18 June 2013

New website!!!

I have a website now! Come check it out. This will be the best way to keep up with me from here on out ---> lots of photos of the work we're doing and my blog will now be there as well. Thanks for following me and I hope you will continue!

21 May 2012

Old Time Yellowstone

I found these postcards at an antique store a few years ago and they've been hiding in a drawer waiting for some sort of presentation. They are the good old kind - thick, shiny and grainy. I glued them to plywood and now they are ready for some wall time.
Landscape paintings and scenes are so mesmerizing to me, even the super cheesy ones. There is so much to look at, and so many hidden crevices to get lost in. It's like lazy book reading - lots of stories, but no words to bounce over, synthesize, and digest.
I worked in Yellowstone National Park for a summer when I was a young lass and didn't get much time to explore as there were lots of overcooked burgers and Sysco potato salads to be served, but I did get time to experience the otherworldly geothermal landscapes of bubbling mud pots and brilliant deep turquoise pools of sulfuric water.

It's humbling to say the least, and gives me some serious Earth love. Our planet is so easily taken for granted, and I don't mean in the obvious ways of harmful extraction and destruction, but in sheer amazement for how it continues to operate, for what's going on below our feet and in the air that travels to our lungs to keep us moving. Lucky for us, it's incredibly resilient and doesn't judge us for our oversights. 

05 May 2012

West Texas part 1

I took a recent vacation to West Texas, including to the town of Marfa, Tx and to the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend National Park. Two things happened - amazing art & design, and the discovery that when I have said "middle of nowhere" in the past, my scope was limited. Growing up in central Texas where it is hot and HUMID, and well, incredibly conservative, my motto became - "anywhere but Texas." Unfortunately this kept me from experiencing the mind blowing landscapes and rich cultural treasures of Texas. There's more to Texas than chips & queso, self serve salsa bars, margaritas, and breakfast tacos, all of which I still deem essential to my life.
Desert sun.
The art and design aesthetic of Marfa is all about minimalism and is heavily influenced by Donald Judd. He came to Marfa in the 1970's, driven by the inspiration he felt from the barren landscape of West Texas. Spurred on by his disdain for the temporary nature of art displayed in galleries, he undertook the project of creating a permanent location for his art. He purchased land that contained old army barracks and there lies his permanent art installations, along with a few other artists he selected. The only way to see the collections are by an all day docent led tour.
The barracks.

At first I had a hard time with the permanence factor, feeling it was a bit narcissistic, but by the end I really appreciated it. I kept imagining all of the installations, and potential color bombs that could be strewn across the land and how amazing they would be, and why not? Then, I felt the deep, paralyzing feeling of permanence. The abyss to FOREVER. For me, it is in the same category of non-existence that I absolutely cannot comprehend. Before all of this, there was NOTHING, not even a white room, void of sound with no life in it. 
The idea of art that is set in such a wide open landscape as something that will never change, always exist as it was originally intended to, and never be added to or taken away from is kind of maddening. It is a challenge to practice acceptance and contentment, an opportunity for the viewer to grow and discover new values within instead of only relying on the outside to change and reflect back what personal growth is. 
Donald Judd, untitled concrete forms

The view from the end, all aligned north to south
Permanent art could be the ultimate meditation. The landscape self-destructs and erodes, starves and then bursts open watery blue and green and thrives around it. The extremes of temperature, ferocious winds, dust storms, lightning bolts, and torrential monsoons are enough to comprehend and physically absorb. They are magnified around the solid and steady post of permanence.

02 March 2012


This is a 360 degree view from the Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon. The last glacial periods were at the end of the Pleistocene epoch that spanned from 2.5 million years ago to about 15,000 years ago. 

I am currently fascinated and obsessed with Antarctica and its stark white landscapes of brilliant piercing lines and abysmal mirage of shadows. This is my attempt at turning these moving snap shots into my own polar fantasy. Some day I hope to get there and experience the depth of stark openness. It is the truest form I can imagine, a pure and uninhibited exploration of land and self.
Listen to it through headphones for an inter-iceberg experience. 

