Art Walk as community activity

It all started years ago with the Downtown LA Art walk where once a month the new galleries on Spring St. would stay open late one night a month. Soon it became a big festival, with food, music, and hoards coming down for the event.

So other cities took notice, some of the smaller ones simply took the name. On those nights businesses stay open late, a few craft booths will appear and maybe some street music. I found out about one happening in South Pasadena, so on a lovely balmy Saturday evening off we went. People used to talk about LA as being a bunch of suburbs in search of a city. Those people were too snobish to actually go and find out that many of these small communities have a lot of civic pride. As you can see in the window, an early ostrich farm was part of the growth of this little town.A three seater on a merry-go-round?  Maybe for three small children.I love how these small towns have the clock in the center. There was a time when owning a wrist watch was something only wealthy people could afford. So having public time pieces was very important.Especially next to the train station. In France our group kept pronouncing the word as Garrrrrrr. It’s fun to see a little street named: The street of the Station. What once was part of the vast Trolly car system, is now part of the Metro Gold line.  It goes from Boyle Heights all the way to Azusa and is well used.The local nursery/design studio was offering free wine and music. As well as showing off their wares, such as these wonderful Talavera style ceramics.I would love to be able to use some of these tiles around the house. These are quality!

There were some craft booths, all the stores were open, street musicians set up on the corners. Families strolled around, enjoying the evening. We found a lovely restaurant with a patio for a nice Al Fresco dinner.I have to conclude with some arrested decay. There are a number of old brick buildings here, it was fun to see the stucco peeling, just to reveal older stucco.

I’m happy to say, my own nieghborhood is having such an event in a few weeks. I’ll be sure to go!



Tile in Santa Barbara

We were invited by friends to see an opera performance put on by Opera Santa Barbara. I’m not an opera aficionado, it’s an acquired taste. I’m not saying that in a bad way – but to appreciate opera – one must listen often and go as often as possible. So it was a treat for us to see La Rondine by Puccini. I did the right thing, read about the story beforehand and sort of educated myself a little. All of this paid off, we had a lovely evening. I have no pictures from the evening, I didn’t even bring my phone.By now you know, I have my camera at the ready when we travel. I always look up. This decoration atop a 4 story office building downtown caught my eye, Sea horses. Look how well they are made to fit into the classic elements. The rest of the building was a very plain Art Deco, I wonder how many people actually look up to see this beauty.Speaking of Art Deco, there were two such elevator doors in this lobby!

Where is the tile you ask? All over Santa Barbara.I didn’t go with a plan to take pictures of tile, although, Santa Barbara is the place to do that. Once I got home and looked at the images, then I realized how many of the pictures were of tile.  This could be an old staircase, but I think it’s relatively new. First of all the curve, second of all, notice the anti skid on the lowest step? I may be completely wrong, it’s not the age that matters, it is that someone took the time and effort to do this.Got to love it when a simple sign is made up in tile.How about this peacock! The designer is from Pasadena, the tile artist from Santa Barbara. Their names are given, but not the year this was installed.I know, not tile, but come on! Isn’t this marvalous signage for a club! Not only a hanging piano, but a massive red chandelier. At night when we drove by, there was quite a crowd outside. So I’m guessing it’s as good as the sign.Why this says News I don’t know, but it does.TI should have taken more pictures of this building. It’s a Santa Barbara Gaudi. Actually, the architect is Jeff Shelton, I wish I had spent more time looking at this building and others he has built in town.This is El Andaluz, I”ve looked online at pictures, I really should have spent more time here.I think this is a mixed use, commerial and residential.He has designed many other buildings, I really need to go back.This is one of four benches out on the street.As I said, I need to go back and look more closely

Can’t leave Santa Barbara without a few pictures of the ocean.




Rockhaven – arrested decay.

The tour continues, with things I love, arrested decay. The decay is getting to be quite a problem, not clear if they will be able to save all the buildings. For now, I’m enjoying it.Untreated wood will rot, whether outside or in.Paint is a barrier, but even it peels and the wood is exposed to the elements.Creating a whole new beauty. Tile fairs much better, unless it’s in the ground and the water leaves stains and marks on it. In the bathrooms the tile is well protected. Tile details from the 1930’s is small yet wonderful. Notice how each little strip is different. The larger color tiles are cheap, it’s that fine detail that pulls it all together.

