Thursday, September 06, 2007

Upcoming Art Shows: Wind Dancer Design

October is generally a busy month in Tucson. The weather is perfect, and the city is alive with students, snowbirds, tourists, and the desert rats who live here all year-- like me.

This October will be particularly busy for me. My mosaics will be in three upcoming jurried shows.

Contents Interiors, an upscale furniture and interior decorating store, is hosting an art show beginning October 6 and running through November 10. Two of my works-- Chilies on the Vine and Mi Corazon, Mi Vida-- will be in this show. The reception is Saturday, October 6 from 11 am - 3 pm.

The Tohono Chul Park Dia de los Muertos show runs from August 23 until November 4. There is a free opening reception on Friday, October 26 from 5-8 pm. In addition to the art show, there will be fire dancing, drumming, puppet shows and more.

Cascada de Luz (my mosaic waterfall-- as seen above and in earlier posts below when it was under construction) has been accepted into the Glow, which is October 25, 26, and 27 in Oracle, Arizona. The Glow is a very cool event at the Triangle L Ranch. In addition to a lighted, night time walk through a sculpture garden under the full moon, the event includes food, music and dancing. It's a blast! There are several bed and breakfast inns in Oracle for those who don't want to drive home.

November 10-11, Wind Dancer Design Studio will be open as part of the Tucson Pima Arts Council Studio Tour. More on this as the date approaches.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sacred Datura: Night-Blooming Wonder of the Desert

Last night when I came home, the Sacred Datura plant in my front yard was in full bloom with 20 or 30 gorgeous white trumpet-shaped flowers glowing in the moonlight. What a marvelous, mysterious and powerful plant.

Sacred Datura tea is a hallucinogen and has been used by some Native American tribes in rituals. According to Wikipedia, it is a very powerful deliriant. The effects of ingesting Sacred Datura tea--which include seizures and death--are downright scary! It's in the deadly nightshade family and is said to be more powerful than peyote, psyllicibin or LSD.

Some agricultural websites ignore the plant's beauty and ritualistic and pharmaceutical uses, and call it a noxious weed. For example, this link says that the plant is toxic to livestock. (Ok, maybe this is God's way of saying that Sacred Datura belongs in the desert and cows don't?)

My plant has been plagued by large (3"+) caterpillars. Initially, my thought was to leave them alone because they would become butterflies or moths. Also, I thought they couldn't survive eating the Sacred Datura--not so. I came home from work one day, and they had done considerable damage to my gorgeous plant. No more Ms. Nice Guy, I thought. I moved 7 or 8 very large caterpillars to some Buffel Grass (a nasty pest plant) growing in the neighbor's curb lawn. Later that day, the caterpillars were gone. I don't know if they found a better home or if the birds found them. Today (Sunday), after the glorious blooms of Friday night, the plant again looked damaged. I hunted around under the leaves, and sure enough, the catapillars were back!!! I moved another 10 today to the weeds across the street. The above photo is one of the smaller caterpillars. You can see the stem he is on has no leaves.

Another species that seems to enjoy eating Sacred Datura is harvester ants. I have been fighting them ever since I moved to this house. I let them chomp away at it thinking that maybe Sacred Datura would kill them or at least keep them away from more vulnerable plants in my yard.

Anyway, I grow Sacred Datura for its beauty and desert hardiness. It just goes to show ya: one person's weed is another person's decorative flower or drug store. One animal's poison is another's food supply. Nature's funny that way.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sicko: What a Movie!

Tonight I went to see "Sicko", Michael Moore's latest documentary. What a powerful movie.

Several of my friends had seen the movie before me and had offered snipets of information about it. Although I sort of knew what to expect from "Sicko," I was overwhelmed by the movie and reduced to tears by the end. Yes, the personal stories were moving-- the guy who had to choose which finger to save, the couple whose medical bills forced them into backruptcy and their daughter's basement, the 9/11 rescue workers who were foresaken by our healthcare non-system, the little girl who died because care was refused, etc.

But above all of the personal stories, one commentary really hit home for me. An English gentleman said that American corporations and government want to keep US citizens fearful, uneducated, and disillusioned with the system because then they will be so pessimistic and hopeless that they won't vote. They fear citizens who are healthy, educated, and fearless because they can't be easily controlled. He explained that for Great Brittan free national healthcare came with democracy. (Huh? Aren't we the ones who are supposedly making the world "safe for democracy"? Isn't this our biggest export?) How come our democracy values money and corporate profits more than the health and welfare of its citizens? The current government hopes that we will stay uninformed and believe their big lie that the US has the best healthcare. A recent NY Times editorial offered a conservative but thorough comparison between our non-system and healthcare offer in other industrialized countries.

