Dedicated to Helen Zimmerle, My Friend with Delightful
I am currently putting the finishing touches on an installation of my art
at the Camp Verde library. In the main lobby, “To Preserve Their Dreams" , my display of seven women and children remind people of
the horrors of human trafficking. Upstairs we have hung over thirty
masks and other pieces representing my current work.
I walk in, look around, and am in awe. Where did this come from?
How did I get into from writing memoir and poetry into this space with
these ceramic sculptures?
Many times as I cross the threshold into some totally new venture, I
dig into my memory to pull out a mentor who led me here. How
appropriate that this time, the mentor who started me on this part of
my journey once lived across the street from this library! Helen
Zimmerle. The magic times we spent behind electrified fences, the
times we wiled away the hottest summer afternoons, those times
started me on the path to here! I dedicate this exhibit to you. Here is
I walked into the marshal’s office in Camp Verde. The library was
being rebuilt, so they used a large meeting room in the front of the
Marshal’s office for library classes. I was scheduled to teach “writing
I saw Helen sprawled across several seats in the front row. Although
not large a physically large person, her assorted papers, flying out of
books and bags, the beautiful stone she had picked up in the parking
lot and books from her childhood she had been reading and wanted
to share, meant Helen occupied a substantial piece of space in any
room where she sat.
I inwardly groaned. Although delightful, Helen was not the ideal
student in any memoir class. “Keep your writing to only three
paragraphs,” I admonished. I wanted to be sure I fit in time for
everyone who had written to share. Keeping Helen on topic, and
within the stated time limits presented a challenge for my teaching.
“I wrote my three paragraphs, “ she announced. When I called on her,
she explained her intention to write succinctly. But this paragraph
here was continued on another paper, and when mentioned the tree
house in the maple tree in New Jersey, she needed just this one
article in the Verde Bugle about tree houses to illustrate her
I have never met anyone else more creative than Helen. She turned
rocks into princess dwellings. She gathered up a bit of moss, found a
few smooth pebbles, grabbed a shell she had found at the shore in
New Jersey, and with a twist of wire she produced an enchanting
miniature palace. Her garden was lined with these fantastical
That garden, sitting smack in the center of the hottest spot in the
entire Verde Valley, was unforgettable. She set up stepping stones in
such a way I felt transported to a shady pond. Shade-loving flowers
in deep purple imbued the shade with gentle breezes, although they
actually crouched under the slim, weak shade of a mesquite tree. In
the back corner her husband, carrying fantasy even further, was
constructing model train tracks through an old English countryside.
And her pool! Bob had set up an above-ground three-foot deep pool
for her. Steps up and into it draped over one side. It was awkward to
climb in. She placed red, green and blue floating inner tubes in and
they clustered into one area of the pool. And, should you have
forgotten your swimsuit, she had three or four suits waiting for you, all
over-sized and stretched out of shape. I never took my swimsuit
down to her place, but always ended up in the holey purple one.
I went down and floated in her pool the day my brother died. The
coolness of the water, and Helen’s genuine interest in my favorite
stories of Jim’s puns pushed my tears of grief back for a few hours.
Helen was the person who shepherded me from being a creative
writer to moving into visual arts. She and I picked up all kinds of
wood around her property. We marveled over the termited section of
wood that had killed the cottonwood tree in her goat pen. The pieces
of wood we collected were filled with small, blackened tiny holes.
Such promise! We mounted them on pieces of tree stumps, using
papier mache. She took out her dremel and showed me how to use it
to smooth and shape the wood. No matter what I saw in a piece of
wood I was playing with, Helen saw it too, and encouraged me to
move further with my creation.
Helen passed two years ago. Since then I have moved beyond the
papier mache and wood assemblages she helped construct into
these ceramics. I know Helen has sat in my passenger seat frequently
as I have driven out to my ceramic studio in Sycamore Canyon. And
as I hung the 15 different abstract faces across the mantle of the
Camp Verde Library’s fireplace, I heard Helen’s stage whisper
reminding me to give each of them a bit of extra space to “talk.”
Moving Beyond Adrift
An Update on Open Studios and Adrift Gallery
For those of you who follow me, you know last week-end was Open Studios for Sedona Visual Arts. It sounded like the number of visitors all over the area were fewer than usual. For me, it meant I had several periods of three or four hours with nobody coming in at all.
Those who did come visit, however, were quite impressed with the level of my art. More than one visitor remarked, “Wow! This is art in here!” At the same time nobody was coming to view my art, I had four people stop in to see if the wood in front of my studio was for sale. It dawned on me! Adrift and desert woods is the old Ann, the one who began awkwardly attaching lovely woods to Alabaster with paper mache about four years ago.
Just before Open Studios I made the difficult decision to give up with keeping cats in my studio. Now I am going to drag the wood which decorates my storefront to the back yard. I am searching for a new name to reflect the fact that my gallery is a true art gallery. I am installing more light so people can see my art from the outside. I am placing some of my favorite pieces in my front window so passers-by will be enticed to enter my studio.
My art will be in two libraries this summer. Beginning next week my pieces “To Restore Their Dreams” and some of my wall hangings will be in the Camp Verde Library. Within a month or so I will have pieces in the Clark Memorial Library. And I am looking for more locations in the local area as well.
