I first learned the word BOTHY as having some notion that it described a barn… while I was then living & working in a building with a barn-shaped roof. My colleague, Teresa Toole, of Irish heritage, suggested it as a brand name for my line of silver bells, which I considered for a while, but it seems more truly to define a simple hut or cottage, probably not with a gambrel roof! Plus, I was quite happily habituated with my initial identity…

So, while not quite literally accurate, I nonetheless came to use that name for my studio near Occidental, California, which is in western Sonoma County, south of the Russian River area.

I was part of a cadre of us who became known by our initials in college, dubbed thus by our mutual friend FEK. For quite a long while, I thought her name was named “Effie Kay”!

Some of us still use that convention, even as we’ve used other nicknames. ONE of us made it his business name…

I had moved from Sedona, Arizona to be with long-time friends during their period of a complex transition. The move also certainly marked a complex transition of my own. Having lived in Sedona’s high mountain desert location for 14 years, adjusting to a coastal climate was a welcome change for me.

FWK & his partner JP had purchased this property of 30 acres with three houses for their retirement home, preparing to leave Los Angeles, where FWK had run his family’s business representing Lalique Crystal for a loosely simultaneous amount of time as I was living in Sedona. I was often invited to spend some holiday times & they would occasionally visit me for summer creek time.

The stories of our friendship are too long & deep for sharing here, but I joined them in part to escape the situation of my having finished my time in the Red Rocks & still wanted to follow my long held desire to live in San Francisco… that’s where I originally thought I would move when I left Denver in 1974, but decided to stop in Sedona. I was also there wanting to become part of JP’s HIV care-taking.

JP had been a realtor, in both San Francisco & Los Angeles, developing his crafty eye for value in architecture plus, both of them had a natural flair for interiors.

“The Ranch”, as it was generically known for its first year or so, had good bones. This was a country home, much more casual than where they’d been dancing with real estate in Silver Lake & Hollywood. Not actually a ranch, being located in a territory of apple orchards, we later formalized its name as Avalon, from a quote I liked from Robert Graves, who defined it as meaning “green apple island in the western sea”.

They made some wonderfully simple changes to the main house & used the second as their guest house & office. The third house was offered to me to rent as a rather perfect place to live & work. It had been designed with several specific functions: At ground level was a wide bay long enough to house the old hook & ladder fire engine the owner had presumably collected to restore, because the side-space was crammed full with tools & parts. There was much sorting to clear & open that space for the working areas of the studio.

Two large doors opened the fire engine’s bay… Now opening its generous space for creative play. It got painted during my time in a darker color, which I helped to choose…

Once cleared, there was much more than the space than I needed for my studio… leaving a generous area open for an arrangement of shelves & a big table for communal use for all sorts of projects, as well as storage for bikes, various garden, orchard & carpentry tools, & the freezer… all in addition to the small tractor, which was Jimmie’s dream-toy.

Besides my drafting table there was a large project table, the top of which was assembled of 4X8 sheets of plywood & Masonite, supported on the antique pine piece I’d requisitioned years before from the “haunted” house I’ve written about here: . It has six handsomely turned, sturdy legs for which I’d long ago added a top of oak flooring, making it useful as a chopping top in several studio kitchens. It has functioned importantly in every home/studio I’ve had since.

One of the early communal projects was the sad construction of Jimmie’s square for the Aids Quilt. He died that first Christmas. I wish this photo was clearer… the object shown hanging in the upper left is the sculpted paper crown which I’d made for wreathing the top of the 12-foot tall tree on which we’d only just gotten the hundreds of tiny lights attached, ready to begin adding the ornaments, when he went to the hospital for the last time. As a fitting visual silence, we allowed the tree to remain bare but for being simply crowned, in its softly brilliant light.

Here is that table at work on another project several years later, when I tackled designing the logo for the group of us volunteers protesting a threat to our beloved “Mother Garden”.

I’m deeply bonded with the old dental bench my father gave me long ago, shown here in an earlier studio. It has functioned wonderfully as my metals bench such that it will continue to work & function mechanically in the now & perhaps a bit symbolically as well in the future, as I continue “retiring” from such work. It certainly worked hard in the Bothy!

Here it is in my Vashon Island studio… Soundcliff!

But, of course, my favorite work space has always been my wax desk. I carved many dozens of bell designs here during the years when I first had the contract with KKM, in Seattle, to make a new bell design every month.

When I first moved from Sedona I was still working with the foundry I’d helped to establish there with the equipment I’d bought so that I could explore developing a production line. That dream proved too big for me, so I first leased & then sold it to Edward, who had his own vision for a foundry. That casual partnership became the impetus for the bells… I impulsively carved the first bell as an object to test the function of that foundry, not knowing it was the beginning of my artistic life’s biggest evolution…

The box being packed with touched-up production waxes to be sent to the foundry…

At that time, I was purchasing only the rough castings of the bells & doing all the rest of their production myself. First polishing the original master… the first casting from which I vucanize the mold for injecting the production waxes, which were then tucked inside the protection of foam punched with holes to cushion them in the mail sending them back to the foundry to be cast. I then did all the polishing & assembly.

One of the earliest & most complicated parts of this studio was the polishing room I built to help streamline that dirtiest part of my process… finishing & polishing the raw castings I was receiving from the foundry in Sedona. This had been the method of manufacturing the bells for several years, even before I moved to California.

Three polishing motors, each with two buffing wheels, stood in a row… allowing me to easily move down the line from coarser-to-finer grits. Behind those I built an elaborate filter system with a strong fan to pull the lint & dust through the round ports behind each unit into a plenum, which was a series of plywood chambers with alternating up/down openings which gradually dropped the fine debris before a final micro filter. This kept the studio much more tidy & the atmosphere cleaner than ever before. It was actually fun to tackle what had long been a very messy chore.

After my years in the high mountain desert of Northern Arizona, I began taking root again in the garden of Avalon. I’m making a second blog post about how gardening became a passion in the years I lived in the Bothy.

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