So when you least expect it…nature speaks. On a silent coastline on a great lake in the wilds of Wisconsin the stones on the beach offered a hidden alphabet of opportunity. Upon making this discovery, I searched for and collected just the right pieces and sent a love note to my sweetheart. Wishing he were there to share in the wonderful adventure that was hiking through the enchanted woods to this lakeside hideaway, I did the next best thing and found an expression of LOVE , took a photo and messaged off to him…technology and instant gratification – well, across the miles…

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The lovely white stones were amazing…I don’t know the geology…could probably Google it, but suffice it to say they were white and soft, angular but smooth, bleached and clean – massed in a thick bed for miles along the shoreline. I wish I could have taken buckets of them to do something…fill a large snifter, layer in the sink for the water to spill over and remind me of this scene, touch and fondle – they were so special, so uniform in size – such a natural phenomenon of raw beauty.

Paired with the rough, elegant, weathered, driftwood that was scattered along the rubble and upon which I carefully placed the stones, the composition was truly a work of art – inspired by  nature and assembled by my eager fascination with the media.

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Take away…love is all around – OH! has that been said before? Well…love IS all around us and to find an actual, natural formation of alphabet letters that allowed the simplest expression of literal words, to be transported across the miles,  was magic.

Art…design…nature…find it!!! Happy almost Valentine’s Day!!!!

After having seen Federico Leon de la Vega’s presentation at TEDX Talks in September and after having seen some of the work in progress over the past couple of years, it was a treat last week to be in his studio to see the collection exhibited up close and in person!

Presented on fabulously enormous canvases and a few smaller studies, these bold graphic statements compile a contemporary collection that is quite astounding. The premise is quite provocative.

The idea that handwriting is a basic human means of communication having evolved into the very personal flowing script of cursive that each individual can call their own – in their own style – it’s almost as personal as a fingerprint. It is an extraordinary human function that should be protected, revered and certainly not lost to the fast-paced technology of the digital age!

Making one’s mark on a surface…a piece of paper…to convey a thought, idea, instruction, story, a doodle on a paper towel – a love letter.

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, it brings to mind the idea of love letters. We read them throughout literature and listen to them in songs. We hear of them being saved over time by recipients in treasured boxes tied with ribbon to be read over and over or merely saved for others to find long after…

These magnificent oil paintings convey the art of handwriting. They celebrate the simplest marks of hand to canvas with brush and paint looping in circles and jutting in spikes – the primary strokes of handwriting. These primary strokes are the foundation of mastering the control needed to make the continuous flow of letters that become each person’s personal interpretation of the alphabet in cursive style and an exclusive means of communication.

Style – handwriting conveys personal style. Look at yours. Is it always the same or do you mix it up? Do you stay consistent or do you express different styles of your own handwriting for different purposes?  Look at your friend’s handwriting – would you recognize it anywhere?

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It is thrilling to walk among these great canvases with their color and  bold strokes. It is arresting to realize that they are so simple yet so complex in what they are saying. We must recognize the value of handwriting. We must not let it be dropped from our schools’ curriculum. We must continue to see the importance of the pure, mind to hand, raw emotion.

Powerful spikes require starting and stopping – control.

Loose loops also require control to maintain uniformity.

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After control is learned, expression can take over resulting in that personal style that becomes each individual’s identifying handwriting.

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Federico reminds us in his talk, about how we might have attempted to write a love letter for the first time and how many times it was crumpled because it wasn’t quite right. The failed attempts of recording our feelings as we strive to say the right thing, to express our deepest emotions. Yet once accomplished, those words hand-written mean so much more than the same words conveyed by type or digital communications.

“From my heart to my mind, from my mind to my hand, from my hand to the paper I place in your hand,  so you may fold it and keep it near to your heart. No delete!”

The digital world is all around us. We cannot escape it, nor should we. However, the human evolution and the brain’s development that mastered the art of handwriting is a place that could be diminished and lost if we do not continue the art and practice of personal expression through this extraordinary medium.

All we need is love – sent via a personalized handwritten letter from the heart. Here’s to a Happy Valentine’s Day !!!

Short days and longs nights…Do you find that your interior is dull, lifeless and even feels a bit cavernous after dark? As the sun  sets and the lamps come on, the effects can be horrible, adequate or sensational.

Poor lighting can have remarkable subliminal effects on mood, energy, and attitude. The subtle signs of poor lighting such as dark corners, shadows on faces, difficulty reading and dull colors are all important factors that contribute to an uncomfortable interior in these short days of long, dark nights.

