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. 

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. 

Visit with family of Catherine Bastian - Dubuque area "ham can" grotto artist

A few weeks ago on my way driving back from a bathtub-grotto demonstration at the Antique Spectacular Show in Cedar Falls I spotted a stunning construction on the front lawn of an old farm house of Highway 20 while passing through the tiny town of Earlville, Iowa. Somehow I had driven past this house countless times over the past 5 years or so and never noticed it until now. I left a note in the mailbox asking for more information about the grotto and eventually received calls back from the creator's niece and nephew.  They informed me that their aunt Catherine had created 7 large grottoes like the one I saw in addition to 900 small grottoes made from cans of ham!  This was thrilling news to me because I had purchased a ham-can grotto from Goodwill years ago and despite my best efforts had been unable to find any clues about it's origins. In fact, the little grotto was a major catalyst for my project in the first place, and helped me to connect with my project partner, Tracy, who also owned a ham can grotto. (note: I have been unable to find any of the additional large grottoes, and they may not still be in existence. ) I hope to follow up with the family and potentially do a filmed interview.

Bathtub Updates!

It's probably about time that I've made a proper update about the progress of the bathtub grottoes.

Through my connection with Danielle Stowell, director of DubuqueFest (our annual art festival in which we will be creating bathtub grottoes live with the public this May) I was connected withTim Hitzler, who is a teacher at a local alternative high school and a reclaimed woodworker. He also happens to be my neighbor, which is pretty darn convenient.

Tim has been helping me by creating wooden stands for the bathtubs and allowing me to use his studio space. We are going to create 3 bathtub grottoes altogether. I plan to complete 1 grotto before DubuqueFest and working on the other two with the help of the public during DubuqueFest. (I'm also planning on doing a grotto demo and donation collection during an Antique Market next month- more details to come!)

After DubuqueFest, the grottoes will stay in the public park for another month or so and then hopefully eventually be moved to local community gardens to be enjoyed by everyone for years to come! I've been getting some pretty amazing donations of items for the grottoes and have also purchased some things from antique stores, flea markets, and thrift shops. This grotto falls somewhere in between a true grotto and a mosaic-  the items have to be fairly light. I'm been lucky enough to get a hold of quite a few Dubuque and tri-state pinback buttons to infuse the bathtubs with as much regional flavor as I can.


My PechaKucha presentation "Rock Solid Dreams"

I did a PechaKucha presentation about my project a few months ago called "Rock Solid Dreams". If you aren't familiar with PechaKucha, it is basically a presentation format that restricts you to twenty slides and 20 seconds to talk about each side. It's amazing how it forces you to be concise!  I did this presentation before I knew where the bathtubs were going to go-I was actually feeling a little lost about the project at the time, but I'm so glad I went ahead with the presentation because I made some important connections there. If you're curious about the origins and inspiration for this project I explain it all here. Some of the slides are missing from the middle here unfortunately but they do come back.


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.