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!

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.


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.