Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pick Me UP Bags

Just in time for the holidays and the King Tides and the high-season for plastic, we are thrilled to be in receipt of our Pick Me UP Bags. Flown-in and delivered in-person, by our friend Doug Woodring from Hong Kong.

They are available now — order on line and coming soon to vendors in California.

Judith was sorry to have missed Doug's visit. She made a quick stop at Kehoe Beach to check on the status of the plastic before heading to the closing reception of Commons Dilemma at Gallery Route One. Gravitational moon sway makes it the season for the lowest of the low tides and the highest of high tides of the year. And the low did not disappoint. 

Plus there was plenty of plastic in eye-catching complementary color arrangements:

At Gallery Route One The Ostrich Feather Wedding Dress Project was organized by Lorna Stevens and Joanne Easton in conjunction with their exhibit Commons Dilemma. Research into the history of the ostrich and use of their feathers are adornment led them to acquire on E-Bay an ostrich feather wedding dress. They were fascinated by this gown and offered it as a launch point for a group project. Each artist borrowed the dress for one week and created an art work in response.

Judith writes: 
When I think about the journey of my snarl of rope — from the Pacific Ocean to Kehoe Beach to the wall at Gallery Route One — to see that "mess" presented in a formal setting — I really have to smile. When I think about the transgressive gesture of posing trash as treasure, I was delighted to see that alongside the remarkable offerings of my esteemed colleagues, it held its own.

As "found art" my contribution titled What goes round  was doubly found — it was first found on Kehoe Beach, then in response to Lorna and Jo's request, found again in our welter of ropes and piles of fishing nets. In my studio, to reference the ostrich feather cowl on the wedding dress, I arranged the ready-made rope into a cowl and added it to the history, origins and definitions of found art, objet trouvĂ©, assemblage and all manner of trash into treasure — from Duchamp's Fountain and the combines of Rauschenberg to the recent phenomena of upcycled Trashion fashion shows.

From a distance the oval snarl of unraveling rope and derelict fishing gear looks like a flurry of feathers and is an inspired response to the ruff of feathers on the wedding dress. As distinctive and luxurious gift from the sea it is also a reminder of the problem of commercial overfishing, by-catch and whale entanglement. Buffeted by wind and surf, much of its beauty is the result of natural forces, plus there is mystique of its odyssey from ocean to beach.

Wearing a piece of beach plastic as jewelry becomes a talking point, a statement of fashion, about what is happening on the beach and in the ocean. Crafting the debris into fine-art-wear as jewelry and garments has become an important part of my art practice. While the content of my work has a message about the spoiling of the natural world by the human/industrial world, my intent is to transform the perils of pollution into something beautiful and celebratory. By putting a little fun and fashion into the conservation conversation, I hope that the value of detritus will increase. Soon everyone will be out at the beach “shopping” for a special piece of plastic trash or will be eager to “mine” the North Pacific Gyre for plastic treasures. Then, we get some great things to wear and to look at, plus we get a clean and healthy sea.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Perfection of the Imperfect

One of the qualities that describes the plastic we collect from the beach is Wabi-Sabi. It's one of those Japanese terms that has entered the English vernacular. It points to impermanence, the visual referencing of the imperfect, the ever-changing nature of time itself. When something is exposed to the forces of nature, it changes and time itself is made visible. Even though plastic seems to last forever, when it washes out of the ocean and on to the beach it often has acquired the patina of wabi sabi—the sand-rubbed surface and the accretion of tiny life forms like Bryozoans. 

We appreciate the imperfections and use the dings and abrasions in our aesthetic arrangements. Think shabby chic. 

At home we collect what we call "house plastic" the small bits and pieces of plastic, from bread enclosures to twist ties to pull-tabs, that are unavoidable in our daily lives. This collecting keeps us mindful of the many, almost invisible ways, that plastic has inserted itself into our every day. As the plastic lids from coffee cans stacked up, we were shocked at how many we had. We realized that there were packaging alternatives that did not include plastic. We now buy our coffee in a paper bag. Although this might seem to be an insignificant change, over time it really does make a difference. Just count it up. One can of coffee every two weeks. That is a lot of coffee and 104 plastic lids per year!  

Monday, November 21, 2016

The future and the past

Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging; 
You are not those who saw the harbour 
Receding, or those who will disembark. 
Here between the hither and the farther shore 
While time is withdrawn, consider the future 
And the past with an equal mind. 

