Art from Ashes
Monument to the courage of thousands
For the past year, I've been on a journey and a mission. A bit of history: My husband and I, with our two little dogs, were among the thousands evacuated during the 2021 Calfor Fire in California. We were very lucky to have had a friend's empty house available to us in nearby Sacramento. As a former journalist and weekly blogger, I was focused on that fire – checking in with authorities from fire and law enforcement agencies and nonprofits providing services. After more than three weeks in exile, we got word it was safe to return home. We packed up and headed up the hill. We first walked around our property and intact home. Black embers the size of walnuts were scattered on the ground and atop the roof of our house. Indoors we discovered our reasonably new refrigerator was oozing a viscous black porridge onto the floor. We muscled it outdoors and called a trash hauler. But compared to so many people in the fire zone, we had it good.
I have two uncontrollable passions – writing and sculpting. I committed myself to create a bronze monument of gratitude – a forever work of art that will last for centuries through fire, weather, and time. The result is a set of panels that depict organizations and people who contributed to the firefight. I've included fire agencies, law enforcement, and community volunteers in four images. When assembled, it will be about six feet tall - two-sided panels atop a base, in a public location where people can remember and honor heroes of the Caldor Fire. The images are first done in oil-based clay in 'relief' on sturdy boards. Over the past year, I've worked in my little backyard "Art Shed" until Mother Nature hit us with rain and snow and freezing temps. Then, I moved my operation indoors and took over the kitchen island. (I'm very lucky to have a husband who tolerates little globs of clay stuck on the floor and tools stacked where flowers and a basket of fruit belong).
The next step in the process is making a mold of each image. This job requires expertise and patience, and gallons of a urethane mix that we brush and pour over the two-dimensional artwork. Again – I got lucky to have an old friend and professional mold maker nearby who helps me be successful with this complicated process. Once the mold hardens, we have a negative image of the clay relief. Then, special wax is melted to just the right temperature, and we pour it into each mold – making yet another positive image. We go after any imperfections in the wax with heat and tools and a great deal of patience. When that's all accomplished – I'm transporting the waxes to a bronze foundry where yet another labor-intensive (and expensive) process takes place. If you're interested, you can check out details about this ancient casting process on my website.
I found a home for the monument at a historic and fabulous restaurant on the main street of our nearest little town. Owners of the 50 Grand Restaurant (who suffered many losses as the pandemic forced extended closures) will place the Caldor Tribute on the town's main thoroughfare – one that used to carry the Pony Express to western destinations. It's on a tourist route to famed Lake Tahoe, near popular recreational areas, and, well, a perfect site for generations to remember, learn, and honor.
Though I'm not finished yet, I've had the satisfaction of looking back over the past year with a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude. Gratitude for help, interest, support, and for time. Thankful that I'm at a point in my life when I can dedicate months of working the art and tolerating the need to raise money to cast the monument. The foundry is by far the biggest cost. (Thanking PG&E Company for a grant to put a dent in that bill). The project has also put me in touch with human kindness. It's brought childhood friends out of the shadows. Introduced me to many good and generous people in my community. Given me a vision of completing something of value I can proudly endow to the future.
Why am I telling you this? I think it's because I'm finally on the downhill side of the biggest project I'll ever take on. And I'm sensing that freedom from this self-imposed commitment is just a few months down the line. I'm relishing more free time to write. To do art projects with my grandkids and roam the forest. And to create more sculptures for the pure joy of doing the work.
The images you see are from the panels in clay – asking you to think of them being encased in beautiful bronze for generations – as a reminder of the power of nature and of humankind to rise from the ashes.
Thanks for spending time with me. And if you’d like to grab a free eBook mystery, you can do that HERE - my 4.5+ Star cozy mystery - the Song of Jackass Creek, is among them. I’m hoping you have an enjoyable week ahead and personal Valentines to love!
You can read more about the Caldor Tribute HERE. And I’m gathering donations HERE -
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