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Tibetan Temple #6

I build Shrines to the Divine entirely for my own enjoyment. There is no goal, no show in mind, no beginning, middle or end of the project. I am just creating temples, exploring the skills learned, both as an artist as well as a human.

And what amazing discoveries I make along the way. So far with the Tibetan construction, I have learned how to: make a tiny tile floor out of polymer clay, a

Lucky Valley Press author/friend, Sharon Mehdi

 When I first met Sharon Mehdi, I thought she was a stand-up comic. She made me laugh until  my jeans burst at the seams.

Then I discovered all kinds of interesting things about Sharon: labyrinth walker, healer, teacher, writer, public speaker.

She told me she wrote a book, so I ordered it and, after I read A Curious Quest for Absolute Truth, my respect for this woman grew. Not only was she funny, but she could write, and express deeply felt things.

As the Board Member in charge of books and authors at Art Presence Art Center & Gallery in Jacksonville, I asked Sharon to read from Curious Quest several years ago. It was such a hit, we ask her back every year.

Not only that, Lucky Valley Press (David & Ginna) helped Sharon re-publish A Curious Quest for Absolute Truth, as well as the Great Silent Grandmother Gathering and, my favorite, Eleanor Bobbin.

One morning, over coffee at the Good Bean in Jacksonville, Sharon asked if she could read this little manuscript to me. “It’ll only take a few minutes,” she said

I love to be read to. And she’s so funny. And, Eleanor Bobbin really does have the potential to save the world.

Here’s what Sharon wrote for the back cover of Eleanor Bobbin and the Magical, Merciful, Mighty Art of Kindness:

“As this book goes to print, the world is once again in chaos. Rancor and retribution rule the day. Greed, fear and demagoguery have been crowned Kings of All That Is.

“And yet… and yet… hidden beneath the helplessness there is a glimmer of light. So faint it can be seen only in the darkest of dark night.

“If this tiny flicker had a name, it might be called forgiveness, compassion, kindness or love. Such little words. But the one thing I know for sure is that they can create miracles. They can make the impossible possible. They can heal lives. And sometimes, whole communities. Just ask Eleanor Bobbin.”

If you’re looking for a book to send to all your friends
around the world to remind them, Eleanor Bobbin is it.

Buy all three books. The ride inside the mind of Sharon Mehdi
 is worth it. She should be President.

Love, Ginna

P.S. Eleanor Bobbin kindly includes an uplifting Apple Dumpling recipe.

Charles Osborne’s "Boss" is just in time for the Pebble Beach Centennial

 “Without Sam Morse, Pebble Beach would be a West Coast Coney Island.”   – Bing Crosby

“A newspaper dubbed my grandfather “The Duke of Del Monte” and although he pretended to be embarrassed by the title, I believe he liked it. Del Monte was more than a chunk of some of the most beautiful land on the planet. It was a style of life that included golf, tennis, polo, beautiful mansions and beautiful people having a good time. He enjoyed being in charge of that. In fact he wanted people to damn well know he was in charge. Damn was one of his favorite words.

“He died when I was 22 years old while I was studying art at the University of California at Los Angeles, living above a merry-go-round on the Santa Monica Pier and working as a cue-card boy at NBC, none of which really met with my grandfather’s approval. Still, the man was a big influence in my life and in the lives of many others, a benevolent despot who ruled the Monterey Peninsula.

“His friends called him Sam and his employees called him Mr. Morse. People referred to him as S.F.B., and that is how he stylishly signed his paintings and documents.

“The family called him Boss.”
– Charles Osborne, from the dust jacket of Boss

Sculpting Polymer Buddhas #4

I am not well-set, nor do I have the bandwidth for, taking pictures of my hands while creating.

Following are all the photos of my Buddhas over the course of three days. All the facial features are exaggerated, not on purpose.

The top not and hair aren’t right proportionately and you can see from this side view, he has a flat face.

This guy looks like a cross between a British peer (doesn’t it resemble a powdered wig?) and Deepak Chopra. The bindi on his forehead helps the overall look.

Last night’s sculpture looks like Yul Brynner as Mongkut, King of Siam. And my latest student still doesn’t have much of a face, and without armature, she’ll always have to be sitting down.

The week’s work. Self-imposed Polymer Sculpture Class 101.

Sculpting Polymer Clay Buddhas #2

Just Buddha’s Head.

In the interest of keeping my self-imposed sculpting lessons simple, I scrunched up a ball of foil and rolled out some clay to cover it for a head. (I learned the hard way not to bake any polymer clay thicker than about 1/4 inch; it takes forever, you’re never quite sure if it’s baked all the way through and it smells if it gets scorched.)