These days I love going through open houses, all the modern houses are  full of granite and marble. I miss the tile.The metal work, the curves! the detail. The brickwork, also curving. It just makes my soul sing. Hopefully, all of these details helped the women, gave them a sense of peace, regardless of their mental situation.A little griffin on top of an outdoor light fixture.A door handle that wasn’t replaced.Statuary used to abound.  The man who created this worked for Gladding McBean, so he knew clay!  A woman basking in the sun, I don’t think nude sun bathing was allowed, except in sculpture form. Here as part of a birdbath. Many more sculptures are now in storage, all of this was part of a relaxing southing atmosphere.Rocks abound and rocks are used. Another birdbath. A restful retreat all made out of Faux Bois, that Concrete made to look like wood. All the rage in the 1930s. A gardener worked here to make this location a real oasis, I wonder if there was water and a pond. I bet there was.

I sincerely hope that this gem is saved and finds an adaptive reuse. Not everything can, but this would be a loss. Meanwhile, if you have a chance, check the website and see if you can join a tour. They are now giving them once a month, as well as things like Mother’s Day tea and other such events.

I love it when locals band together to save what is unique in their communities.





Back to mosaic, sort of

I have made some beautiful mosaics, with glass tiles. I need to make some more. But that sewing maching and knitting needles have just monopolized my time.p1170139At a wedding recently, the party favors were these tiles, so I went around and asked people if they planned on taking them home, many said no and handed them over to me. See how nicely they go with my pot?  Notice that although I’ve owned this pot for many years the sales tag is still on it??  Yeah, I didn’t either until I saw the photo.p1160688Love the happy colors.p1170142I had to ask around the tables to fill out my numbers. These were the table numbers.  Can you see how the old original metal numbers are still sort of there, but covered up with the stucco.p1170140I had some old premixed thinset and I slapped these tiles onto the risers of the front stairs.p1170141Within a day or two they started falling off. So back to Home Depot to buy fresh thinset. I think it’s holding this time.img_5830Looks lovely with my pots and my fall pumpkins.p1170143The longer view. And now, really, I need to do some more glass mosaic.


San Gabriel

I live in THE Valley – the San Fernando Valley. Just to the east of us is another valley, the San Gabriel Valley, home to Pasadena. Both Valleys are named for the original missions that the Spaniards established in the late 18th century.  Until this past weekend, I had never visited the town of San Gabriel or the famous mission, San Gabriel  Archangel.P1140547Pasadena Heritage together with the City of San Gabriel organized a wonderful walking tour of the Mission district. Of course I jumped on the opportunity.

P1140548The largest of the six bells, unfortunately they aren’t rung much anymore because there is a fear that they are too delicate. For a far off mission no one was going to construct the most durable of bells.P1140551This being a copper bell, I love seeing the different patinas. Especially the green that came from the bell itself.

Even though it was a Saturday, there was an event taking place in the actual church. This is one of the missions that is a very active church to this day. No longer run by the original Franciscan order, but very much a Catholic Church.P1140561The old bell tour fell over a century ago  and it wasn’t rebuilt on this side of the building. Fascinating to see the mishmash of stone and brick used to build this building, which was completed in 1801. P1140557The gardens are serene and lovely. Many of the grape vines date back to the founding. They have even harvested them and tried to make wine – not so good. Viticulture has come a long way.P1140567Through the portion of the garden that is also the cemetery are the these plaques commemorating the stations of the cross, made from Talavera tile from Mexico, these were installed in the early 20th century.P1140577The Virgin of Guadalupe was probably also installed at the same time. You can see how much love and adoration she gets from the local parishioners today. At the time the mission was built, I’m sure the Spanish had no interest in her, although they should have. She has more to do with the Catholic beliefs of the Mexicans than all the missions put together. Today she is patron saint of Mexico, even for those who are no longer Catholic.P1140575One of the workshops on the grounds. Notice has small and low the doorway is. We are all taller and bigger these days.P1140569The old Padres living quarters are now the museum. I found this old mirror intriguing. When the priests led the service they had their backs to the congregation, a mirror was needed so they could see what was going on behind them.P1140570An example of a Padres’ room, probably much more ornate now than it was back then. This is probably a hodgepodge of items found in the mission.P1140572You know me and ceramics, I love them. Dishes that were used either in the mission or by local people as well. I also love the old nails, an every day item we take for granted. How it has evolved through the years.P1140579The mission bells that were installed in the early 1900s’ along the Camino Real. It is very fitting that the San Gabriel Woman’s club sponsored this one, since it was a woman Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes who ran a foundry and is the originator of these bells.P1140592We walked around the corner to one of the three remaining Adobe houses in San Gabriel. This one is owned by the Church (the other two are privately owned) and is rarely open to the public.P1140590The plaque states that this is the Lopez Adobe, built at the same time the Mission was constructed. Adobe bricks are used throughout the arid south, as well as south America. These are unfired bricks, which means the upkeep is difficult. We have wonderful clay here in California, what we didn’t have is many trees, so firing bricks would have been a much more expensive proposition. The exterior is stuccoed and both the exterior  and the roof must constantly be maintained – rain is a real enemy to adobe.P1140582Originally the structure was just two large rooms, with massive walls. The thicker the wall – the sturdier it is and less chance of it crumbling. It always then creates a real barrier against the heat and the cold. Of course a fire place is a must, it does get cold here in the winter. The use of decorative tiles indicates some wealth.P1140585By the mid 19th century a brick addition was added, an indoor kitchen, more rooms and an extensive use of Mexican tile.P1140586I just love the red tile floor, the decorative tiles on the riser and old linoleum as well.

