It’s was Sunday of the Memorial Day Weekend and there were a lot of events going on but the biggest celebrations were to honor the 75th birthday of the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the events planned was a performance by the Golden Gate Brass Band using actual pieces of the bridge as percussion instruments for their performance of ”A Concert Overture for Brass, Steel Girders and Suspension Cables.” The culmination of the birthday celebration was a huge firework display on the bridge and nearby barges that evening during which time the bridge would be closed to cars, cyclists and pedestrians. Our trip was to Point Reyes, where the Open Studios Weekend is taking place Saturday through Monday, so we left really early to avoid delays.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
The journey went smoothly and at 7 am we crossed the iconic bridge and she looked beautiful. We never cease to be awed and amazed by it and of the view from it of the bay, the city, Acaltraz and Angel Islands and the scenery all around. We stopped in San Anselemo for breakfast and arrived in Olema at 9 am. None of the studios opened until 11 am so we had a couple of hours to spare. To kill time we we drove along the west side of Tomales Bay to Inverness where we stopped to check on the old boat called Point Reyes which has been stuck in a mudbank for many years. Slowly over the years we have watched it disintegrate. On this trip we couldn’t cross the little creek to get close to it because the water was too deep and the path extremely muddy but Tom stayed on the other side and spent 45 minutes taking photos of the boat.
To idle away another hour we sat in the Blackbird Cafe in Inverness, Tom with a cup of coffee and me with a hot chocolate. We found a copy of the brochure detailing all the open studios, the artists names and addresses and a brief description of their expertise. When we we headed back to the car I spotted a man carrying bagpipes walking towards the shore. Before long he started up his instrument and gave an impromptu concert to Tomales Bay and we stood and listened for a while. He was such an unexpected sight and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his playing.
Just after 11 we set off to our first open studio, which just happened to be a short drive from Inverness. We took a right off Sir Francis Drake Blvd and drove up a steep, narrow, private road to the studio of Bruce Mitchell who is a wood carver extraordinaire. Even though it was only a few minutes after 11, there were already two other cars there. His studio is a barnlike structure with a display inside of some of his smaller carvings. Outside were a few of his much larger pieces of works, one of which is weathering nicely to a pleasant silvery color. Bruce himself was busy talking to one of the other visitors but Tom and I were happy to walk around and admire his work. On the wall was a certificate announcing that one of his works was on permanent loan to the Smithsonian. When I got home I checked online and, in fact, he has two pieces on permanent loan to the American Art Museum. He had a couple of black pieces which interested me. I did have an opportunity to ask Bruce about them and he told me they had been spray painted. There is just something about wood, especially smooth wood with an interesting grain, which demands to be touched.
Our next stop was at the home of the husband and wife team of Richard Blair and Kathleen Goodwin. To get to them we had to return to the main road and take another right onto Drake’s View. This time we had to drive further up the hill and Tomales Bay looked a long way below us. When we parked the car we were met by two dogs; a very friendly retriever and a young German Shepherd. They seemed to know where we wanted to go and led us to the door of the studio. Then the German Shepherd turned to growl at the retriever. I opened the door a little way to ask if it was OK for the dogs to come in. Kathleen met us at the door and said that only the German Shepherd lived there but the retriever lived down the road and always ate their dog’s food so it wasn’t allowed to come in. No wonder she growled at the other dog!
Richard and Kathleen are both photographers and have many photographs on display and prints for sale. Most of their photographs have been taken in and around Point Reyes but there are some from further afield from places like Africa, England, Bali and New York. There werea couple I particularly liked – one taken by Kathleen of a group of men in a bus shelter in Aylsham, England and one by Richard taken in a railway station waiting room in New York. Kathleen is also a painter of watercolors and I loved some of her very simple landscape prints. As well as a studio, it is Richard and Kathleen’s home. We were the first visitors of the day and were able to chat with both of them individually. Tom and Richard spent quite a bit of time talking about photography while I checked out all the prints displayed in bins and which were for sale and some of their books on a table. The books I found fascinating as they were a collaboration of their photographic work and writing. We bought one of the books called ‘Point Reyes Visions’ and they both signed it for us. I happened to glance out of one of the windows into a courtyard and saw a bird feeder. On it was a beautiful, sparrow like bird I’d never seen before so I asked Kathleen what it was and she told me it was a spotted Towhee. More visitors arrived so we took our leave.
Pelican Studio was our next destination, which was further down Drake’s View. Colorful flags led us to Katherine Williams studio and home. The front door was really unusual and I just wish we had taken a photo of it. Inside Katherine welcomed us into her beautiful home with stunning views over the Olema Valley. Katherine is a charming lady and we had an interesting conversation with her not onlyabout her photography but other ventures she has undertaken, including printing for other artists. According to the card she gave me, Pelican Studio also designs websites. We wandered around looking at some of her nature photos displayed on easels and really liked a lot of them but one caught our eye and we bought a cute print of three quail sitting in a bush for $25.
The next studio, which was right around the corner from Katherine, was the home of Gary Smith. An usual brick path led us to the front door where the soft spoken Gary Smith greeted us. The brochure told us that Gary specializes in prints, pastels and silverpoints. I had no idea about silverpoint and asked Gary what it was. He not only told us and showed us examples of his work but he also demonstrated the technique. In a nutshell, it is creating a picture using special coated paper and a pencil like implement where, instead of graphite, silver wire is used. The effect is soft and ethereal. Using this method he has produced a lot of almost surreal landscapes. We bought three cards for $7 but I knew it would be hard to ever use them. From the window I admired his garden and he took us it onto his deck. Looking down from the deck we could see more curvy brick paths, interesting plants and trees. It was all very colorful. Gary told us that he built the house and landscaped the garden himself 25 years ago.
Time was getting on and we wanted to visit Point Reyes Station. It was by now the middle of the afternoon and parking was at a premium. We wanted to visit Marty Knapp‘s studio on 3rd Street and were fortunate to find a parking spot nearby. We were right on the edge of Point Reyes Station looking out over meadows. Tom spotted an interesting barn and wanted to take some photographs. A footpath beckoned us to venture across the meadow and we gladly set out. The footpath led to other footpaths which criss-crossed the meadow. One day we must return and explore them. The barn is impressive and we wandered around it. I spotted an information board and headed to it and read that the land used to be wetlands but back in the 1940′s levees were built and the land became a dairy farm. The Giacomini family owned a lot of land in the area and this section was called in Waldo Giacomini Rance. In 2000 the National Park Service bought the land and the Giacomini Wetlands Restoration Project began to reclaim the wetlands by breeching the levees. The project has been a success and the number of waterbird species have increased dramatically. It is now a beautiful unspoilt area at the southern end of Tomales Bay.
We walked back to Marty Knapp’s studio. He used to have a studio in Olema and then he moved to the eastern side of Point Reyes but now his studio is on 3rd Street just a couple of blocks from his gallery in the middle of Point Reyes Station. Marty specializes in black and white photography and we often visit his shop to check out what is new. On this occasion we didn’t get much of a chance to see too much in his studio because it was so crowded we could hardly move around at all. So we called it a day but before we drove home we visited The Grand Show in the gallery at the back of Toby’s Feed Barn on Highway 1 where a piece of work from each of the 21 artists taking part in this weekend was displayed.
Time to drive home but we took the precaution of avoiding the Golden Gate Bridge, because of the celebrations which were taking place, and went via the Richmond Bridge and 880. The end of another perfect day.
June 13 2012 06:00 am | Special Places