Lighting has multiple reasons for being—three primary ones—to see, yes, ambient light. But to do tasks (reading, sewing, playing games), and accent lighting to illuminate artwork and other interior features. Mood lighting such as candlelight (once the primary light source – now an effect in most cases) is a lesser but effective  lighting tool.  Good lighting makes amazing differences.

Beware of down-lights. Lights that shine down from the ceiling. Although a very effective and common lighting tool, they must be balanced with good ambient light.  I have often used this example of sitting in a restaurant across from your date and their face is painted with ghoulish dark shadows under their eyes, beneath their nose, and accentuating all the folds of their features. It is the opposite of a kid putting a flashlight under their chin shining upward creating similarly haunting effects. Creepy. Certainly not flattering.

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The same unpleasant effects happen in the home. It’s such a common malady of ineffective lighting that most people assume it is a necessary evil of short days. It’s sad—no, really it’s SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder! To treat the serious effects of this syndrome there are many studies and inventive solutions, but for most of us, the less arresting effects of poor lighting can be greatly improved and our lives enhanced.

To begin this process of evaluating your lighting an improving it right away, start with the lamps—the light bulbs! We have so many choices these days including the familiar incandescent, compact fluorescent, and the newer LED with excellent color choices and low energy usage.  We could talk about the “temperature” of light sources measured in Kelvin, but we won’t—only that it runs a spectrum of warm to cool.

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Walk around your home and look specifically at the color that glows from the various light sources. Does it look yellow? Does it look white? Does it look blue-ish? Recognizing these distinctions from warm to cool is the start.

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Where are the shadows? Are the corners dark and recessive? And, when you combine these two, do you find, for example, dark areas and yellow glowing sources? Sometimes that soft, warm yellow is preferred while other scenes are made more intentionally crisp with cooler light.

Experiment with different lamps in your fixtures – light bulbs in your table lamps and recessed cans, hallway sconces and bathroom fixtures. It’s a fun experiment and very illuminating – yes, the pun was intended.

Are your lamp shades opaque or translucent? Do the shades themselves cast a color? Do they block the light or allow it through? Do they throw the light up and down or up, down and out? This is another detail of which to take note.

If you have dated recessed fluorescent tube units – common in kitchens for example – they are often housed in a box either recessed or surface-mounted on the ceiling. Take a look at the plastic lenses – are they discolored and yellow? This aging process can dramatically affect the quality of light that is emitted. So if you are not ready to replace these fixtures with more effective modern lighting statements, try replacing the lenses.

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A similar installation is that of skylights which have fluorescent lamps up inside the wells with that same plastic lens over the opening to the skylight. The original idea was to have the natural light pass through during the day and artificial light take over after hours. The lens  was to intentionally conceal the unattractive fluorescent tubes, but it sacrificed the depth of the framed well. A quick update is to remove the lenses and fluorescents and expose the well of the skylight adding dimension to the room and eliminating the unattractive lens that conceals the dimensional cavity. Recessed can fixtures around the skylight in the surrounding ceiling are the most common solution to this transition from old to new, a cable can be strung, pendants can be hung, but if budget constraints prohibit that investment at this time, you might investigate the power source up inside the skylight well and replace the fluorescent fixture with an inexpensive, adjustable, surface-mounted spotlight – perhaps with two heads to provide light from that same source while opening the skylight well without the unnecessary lens.

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The dark pockets around your rooms can be improved with up-lights in corners and up under plants. Inexpensive fixtures are available at any lighting store or big box home improvement stores. Place one of these up-lights (remember to select the color “temperature” that pleases you the most) and see what that additional pop in the corner does to open your space. When up-lights are used beneath plants to shoot upward and cast shadows onto the walls and ceilings can create drama and exotic interest at night. This is true both indoors and out.

Torchiere floor lamps are those that face upward. Like a torch, they send the light toward the ceiling – another effective splash of light in an otherwise dark space in the room.

Colors are radically affected by the color of light that shines upon them. Therefore, an interior color scheme can be horribly tweaked to not resemble at all the actual colors chosen and combined to create the scene, when artificially illuminated after dark. Contrarily, colors can be rendered with great brilliance and accuracy when illuminated with the right combination of lighting. (although daylight contributes in these two examples).

By the same token we can have great fun and “paint” with light creating a color scheme entirely with colored lamps washing the walls, and interior elements just for the art and exercise of doing so, but I digress.