Our tour continues, in an other post.


Tile in Jerusalem 

There is so much to say about Jerusalem, concentrating on very narrow aspects works for me. I have photographed so much, I’m looking for a new angle. Tile and mosaics are of great interest to me, so let’s look at some Jerusalem tile  

  I wish I had taken a few more detailed pictures, there is so much going on here. This is a small synagogue for the Sepharadi Tahor community. Dedicated in 1924.  ST itands for pure Spanish, those who were expelled from Spain in the  15th century and didn’t mingle with other Jewish communities. You wouldn’t believe the division among the Jews….  Anyway, what an ornate, gorgeous little building. Sure the tile caught mt attention, but there is so much more. From tile on the floor to the door and all the beautiful metal work. It’s what we European Jews would call ‘ungepatch’ in Yiddish.  Overdone and kitschy to the point that it is almost attractive.     

 Nearby the municipality created this art project. In the late 19th century, mass production of floor tiles became popular. Cool tile floors are wonderful in a hot Mediterranean summer. (Not so much during cold Jerusalem wintered). So people were asked to Sen. In pictures of the old floor tiles. New ones were created and a wall of tile quilts is on display 

 Thats a quilt right there!  

  Or how about this one?  

 So many tiles, so many design options! 

 of course some of these old homes still exist with their tile floors intact. I am happy that the city created these tiled panels to share with the public, though once again, very few people notice. Some who saw me taking pictures stopped to look. I get it, in our busy lives our surroundings become invisible.  Which is why I keep saying, even in your own cities, take a moment to stop and look around!


Phoenix Arizona

Joel had a business conference and although there is ‘nothing’ for spouses, I went along. I can always find things to do, especially since there are a few other wives that show up.P1130544I’m not a fan of the Arizona dessert. It also was very cold, mid 50s. I brought my winter gear and was fine, but it certainly didn’t feel like an escape.P1130547Water fountains take on a much bigger significance in the dessert.P1130553The flora doesn’t excite me, although nice barrel cactii are fun. Looks like a few more weeks and these guys will bloom.P1130552The one cactus that is really unique to this area is the mighty Saguaro. Though sometimes they do need help to stay upright.   The one on the right has an interesting anomaly.P1130575This crested fan is due to fascination. Look it up on Wikipedia.  It is some form of disease that doesn’t harm the plant but results in the unique shape.P1130550I went with a friend to the adorable town of Carefree. A small town built in the 1950s.  The developers clearly had a good sense of humor.P1130562Whats not to love about Ho Hum Road?P1130559The antique shops are fun, my friend inherited this exact Singer sewing machine from her grandmother, although it sounds like hers is in better shape.P1130557They don’t make them like this anymore. I love that these machines were not only functional tools, but made to be as beautiful as possible. P1130560Any current textile designers out there?  Please knock off this cute print!  Looks like a 1950s design to me.P1130573The cat isn’t for sale,  I just love his attitude!P1130564A nice touch, making the relatively new buildings look old.P1130565Of course I’m drawn to tiles – as kitchy as they may be.P1130574Cactii, rusted metal art and Marilyn – as good as it gets.IMG_4229We literally stumbled upon an adorable tea shop. English Rose Tea Room. They have a trunk full of hats, so one can greet the Queen respectfully.P1130576I love the creativity of using the chipped and broken tea pots and tea cups.  This was a delightful way to finish out an lovely day.


