Material Tests


Where do you go to do materials tests when you don’t have any flat walls in the shipping container studio?  In the bedroom of course.  I’ve been working on a piece for my upcoming show in Berlin in which I started with the format of our local desert paper and replaced all of the copy with Lorem Ipsum.  Since there is a formal theme in the show that I keep explaining as a broken down grid system (what happens when idealized systems become imperfect and slightly more human),  it seemed like the grid-like format of the newspaper could look really good plastered up on some of the gallery walls.  Which is how it ended up in my bedroom…

The newspaper actually looks pretty of great.  Laura and Anna said it made my room feel like a hovel, which we then agreed was a good look.  Here are some closeups of the paper.  And because of how thin it is, and the way it is applied, the paper has a really nice pattern of vertical creases.  Eventually it will probably get painted over to do more tests (I’ve been wanting to do a wallpaper print series for Gemini GEL for AGES now)  and with a few coats of paint over it the texture under paint may look even better.


Also of course once the paper was hung, all of the other colors in the room had to be repainted.  On a purely decorative level, gold and terra cotta is the all-new-favorite color combo.



After Thanksgiving we decided to visit Garth.  Garth lives way up off of Gamma Gulch in Pipes Canyon.  Living year round in a small concrete teepee with no electricity and no phone – on a huge spread of amazing high desert land that has been meticulously landscaped, Garth has become a pretty famous character around these parts.


To meet or visit Garth you just drive the x-odd miles of dirt road out to his domain – since he doesn’t have a phone there isn’t any way to stick to usual formalities such as calling first or making an appointment. After a visit it is customary to leave something in the donation jar – which helps to subsidize his amazing undertaking.


It was a really cold afternoon when we got there and everything was going into shade.  We checked out the swimming pool and sauna that were built into the rocks.  The pool was covered with a thick layer of ice.  The sauna has a bed of brilliantly colored stones that you can lay in after they get hot.


We experimented with the pool of “meteor dust” and then we shared some of the solar oven stuffing with Garth in the outdoor kitchen.  Did I already mention that it was cold?   By mid afternoon the only warm spot was the teepee which is heated with a wood burning stove.  Emmett sang a ode to Garth and then Garth reciprocated by showing us his super far out and fabulous desert bling – which is mostly all custom designed by him.


Thanksgiving Solar Cooker


The fact that there are fewer posts lately isn’t because there is nothing going on – it is actually because every day has been so incredibly action packed that it is sometimes hard to even know where to begin.  But if we start anywhere, it should be with trying to get these pics from Thanksgiving posted before Christmas.


Thanksgiving this year was actually pretty awsome.  A bunch of favorite friends came to visit from all over, and helped put together a day-long, every evolving feast.  Michael and Alyse brought two solar ovens that they had been prototyping and filled it with black jars full of thanksgiving stuffing.


The stuffing turned out super….  and was only a day late.  Because it wasn’t in the sun and cooking by 11:00 AM it didn’t finish completely by the time that the house went into the shade.  (we are on the north side of the mountain, so by 4:00 PM the sun starts to set and the temps really drop).  So we had to wait until the day after Thanksgiving for their grand finale.


As the photos attest, it the stuffing was a success – perhaps even better with the buildup of the wait.  Michael and Alyse are going to be teaching a workshop on solar cooking in LA tomorrow.  And in the spring they will be part of a series of “New Everyday Life” workshops teaching all sorts of handy survival skills.


Panels in Palm Springs


Check out the latest pop up shop for the Group Formerly Known as smocksup!  This one was actually part of Mt Fuji pop up at at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.  Catharine, Danielle, Peggy  and I worked the sale. Peggy met a guy who she used to go to school with who now owns a spa on the east coast.  He bought her crazy sequined body-bag panel (check out the photo of her performing in it in the entry for the Swapmeet)


Also, for those of you not familiar with the Palm Spring Ace, one of the hot features of the hotel is a crazy hipster pool scene there on the weekends (“swim club”) which means that we had shoppers in the store wearing teeny bikinis and one even wearing only a towel (an escapee from the spa next door) in the middle of December.


