Virgin Mary grotto, hot tub, and hut in Eagle River, WI

This past summer I was very lucky to have encountered the beautiful work of Debra Ketchum Jircik and her husband Greg Jircik on their property in Eagle River, WI. They were inspired by Howard Finster, Fred Smith, and other folk and outsider artists. Debra is a native of Milwaukee and has worked in a variety of mediums throughout her artistic career. Her current creative focus is in paper making and her practice reflects her interest in minimizing her environmental impact.  You can find out more about her and view her work on her website circleoflifestudio.com

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 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.


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.