Little towns in California

Paso Robles, CAOur first stop was Paso Robles, an old agriculture town that is getting a real boost from the wine industry. Wonderful refurbished old building.P1110496With a wonderful old time candy shop, that isn’t really all that old.P1110497There is a wonderful large green square, this building was very important, if only because of the clocks that are visible from all directions.P1110501Another old building that got a stucco coating at some point, I do like how they have broken through it to show the old brick.P1110500A modern information booth that has a very old timey feel.P1110505Art Deco Theater, no longer in use, a more modern one is just one block over. I do hope one of those tasting rooms takes over.P1110512Sometimes it’s not the buildings, it’s the wonderful juxtaposition of color. Primaries anyone?peanutsSanta Rosa doesn’t have a lot to offer. Sure, they have these big fiberglass sculptures that honor the Peanuts.  Charles Shultz lived here for years. They also named their airport after him.  At least Charlie himself is cast in bronze and isn’t fading and aging like the others.Mendocino Hotel The hotel we stayed at in Mendocino.Our room was right off the front balcony to the left of the wooden swing. Yes, we sat out there and reveled in the view.  Mendo is getting a whole post of it’s own!P1110694Calistoga in the very North Western part of Napa Valley. That Venetian Lion is very popular.P1110695Wonderful old brick buildings. Using different colors and playing with size they created some very interesting facades.P1110693Due to our litigious society, all the brick buildings have this sign. Sure it is good advice, but  I’m thinking the city hopes it gives them cover if people are injured near these buildings during an earthquake.Calistoga townhallCalistoga City hall, adorable isn’t it?  The police station across the street is much bigger and more modern.P1110707Look down! always interesting things right under our feet.P1110716And finally Healdsburg. An adorable little town, also has a wonderful center green with a bandstand.  I haven’t done any research, but I’m thinking this was a bank. Who else could afford this Gladding McBean tile?  And yes, I’m saying Gladding McBean without any research either, since the detail is impeccable and there is no other company around that did this kind of work.P1110717P1110718More glazed terracotta.P1110722Got to love the Old Theater. Don’t know how old this sign is.P1110723These raven are on the box office.  They look old to me.

Yes, we did pass through other towns, but there is only so much I can share. Yes Cloverdale had an adorable Church and wonderful old Victorian homes, but no, I didn’t get any pictures.


Eastern Columbia building

Eastern columbia buildingMy Art Deco tour ends at this building, on the corner of 9th and Broadway. One of the most beautiful Art Deco buildings, or any style of building for that matter in LA.Eastern Columbia BuildingDid you know that many buildings actually own the sidewalks?  They do, and in many cases are generous enough to let the city/public use them. Back in the 1930s they often decorated them, here in colored Terrazzo, including the name of the building.Eastern Columbia buildingWhat it is really known for, aside from the blue and turquoise terra cotta is the four sided clock tower.  This clock tower rises 114 ft about the height limit for buildings in Los Angeles. (Limit of 150 ft was in place until 1959), 114 ft billboard, the space couldn’t be rented out, it could house elevator or air-conditioning equipment, but had to remain empty otherwise.So between the height and the color, this building really stood out on the skyline of downtown.Eastern Columbia buildingToday the building is getting crowded in by new construction. I used to park in that parking lot, but now with the fencing around it, they are already digging for foundations for a very tall building.  New construction in downtown is happening on every parking lot.  So I had to rush and get as many images as possible.P1070006Images like this are still possible, but very soon, it won’t be empty blue sky in the background.P1090742It will be glimpses through alleyways.1913564_188921264041_816896_nThis is all you can see from across Broadway, impressive, but missing the pyramid.  P1090738Side view. The clock says Eastern on all sides. The building was built by Adolph Sieroty, a Polish Jew who arrived in California in 1892 along with his brothers and cousins. He was 16 at the time. Together they started the Eastern Clock company – which sold appliances, home furnishings and clocks. By 1894 (Adolph is 18) he moves to Los Angeles, and opens another store – Columbia – this one selling soft goods, clothes, linens and other such household items.1913564_188921249041_3020968_nThe two businesses did very well, by the late 1920’s Adolph decided to build a flagship store and headquarters. The stores would remain separate but he would combine the business side, buying, shipping and such.

The building would not only have the colored terra cotta (Gladding McBean) but real gold and copper.  In 1929 prices, he paid  $25,000 for the gold alone. The copper has oxidized to somewhat match the tile.IMG_4334One reason for all the details is to give work to people during the depression. He hired the Architect Claud Beelman who had already built many of downtowns Art Deco office buildings. IMG_4337Most of the gold is used in the entrance. The vestibule is two stories high with an incredible sunburst.  I need a better picture, the band above the door is embossed with the date the company started, 1892, the date this building was completed, 1930 as well as the name of Adolph himself.IMG_4338Great detail was given to the terrazzo chevrons here.  During the 25 years that the two stores occupied the building, there was a long hallway that ran the length of the building, The Eastern was on one side and the Columbia on the other, so shoppers could easily go from one to another.IMG_4373I am rarely downtown at night so to get this images is a treat. Ten years ago the building was converted to loft apartments and is one of the most successful residential buildings downtown. I have been fortunate to visit two of them. The apartments themselves are very spare – of course each owner can do as they wish, but initially you are given concrete walls and floors.  Yes, Johnny Depp does own four of the lofts on the penthouse level.  People who live in the buiding have confirmed seeing him in the elevator.  Another improvement is that now the clock tower is being used. A pool, jacuzzi and workout room are up on the roof.