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In summary, look around your rooms after dark and look for opportunities to make changes that will dramatically affect the comfort level – the results will be startling!!! If planning new construction or remodel – have plenty of light in key places throughout the space. Think dimmers so you can control the amount of light. Let there be light in this Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art and architecture meet all the time. Sculptural forms, building models, buildings themselves, sketches…but at this time of year, the fanciful world of gingerbread houses takes the spotlight and, in this recent scene we encountered, offered a beautiful fund-raiser while at it!!!

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As we pulled away in the pre-dawn hours of the  morning…we felt the chill in the air and the glow over the mountain sending us on our way.

We traversed across the terminal and before cutting over left to the escalator, we spied—at the same time—a wondrously tall Christmas tree adorned with airplanes and ribbon…and surrounded by an amazing collection of ginger bread houses on display in some sort of fund-raiser fashion.

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Upon closer inspection, the fantasy became tangible. The individual structures took on a form of expressive life in their individual attention-getting style. Each one was quite unique incorporating rivers and ponds, vehicles and foliage of all manner.

It is a Christmas tradition to create a gingerbread house full of fantasy and fear, hope and salvation. From the simple joy of baking traditions for Christmas, to the many versions of fairy tales that save children from the wicked ones in the woods creating and story-telling surrounding these magical edifices makes gingerbread houses a staple of the winter holidays – all the while offering architectural design and  construction projects for all ages. Below, see the Hanukkah version of this adorable house.

I just read a great piece by Tori Avey in which she summarized the history of gingerbread. http://toriavey.com/?s=gingerbread

She references architectural design with the fact that: Elaborately decorated gingerbread became synonymous with all things fancy and elegant in England. The gold leaf that was often used to decorate gingerbread cookies led to the popular expression ‘to take the gilt off of gingerbread.’ The carved, white architectural details found on many colonial American seaside homes is sometimes referred to as ‘gingerbread work’.

Having been raised on the east coast, describing houses with ornate “gingerbread” detailing was part of our vocabulary. I now see it in Rocky Mountain Victorians and California seaside cottages. It always conveys a quaint, welcoming feeling.

Avey further states: Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.

Recently the record for world’s largest gingerbread house was broken. The previous record was set by the Mall of America in 2006. The new winning gingerbread house, spanning nearly 40,000 cubic feet, was erected at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas.

Everything is bigger in Texas!!!

The house required a building permit and was built much like a traditional house. 4,000 gingerbread bricks were used during its construction. To put that in perspective, a recipe for a house this size would include 1,800 pounds of butter and 1,080 ounces of ground ginger. Sounds more like a gingerbread resort!

So as we walked around this wonderful display at the ABQ Sunport and marveled at the colorful creativity, I knew this was the story for today.

The cartoon in the paper that morning also found  humor in the subject.

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And to further galvanize that thought, we arrived in San Diego to find Keira proudly presenting their half-eaten, already picked apart gingerbread project in the center of the kitchen table. T’was the joy of gingerbread houses—post construction, eating them!!!

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Ta Da! Pantone announces its color of the year for the coming 2017…drum roll please…and the color is Greenery!! Yay!!! Last year there were two  – yes, imagine that – they couldn’t decide so they slurried Rose Quartz and Serenity resulting in a pale, cool, wimpy blend of soft rose and lavenderesque shades into a blended wispy pastel dream. Non-committal, in my opinion…lacking confidence.  Last year the rationale was stated by Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman as…

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But this year they have it with this fresh organic hue in a yellow-ish shade primed for this year’s rationale from Ms. Eiseman which is:

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I have always loved green. I grew up in a Virginia jungle of a suburban neighborhood inside the Beltway surrounding my hometown of Washington DC. where the first signs of spring were the tiny tips of dogwood leaves poking forth from the delicate branches of those beautiful under-growth trees. The dogwoods were the graceful, human-scale layer beneath the towering canopy of the immense, rigid, vertical tulip poplar and white oak trees that commanded the woods.

Soft mosses, lacey ferns and perky lily of the valley carpeted the hidden pockets of our backyard. New growth is that prediction of amazing renewal and promise of the start of summer. So it is a prime observation that as Eiseman states in her 2017 rationale “greenery…bursts forth…with a reassurance we yearn for…” although I do not feel this is peculiar to this year as winter always makes me yearn for greenery and the reassurance  that spring and summer will return.

My mother also loved green and that probably influenced my childhood perception of comfort and context of it in interior design. She had and still has an eye for color. In 1959 she selected an amazing sculpted wool pile carpet in a warm, dark, neutral, taupe tone and built upon it a color scheme of pinks and greens that was subtle and relaxing, organic and contrasting, blending beautifully in our wooded setting of verdant lushness in which we were cozily situated.

