Saturday, May 25, 2024

Wrapped up another project today with the installation of a bucket. Yes, a bucket! It doesn't sound like much, but if you remember a few blog posts back, my buddy Dennis and I made the roof for a wishing well. 

It's located at the old San Miguel Community Garden, which had fallen to the wayside for a few summers. It was full of weeds, volunteer trees, and much degradation due to lack of maintenance. 

That's when Lighthouse Charities stepped in, turning this garden into a veritable oasis of vegetables, flowers, chicken coops, a wonderful zen water feature,  a butterfly sanctuary and much more. 

The wishing well was installed with two skinny 4x4s, 

which we wrapped with roughhewn cedar. The 4x4s just looked a little puny to hold up the roof.

 Next, Dennis and I made the top for it. Well... honestly - Dennis did 80% of the work, and I was an official "gofer / hold this " assistant. 

The final step was adding this bucket, which I made out of 16 staves. 

 I've become a little addicted to making stave containers, and I'll add this to the list of my favorites.  The crank and pulley system to raise and lower the bucket really added a cool feature to this wishing well! 

And finally after everything was done, a few volunteers posed for a celebratory photo.  

Someone emailed me, asking for more info about Lighthouse - here's a link and a blurb. 

While Lighthouse primarily works with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants, our impact is much larger—we benefit every individual in the community through the empowerment and integration of the population we serve. Transformed individuals lead to transformed communities.

They do wonderful things for our community!

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Lime pops!

 About a month ago, I wrote about making a sign in clay, to remind myself about not wasting water. 

Here's a link, if you missed it.

I wanted it glazed in colors that looked like water - greens and blues - and here's what came out of the kiln. 

Right above the lettering, there was a lime pop. When a bit of plaster infiltrates the clay, and then the piece gets fired - the bit of plaster "explodes" within the clay. 

Sometimes it can be a pretty big "explosion" that blows out the whole side of a pot. Here's a good example of a pop in the bottom rim of a bowl. 

In the case of my sign, the piece of lime caused the clay to explode and lift ... not the worst defect in the world, IMO.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

It takes a village, or at least a good friend....

You may have heard me speak about Lighthouse Charities - a local non profit that supports immigrants coming to our country. They provide so many services and opportunities, it makes my head spin! 

Seriously, the work they do there for their clients is stunning, and they've just broadened their scope to include a local garden. They'll be able to grow fruit and vegetables for their clients, along with giving them meaningful agricultural opportunities. So when they asked me if I could build the top roof for this wishing well for their butterfly garden, I took a drive there to get some measurements. 

This area is named Maggie's garden, in honor of the non-profit founder's granddaughter. Maggie was born with a condition that didn't leave a lot of hope for her health. But she's defied the odds!

The wishing well isn't huge - less than four feet in diameter. 

The measurements I took let me do some geometry, which I love. 

(Thanks Miss Gibson!) 

Once I had a solid idea of what to build, I called a buddy for help. This is one of those projects that is better with two people, rather than one. And Dennis offered his shop and skill to complete this. 


We started with the skirting, since that was the one dimension that we had to stick to... and this hexagon was way to big for a strap clamp to told it together. That's when Dennis went "old school" and pulled out his spring clamps. You just don't see many craftsmen who own these, let along actually use them! But they're invaluable for clamping off shapes - like crown molding corners, or... well... a project like this!

I was really trying to keep this within budget, since building material prices are through the roof! (No pun intended!) So we needed a short piece of 4x6 for that center column, where all the rafters are attached. Sure enough, Dennis happened to see a short piece of scrap near a construction site and that saved us from having to buy a timber. 

Weird how that works out sometimes! We sheathed it with some exterior plywood - and then started laying cedar shingles. 

Wow - have the prices for these shingles skyrocketed!  

If I remember Carpentry 101 from back in my union days, a square of shingles will cover about 100 square feet. And there are 3 bundles in each square. So a bundle - in theory - will cover around 33 square feet.  One bundle would do!

It took a minute to track down a roofing supply house that sold these cedar shingles - and I almost had a coronary when I heard the pricing. Even then - there are different grades of these, and for budgetary reasons - I chose the cheapest grade.  

We even ran a bit short and had to make do with one or two shingles that we fabricated out of some leftover cedar boards. 