I liked "An Inconvenient Truth" and thought it was exciting how one movie could sigle-handedly push global warming into the collective consciousness of the American people. I hope that "Sicko" does that for healthcare.

Every adult in the US should see this movie and then take action: contact friends and encourage them to go to the movie; send e-mails or letters to legislators encouraging them to actually do something about the US healthcare scandal; blog about "Sicko" and healthcare in the US; send letters and comments to newspapers; march in the streets; and VOTE.

As Michael Moore said at the end of the movie, when are the citizens of the US going to think of "we" instead of "me"?

What would happen if the poor and disenfranchized citizens of the US all registered to vote and actually voted?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Wind Dancer Design Shrine in El Dia de los Muertos Exhibit

One of my shrines has been accepted into Tohono Chul Park's upcoming Día de los Muertos: The Gift of Remembrance exhibit. The exhibit runs from August 23 through November 4.

El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a big celebration in Tucson. Historically, Mexicans have celebrated the day after Halloween as El Dia de los Muertos. They set up shrines in their houses to remember loved ones who have passed on, and they often go to the gravesites and have a celebration-- complete with food, music, flowers, and offerings.

Several years ago, some Tucson artists -- most notably the Puppet Works organization-- started holding a procession on El Dia de los Muertos. Following the procession, Flam Chen, a local-- but internationally famous-- fire dancing troupe holds a free performance.

There are three levels of participation in the procession: watch the parade (ok but that's not really participation), walk along the parade route in street clothes (ok, if you're too cool to wear a costume but also not in the spirit of the occasion), or full participation complete with costume and noise makers or drum-- very fun. One year, I walked the procession as La Llorna.

Here is a pic of my daughter (center) with her husband (left) and friend, on their way to the procession one year. If you want to learn more about the procession in Tucson or El Dia de los Muertos, check out this link.

New Emblem for US Government

A friend of mine recently sent this bit of news for my blog.

"The federal government announced today that it is changing its emblem to a condom because it more clearly reflects the government's political stance. A condom stands up to inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives a sense of security while it's actually screwing you."

Sad but true...

Everyone needs to vote in every election!

As Jim Morrison sang, "They got the guns. We got the numbers."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Put It Back on the Table, Nancy!

Last week's Drinking Liberally get-together gave birth to a brilliant grassroots lobbying effort. Local DL regular Marlene Phillips gave an impassioned speech about impeachment of President George Bush. She and others urged the group to write letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi encouraging her to put impeachment "back on the table". You'll remember that soon after she became Speaker of the House she told George and the nation that impeachment was "off the table".

Letters are a great idea-- if you can get enough people to write custom letters. But Ken, another DL regular, offered a different suggestion. Instead of (or in addition to) letters, he suggested sending Nancy napkins with the handwritten message, "Put it back on the table" Or "Put impeachment back on the table." I love the napkin idea. Here's a link to Blog for Arizona where Marlene outlined the campaign a few days ago. At multiple political gatherings this week Tucson liberals were buzzing about the "Put It Back on the Table" idea. Let's do it!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Green Mayor for Tucson?

Life is full of disappointments. This spring I was seriously disappointed that the local Democratic Party did not have an opponent for Republican Mayor Bob Walkup. Tucson has a city manager form of government; consequently, mayor is a symbolic, ceremonial position. Ok, so Walkup really doesn't have much power, BUT Tucson is a city of Democrats and other independent-minded folks. Why do we have a Republican mayor who used to be a big-wig at Hughes Aircraft Company (now Raytheon)?

Personally, I believe that Walkup has survived as mayor because he knows the Dinosaur/Cockroach Theory of Survival. The dinosaurs stood tall and walked slowly through the forests. Cockroaches, on the other hand, lurk in the darkness and keep a low profile. When the lights are turned on, they scurry under back into their hiding places. The dinosaur's high-profile made them vulnerable to attack by preditors and eventually became extinct. Cockroaches have learned how to avoid preditors, adapt to their suroundings, and survive. They are still with us and stronger than ever. (I learned this survival theory toward the end of my long tenure as a State of Arizona employee. I was a dinosaur, though, and was laid off in 2004. That's a story for another time.)