That was upstairs where we felt like we lived in a flowering tree house amidst the dense collection of green leafy between the trees and surrounded by all shades of pink and white azaleas. Downstairs, where we retreated in the winter months, her greens were mixed with gold tones creating a warm interpretation of the greenery around us.

When so many in that era, between the 60s and 70s, were styling interiors with heavy oranges, browns and golds,

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my mother gravitated toward Lily Pulitzer’s fresh, tropical palette of lime green and hot pinks, clean crisp turquoise and citrusy lemon yellow – both in her wardrobe and her interior accent colors.

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Our beach house was turquoise and teal, navy and tan – the sea and the sand.

Following color trends is a slippery slope. I have blogged about it in the past. Adopting that which is often a combination of colors instantly records a place in time when everything from bath towels and shower curtains, bed dressings to draperies appears in the marketplace and inserts its predetermined obsolescent combinations into the lives of so many who would rather catch the wave – often behind the crest – to own and participate in what is conveyed by the market to be the “in” thing to do and to have.

It is best not to embrace and adopt the combinations that the market presents. It is better to select color and combinations that transcend the trends – skirt them so as not to fall into the trap of dated color schemes and tired combinations. Some avoid the trap by staying neutral. The safe, timeless colors of whites and grays mushrooms and taupes- but where is the risk and fun in that?

“Too bad for them” I often remark. It is such a missed opportunity…a limitation to select colors that you think you are supposed to like rather than those that truly bring you joy. I say “go for joy every time.” Color is such personality. It is a stage-setting element. It is a backdrop or foreground. It is a theme. It is an atmosphere.

With all that having been said, I for one am thrilled with this fresh selection for the new year. A bright beginning full of hope and new growth, fresh starts and positive forward movement – organic and life-affirming. So seek the colors that brings you joy and go forth with color in this new 2017 soon to arrive. My personal schemes will always have greenery!!!

Fun with PERF!

December 3, 2016

Currently finishing a project that has provided a great theme for incorporating metal, it seemed a worthy blog subject for it’s fun and flexibility! Perf is the product – a perforated steel that comes in several percentages of perforation.

We have used this many times for rolling window shades in a flexible coated nylon material. It is great for filtering for sunlight and privacy while allowing a certain amount of “see-through.” It has been used as an architectural screening material for years. You have probably seen it and not realized it on building storefronts and bus wraps – the perforated vinyl coatings are often used for advertisement because they read as though a solid from the one side and are transparent from within.

Here we are playing around with the steel to create cool elements that compliment the theme of this new taproom. The theme is silver and what material does bring to mind? Metallic. So by dressing raw steel with paint – we apply the silver finish and there we have it!

The required outside patio fencing was constructed with very generic square stock. I called it a hamster cage. It was a bland beige when we first arrived and, without notice, the shopping center management had it and the other structural columns lining the canopy/portico painted chocolate brown.

The plan had been to screen it with perforated panels. The darker paint color created a little better contrast and aided in providing a depth of detail to set-off the silver painted perf.

Inside we needed to fill the volume of this most uninteresting dropped ceiling. Already painted black and looking quite voluminous – but not in a good way – the empty space needed some mass. So in one of those restless, middle-of-the-night design sessions of insomnia the idea to create large drums for lighting shades came to mind.

Drums have been in vogue for several years now. Nothing original from the initial use for table lamp shades except their use was broadened to include suspended fixtures and halved for wall sconces. You’ve seen them – hip and happening – and these were quite over-sized and carried the space.

We needed to fill the void of the 12′ high ceilings in this room that had little or no comfort. All hard surfaces, it was a challenge to maintain the silver theme and edginess of a popular taproom while creating comfort. Seemed an oxymoron of a task. But the mass of the perforated drums in three different sizes grouped in the near center of the room did just that.

The addition of multiple warm white lamps inside will be the crowning touch. (photo to be added here in a week or so)

Then a third use of the perforated material came in the idea for a room-divider/hostess station.

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We needed a place to create a point of arrival. Whether manned or unmanned, this unit can have a chalkboard or other signage identifying special events or beer tastings, with a podium in front creates a translucent backdrop to partially cordon off the rest of the space until the customers are greeted and it also can divide the space for special events and table groupings. to accomplish all of those various purposes we designed it with heavy duty commercial casters complete with brakes so that it could be moved easily for its grand height and weight and  placed where needed for the best advantage.

Stay tuned for the complete un-veiling of this cool new interior in the coming weeks. And meanwhile dream of all the fun you can have with perf!

