We’re getting rather close to the time of year when it feels like all non-holiday-related commerce goes into some semblance of hibernation. In just over a month, there’ll be a perceptible relaxation, if not a pause – unless you’re, say, a UPS driver or a United Airlines pilot, one hopes – in anything work-related while the country’s collective attention turns homeward.

Or, I hope, if you’re working on my new art studio. Because my deep wish is that, come early December, I’ll be able to back my flatbed trailer up (and into!) the space and unload my table saw, band saw, jointer, welder, etc. I’ve things to make and work to deliver. I’ll be able to plug them into wall outlets, turn them on, and hear their motors start up.

The lights overhead won’t dim, like they would, at times, in my old studio.

If I feel the need, I can visit the lavatory at the end of the building, then wash up in the slop sink.

Outside, it might be snowing. Inside, the quiet and efficient mini split unit will keep the space at a comfortable 68 degrees – just right for manual work. Perhaps I’ll throw a few pieces of scrap lumber in the wood stove, for additional warmth.

Yes, I’m feeling the need for speed – and something a bit faster than the gorgeous scooter I scoped out on the way to breakfast with Nan at the Model Bakery in Saint Helena two mornings ago.

And yet, what I desire, and hope the competent crew I’ve hired to maintain as well, over the next few months, is a full work load without the negative stress that often attends such enterprises. Yes, I want things to move – no dilly dallying. But I hope the guys look back on this project fondly, and recall an owner/GC who didn’t overly exude frustration or annoyance.

Just yesterday, I was speaking with Joe, my studio’s framer, who tried to articulate how he and his well-seasoned team of builders work together. I’d just told him that the project’s designer, John Hockman, of Prospect Builders, had told me via text – I was out of town – that the framers were “really competent, a rare thing these days” when Joe smiled and struggled to explain the enjoyment of working with a small team of guys who not only know their stuff inside and out, but know each other, too.

I provided a metaphor: “It’s like you’ve been in a band together for years – you know your instruments, know how each other plays, know the music…”

Joe immediately laughed and said, “yes! It’s just like that!” With the exception of a couple of guys who, though competent builders themselves, haven’t worked with the team before, Joe’s crew is kind of like the original members of Genesis or some such. (I’m sure it sounded like a band full of Phil Collins-on-the-drums last weekend, with all the nail pounding).

Speaking of last weekend and alluded to already, my wife, Nan, and I traveled to Napa Valley, CA and stayed with our friends Erin and Jess in the beautiful town of Saint Helena.

Saturday’s agenda, already recorded in word and picture on my last post, was to drive to the Pacific coast and back. To explore. To see what we might sea. And what we saw will remain with me for a long time. Surf vs rugged shoreline. Like a National Geographic version of the movie 300, wave after indefatigable wave amassed itself and let loose a tremendous, violent volley against the rocks – rocks yours truly and Jess were standing or sitting upon, as if we were in a crowded movie theater and had to take the front row.

Only this seemed like a private showing, and we wanted to get as close to the action as we safely could. For whatever reason, in perhaps the most crowded state in the union, we were nearly the only people for miles around witnessing the epic, timeless battle. To me, the sliver in time seemed pregnant with meaning. It seemed holy. Like we were witnessing the birth of new worlds. Something new, it seemed, just had to spring forth from all the kinetic energy.

Back in Saint Helena that night, we sat under the heaters at Gott’s and chowed on baja fish tacos, burgers, and onion rings. Good food, and I’m not sure who designed the space, but every detail had thoughtful touches.

Speaking of thoughtful touches, next day, we took two tours. Erin showed us where she’s been working, Nimbus Arts, and I snapped pics (as I always do in such creative workspaces) of this and that. Most of my pics from the tour are of things like the slop sinks and the underside of the nice communal workbenches. I’ll spare you those. Clues on how to build or buy something similar for my new studio.

