland.  We gaped  in astonishment. And that was only the beginning because for the next few hours we spent there, our guide and a fellow ranger for whom the murals were clearly a passion,  engaged us in conversation about Hilaire Hiler’s murals and his Prismatarium in the next room and the tile installations by Sargent Johnson  on the promenade deck.


My next posts will be about Hiler, Johnson and their work in the Bathhouse Building, which deserves much more attention than the US Park Service is giving it.


P.S. We forgot about the ship