So, since I am obviously unimpressed with BW, I am dismayed that he has no Democratic opponent. Enter the Green Party. Last night I went to a meeting of the Sonora Progressives and met Green Party Mayoral Candidate Dave Croteau. Normally, even though I agree with Green Party policies, I would not vote for the Green Party because I see them as a fringe group that can't win.

With no Democratic candidate, the Walkup-Croteau race is different story altogether. Here we have a lukewarm, unexciting, do-nothing Republican incumbent running against an unknown Green, who holds values that are closer to those of the Tucson citizenry. Here's a link to the Green Party's Ten Key Values, which include grassroots democracy, social justice, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization, economic justice, gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and sustainability. Croteau is a candidate who is knows that sustainability is an issue!!!! He also understands the concept of basing economic development on growing local businesses and working with our city's strengths, rather than spending millions to compete with other cities for the major corporations looking for cheap labor and tax breaks.

Walkup didn't beat Tom Volgy, his last opponent, by much of a margin. Here's an interesting blog post about Walkup's honensty (or lack of it); it also includes some information about the Walkup-Volgy and Walkup-McKasson races. If enough of us liberal thinkers organize, work for, and vote for Croteau, I think he has a chance.

Croteau is currently trying to raise donations from Tucson residents so he can get matching funds. He needs matching funds to be a viable candidate, since he doesn't have the corproate sponsors that Walkup undoubtably has. I urge you to go to the link above, print out the donation form, and send Croteau $10 - $390, so he can run a decent race against Walkup. Let's go Green, Tucson!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Monsoon Update: Delightful Downpours

This has been a great summer for rain. We have had several days with steady, hard rain-- not the teasing 2-minutes sprinkles that we get some summers. Last Saturday, it rained so hard you couldn't see the buildings across the street. Yesterday, it rained so hard that water was pouring full force out of the scupper that empties my roof.

Much to my dismay, due to construction at my house, I have not installed a rainwater collection cistern yet. When I saw how much water was pouring off on my roof yesterday, I decided to set up a collection container. With my umbrella, I went out in the pouring rain and placed a large plastic bin in line with the scupper downpour. About 5 minutes later, I checked the progress-- to make sure the bin was placed correctly. To my surprise, the bin was full! I went out again, got a large plastic garbage can, and placed it under the scupper.

Unfortunately, when I tried to move the bin, I fell in the mud. I was so wet and muddy that I decided to stay out in the rain the dig some drainage ditches. My new patio is lower than the yard, and the water coming off the patio roof tends to collect near (or on the patio.) Also, water was forming lakes in the yard but not flowing toward the tree basins that I dug months ago for the grey water.

After about 45 minutes, I was a wet, muddy mess, but digging and slopping around in the mud and puddles was fun and exhilarating. It reminded me of playing in the puddles when I was a kid. After I got cleaned up and dried off, I looked outside my kitchen window. Several of the neighborhood children (and a few parents) were playing outside in the puddles. The desert is beautiful.

Here's Ding watching the newly created rivers flow through the backyard to the pomegranate tree.

By morning the bin, the garbage can, and several other containers in the yard were full of water. It was so exciting that I spent my morning exercise hour watering and planting seeds and cuttings. I'm looking forward to having a cistern and gutters installed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


On January 31, 2006, I was pushed into digital photography. I had two digital cameras, but I primarily used my film cameras until dispicable burglers robbed by home and took almost all of my professional Nikon camera equipment-- two F2s, multiple Nikkor lenses, filters, flashes-- thousands of dollars worth of equipment. This was a very sad day. I had been an award-winning professional photographer from 1978 - 1996. The only film cameras that they didn't find and steal were my Nikormat (circa 1965) and my Mamaiya C3 2-1/4 (circa 1940s). I digress...

Thanks to the burglers I now primarily use my Nikon digital camera. The resolution and flexibility are not anywhere near as good as my old F2 and Fuji Film, but it's fun, simple to use, and light-weight. It's also much easier to use Adobe PhotoShop, a high-end photo editing software, with digital images. My favorite feature on PhotoShop is "liquify". Here is a liquified, cropped version of the bottles above.

The ice plant in my blog header has also been liquified. Here is the full pic.

Liquified barrel cacti...

As you can see, I've had loads of fun with liquify. It reminds me of the old Polaroid SX70 film from the 1970s. As this film was developing (before your eyes), you could alter the image with a blunt tool. (I used to use a wooden crochet hook.)