TS Eliot

A reminder of where we have come from and how far we have gone.
When we were describing the journey to Kehoe Beach someone asked - 
how far do you go?
We replied, we go all the way to the end.

Suffering a week of post-election blues, we were glad to have a Yohana Junker and Devin Zuber's Ecology, Spirituality and the Arts class from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley come to visit our home/studio and go for a walk on Kehoe Beach.

It was a welcome respite from our dismay. Maybe we haven't navigated all the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but as this monster-movie of a Trump administration shapes itself, we awake to the existential reality of a life vs. death struggle. We've become increasingly aware that the sixth stage for us is an awakening to the reality that a fight to the death is our new reality. "Winter is coming," as they say on Game of Thrones. Maybe it's more like, "Summer is coming." A very hot summer.

During the Viet Nam War era as Richard was being counseled to prepare a conscientious objector application he was asked: "Is there anything you would be willing to fight and die for?" This is just at the moment when he'd seen Earthrise, that quintessential photograph of the 20th Century of the earth floating in vast space. "Yes, I would fight for this loveliest of planets." There was no question about it. Although he did not get CO status, he did begin this life-long battle for what is right for the planet. 

As we are reflecting on the Obama presidency and are anticipating the Trump presidency we are counseled by Eliot to consider the future and the past with equal mind. Sage advice for sure - but this does not make it any easier when the appointment of the new director of the EPA is someone who disdains environmental regulation. As we stand on the verge of the known and unknown we strengthen our resolve. Although there are soooo many issues that need attention but as the saying goes we can't boil the ocean — we will continue to focus on what we, two people, on one beach, can do and make artwork that WAKES US UP! 

Apropos of the theme of the waking up on the journey we dipped into Dante's Inferno with a quick read of Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders' translation. Published by Electric Works, our business in San Francisco.

About half-way through my pathetic life, 
I woke up and found myself in a stupor in some dark place.
I am not sure how I got there; I guess I had taken a few wrong turns.

Show and tell in the studio:

Some serious explaining
Some serious mansplaining

As we walked along Kehoe Beach picking up plastic (we were relieved that there was plenty) there was plenty to think about and talk about — big questions about the state of affairs and the state of the environment. We were glad to be able to show nurdles in situ plus Devin found a tiparillo tip and Judith found a Handi-snack cheese spreader. Joy found the prize of the day a bright red star. Red star….hmmmm….A sign the Russian bear is slouching toward Bethlehem? 

We were touched that the students were interested in our devotion to a place as a kind of religious practice and were happy to be able to share our ritual of "stoop yoga" — bending over and picking up. The stimulating conversations along with the invigorating brisk ocean breeze, made us feel so much better. 

At the end of the day, but certainly not the end of the journey, we turned again to Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

Thanks to Joy Barnitz for her photos:

Thanks to Doug Stinson for his photos:

Monday, November 14, 2016

How to explain to children?

We are reeling from the news of Trump's ascendency to power and about the possible end of the EPA and the cancelation of US participation in the Paris Accords, for starters. As we face our growing feelings of anger about what happened on Election Day, we are looking for ways to harness that energy towards taking actions that will have a positive impact on the issues near and dear to our hearts. Anti-environmentalists argue that dire predictions made that first Earth Day, 1970 never came true. Fact is — they didn’t come true because the legislation prevented many, many environmental disasters. How hard is it to realize—no air, no water, no life? 

This election is touching us at a personal and existential level. Our granddaughter is often in tears. Judith's sister, a school administrator in San Diego is having to devote much of her time to helping her elementary school students (largely Hispanic) deal with "why does the new president hate us so much."

Last evening while driving home, Judith caught a segment of Terry Gross' interview with David Bianculli. He has been a TV critic for 40 years so he has seen a lot of TV in his day.
He says his most favorite clip of all time, of all time! is one with Mister Rogers who, after the assignation of Robert Kennedy, did a special segment.

You can listen live (1.5 mins in) or read the transcript:

BIANCULLI: Yeah. It's unbelievable to me that - that Fred Rogers would be so sensitive that he would think that even preschoolers would be part of the family dynamic where everybody was upset. And, you know, maybe parents wouldn't bother to explain anything to kids that young. But Fred Rogers thought they needed it. But that's just so unexpected to me, and I can't imagine any children's television program today daring to do that.