I began my Adrift phase with the promise of a poem for each piece. that did not work out. I had a hard time trying to figure out what to say about each piece of wood, and it became easier to skip the spontaneous gesture of writing a poem for each customer at the time my pieces were purchased. Now, as I move onto more serious art, and there is a story/poem in each large piece I make, I will be attaching poems to many of them. And anyone who purchases one without a poem can, by merely asking, get an original, one-time, short poem.
I appreciate each of you, and your support. Keep watching and supporting me. Changes are coming! At the moment I am working on my Hebrew word wall hangings and on larger stand-alone pieces. Each Hebrew word hanging does not hang on my wall until I have a poem for it. As I move on with my “re-branding” I am looking for a name, or for second line with my name, that will reflect my word-art with my visual art!
Recently I was invited by the Don Reitz Ranch to join them in a field trip to Mission Clay. We would tour the factory, then each get a sewer pipe or two to glaze for an installation along the road leading out to the ranch. What to do with a four-foot sewer pipe?
I went back into my long-time love of Hebrew letters and the words they form. What would be appropriate to put on such a pipe? There had to be a word, or words which spoke to the occasion.
Immediately the words “Bayit Adamah” came to mind. Bayit means house, or sometimes place. Adamah in Hebrew is the word for dirt or clay. I got my pipes and immediately began to carve the Hebrew letters into the soft clay of the pipes. I gathered up all the clay I had cut away, balled it up, and stuck it back onto my pipes. The words came out of the dirt they were made of.
Although my fun project made all of us giggle, I found a spiritual side to both the words Bayit and Adamah. The “bet”, the Hebrew letter beginning Bayit served as the foundation for this house. The “yud” in the middle can be seen as evoking the name of God, since God’s name begins with a yud. ”Tav”, the final letter in the word is also the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet, signaling a full circle. And on a circular pipe, the bet and tav came together!
And then there is the word Adamah. “Adam” is the name of the first person created, and means “from the soil.” “To dust you are and to dust you will become.” And, again there are meanings behind each of the Hebrew letters in this word as well.
I have spent much time over the years studying Hebrew letters, and the words which they form. I have found a poem in every word I meet. The peace of Shalom, the expectations of truth and trust in the Hebrew word, “Emet,” the joy of the dancing “Lameds” in Halleiujah. Now I am creating wall hangings to display the poem I find in each of these words.
As this project is merely in its beginning phase, I expect to have only three or four of these hangings to display for Open Studios. It takes almost a month between the inception of any piece and the time it comes out of the glaze firing, ready to display. Each wall hanging will come with its own original poem explaining its conception.
I have scheduled a demonstration each afternoon at 2:00 during the Open Studios Weekend. I plan to talk about these words, and to demonstrate how I conceive of my method for telling the story of the letters, the words and placing them into the clay. Come, participate in my process!
This month I am marking three years since I moved into my studio in Jerome High School, signed on as an artist. For three months I had tried to contain my burgeoning passion in my garage. I crowded in a card table where I sat for hours each night under a dimming light bulb using my Dremel on the beautiful sticks I had picked up during daily forays onto riverbanks, and up arid hillsides.
I mixed glue on my stove, then carried the warm pot out into the garage before adding shreds of the weekly shopper I had picked up in front of Ace. I used the mixture as a blobby connector between two sticks, or between a rock base and the wood.
During the day I went out to my deck to pursue my new passion. That was little better than the garage. As days lengthened the time I had out there without the glare of intense sun diminished. The light at night out there was even dimmer than in the garage. And, the more I sanded down, prepared my sticks to become art, the more dirt I found everywhere in my house.
I felt invigorated, inspired by this new passion, but realized that if I wished to pursue it, I needed to find a better space in which to work. My artist friends could paint in their living rooms, or fashion jewelry in their bedrooms. Cleaning and shaping sticks was not a household hobby!
I discovered Jerome High School. On the second floor was a three-room studio. I did a bit of math. If I were to forego the cruises I had saved for before I retired, funneled most of my available money into the studio, and its costs, I could afford it. I felt so self-important. I, just like every other tenant, I was an artist! I took my work out to local establishments. Twelve pieces were taken into Firefly, a nearby gift shop and gallery. They were crammed into a lower shelf where their awkward lines jagged together. Nothing sold. I joined a co-op which required hours of work. Nothing sold there either.
I stayed in Jerome for 18 months. The steep stairs up to my space got to me. The community felt less and less friendly. Within a few days I found a studio space/gallery down in Cottonwood, and discovered the Reitz Ranch for ceramics seven miles away. This combination has carried me on ever since.
I had done one adult ed class in sculpture forty years before. I had held onto the dream of ceramic sculpture for the intervening years. For the past eighteen months I have gone through a courtship with clay. Sometimes a piece came together. The clay listened to me, did not sag, nor crack. The glaze miraculously worked. Other times my work was frustrating. Finally, now, I am beginning to understand the steps in clay’s waltz. The glazing, or lack of it, is beginning to enhance my art, not detract from it.
I am confident I have the rest of my life to really know ceramic sculpture. My pieces come out nicely more often than not now. And I am vaguely aware of how much more I can learn.
A Springtime Memory
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"