Arizona Sells Solar Energy to Other States

Ok... maybe you realized that this is a fake headline. Arizona is not currently selling solar energy to other states, but why not? Arizona -- more than any other state in the US -- has an abundance of sunshine that could be harnessed to create electricity. (In mid-July, some might say we have an over-abundance of sunshine. LOL)

During the 2007 session of the Arizona Legislature, Representative Steve Farley sponsored a bill to subsidize installation of solar panels for all Arizona residents who want them. According to Farley, if Arizona had around 90 square miles of solar panels, the state could sell solar energy to other states. Sounds like a great idea to me. We would be using something (sunshine) that we have plenty of, promoting the renewable energy, and making some money for the state coffers.

So, why wasn't this bill passed by the Legislature in 2007? The simple answer is that Republicans killed it. (Since they are the majority party in the Legislature, they control which bills get out of committee and which ones receive a fair hearing by other legislators.) Farley plans to introduce the solar energy bill again during the 2008 session.

I'd also like to know where the media was on this? I knew nothing of the solar energy bill until I heard Farley speak at a local Democratic Party event. I believe that many Arizona voters would see the benefit in this legislation. The media let the citizenry down my not publicizing this important bill.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dancing Update: Swinging, Two-Stepping, and Salsa

A few months ago I wrote about dance lessons at Arizona Ballroom Company (ABC). The dance lessons have blossomed into several new friendships and many nights of dancing at local clubs.

Through friends at ABC, I learned of the Tucson Swing Dance Club. This is a lively and very friendly group of folks who get together every Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Tucson Women's Center for West Coast Swing Dancing. For 5 bucks, they offer beginning and intermediate West Coast Swing lessons and a dance with DJ musci. Up until April or so, I didn't even realize there were two types of swing dancing-- East Coast and West Coast Swing. I had only danced East Coast Swing. I like both dances. East Coast is freer and bouncey. West Coast is more stylized, slower, and very sexy.

In addition to dancing West Coast Swing at the swing club dances, I've discovered the Maverick. The Maverick is a cowboy bar that has been around forever, but until June I had never been there. Outside of the rodeo, I'd never seen so many cowboy hats and big belt buckles in one place before. (I thought I had stepped back in time to the old John Travolta Urban Cowboy movie the first time I went there.) The Maverick has West Coast Swing lessons on Saturday evenings, and two-step classes during the week. Many of the Swing Club people go there on Thursdays and Saturdays to dance. They have live music on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The three regular bands are all great C&W groups-- Full House, Jadi Norris Band, and Robert Moreno Band. Much of the music consists of covers of Dwight Yokum and old country standards like Meryl Haggard, George Jones, etc. Two-stepping and swing dancing to this music has been loads of fun. Everyone dances with everyone else.

Besides the Maverick, I've also been swinging at two old favorites the Boondocks Lounge and the Chicago Bar. The Rowdies played the Chicago Bar the other night. They have been around town for many years, but I had never heard them. They played mostly oldies covers from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Cream and others from my teenage years. I hadn't danced to that music (except in my living room) for many years.

Another old favorite for dancing is El Parador. With all of the two-stepping and swinging, I haven't forgotten my love of Spanish music. Two different bands usually play at El Parador-- Descarga on Fridays and Salsarengue on Saturdays. The cover charge is a little steep at $7, but the bands and the dancing are hot and exciting. Descarga plays primarily salsa music, where Salsarengue plays more variety of Spanish music--salsa, marengue, cha-cha, rumba. Again, as with the Maverick, everyone dances with everyone else--regardless of age.

Here are some reviews by the Arizona Daily Star:
Chicago Bar
El Parador

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I must admit that when I moved to the desert more than 25 years ago, I thought monsoons were limited to India. (Or at least that's what I had learned from old Hollywood movies and geography class).

I moved to Tucson in November of 1981. The winter was glorious-- riding bicycles in February, instead of shoveling snow or sliding on a sidewalk slippery with the remnants of a freezing rain shower. The spring was perfect-- giving birth to our first child around Easter, enjoying the sunshine on the patio of our little adobe near the University. By June, the desert was hot, dry, and brown. Over the years, I have decided that June is really the worst month of the year here-- HOT as an oven and very dry. Obviously, the person who originally dubbed Tucson the "Baked Apple" coined the phrase in June.

Now it's early July, and the monsoons have started-- hallelujah! In 1982, on the first day on the monsoons, the three of us sat outside on the patio in the rain. My brother called from Ohio while we were outside. He asked what we were doing. I said, "Sitting in the rain." People who do not live in the desert can't relate to this refreshing activity. Yesterday and the day before, I sat on the porch in the rain. As Petey Mesquitie would say, "The desert is beautiful."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

In the News!