I stuck a quilter’s straight pin into a cork for something to hold onto. I scrunched the foil head down over the pin with a dollop of hot glue. With a small ball of clay, I pressed out a disk to cover the foil and form a head, making it slightly oval in shape.

I marked the lines for eye, nose, lips and chin, and made about 24 little pieces for these additions.

Polymer clay is so forgiving. After its warmed up (conditioned) it stay supple for a long time an can be worked over and over again before it is baked.

These eye sockets turned out to be a bit much. The instructions called for little clay eyeballs, but I toned them down with Tibetan slits for eyes.

The facial features on my first Buddha turned out a little exaggerated; next time I’ll make my tiny body part pieces tinier.

Not bad for a rank beginner.

Sculpting Polymer Clay Buddhas #1

In typical DIY style, I took up the challenge of building my own Buddha for the Tibetan Shrine to the Divine. Ah, well, more of a dare, really.

It was my girlfriend, Eunice.

She said, “You’re going to make it yourself, right?”

I laughed. “No, no,” I said. “I draw the line at sculpting a Buddha.”

“I dare you,” she said.

Well. To the left here is my very first attempt at modeling polymer clay, beyond rolling balls and sticking holes in and calling them beads.

Once again, I followed a YouTube video. Everything here was made with little logs of clay – legs, arms, torso, head.

I was pleasantly surprised. Although these two figures (the teacher and his student) have no discernible faces, they do have shapely bodies and good posture. If you get too close, the student looks like a cat and the teacher resembles a Martian from a 50s movie, but I like the wrinkled pants and the fat cushions on which they sit.

I modeled these two little figures while listening to an audio book in front of the fire. Everything I needed fit on a paper plate. I have abandoned knitting until the fall, imagining spring is around the corner and soon I will be planting seeds, but meanwhile, why not teach myself to sculpt?

Now, Buddha here looks more like Caspar the Friendly Ghost with a bad Gibson Girl hair do. Holding an empty cereal bowl.

More work to be done.

Love, GB

Tibetan Temple #5

Even though I did not complete this Buddha head out of Basswood, I am posting the idea to show the sacred geometry of drawing  a Tibetan Buddha.

Just the geometry itself is beautiful to me. These images are posted all over my studio. They calm my spirit.

I have been attracted to Tibetans and their teachings, as well as their good-natured selves, since the early 90s, when I first heard Lama Tarchin Rinpoche speak on a friend’s houseboat in Sausalito. One of my most memorable stories (another post) is about the daily goings on at Steven Seagal’s home during the year I was his personal chef. I used to say I was “surrounded by monks, music and poetic musings,” as a steady selection of starlets, stars and sycophants sat down to table with Steven, his family, his entourage of assistants and his monks.

Tibetan Temple #4

Each of the Shrines to the Divine has a 12 x 12 inch footprint, for uniformity and to fit on shelves for display. The Zendo on the left is the first true completed shrine. By the time I built it, I had made several single walled messes before I figured out how to do tiny double wall construction.

The Japanese Tea House to the right of the Zendo was my first foray into tiny construction. The faerie tableaux in my studio history don’t count. Faeries have a very free sense of scale and construction, with a sort of “anything goes” attitude. This is to scale, 1.12, as much as possible.

On the lower shelf is the final selection for the size of the tipi for the shrine honoring my Native American blood and my two years of tipi living. I made five paper models before settling on this size – had to fit the 12 x 12 inch footprint. (My tipi was 400 “square” feet).

I made the tea house following a YouTube video exactly. It is made entirely with craft (pop cicle) sticks and coffee stirrers. The best thing about this construction is the sliding shoji screen doors. And the tiny backroom with the piece of Japanese fabric that started this whole shrine thing.

During the creation of Faerie Junction in 2016, we received all kinds of interesting materials and gifts into the studio, from tree branches and leaves to stick pins, beads and fabric. A small piece of Japanese quilter’s cotton with a tiny design passed through my hands. I thought, “Oooh, a Japanese Tea House in my future.”

I will re-create that Tea House one day, in honor of my bookbinding teachers, who opened my eyes to Japanese art and culture. Everything I know about making clean corners, from paper to fabric to wood, I learned from them. I will rebuild it using improved construction skills. And better tiny lumber.

The cut out tiles (making room for the 1 x 1 inch pillars that hold the roof over the open temple) make perfect little finishing touches for the base.

And, of course, I stained the base red with Unicorn Spit. I expect this red to darken quite a bit after several coats. I’m going for more of a mahogany look. The tiles are also painted with Unicorn Spit, but after brushing on the blue, I dabbed it with coarse patterned paper towel to create a mottled look.