This morning we Googled the question, how to explain environmental issues to young children? As you might imagine there numerous articles and websites that try to give answers.

This article from the Oxford Journals gave some helpful insights.
And this from Global Citizen:

Here is how Lakeside Art School, a pre-school in San Francisco used our artwork to inspire their lessons:

On November 3 in Hong Kong for Kids Ocean Day, over 800 school children spelled out Stop Trashzilla on the beach at Repulse Bay. This day of action is intended to educate youth about the problem of everyday trash and litter and its impact on the ocean. Kudos to Doug Woodring and the Ocean Recovery Alliance for organizing a day with a message those kids will never forget.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Rigged Election?

Back in the early 2000's the idea of a blog was just whiff in the virtual air. We didn't set sail on the good ship with our blog until 2005. It would have made a good post in 2002 when we found a battered ballot box lid on Kehoe Beach. We were still raw (and still are) from W's suspect ascendancy to the White House. So, when found a battered ballot box lid on Kehoe, instead of a blog post we created the Cast Your Vote Away poster. We'd suffered the debacle of the 2000 election. Disaster! We'd gone through the election of a president by a right wing dominated Supreme Court. Would Al Gore have gone to Iraq? Would 9/11 have even happened? Would we even be talking as if Climate Change were a hoax perpetrated by the Politburo in Beijing? T.S. Eliot has a thing or two to say in The Four Quartets:

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                                   But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

So as we approach this 2016 hog trough of an election, and "Voter Fraud" is an internet meme, we reprise our adventure brought to you by a local news source SFist.

The story about the ballot box lid we found washed up onto Kehoe Beach in 2001 is in the news today in the SFist.  As evidence of a rigged election it is remembered as one of the greatest San Francisco voter fraud cases.

San Francisco Chronicle January 7, 2002 Scavenged Ballot Box Lids haunt SF Elections

Arts and Healing Network 2004 Arts and the Vote

And in case you were wondering:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

You've never been there?

Although we officially married on May 14, 2004 we count November 5,1999 (our first date) as our anniversary. It was love at first sight and today we still feel the giddiness of infatuation.


“You’ve never been there?” Richard asks. We were looking at a group of photos of a beach spread on the conference table at Electric Works, Richard’s fine art print and book publishing shop. Judith had come to get an estimate on a book project. Richard's speech bubble says, “I’ll take you there", (thought balloon reads, “I’ll take you there, baby"). "Let's meet at my studio and we’ll go out to the National Seashore — Point Reyes." 

The place in the pictures was Kehoe Beach showing the headlands in full spring blossoming—lupins, tidy tips and poppies made the green bluffs into a magic Turkish carpet, florid and extravagant. In the pictures, the broken rain clouds scudded toward the sharp ledge of the Pacific horizon like galleons, sails set, balloons of cotton. 

Really? at this age, with all that water under the bridge? A date? 

November 5, 1999. It was not a day like in the pictures. It was early fall and the gold grass of summer had given way to brown broke-down stalks subsiding back to dirt. It can be a gloomy time of dead plants and the migratory hawks have moved on. But as we drove out to the Kehoe trailhead the clouds from the first autumn rain evaporated to make a bright day, a hard turquoise dome. We crunched along the trail to the beach rimming a marsh full of Tule Reeds and Cattails summer dust washed away—freshened up. It was a super low tide and the beach doubled its real estate—wide and flat, the waves relaxed into a shinning sky mirror. Sea air, fresh breeze, expansive and expansive to the mind though we were both with more than a hint of first-date-wobbliness, long single and at the fifty something mark…start this again?

State the territory: Who are you? We get talking about our art, both committed to it for thirty years. Judith picks up a piece of plastic. “You collect plastic? Not sea glass, plastic, really?" "You gonna keep that?" We discover we’d both been collecting plastic for three years before this (cue trumpets) appointment with destiny.

What are the chances? The plastic debris has a certain charm, worn to a wabi-sabi asymmetry and patinaed from a tumble in surf and sand. Plastic. Yes, we both had the collector’s penchant for picking up plastic with a curatorial disposition toward both the seldom seen and objects by their sheer number lending a giddy lust for finding.