June was a big media month for Wind Dancer Design and me.

One of my shrines was featured in the "At Home" section of the June 3, 2007 Arizona Daily Star. I would link to the story, but the Star has an annoying policy of selling access to all stories that are more than a week old.

The lead commentary in the the June issue of The American Journal Of Medicine is an article co-written by my boss and me. "Who Will Care for the Frail Elderly?" discusses the current dismal state of long-term care in the US and the impending crisis in care as baby boomers leave the workforce and retire. Not only will the US be in dire need of workers to take their places, but we will need additional doctors, nurses, and healthcare attendants to care for them. There are dozens of government websites with data showing the coming crisis, but there doesn't seem to be any recognition of the problem in Washington, DC.

Lastly, the June 14, 2007 issue of the Tucson Weekly included a letter of mine on immigration-- "The United States Needs Foreign Workers, Not an Underclass." The letter basically pans the US Senate compromise legislation on immigration (which eventually died).

New Mosaics in the Works

I've obviously been in arrears with my blog posting. Things were really crazy before the Tucson Folk Festival craft show. It was a fun event. My booth was situated so I could see people coming and going-- plus see and hear the main stage. Sisters Morales (the Saturday night headliners) were GREAT! They were by far my favorite act of the whole show. Local bands such as String Fingers and the Last Call Girls also were top notch. I bought CDs from Sisters Morales and the Last Call Girls. Playing them reminds me of a pleasant weekend.

To recuperate after the show, I vegged out for about a month. Now, I'm back in the studio. Last weekend I started an ambitious project which I plan to enter in an upcoming art show. I'm building a three-dimensional mosaic waterfall. The finished piece will be just under four feet tall! The water part of the waterfall will be tile and cascading light rope. The base of the waterfall will hide the electrical cords and a CD player which will add sound to the artwork.

I'm also working on a large shrine entitled "La Mano Mas Poderosa" (the most powerful hand-- the hand of God or the Holy Spirit). The vertical section will be 16x20, and I'm going to grout tapered candle holders into the base. I will be entering this piece in the same show competition.

Today, I'll be grouting two pieces that I finished assembling last weekend. One is a Day of the Dead shrine and the other is my "What Would Jesus Do?" political statement. The DOD shrine is for entry into a different show. Busy, busy....

Friday, April 27, 2007

Wind Dancer Design at the Tucson Folk Festival

My jewelry and artwork will be at the Tucson Folk Festival this year. I will be showing new jewelry designs, handcrafted with beads from Africa, China, India, Afganastan, and the US. I also have several new stoneware goddess faces and new mosaic wall hangings and shrines.

In "Suenos de Amor" (Dreams of Love), two lovers float through the night sky, surrounded by hearts, flowers, and other whimsical shapes (above).

In "Mi Corazon, Mi Vida" (My heart or lover, my life), waves of color flow from a large flying heart.

"Espirito Santo" (Holy Spirit) is a colorful depiction of the hand of the holy spirit.

"What Would Jesus Do?" is a political commentary on war and modern life.

In the "Moon Over Tucson" series, tiny historic houses sit peacefully under a stary night sky.

The Tucson Folk Festival (May 5-6) is an acoustic music extravaganza organized by the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Associations (TKMA). There are 200 groups performing a wide variety of acoustic music--blue grass, country and western, blues, traditional, and folk--on five stages in downtown Tucson. Unlike some other large music events downtown, admission to the Folk Festival is FREE! The food and crafts are near the main stage in El Presidio Park. If you've never been to the Folk Festival, you should stop by this year. It's a fun, eclectic event hosted by TKMA, a hard-working group of old hippies.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Melt Down

Yesterday was a dark day. For the past few weeks, I have been busily preparing for the Tucson Folk Festival Craft Fair May 5-6. I have been making tiles and faces, glazing, and firing the kiln. My first tile firing (above and immediately below) went perfectly.

The bisque and glaze firings of my new faces went pretty well also-- until Friday, when my kiln had a meltdown. All of the coils, shelves, and faces are black with soot, and a section of brick has been melted (far below). Apparently, there was a lot of smoke in the kiln--an unintended reduction firing. It's unclear exactly how this happened. Yesterday, it was very depressing when I opened the kiln. The timer turned it off after 18 hours, but it never got to temperature (cone 6).