I think it was 18 years ago that I interviewed here for a textile job, the building had a very different feel at the time, as did the whole area. Change is always happening,  although no longer the tallest building at this end of Broadway, it is still a gorgeous, well loved, well used landmark in downtown.

New addition, got those photos I was missing.Eastern Columbia BuildingP1090972


The Chocolate Shop

First of all thanks to my friend Becky for taking all these pictures.

A plug for LA Conservancy walking tours, specifically  Downtown Renaissance and Broadway.  It is on these tours that you can visit this treasure.  It is not 100% guarantee, life happens, but you’re best bet is on one of these tours.

What is the Chocolate Shop?  A real treasure in LA.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLA

On an average day, walking on the north side of  6th St. from Spring to Broadway, you will see standard downtown businesses as well as some of those roll up metal doors.  Behind one of those door is this treasure.  For years it too was simply another electronic shop. Charles Aslan, a member of the family that owns the building, is the man with a smile who greets our tours and loves showing off the space.

Looking in from the street, can you see how the whole surface is covered in tiles.  Not just any tiles, all are made by Ernest Batchelder.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLAThese tiles are very typical of his style –  these are in the Art Nouvaux feel.  The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLAWhat is very different is the finish on the tiles. They are very dark and somewhat shiny.  One of Batchelder’s signatures was the matte finish on his tiles. He did seal them, but not with a shiny glaze.  The owners of the shop wanted a brown tile, they probably wanted the shine because there are no windows and having the walls and ceiling reflect the light would be helpful. Unfortunately, they shellacked the whole space.  With time the shellack aged, darkened and obscures many of the details of the tile.  This is  a problem art restorers see all the time. The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLA

As you enter the shop, you walk under this archway with the two Dutch children blowing bubbles – which are in fact lightbulbs.


In the early 20th The Chocolate Shop Corporation was hoping to be the Starbucks of it’s day. Of course they were going to sell chocolate and sweets.  They commissioned Ernest Batchelder in 1914 to make all of these tiles – which he did. The Chain concept never really got off the ground. In 1922, C.C. Brown opened Brown’s Chocolate Shop here and sold his invention – the chocolate Sundae.  Then in 1928 it became a vegetarian cafeteria and remained so until 1942. For more than 40 years, this was the location of Finney’s cafeteria.  In 1986, after it closed, in went the drywall and the electronic  store came in.


It was during the Finney period, in 1975 that the city of Los Angeles declared the interior a historical cultural monument.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLAPart of the Batchelder commission was creating these murals with Dutch scenes.  You can see that the tiles were colored, but that shellack is dulling everything.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLAI must commend Becky for touching up the photos, in reality is hard to see this kind of detail, the space is very dark. Sometimes the camera can capture more than the naked eye can see.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLAA shelf may have been affixed to the wall here, you can the that not only was the shellack removed but so was the original color.  For all the problems with the shellack. There are a number of tiles where the shellack has been removed. I hope it stops there because all that remains is a dull fired tile. This is a problem all art conservators have – sometimes you can’t get back to the original intent – so better to stay with the added layers than lose everything.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLAA wonderful close up of a windmill.The Chocolate Shop, Ernest Batchelder tiles, DTLADutchman in the role of gargoyle, holding up the lintel about him.Chocolate Shop, downtown LA

Chocolate Shop, downtown LAThe detail work is incredible. I just love the different ways of laying tile on the ceiling and the walls. Here you see the top of the pier with it’s many decorations. Also, this is the one picture I took, you can see the difference in quality.

Charles Aslan is fighting to get permission from the building at the rear of the shop to open up an additional exit. This would open up on the Spring/Broadway arcade. Different building, different owners. They are not interested. Charles cannot turn this into a viable coffee or chocolate shop without that additional exit.  So it is not clear what will happen.

My advice is get on either the Broadway or Downtown Renaissance tours soon.  This treasure may soon be hidden again behind the metal door.  Being a cultural monument is very nice – but with the many players involved, it may be a hidden one.