And now on the beach, years later, still picking eroded chunks of a profligate culture out of the surf line. It’s the fall of 2016. After over 70 exhibits of prints and sculptures made of the stuff, we are still at it. Although we have gotten older (and wiser?) we are still able to bend to the task of finding in the welter of seaweed, shells and driftwood maybe a toy soldier, maybe a doll part, for sure a cigarillo tip chewed and tossed into the sea carrying the dental evidence of a worried thought. Always, a shotgun sabot. We still thrill at the find and, "Yes, yes, yes, I'm gonna keep that!!!"

Friday, October 28, 2016

Blue Marble

Rain and wind has been roiling in from the West - this blessed change in the season means much needed refreshment for our garden and the possibility of plastic washing in from the North Pacific Gyre. Although it was late in the day, we realized it was time to head to Kehoe Beach.

We have had a busy Fall with a wonderful trip East. Along with visiting Richard's daughter Amelia in Brooklyn and Judith meeting with old friends from college in Tarrytown, a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was tops on our NYC list. The opportunity to see up close and in person the Fayum portraits what we had only seen in photographs we hoped would help us understand how the artists 1st - 3rd century AD accomplished the startlingly realistic portraits. It was revelation to see the originals and marvel at the skill and imagine the patience required to accomplish these paintings. 

This week the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library that hosts 450+billion webpages, brainchild of Brewster Kahle, celebrated its 20th anniversary with grand celebration. D.J.Spooky dazzled the crowd with a mega-mix of visuals and sounds.

In the sanctuary while waiting for  the program to begin we struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us who "out of the blue" gifted us each a blue marble. Wallace J. Nichols started this "This global, slow motion art project that is passing a blue marble through every hand on Earth as a simple symbol of peace, gratitude and health."

First find of the day- a plastic turtle headed ashore- instead of eggs this plastic turtle was accompanied by a wave of nurdles. Hummmm- reminds that along with his Blue Marble project Nichols supports sea turtle conservation organizations that work to protect sea turtle hatchlings.

We better take this plastic hatchling home to our collection where it can serve as our spokesperson for the deleterious effects of plastic on sea turtle populations. 

And thinking blue - at dusk Richard's head dazzling with dew.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Where's the remote?

It was picture perfect on the Bay - perfect for Coastal Clean Up Day where some 900 volunteers turned out in Marin and an estimated 800,000 people worldwide joined forces to remove garbage from creeks, marshes, waterways, rivers, and beaches. Coastal Clean Up Day is billed as the biggest volunteer effort on the planet. And the amount of trash collected is staggering. The tally to date in Marin is 10,800 pounds and counting. The global total is expected to exceed 18 million pounds.

Where's the remote? was the question of the day as we invited people to sit and enjoy the 24/7 programming on our TV set.  Although we were ready-set for super-HD 4K resolution viewing pleasure, it seems that there is nothing but junk on the tube, just a live feed from SEA-SPAN. 

The day after, although feeling a bit worn out, we are feeling triumphant to have come through a difficult passage - how great to be on the other side of what could have remained a bitter tragedy. When the original piece Cascade, containing bottles from all around the Pacific Rim from Malaysia, Singapore, India, Japan, Russia, Korea and of course, China and all collected at Kehoe Beach was inadvertently tossed in the recycle bin we felt a great piece of "show don't tell" art was lost. What better way to talk about plastic pollution as a global problem? 

The Burning Man community came to the rescue. Bottles have been sent to us from Haiti, El Salvador, China, France, Germany, Brazil. Bottles are still arriving.

When a young girl looked at the label on one of the bottles and exclaimed- this bottle is from El Salvador! my dad is from El Salvador! In that moment all of the stress and hard work that went into the collecting of the bottles was suddenly worth it. 

Special thanks for the many contributors to Cascade. 

Special thanks to: 
Joanne Jarvis park ranger and Marin County volunteer coordinator.
Margaret Farley who goes for the count, precinct by precinct as teams report in with their totals. 
The Lions Club who cook up the BBQ feast. 
Ben and Jerry's who donate a cart full of ice cream including Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream and Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz.
and to the thousands of volunteers who help to make it a fun fab day.