I'm going to haul my kiln to Marjon on Monday for a diagnosis, but it doesn't look good. They did suggest refiring the smoke-covered pieces. The only other option is to throw them away. The kiln did get hot enough to sort of set the glaze on them, so they can't be washed off and reglazed. Stay tuned for the continuing saga. Somehow I have to do the second firing on all of my festive tiles-- or I won't have much for the festival!

Water Harvesting

Rain water harvesting, grey water use, sustainability, and living "off the grid" are hot topics out here is the Southwest. Since I love gardening but feel guilty about using ground water to water plants, I am very interested in using the grey water and rain water to turn my wasteland of a yard into an oasis.

In February, I had the good fortune to attend a rain water harvesting workshop, sponsored by the Stone Curves Co-Housing Neighborhood. The Stone Curves folks acquired a grant to fund a series of hands-on cistern building workshops. For a nominal fee, about 12 of us spent 2 Saturdays building 2 cisterns and learning about rain water harvesting and gardening techniques.

The first day focused on construction of 2 cisterns and installation of related plumbing. The second day focused on digging catchment basisns and landscaping.

Kevin Koch, owner of Technicians for Sustainability, conducted the construction class. (Kevin is wearing the large straw hat in the two photos above.)

Brad Lancaster, local sustainability celeb and author, taught the groundworks workshop (above). His book, Rain Water Harvesting for Day Lands, is a marvelous resource for anyone interested in this topic. Check out Brad's and Kevin's websites if you want to learn more about cisterns and groundworks landscaping techniques.

Ironically, only a few days after the rain water harvesting workshop, I spent a few days at the Phoenician in Phoenix on business. The neon green grass, heated pools, fake streams, golf courses, and fountains of the Phoenician are obscene. Surrounded by acres of wasted water and energy, it was extremely difficult to enjoy my stay. In the morning, it was a nippy 45 degrees F, but the Phoenician's 6 swimming pools were heated to the temperature of bath water. Immediately below is a picture of the terraced gardens at Stone Curves. Contrast that with a shot of the Phoenician at the bottom. When will Phoenicians realize that they live in the desert--not the tropics?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Goodbye, Gem Show 2007 :-(

Well, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is done for another year. Last week, I did manage to make it to the Holidome show, one of my favorites. My friend Warene was in town for the Gem Show; I took her along to this wholesale only show. There are showrooms inside of the Holiday Inn Holidome and in massive tents south of the hotel. We went to the tents. Primarily we were seeking findings, silver, leather, cording, wire and tools. We were somewhat conservative in our purchases, since this was our last stop for 2007. My major purchase was some sterling silver pendants and beads for new jewelry. I also purchased some less expensive stone and glass beads for wind dancers.

On Sunday (the last day of the show), NPR did a story about the Gem Show. Personally, I think the Gem Show should have been featured during the week. (I'm sure one of the many car-bombing stories could have been replaced with the tutorial from Tucson on how to buy gems.) Anyway, check out the NPR story link.

Dance, dance, dance!

Have you ever tried ballroom dancing? I don't mean learning the fox trot or square dancing in 6th grade. I'm talking about adult whirling, twirling, laughing, smiling, counting-- and sweating (sometimes).

I'm talkin': slow slow quick quick or slow quick quick slow or slow quick quick. If you've taken any ballroom dancing lessons, you know that those are code words for fox trot (or two step), rumba, and waltz.

I love to dance and have been dancing all of my life. My parents met on a blind date in the late 1940s. Their first date was ballroom dancing to big band music at Cedar Point Ballroom in Sandusky, Ohio. Some of my earliest memories are of the parties my parents gave--especially New Year's Eve. All of the parents (mine, aunts and uncles, neighbors) were in the basement drinking Kentucky burbon or beer and dancing. All of us kids were supposed t0 be upstairs sleeping (or at least trying to sleep). Instead we would peak down the stairs to watch everyone boogie--1950s style. For decades my parents danced. How cool is that?

Since I grew up in the 1960s, I learned to dance freestyle. In the 1990s, I became interested in ballroom dancing--particularly Latin dances (salsa, rumba, cha-cha) and swing. I have watched (and loved) just about every corny dance movie. In fact, this past fall, I watched about weeks of ballroom dance movies (primarily thanks to Net Flix): Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights, and several quirky but fun B movies about ballroom dancing.

Anyway, after all of this exposure to whirling and twirling and sequined dresses, I decided to give myself a Christmas present of ballroom dancing lessons. I had had a few lessons here and there-- mostly the quicky lessons at local clubs. My skills were somewhere in between people who know nothing and people who have had lessons, but I have the beat. Since December, I've been taking lessons once a week at Arizona Ballroom Company here in Tucson. I love it! I'm gaining skills and self-confidence to go to the real dance clubs around here.