I am really excited to begin the pillars. It entails carving clay.

Love, GB

Tibetan Temple #3

I rediscovered polymer clay after a 20 year hiatus. Back in the early 90s, I made beads and pins and jewelry items.

This time around, I had in mind the tiny lumberyard and all my little itty bitty constructions. For the Zendo, I formed a little platter, a bowl and a vase. In the midst of the experiments, I fell in love again with this versatile medium. There are a bunch of useless polymer items around my studio right now,  a giant red flower, some art deco pillars, on the way to making tiny creations for the Tibetan Temple:

Here is the tiny tile floor, made from a large sheet of polymer clay, conditioned and rolled out to accommodate my 7×7 inch plan. After baking, I cut out the corner tiles to make room for the 1×1 inch pillars.

The wood base for the temple is three sheets of basswood glued together and framed in around the tiles.

I was attracted to Buddhist teachings because of the three essentials: (a) ethical conduct, (b) mental discipline and (c) wisdom. Along the way, I learned about making malas (another post) and painting as a meditation.

While studying Thangka painting, mental discipline was necessary, as was patience with myself and for the slow emergence of anything resembling a Buddha.

This little tile floor will be painted blue, the base stained with red.

The miter box lessons from my son, Michael, come in handy with my tiny tools. I am pretty happy with my corners.

Tulku Jamyang and his wife, Chigme, invited me often to share their Tibetan dinners. It was all very mysterious to me, big bowls of chopped meat, tureens of thick soup, flat breads and sweet pastes and sticky rices. We ate heartily with fat spoons as well as our fingers and drank copious amounts of rich dark tea with coconut butter (no yaks for miles and miles).

When I work out my Tibetan Temple, I remember Tuklu Jamyang’s teachings, and translate the sacred geometry into my constructions.

I have become more patient over the years through meditations of all kinds, other art forms, knitting, of course, but the memory of Mondays with Tulku Jamyang, his quiet teachings, his generous spirit, hover around me like a sprite.

As I teach myself to sculpt with polymer clay, I’ll make a teacher, a student and a Buddha.

Tibetan Temple #2

From The Once and Future King by TH White:

“It is God who keeps the price secret, Uther. Not I.”

“God? God? What god? I have heard you speak of so many gods. If you mean Mithras…”

Says Merlin, “Mithras. Apollo. Arthur. Christ. Call him what you will. What does it matter what men call the light? It is the same light, and men must live by it or die. I only know that God is the source of all the light which has lit the world and that his purpose runs through the world and passes each one of us like a great river and we cannot check or turn it but can only drink from it while living and commit our bodies to it when we die.”

God is in the details. Of everything. And the Light.

The Shrines to the Divine project began in early 2018. I have cataloged here in the blog the process of the first little tea house and the final Japanese Shrine, the Zendo, both built in 2018.

Along the way of my life, I have had the privilege to study with, cook for and generally be around some lovely teachers, in the name of art, or food, or spiritual advice. I have sat at the feet of gurus, pranced around the fire as a deer with a Huichol shaman on Mt. Shasta, meditated on Paramahansa Yogananda’s houseboat with Steven Seagal, studied with and fed Deepak Chopra and myriad other pop culture stars, looked at Tibetan Buddhism through the eyes of the Thangka painting monk, and cooked for large groups at a retreat center while spending my nights in a 400 square foot tipi. Alison Stillwell Cameron lived next door to my mother and sparked my interest in Chinese Sumi painting, my bookbinding instructors shared Japanese print making, Shibori fabric design, marbled papers and so much more.

I feel closest to the source of all the light when I am being creative.

The top image above floated across my Facebook timeline, posted by a friend. It is an art deco painting by Vittorio Zecchin who died in 1947. Look him up. He blows my mind. The Dominican nuns never showed us his paintings in Art Appreciation class.

When I saw this painting, not just the goddesses themselves but the intensity of the colors hit me like a whack in the chest. The moment pushed me into the long talked about Tibetan temple, because I had to get involved with those colors.

As a dedicated DIY nut job, I set out to make some fabric for the backdrop to the buddha’s throne. Although I used red and gold on black in my first draft of the fabric pattern, the colors of the shrine with mimic those above in Zecchin’s: orange and purple and violet …with some red.

I took a photo of the finished 12 x 12 canvas and shrunk the design to the size of a postage stamp, repeated the pattern to fill an 8.5×11 sheet of paper-backed silk for printing, and voila!

A tiny silk curtain of my own design.