New Fall Uniform


I started this top last spring, in part as a technical exercise to see if I could begin with a cross, and then work it outward to four corners, sew up the shoulders and end up with a top.  Though I’m really not sure what I was thinking with that colors scheme!   And finally, now, it is done. The problem is that it isn’t something that I would wear. I’m not sure if it is the candy colors or the pop references of the pattern, but I would go nuts if I had to wear this for a whole season.

So how to make a new fall top in a pinch?  Re-inspired by conversations about finger crochet techniques with the Von Tundra Crew when they were here for their event (they made great lamps with finger crochet netting to diffuse the light) I decided to throw together a new top using an organic undulating single and half double finger stitches.  I love the effect that this creates, and was able to make a new “uniform” in just a few days.  The problem was when I got it wet to block it into shape, it totally expanded and got huge, like a big 1070s tunic.  I guess that the stitches were so loose they just totally stretched out and lost their delicacy and complexity.


So I did something that I hate it when knitters or crochetters do – I tossed it in the washing machine and felted it up (always thought that the washing machine felting technique was was totally a form of cheating).  Then I stretched the still damp result over a dress form and it actually turned out sort of awesome.   Next up will be one in brown done mostly with single crochet stitches to see if I can tighten up the weave a bit, stay posted.



Amy and Wendy Yao hosted another groud-breaking HDTS swap-meet – this year at the Sky Village Swap Meet which is the local swap meet right behind Barr Lumber off of Old Woman Springs Road.  I love their press release so I’m going to reprint some of it here:

“We grew up going to swapmeets nearly every weekend, tagging along with our grandparents at the break of dawn and riding illegally amongst the boxes in the back of their customized white Toyota minivan. Our grandparents worked at the swapmeet every weekend for years, selling video rewinders and novelty erasers imported from Taiwan.  We would help out and watch all the strange characters pass through, everyone buying or selling something.  These are some of our earliest memories: the improvised look of each booth, everything on the go.  If we were good, at the end of each day our grandparents would let us buy one thing from the used book vendor next door.  We would get things like old paperback books published by Mad Magazine, full of jokes and innuendo that we were still too young to fully understand…”


“The Art Swap Meet has always been an experiment in how an ephemeral, mobile marketplace works within the desert, an environment of extremes where only the fit survive.  It provides a chance for its participants to test ideas, make artist direct sales, create works and experiences that might not be salable, or embrace the absurdity of setting up shop in a location where your customer may or may not show up. In all, it’s a beautiful spectacle where trading posts sprout up at sunrise and then evaporate like mirages…”


“This Saturday’s Art Swapmeet will be the 5th time we’ve convened to give, trade and sell art and experiences at very affordable prices!  Always fun! Always great bargains and great artwork!! Come early, we start at 8pm and end at 1pm! Don’t miss the mirage!!”


The photo above is of Bob Carr, the owner of the Sky Village Swap meet – the mothership for this year’s art swap meet.  Bob is an amazing artist in his own right and it is fair to say that the entire swap meet is a really a gigantic, long term, communally based art project.  If you look in some of the shacks you can see his really cool and sort of psychadlic spiders and spider webs that are all works in progress.  And of course then there is the famed crystal cave which will be revealed later this month as Mette and Merete’s HDTS project.


One of the most amazing things to me are the people who turn out for Amy and Wendy’s events – this year’s participants included David Benjamin Sherry from NYC, Tobias Madison from Zurich, Marlous Borm from NYC Berlin, John Rieppenhoff of Green Gallery in Milwaukke, Rob Halverson from Cool Art in Portland Amy’s MFA students from Arizona State University, and LA’s own local Alice Konitz, Lucky Dragon, Gabbie Strong, Piero Golia, and Erik Wesley (and there are even more) Oh – and of course the “group formerly known as smockshop”

Totally Tricked Out


Every time Steve came over I used to catch him staring up at two narrow glass windows way up on the wall of the eating room (it’s the room with the table – what do you call that, dining room, breakfast room, table room?)  Anyway, one day he finally offered to do something amazing fabulous and spellbinding to the windows…


He made these exquisite stained glass windows for them.  I think that the pattern was based on a detail from a Native American sand painting – but I like how it matches with my geometric floor tiles in a way that adds some hippy neo-geo flair to the room.


