In the Mix

Through the Glass Lightly

The Sublime Art of Transforming Rigid Liquid Into Stained Glass


    In the late 1960s, when hippies on the West Coast were turning on and tuning in, Dan Fenton stumbled upon some hand-blown glass items at a Renaissance Faire. The brilliance of the colors and the texture blew him away. He had discovered something that “was better than LSD—and legal.” The year was 1969, and he was 19 years old.
    Inspired by the glass, he taught himself to make stained glass windows. He had been studying black-and-white photography, and although he would later use close-up nature photography and experiments with unexposed slide film for design inspiration, at that point he gave up his photographic aspirations for what he saw as “an adventure into light and color.” The adventure started with stained glass. His passion ignited, he embarked on a journey that has seen him experiment with myriad glass techniques, invent new ones, write several informative how-to books and scores of articles and teach thousands of students, internationally and around the United States. He offers workshops on 15 different forms of glass art, from slumping to fusing, casting, glass painting and his technical specialty, kiln problem solving.
    Fenton moved from Los Angeles to Oakland when he was 21, and in 1974, he and a fellow artist created an X-rated stained glass series they titled Dirty Windows. They showed it at a Stained Glass Association of America, or SGAA, conference. “I thought I would rock the boat and ended up sinking it,” Fenton recounted recently, laughing, during a conversation in the cavernous East Oakland studio he calls his “amusement park” and personal “light show”—a space he shares with his partner, protégé and fellow glass artist Patricia O’Doherty.
    When Fenton began making stained glass and doing glass art, there were no classes, no how-to instructions sold in hobby stores in every town. “You just did it,” he says. Today, stained glass is a popular craft, thanks to kits that people use to make decorative angels, dolphins and other popular images. Fenton’s trip, on the other hand, transcends both craft and the ecclesiastical tradition of church stained glass windows and pushes the limits of this evolving fine art form.
    His fascination for working with glass has never waned. The kaleidoscopic color palette drew him in, and the infinite possibilities excite him still. Then there is the material itself. “Glass has no melting point,” he says. “The higher the temperature, the softer it gets, and it’s still liquid when it is cold. After three trillion years, a Coke bottle at a constant 70 degrees would be a puddle on the sidewalk. Because of this, we call it a rigid liquid.” It is the alchemist who speaks—the artist inspired by the magic of it all.
    Thirty-four years after being censured for his Dirty Windows, the one-time bohemian iconoclast has been asked to teach two workshops at this month’s 99th annual summer conference of the SGAA, being held right here in Oakland. He has also been invited onto a panel of “renegades”—“artists who were part of the change in the glass art that started in the ’60s and continues today.”
    For information on Dan Fenton and Patricia O’Doherty workshops and more on the SGAA Summer Conference in Oakland, see www.danfenton.net and www.stainedglass.org.
—By Wanda Hennig
—Photography by Jan Stürmann


ABOUT A HEADMISTRESS

K. Ruby: Semester Test


    K. Ruby can list many professions on her resume: ceramic artist, puppet theater producer, designer, activist, life coach and massage therapist.
    These days she’s on a new path as the founder and headmistress of the North Oakland–based Institute of Urban Homesteading, a homegrown series of ongoing classes in “gardening, permaculture, kitchen arts, herbal medicine, creative arts and the body.”
    “It’s about giving people skills to have a satisfying life,” she says of the IUH, describing her courses, which follow the seasonal cycle of the honeybee to mimic the rhythm of the garden, as “classes in the art of living.”
    As headmistress, Ruby says she’s the one who’s “holding it all together and making it happen,” admitting a touch of romanticism for the likes of Albus Dumbledore of Hogwarts fame. If schools followed Ruby’s curriculum, there’d be way fewer dropouts, guaranteed. First off, the subject matter is fun—who doesn’t want to learn about beekeeping and canning or how to make yogurt, cheese or mead, all of which Ruby lumps under lost or dying home arts? Next, would-be students only need to commit to a couple of hours on a single Sunday for hands-on teaching and learning in ever-changing classroom locations. And finally, IUH classes are offered on a sliding scale from $25 to $50, depending on participant need, with occasional incidental materials costs.
    Ruby, who keeps her first name private because she doesn’t like it, launched the IUH this spring, somewhat at the urging of friends who wanted to learn in classes what she was teaching herself.
    The product of three generations of teachers, Ruby, also the garden educator at Peralta Elementary School, has never been afraid to dive into anything—she taught herself sink installation, electrical wiring and motorcycle repair—and wants her students to enjoy the same fearlessness and can-do attitude about doing things themselves.
    “I want them to come learn a skill, to get inspired. I throw a lot of resources and tools at people so they can then go off and learn on their own,” she says, adding that her hope is that they ultimately realize this: “I can. I can do something. I can figure it out.”
    For more information on the UIH, visit the Web site www.sparkybeegirl.com/iuh.html, call (510) 277-1023 or e-mail iuh@sparkybeegirl.com.
—By Judith M. Gallman
—Photography by Jan Stürmann