15 November 2011


This was my view on a camping trip in the Umatilla National Forest in eastern Oregon this summer. We were actually part of the view, completely submersed and surrounded in storm and light. I have never had the experience of a lightning storm passing directly over me, or more like, through me. I was shaking in my boots. The dogs and my travel partner, not so much. We saw the storm approaching from across a valley and over the mountains.

This is when we decided to take the bottle of wine to the car and wait it out. It ended up being a couple of hours before it cleared us. I took about 200 pictures to keep myself occupied and a little distracted. Most of them were just black, and I couldn't really tell from looking on my phone that I actually did catch a few bolts.
The experience was one of the most surreal of my life. To be engulfed in deep blackness, and then be completely illuminated by white light. I'm quite grateful.
This lightning storm caused numerous fires that were battled for the rest of the summer. Something like 210 strikes touched the ground in this area that night. Wow.

I wish that every design I did could create the feeling of really being in it, of being electrified by the experience of landscape, as this lightning storm felt. To not be a human standing surrounded by landscape, but an animal, a particle of energy, in the whole of it. We become so removed and think of our selves as separate, when we never are. Whether you are standing on a glacier in Alaska, or can only see concrete for miles, humans are one of the many elements of a complete landscape.  
I have been trying to define the word landscape for myself. It makes me sad to think that a lot of people think of neatly manicured shrubs and acutely trimmed and greened lawns when they hear the word landscape. I guess I want to take the word out of the business.

Here is a definition I found for the landscape in relation to people:
Combining both their physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect the living synthesis of people and place to vital local and national identity. Landscapes, their character and quality, help define the self image of a region, its sense of place that differentiates it from other regions. It is the dynamic backdrop to peoples lives.

This makes me feel really good. I guess I'm a bit of a landscape nerd. Thank you wikipedia.

11 November 2011


Rain gardens are such an important and easy fix for managing stormwater on residential properties.  They also serve as a seasonal water feature and a beautiful focal point.  Committing to a rain garden does not mean that you will have a stagnant pond in your yard. In fact, rainwater should drain within 24 hrs. or it's not a good spot for a rain garden.
This is a rain garden that I installed over the summer in NE Portland.  It is about 180 sq. ft. and will accommodate all of the rainwater coming from the roof.  The plants in the bottom, mostly grasses and some ferns can be inundated with water and still thrive.
I put this basalt rock with a natural bowl in it to attract birds for a little bath.
This is where the water enters.

When landscapes are covered in vegetation, rainwater naturally soaks into the ground, but when we cover it with impermeable surfaces, like driveways, sidewalks, roofs, and even a grassy lawn that is compacted, the water runs off carrying pollutants into local creeks and streams, and taxes water treatment plants.  Here in Portland, when we get a good rainfall, and not even a huge event, our sewage system overflows into the river. Yuck.

All of this runoff  also creates 100 yr. flood-like conditions in streams every time it rains, causing serious erosion and sedimentation that chokes out wildlife.

Here's how we got it done:
The bottom of the rain garden only needs to be 6-8" lower than the surrounding ground.
Getting the water there... with a kitty.  The water can also travel above ground by creating a rocky creek like channel.
Gettin' it done.  Rain gardens need to be heavily planted to filter pollutants, absorb the water, and prevent erosion.

Other benefits of rain gardens are their ability to filter out pollutants before the water gets to the streams, and they recharge the water table keeping streams from drying up during times of low rainfall.
It can also be packed with perennials on the rim to include lots of color.
Proud new explorer.

Here are a few recent fall shots.  The plants grew so well in just a few months.  Good thing, because they are hard at work now.

There are lots of great resources on the internet to learn about rain gardens.  If you are in Portland the East Multnomah Water & Soil Conservation District is a great resource and even offers free workshops to help you build one on your own.  http://www.emswcd.org/raingarden
I love talking shop, so ask away if you have any curiosities.

26 October 2011

Who doesn't want to build a house for a miniature pig?

This is my friend Hamlet, an Extreme Royal Dandy pig, who lives across the street from me at a Montesorri school called Owl and the Dove.

and this is his new house...

I think everyone likes it.
Note Buck (chihuahua) for scale!