I first met Steve when I saw one of his films in an art show at Chris Viet’s cabin, way the hell out at the end of Wonder Valley.  I remember after seeing the strange kooky video called “Desert Pumps” asking everyone around “who made that?!!“.  Then a few months later I got to check out Steve and his partner Glen’s  low slung mid century desert house chock full of cool 1960s and 70s earth inspired art, complete with a pool made out of a huge irrigation talk out back and a 1968 fiberglass dune buggy under the carport.  I’m a huge fan of Steve’s work.  His free hanging stained glass windows have been for sale at the Commune shop at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs – an amazing big round stained glass window is for sale out our own HDTS HQ – and check out his lanterns on their website.

Specific at the HDTS HQ


While the VonTundra project was going down at A-Z West the “Specific Apartment” was the main feature at the HDTS HQ about a mile away in downtown Joshua Tree.  Specific is a really great new gallery/shop on Beverly in Los Angeles curated by Brooks Hudson Thomas.


Brooks created an installation of the “Specific Apartment”  in the back room at the HDTS HQ.  The HDTS HQ is already evolving into what I like to call a “Life Enhancement Shop” – and it was exiting to see the space chock full of accouterments for living.


There were some funky little paintings on fabric and cardboard by Sean Brian Mc Donald that I loved,  a walnut covered plywood chair and table set by Jalal Poehlman with really nice details (check out the legs in the image above), a sweet striped quilt by Denyse Schmidt and a bunch of other really great objects including an audio cabinet by todosomething that was DJed for the Saturday night event.




The last week has been so insanely action packed that I’m going to be posting everything six or seven days late.  A lot has been going on from two fantastic new stained glass windows by my friend Steve Halterman, the Von Tundra/Specific weekend at A-Z West, and a massive work party in my own studio with seven people working full steam on the upcoming show for Berlin.  The image above is from the “Make Shade” workshop by Von Tundra…

On Friday Brooks of Specific, Brad, the Von Tundra guys (Dan, Brian and Chris) arrived at A-Z West along with their crew and cohorts Coleen, Cyan, Zach and Christian, for of a really super incredible and intense weekend.


The event kicked off on Friday night with a cocktail party at Blake’s new motel the Mojave Sands (with delicious Persian food brought out by Dorna), and continued on Saturday with a watermelon rind pickling workshop by Coleen, A make shade workshop by VonTundra, A really nice artists talk by the VT guys, and an insanely delicious dinner by chef Colleen French of the  Renegade Dining Club in the A-Z Wash


….followed by an even more stupendous brunch the following morning. By Sunday night everyone sunburned and muscle-sore from lugging tables, chairs, loads of food and of course beverages back and forth to the far end of the wash – but it was so totally worth all the hard work.


Brooks was great and I totally want to work with him again.  The VonTundra crew are amazing and I want them to make a winter studio in Joshua Tree (or maybe they can customize a Wagon Station and come live in the wash),  the participants were totally interesting, generous and incredibly good sports – and as always the volunteers made all of this possible and saved the day by jumping in every time one of us were in over our heads.  (thank you so much Dorna, Merete, and Mette!)


Rosemary’s Babies


Rosemary Desert Willow (named by Emmett because says that “Rosemary is a “good name”, and she loves to eat Desert Willow flowers”) came to use this spring from the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue.  Her domain in the fairly large cinderblock enclosed patio area which she patrols multiple times a day.   When we first got her she spent about a week digging under a bushy sage bush which I assumed was an attempt to make a burrow.  However about a few days ago a teeny tiny tortoise appeared in the yard looking like a miniature prehistoric creature.  And the following day another one appeared.  Careful excavation with a wisk-broom revealed that Rosemary Desert Willow had laid three eggs under the sage – two of them had hatched and the third turned out to be unfertilized.


Both baby tortoises had the embedded texture of sand all over them for a few days after they hatched – I think that they must have had a hard time digging through the sun baked decomposed granite.  Hard to imagine being born buried underground and having to claw your way out first thing in life.

Baby tortoises are sort of like caviar to Road Runners and the non-indigenous ravens.  We have both hanging out in the back yard every afternoon waiting to pillage Rosemary Desert Willows food plate – so babies are now living inside in a huge terrarium on my desk until they are big enough to not be bird food.   At last count Emmett informed me that we now have eight pets.  Which including humans that makes a household of ten.  I think we’ve officially hit capacity.