Such a pleasure to enjoy time with friends Bob Beto Gonsalves and Christine Kristen who cleaned up at Kirby Cove before heading to the Bay Model for the BBQ  They snapped this pic:  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ready Set

Every week for years, we tuned in to watch Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue work through the machinations of police troubles in the 15th Precinct of Manhattan. Before we got together Richard had already been watching since the programs inception in 1993. He never missed! A TV show can become a part of the family. When the show concluded in 2005 we were adrift in our ambivalence until we became fans of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

We did get caught in the Game of Thrones magic like the other 23.3 million viewers and enjoyed every Sunday evening with dinner and the show with neighbors Daniel and Taylor.

This summer we were especially dazzled by gymnastics rhythmic (is that really a sport?) and artistic and all the Olympic sports in Brazil. 

But, if we had to name a show as "our show", we'd say Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown is our fav with the right combination of food and insightful commentary on politics and culture. He travels to exotic locals with - what's for supper? as the abiding question. 

When our ages-old Samsung TV went kaput we bought one of the new HD big flat screens with super-duper resolution. We wondered what to do with the old set. Throw it away? but, where is away? Richard took apart the internal workings, revealing the intricate electronic circuitry inside. We poured a layer of resin on the back side of the screen and embedded beach plastic making a picture perfect high-res in brilliant color. 

Now our Samsung is ready for the 2016 fall season and even though it is Smart 4K Ultra HD, it seems that there is nothing but junk on the tube— all we get is a live feed from Congress on SEA-SPAN; a whole load of crap.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Although it has been years since we had given the book Winnie the Pooh a serious read, after seeing the movie at the Disney Museum we realized it was time to revisit the profound philosophies in this so-called "tales for children." John Tyerman Williams in his scholarly book Pooh and the Philosophers describes Jean Paul Sartre's major philosophical work Being and Nothingness as "the longest single footnote" to Winnie the Pooh ever written. He believes that Sartre's wordy discourse about existential nothingness can be summed up in these succinct and sage words:

"What I like doing best is Nothing."
"How do you do Nothing," asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, 'What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?' and you say, 'Oh, Nothing,' and then you go and do it.
It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
"Oh!" said Pooh.

From start to finish, our Disney day was nothing but pure magic. We meandered from the fantastic landscape of Walt's world to dancing in the waves and digging in the sand at Crissy Field we had, in fact, taken Pooh to heart. We don't need much to make us happy - a little sand, a little surf and an active imagination.

It was a fine day for fun with family plus this shiny plastic wrapper found washed up in the tideline, that says it allhow very fortunate we are!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Time after Time

When Anand Pandian, anthropologist and scholar from Johns Hopkins University, arrived we had some idea about what he had in mind for his visit - something about spending the first day taking a deep look at our beach plastic with his eye turned toward our collection as an example of the Anthropocene; spending the second day at Kehoe Beach collecting plastic so that he could observe us in action. 

But when he walked in carrying a beautiful bouquet of local flowers that he described as part of the slow flowers movement, it was an generous expression of thanks and a foreshadowing of the conversations about time that were to become the leitmotif of his visit. 

From discussions about locally sourced flowers to the eons of geological time; from the thrill of finding clastic plastiglomerate at Kehoe Beach to the counting of every piece of plastic we picked up (754) it was an expansive two days of thought-provoking that left us full of many more really good questions than answers. 

When he departed with a ribbon of yellow polypropylene rope for a bracelet, he was ready to make a "fashion statement" about plastic on the beach. As soon as the rope was around his wrist, in the habit of looking a watch, he did a double- take as he quizzically considered that yellow band and the knot. Then, in an AH-HA moment of creative insight, he looked up and pronounced the bracelet a watch — the rope had become a time keeper of geological proportion and a reminder of keeping a "watch" on our human activity.

The question:
What time is it?
The answer: 
It all depends on how you look at it.
The question: 
What time would you like it to be?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


When designer Anja Brunt and illustrator Tineke Meirink invited our participation in Trashures, it was a dream come true.

This dynamic duo, intrigued by the beauty of the mundane, with a keen eye for stylish clean lines of European design, brought together 15 international artists who repurpose trash in inventive and beautiful ways.

Several years ago we were encouraged by a book agent to write a cookbook style DIY book about our beach plastic project. Although we love to cook, when thinking about the how-to-make crafty plastic, we tried and failed. We even went so far as to conduct a focus-group to help us develop hands-on activities.

Anja and Tineke have done it!  Their beautifully designed book with step-by step instructions is the fulfillment of an idea we had wrestled with then abandoned. They have cooked it up right. 

Soup's on…

Order Trashures here.