 

Oh the Faces! Spanish Market

November 27, 2016

The sky was grey and the air had a decidedly seasonal still-cool yesterday which called for a cozy indoor activity – offered this weekend in the handsome Hotel Albuquerque, host of the Winter Spanish Market. Yes, the decades old traditional Spanish Market held in Santa Fe outside around the Plaza, on warm summer days in July, has begun a new tradition in Albuquerque in the opposite season indoors. http://www.visitalbuquerque.org/abq365/events/detail/28th-Annual-Winter-Spanish-Market/31793/

The collection of world class artists’ booths beneath the enormous hand-tooled tin chandeliers suspended from the spacious ballroom sparkled with festive illumination and colorful creations.

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A variety of Mariachi bands played to the crowds as the curious and collectors wove in and out of the rows of talented exhibitors.

Fine tin-work, dyed and cut straw assemblies, weavings and jewelry presented an incredible variety of work. Fine crafted furniture and spectacular wall pieces were displayed by master carvers. It was a collection of world-class art and fine craft.

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Crazy interpretations of his beloved traditional retablos are Charlie Carillos commically contemporary interpretations of vintage cars with saints at the wheel. Humor that is received with mixed reviews. But his talent is undisputed. Here he entertains at his booth with his colorful delivery.

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By startling contrast, the rich warm colors and traditional reverence that Catherine Robles-Shaw displays in her incredible carvings and painting techniques, wonderful detail and soulfully expressive faces. Her rich hues are Old World in their sensitivity to tone on tone and dark earthen colors outlined and enhanced with ribbons of gold.

Daughter, Roxanne Shaw-Galindo, a respected santero in her own right has continued to carve her own niche in this exclusive world of bultos, retablos and other manner of fine carving and painting.

The mystic powders carefully sought and gathered from ancient land forms and mineral-rich geology diluted with water and even the precious red of the rare cochineal all contribute to the luminous, translucent colors that read so differently from other media.

And further contrast is Frank  L. Garcia with his primary colors of electric blue, yellow and  red shining off of his wood surfaces. Uplifting and extracting smiles from all who pass his booth.

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Oh the faces!! Each santero has his or her own style.  Like fingerprints, the santeros each have cultivated a unique “look” to their work and expressions of their subjects.  The eyes say so much. Mournful, cheerful, pensive or stony stares, the characters are exclusively their own. Despite the similarities bound by tradition, each artist presents a specifically unique style which conveys incredible personality. These signature expressions, as individual as fingerprints, represent so distinctly each  inimitable artist. Despite the similarities bound by tradition, the methods and materials, each shine with startling individuality!

Here santero Ruben Gallegos poses with Mary Anne Green an avid collector and fond owner of several of Gallegos’ work.

Lee Valdez hunches over his soon-to-be cross carefully carving the rope detail around the edges. Light pencil lines define the decoration that he follows with remarkable precision – and look – he is sporting two pair of glasses stacked atop one another – which he says works just fine.

Behind him displayed on the wall are several other crosses in all manner of carving and decorative woodwork. One piece in particular is a yellow pine cross that is riddled with dark cinnamon colored worm holes – splattered actually – creating a spectacularly natural design. And further marks of nature that Lee captures are a knot hole and adjacent burled wood that he places dead center in the intersection of the cross. The four end pieces are carved from a piece of butternut wood providing the perfect natural contrast to the yellow pine yet complimenting the dark flecks of the worm holes. Quite a find, in this amazing piece of wood he spied in a hardware store, and remarkable sensitivity to isolate and assemble the various pieces to create the whole.

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A striking woman caught my eye. Her thick curly black hair and handsome silver cross strung on a multi-strand necklace of turquoise made a big statement amidst all of the art and drama. Meet Vanessa Baca.

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As we visited briefly I learned that she is a fellow blogger and I am sure it was fate that we met as her foodinbooks.com is a wealth of observations centered around great books and fabulous food within described. She writes with great depth of description and observation AND she breaks it down and teaches you how to prepare that about what you have just read!

Sean Wells painting as we watched, represents her art in her own striking appearance. Dark hair whipped and twisted with a stylish flair and topped with screaming orange flowers.

Wells’ images are equally colorful, happy and festive. If not her fine retablos, You might recognize her Fanciful Day of the Dead wine bottles and famous, collectible Lottery Scratchers! Find her on Etsy!

It was an inspiring day of extraordinary art in a genre that is so historically and regionally rooted with original methods and patient execution paired with the artistic imaginative people who practice and study this fine work. Thanks so much Mary Ann for a rare treat!

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Today YOU can go see this final day of  the 28th Annual Spanish Market 2016! Get over there!