In addition to group and private lessons, ABC has open dances four evenings per week: West Coast swing on Wednesday, open dances on Friday and Saturday, and salsa on Sunday. It's a fun time. Everyone is there to dance, and everyone dances. You don't have to be a student at ABC to come on down and have fun whirling and twirling!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Shea Butter

Are you bothered by dry, itchy, cracked skin? Then I'll bet you haven't discovered the wonders of shea butter. About a year ago, I discovered a luxurious shea butter body cream at Bath and Body Works-- "Lay It On Thick". This is really great stuff. It's soft, and it makes my skin feel and smell good. The only drawbacks are: 1) the price--on sale for ~$10/6 oz tube and 2) you can't open doors for about an hour after application, due to extreme slipperiness.

Despite the minor drawbacks, I have been lovin' my shea butter body cream and hoping for another Bath and Body Works sale so I could afford to buy more!

Then came the Gem Show. (You're right. At least for now, all roads in this blog lead to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.) In the African Art Village, a vendor from Ghana was selling tubs of pure shea butter. He used a large butcher knife to cut chunks off of what looked like a 10-inch in diameter butter stump. He was busily plopping bright yellow chunks into plastics tubs, slapping on labels touting the numerous uses and benefits of shea butter, and building an impressive mound of butter tubs for sale.

Initially, I was skeptical. How could this crude yellow stuff which looked like old Crisco be as good as my expensive body cream in the distinctively designed plastic tube? My daughter (always the early adopter), smeared some on my hand and said, "Try it!" I was sold. A picture of Lincoln bought an 8oz tub of shea butter.

Although raw shea butter doesn't smell as good as the expensive body cream and it's a little harder to spread, it works just as well or better on dry skin. Once it's rubbed it, the skin is very smooth (and not as greasy as with the cream). Another plus is if you drop a chunk during application, your dog will happily eat it! (My dog now has her ears perked for the sound of that butter tub opening at bedtime.)

True confessions here: My heels are perpetually dry and cracked, due to Arizona's dry weather and my love of sandals. NOTHING seems to really smooth and sooth the ultra dry skin on my feet (not even the shea butter body cream or other special, super-thick foot creams from Sally's Beauty Supply .)

Commercial pitch: I was amazed at the results of the raw shea butter after just a few days of nightly use. My heels are still cracked, but the shea butter is having an impact.

Out of curiousity, I compared the labels. The BBW cream has 30+ ingredients, the first two being water and petrolatum (yes, spelled correctly); shea butter is about number 12 or so. The tub from Ghana has only one ingredient--raw shea butter.

According to Wikipedia, "Shea butter is a slightly greenish natural fat extracted from fruit of the Shea tree by crushing and boiling. Shea butter is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer and an emollient. Shea butter is also edible. It is used as a cooking oil in West Africa, as well as sometimes being used in the chocolate industry as a substitute for cocoa butter."

According to the label on the tub, shea butter has a multitude of uses from the treatment of dry skin to use as sunscreen, anti-aging cream, stress-reducer (probably with a masseuse), or an arthritispain pain releaver. Give it a try. I highly recommend it!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Beads...and more!

After having read the Gem Show posts, you may be asking yourself, "What does this woman do with all of those beads?" Good question. Back in '96, I started making jewelry for myself. Although my life-long motto has been, "There's no such thing as too much jewelry," I found that making jewelry grows your jewelry collection exponentially. I also found that I receive many, many compliments on my jewelry and questions about retail outlets for my creations. In addition, after several years of regular Gem Show attendance, I had LOTS of beads.

In 2003, I started my own craft business--Wind Dancer Design. I make and sell jewelry and Wind Dancers. What is a Wind Dancer, you ask? It's a beaded hanging. I combine wood or heavy wire with glass, stone, gem, and bone beads; crystals; and bells to create hangings for walls, windows, and car mirrors.
In addtion to bead art, I also make faces. OK, you make faces too, but you haven't found a market for your frowns? No, not those faces. I make faces and other designs from clay and clay mosaic. Here are some of my designs. Currently, I'm selling my work at three shops in Tucson: Bohemia (voted best gift gallery in Tucson), Butterfly Gallery and Gifts, and the Tucson Museum of Art Gift Shop. Watch for future posts about shows and studio tours.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

African Art Village and More at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

OK.... as always, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was a blast today. The first weekend generally is the same as Super Bowl weekend, but this year the Super Bowl falls on the second Sunday of the show. No matter, regardless of the hype the Super Bowl receives, the game won't put a crimp in the foot traffic at the show!