When we finished - Dennis (always the artisan!) decided the roof needed a finial, so he popped a piece of wood in his lathe and turned one in about 15 minutes.

And finally - the piece was complete! 

It's always tricky doing field measurements and then building something off site, but luckily - when I brought the piece over to the garden - it fit perfectly! I love everything about making pieces like this - the spirit of helping a nonprofit, the collaboration with another artist, and the thought that this wishing well will be here for many years, in the middle of Maggie's butterfly garden. 

One last piece I'll be making is a small bucket for the wishing well.... stay tuned!


Thursday, May 02, 2024

Here's a tip - take a drive to Cactus Joes!

Here is a hidden gem that I just visited - and I can't believe it's taken me THIS long to check out this garden center. Shame on me!

When you pull up to Cactus Joe's, you're greeted by a couple of metal sculptures that set the tone for your visit.

This place is huge - I think I read that it is 7+ acres, more than enough to keep you occupied for a while.

 So make sure you have some time set aside in your day.

You'll enter through an area that one might call a showroom. It's also where you pay for whatever you have chosen to buy.

 But exiting that, off to the left, you will hit what I've affectionately called the new age area. 

Lots of sculptures of diety, Buddha, spirits, with a large area of glass rock. You can buy this rock by the pound. 

 But if you walk up a little further, you'll see a very cool
labyrinth, surrounded by these awesome street lights. I recognize these street lights – I used to have them all around my indoor pool. It's a weird mix of old and new.

A little further into the yard - you'll see this giant saguaro, with a giant Adirondack chair at its base. What a fun photo op for visitors, and truthfully – I got inspired to want to build one for my own yard. 

But I was here in search of a bench for my yard, and had some ridiculous choices. I loved this alligator bench,

but the southwest one also caught my eye, too.

 This Kokopelli design was very nice.

I trudged on… there is so much to see here.

If you're looking for cactus or succulents, this might be your happy place.

There are rows and rows and rows of cacti, it's almost overwhelming, there are so many choices. 

As I got closer to the agave, I noticed something strange in the background.

Yes, that's a dinosaur behind the agave, and as I got closer - I realized I was in the prehistoric section.

Of course I was curious what that dinosaur cost!

Wandering around, I felt like I was at Jurassic Park.

Have a kid who likes dinosaurs? That kid will be in heaven here.

I am not familiar with the names of these creatures, but there were so many of them, my head was spinning. 

OK – I think this is a pterodactyl. But what do I know?

Then things started to get weird. The bucking bronco next to the raptor starts to mingle old and new. More on that later.

And on this landscape, I started to explore some of the smaller shipping containers and tents that you could visit. 

This "day of the dead" room was pretty great, with a lot more traditional sculptures and pieces. 

Lots of Mexican art, 

pots, very cool stuff. You know I loved this peacock!

 I wandered out of the buildings, I started to notice things were a little more traditional – horses, chickens,

 but wait...  

is that a giraffe? 

Desert tortoise? 

Then I spotted my – off in the distance - my happy spot.  

Spaceships and aliens.

Here's a sidenote – I've seen a UFO. That's why I believe in them. 

About a year ago, I was listening to a podcast about UFOs, and the host of that podcast described the exact thing that I had seen in the late 1980s. That was kind of validating, because I've often wondered if I just imagined what I saw in the sky. But she described the exact same incident.  

So that makes me think – as Mulder says – we're not alone.

So I walked up to these alien ships, and promptly fell in love. I so want one of these in my yard, but they're a little pricey.  

They had three different sizes – only the small and medium size were left, but the woman who worked there told me they had just sold a giant one. I would love to see that backyard!

Even more fascinating where the aliens – both male and female, waving, smoking, blowing a noisemaker - whoever makes these pieces has a wonderful sense of humor. And yes, I ended up bringing two of them home.

That's got me motivated – I still wanna make a giant spaceship for my yard. I know my friends must think I'm crazy, but that's OK. Living so close to Area 51, you never know who might drop by to visit. 

Apes and aliens? Sign me up.

This store might be one of the coolest places I have found in Vegas, I highly recommend that you stop by. The women I spoke to who worked there said so many people in Las Vegas who don't know about them.

What a shame.

Here's a link to their store - you NEED to come by for a visit!