Dubuque Democratic Socialist Free School Grotto-Planter Demonstration

Photos from a recent demonstration/workshop at the Dubuque Democratic Socialist Free School at Prescott Elementary in Dubuque. I brought in some old light fixtures rescued by Key City Creative Center, and some awesome kids (especially Iris!) helped me turn these into grotto-inspired planters. 

Grotto-inspired Collage // postcard set

I made these back in the spring. I don't have a purpose for them yet, just getting back into making 2-d collage. Could be a nice postcard set?

Bathtub grotto updates

Doing some major catching up here! I finally have a real studio space at Dubuque's new maker space, Key City Creative Center , and while major life changes have gotten in the way of me being able to put in major time (yet), I have been able to make a good chunk of progress on some of the tubs. I also recently sold one to The Smokestack in Dubuque which is on display in their new "pocket garden". The interior of the tub still needs to be finished, and as per request of the owners, I will be filling the interior with broken mirror pieces, and pennies will cover the archway of the tub. 

Antique Spectacular Show & Bathtub Grotto Demo in Cedar Falls

Last month I was invited to do a small bathtub-grotto demonstration at the Antique Spectacular show in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It was a 3 day event.  I spent some time exploring the antiques in addition to working on the tub, and I scored some cool Iowa-themed items.

This was my first time doing this live and in front of people which was an interesting experience that came with it's own challenges (mortar dries quickly when you're chatting!). Next time I'll be sure to wrangle some dedicated assistants. The entire week prior to the show - usually last minute preparation crunch time - I found myself suddenly preoccupied with taking an unexpected college course in construction to prepare for my next job in stained glass restoration - completely exciting opportunity but timing was definitely a challenge to prepare properly for this event.

Despite those challenges I did have many enlightening and informative conversations- it was encouraging to meet other artists who were supportive of what I am trying to do. Lots of people asked me what material I use to adhere the items to the bathtubs- hopefully to make their own!- I am using Polymer Modified Mortar which I buy at Menards.

note: this grotto is not finished!

Grotto-inspired "sculptures"

These past few months I've been experimenting with making some grotto-inspired sculptures- or as I prefer to call them- '3D collages' with various materials in my home studio. So far, my favorite thing to use is paper mache clay. It's really amazing how strong mulched paper is! I have a lot of pieces in various stages of progression right now. I seem to be unable to work on one piece at a time....One of my goals for this year is to have proper studio space outside of my home. Art has a way of taking up incredible amounts of space! My other goal is to start connecting with galleries.


Bathtub progress

Traditionally one would bury a bathtub halfway into the ground before transforming it into a shrine and it would stay in same location permanently. Since our bathtubs grottoes will be moving to a second location after they are transformed, we are building sturdy wooden stands for the tubs so they can be moved without any major excavation. Thankfully I found a local woodworker, Tim Hitzler of Dubuque Reclaimed Woodworks, who was ready to take on the task of building wooden standsto help with the project. On New Years Day my friend Jeff Downs lopped off the end of the first bathtub to make it easier to install onto the wooden base. I took a time-lapse of the bathtub chop.


Madeline Buol Grotto

My mind is totally blown by Dubuque grotto-maker Madeline Buol's work which I just discovered back in October while researching online (I've never heard anyone in Dubuque mention her). Previously located on Garfield St in Dubuque, the works are currently part of collection of The Kohler Foundation in Wisconsin. Discoveries like these are part of the reason I embarked on this project. Amazing and inspiring.

You can read more about the preservation of site here. And see more pictures on my site Grotto Sites page here.