The second tour was of Jess’ lovely workspace, right across the street from Erin’s, and largely out-of-doors. Jess is the farm manager for Long Meadow Ranch, which has a restaurant, Farmstead, a winery, and soon, a small resort. We ate fresh figs, pomegranates, and strawberries. Such flavors. Jess explained just a tiny fraction of his evident, deep knowledge and love of the art and craft of farming (and animal husbandry).

Next, we attended an intimate concert at the White Barn featuring the excellent Bay Area classical guitarist Joe Galambos.

That night, after Jess and I attached short sections of PVC pipe to his Garlic Dibbler, which both spaces garlic and shallots and, we hoped, would create an adequately deep hole to plant a plethora of cloves on Monday, we walked from Jess and Erin’s to LMR’s Farmstead restaurant for a late night repast.

Full stomachs, full hearts, full days.

Not to be outdone by the weekend, on Monday, before Nan and I flew home to Colorado, we spent some time, along with Erin, visiting Nimbus Arts again, this time to meet some of Erin’s co-workers, including Executive Director Jamie Graff and Financial + Administrative Manager Mary Miriglio (below, on the left). Swell people, commensurate program at Nimbus.

Next, we headed south, past seemingly endless fields and rolling hills of grape vines, to visit two Napa Valley artists. The first studio visit was with Gordon Huether, who has an amazing, large facility where he and his team of app. eight full time employees create and manage diverse art projects, primarily pubic. In the early stages of a public art project myself, I peppered Gordon with questions and gleaned everything I could, and am grateful for the opportunity and his willingness to set a heavy work load aside to speak with us and give us a tour. So great to meet Gordon’s daughter and Erin’s friend, Erika, as well (last pic in the following grouping, with Erin and Nan).

Currently, Gordon and his team are juggling a number of projects, the largest of which will cover thousands of linear feet of the Salt Lake International Airport.

3D renderings of a couple portions of the huge project, scheduled for completion in 2020. courtesy Gordon Huether Studio

I hope to see it in person someday, as well as hope to make it back to the Gordon Huether Studio, a.k.a. “the Hay Barn”. To think that this was all birthed out of the bounty of one man’s creativity…

Finally, hearts already full to bursting like a ripe pomegranate (mmm – so good) from the lovely weekend, Erin, Nan, and I dined with our new friend Hossain Amjadi, a long-time sculptor originally from Iran who resides in Sonoma with his wife of Turkish descent, Betül, and their two sons. Hossain brought along a bottle of expensive wine provided by an art collector of his and it went down as had the weekend – smoothly, unhurriedly, yet fully, and with gratefulness. Afterward, having said goodbye to Erin, Nan and I followed Hossain to his home, studio, and sculpture garden, and again I did my best to absorb all the information I was receiving from a wonderful man and artist – accomplished in a wide variety of media from wood to bronze to concrete to steel. Changes to my new studio as well as my pricing have already taken place in my head thanks to our conversation. (For one: maybe I ought to learn how to make Turkish coffee? Thanks again for that, Betül!)

(Meanwhile, back on the farm, Jess and his team planted 13,600 garlic/shallot cloves equalling 1700 bed feet – their target was 1600 – with drip tape and 4″ of straw mulch, thanks in part to Garlic Dibbler 2.0. I’m already hard at work in my head for 3.0.)

There are seasons, like the one we’ll be in in short order, when house and home matters dominate my consciousness, and typically relegate working on anything new in the studio to a more subservient status.

However, this go ’round, I’m hoping to be an endurance runner for the foreseeable future; not running flat out, but definitely putting one foot in front of the other. That’s in part why I’m trying to get in shape: I’ll need it for the long haul.

It was nice to get a momentary break and spend a weekend away from my projects (while getting periodic updates of the studio build from a couple local “spies” – thanks, Phil and Geoffrey):

So nice to spend some quality time with Erin and Jess, and to begin to get to know an area of the world we’d only heard tell about, but never witnessed firsthand.

Again, we hope to return – hope, Erin and Jess, to be thrust back into your your bounteous, full life 😉

If only to build on the rapport we’ve begun to establish with your two cats, Lenny and Dax (below).