Alex (my daughter) and I really wanted to go see the African Art Village. I parked west of Interstate 10 off of Congress because I also wanted to poke around at the motels (see previous post). I had looked at the maps online and saw that the Africans were south of the motels, but WOW I didn't realize how far south they were. The African Art Village is south of 22nd Street. It was quite a hike from the parking on Congress Street. If you're going to see the Africans, there is parking south of 22nd Street, right next to them.
The Africans were wheeling and dealing-- beads, wooden and brass statues, beaded chieftan head gear (above), beaded arm chairs (amazing), baskets, hats, African food, very cool drums, kalimbas, gourd percussion instruments, original African paintings, $5 tubs of shea butter (often in fancy $20/tube body lotion at Bath and Body Works), you name it. I bought several different types of brass beads for necklaces (ranging from $7-$10 per strand), some recycled glass beads ($20/strand for thin beads-- lots per strand), and some smaller glass beads for $5/strand . The Africans deal some but not too much. Also, now some of them take plastic and checks. The African Art Village used to be primarily cash.

In addition to spending hours in the African Art Village, Alex and I visited a few booths at the Howard Johnson, the River Park Inn (formerly the Pueblo Inn), and the Days Inn. At the River Park Inn, I bought 300 feet of .015 Beadalon for about $10; this is the price for 100 feet in town!!!! I also bought 50 long headpins for $3.50 (very cheap) and a large bag of crimp beads for ~$13. At another booth in the same motel, I bought some really nice coral for $4/strand and beauthful abalone strands for $3 each.

In the yard of the Howard Johnson's, there were some great lapis lazuli deals and plenty of belly dancing gear! I bought a really nice lapis necklace for $12 and matching earrings for $2. I also bought several lapis and brass pendants (very ornate) for $2 each!!! Alex bought a fancy seed beed bracelet for $2. All of these were made in Afganistan. I liked the prices (obviously), but this made me feel sad. Those poor people. Imagine how much they were paid for such beautiful work! This is worse than Wal Mart.

Star sitings at the Gem Show: remember the TV show Dharma and Greg? I swear I saw Dharma's mother in the African Village. It was her hair and voice. Also, near the Afgan lapis, there was a guy who looked just like Hamid Karzi (Afgan president). He had the hair, the beard, and the clothes, but not the hat. I wanted to go up to both of them, but I didn't. So, these are unconfirmed sitings.

Anyway, now it's time to make some jewelry and some wall hangings! More on the Gem Show later. I didn't find everything on my list.
Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
The 2007 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show started on Friday. I adore the Gem Show. I have lived in Tucson since 1981. For the last 10 years or so, I have been going to the Gem Show one or two days each year.

In the early 1980s, the Gem Show was primarily fossils. OK, interesting, yes, but fossils didn't draw me to the show each year. For 15 years or so, I didn't go to the Gem Show at all. What changed my viewpoint from "somewhat interesting" to "gotta go"? Beads!

In 1996, my friend Ann turned me on to the bead shows at the Gem and Mineral Show. Her favorites were the wholesale shows in the funky motels along Interstate 10 (Days Inn, Sheraton Four Points, Pueblo Inn, etc.) Beads from Tibet. Beads from India. Beads from China. Piles of beads. Strings of beads. Finished jewelry. I was hooked!

A few years ago, the more established bead vendors along I10 were joined by a few African bead and knick-knack vendors. The African beads are often made with recycled or found materials, such as recycled glass, cow bones. Now there is an entire African Art Village near the motels. It is sooooo cool. They have not only beads but also many home decorating items--statues, masks, rugs, furniture. I love buying direct from these African vendors. Within the past year, Target introduced home decorating "themes"--including Chinese/Asian, African, and others. (I guess they figured out that not everyone wanted to buy red plastic and glass.) Their displays are interesting-- for a big box store. But why buy African knick-knacks that were made by Chinese children when you can buy direct at the Gem Show?

About five years ago--after several years of religious I10 motel Gem Show attendance--my friend Merrill introduced me to the Holidome Bead Show. WOW. More beads, yes, but the Holidome Show also has beading supplies--Beadalon wire, findings, tools. After having found the Holidome, I was destined to go the the Gem Show twice a year--not once a year.

Well.... today's the day to go see the Africans! Gotta go.....