Friday, December 31, 2010


Something that’s on everyone’s mind today is how next year will be different. We had a great year at the shop, in the classroom, and in the gallery, and while I can’t reveal to you just yet our plans for 2011, know that we’re looking forward to building on our successes as each of these aspects of Castle in the Air grows and changes.

As for myself, my list of New Year’s resolutions is just two items long. My first resolution is to practice my bandoneĆ³n every day. I haven’t found anything more satisfying than sitting down with the instrument and learning a new song, jamming with friends, or taking my lessons (via Skype) with my teacher in Argentina.

My second resolution is to fully embrace my life as an artist. Spending time with Mariaelisa Leboroni this summer reinforced for me how powerful it can be to fully own being an artist. It is one thing to say one is going to be an artist, another to work at one’s art regularly, and yet another to take it on as a life. Art has been in my blood my entire life—I can’t help it, I must create. To not do so costs me my sanity. But when someone asks me what I do, I say I’m a shopkeeper, a mother, a wife, someone who studied science in school…all these wonderful roles I’ve set up for myself. Now when people ask who I am or what I do, I’ll tell them I’m an artist. Wish me luck! And know that if this is your New Year’s resolution too, you’ve got an ally in me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Wrap-Up

If your holiday gift opening sessions are like mine, there are moments when the opened gifts can’t be seen amidst a sea of wrapping paper and ribbons. I tend to love the paper as much as anything it covered, and I often reuse my wrapping paper year after year. Perhaps because of this, I usually put off buying paper from the store to add to my own stock at home and I’m always using the last scraps, just as if I were one of the Cobbler’s Children.

But look at this! We’ve just added 42 new styles of sheet paper to the racks at the store, and to the Online Shoppe as well. I love how thick it is, and the vibrant colors spark my imagination. So I admit, I stocked up on these for the holidays, and now that the gift-wrapping has given over to gift-opening, I plan to use the paper for any number of other purposes: drawer-lining, wallpapering the doll’s house, covering books, cutting up for crafts, and saving a selection for the next gift I need to wrap.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Crafting at Home

Spoiler alert! ... If you are likely to be on my children's gift list please wait until after Christmas to read this. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise!
It has alway been a challenge to balance the magic between work and home during the holiday season. It is probably fair to say that my home life suffers during this time of year, as the demands of the shop are great. It is fortunate that we all love the store so much! Even my children are willing to spend many late nights down at the Castle decorating and crafting in the studio while I work late to help shoppers bring wonder home for Christmas.
That said, I am particularly proud of the little bits of wonder we have managed to make at home this year.
For the better part of two weeks my family has been crafting a little village of elemental creatures at the workshop that is our kitchen table. Made from pinecones, acorns, thistle down, and other collected goodies from our wanderings, the wee folk have sprung to life. I took a stereoscopic photo of a few of them to show you. If you cross your eyes and stare you might just see them as we do.
Next we turned our efforts to a gingerbread house. My girls and I have been studying traditional building materials and techniques, and vernacular architecture from around the world. (I have to thank Builder's Booksource down the block from the shop for inspiring us on this adventure!) We decided that it would be a great challenge to build a model of one of the structures we've studied. The younger members of the family instantly set their hearts on The Church of the Transfiguration (1714), Khizi Island, Russia. I'll admit that I wasn't positive about the idea until we settled on gingerbread as the building material. The suggestion to use meringues for the twenty-two onion domes settled the matter and we launched into the project with sweet delight. Four days, and many pounds of sugar later we have triumphed! Here too it might be helpful to cross your eyes and squint to see it like we do.
As ever, it is the process of making something from nothing that delights me. In this case it is the memories that we are crafting out of pinecones, glitter, and gingerbread dough, that will make this holiday season forever dear.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All the World's a Stage

If my calendar year were a stage play, the holiday season would certainly be the final act. (Comedy or Tragedy?) And so Art imitates Life at Castle in the Air this year, especially upstairs, where we've arranged a most ambitious display of theatres, puppets, and masks. The centerpiece of it all, though, has got to be the photo booth. Flanked by larger-than-life Punch & Judy dolls (our stalwart manikins in yet another set of disguises), the photo booth truly does put you in the spotlight.

Even with all the theatrics at the shop, I still can't seem to get enough. Last night I went with my family to Berkeley Rep's staging of The Composer is Dead, a mystery by Lemony Snicket that features a live actor performing seamlessly alongside an entire orchestra of anthropomorphic instruments. The
marionettes, shadow puppets, and other nearly-human performers are the creation of Erik and Jessica of Phantom Limb Company, and I was so glad to be able to meet them at last night's performance. I've been interested in toy theatres for my entire life, and made my fair share of puppets, and it was so inspiring to see in The Composer is Dead a finished product that involved so much work, imagination, and obvious love for the medium.

For as transporting as The Composer is Dead is, there's nothing like seeing original toy theatres. So if you haven't already stepped into the wonderland that is the San Francisco Museum of Performance & Design's "Worlds in Miniature" exhibit, you'll want to make sure to take it in while it's still here.

And for our Fourth Street friends and visitors, last weekend's performance from Caterpillar Puppets was such a smash that they've scheduled a command performance for December 22. Read more at the Fourth Street Shops website.