MEDIA SHELF

New Releases from East Bay Authors and Musicians


BOOKS
Something That Matters: Life, Love, and Unexpected Adventures in the Middle of the Journey edited by Elizabeth Fishel and Terri Hinte
(Hardwood Press, 2007, 248 pp., $15)
    The Wednesday Writers, the accomplished Rockridge-based cadre of midlife women wordsmiths, has published a second compendium of page-turner essays, donating the proceeds of this new anthology to the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. This moving collection, from 41 distinctly voiced contributors unafraid of revealing personal secrets, focuses on, as co-editor Fishel puts it, “the moving target of middle years”—aging, parents, intimacy, children, pleasures, writing and healing.

Ticket to Exile, A Memoir by Adam David Miller
(Heyday Books, 2007, 237 pp., $14.95)
    Berkeley poet Adam David Miler, an African American and longtime speech and English teacher at Laney College, tells his life story in memoir form, beginning with the note he wrote 40 years ago to a white girl (“I would like to get to know you better”) in his hometown of Orangeburg, S.C., that resulted in subsequent accusations of rape against him, imprisonment and his being banned from the state. Miller mixes in poetry with his prose, striving to recount from memory the painful trauma of those dark days.

Yoga for Computer Users: Healthy Necks, Shoulders, Wrists and Hands in the Postmodern Age by Sandy Blaine
(Rodmell Press, 2008, 128 pp., $14.95)
    Oaklander Sandy Blaine, author of Yoga for Healthy Knees, has a second book out, Yoga for Computer Users, inspired by her work as the in-house yoga instructor for Pixar. Blaine shows the “desk- and computer-bound” how to prevent and reduce the detrimental effects of the tools of their trade with 20-plus, easy-to-follow illustrated yoga poses, stretches and exercises. Her yoga-based, self-care program strives to increase range of motion and improve circulation while keeping RSI to neck, shoulders, wrists and hands at bay. Blaine also operates an East Bay yoga studio, the Alameda Yoga Station.

CDs
Joe Sibol, The Great Music
(My Sonic Temple, www.joesibol.com)
    Bright, disposable power-pop that rides on chiming acoustic and electric guitars is the specialty of this Oakland singer-songwriter who makes his recording debut with 12 bouncy songs of the sort you can’t shake from your head. Brilliantly produced with layered vocals, elegant keyboards and touches of electronica, the rich mix perfectly frames Sibol’s reedy tenor as it negotiates charming melodies and occasionally clever lyrics.

Sean Smith, Eternal
(Ultra Hard Gel/Gnome Life Records, www.myspace.com/seansmithlives)
    Fans of “American primitive” acoustic guitar icons John Fahey and Robbie Basho can get their local acid-folk fix from Berkeley’s own raga-folk master Smith, whose new CD (also available on LP) is made even more mesmerizing by Smith insinuating slide and electric guitars, dulcimer, banjo, violin, organ and drums into the sparkling mix.
—By Judith M. Gallman and Derk Richardson

OAKLAND MADE

Cosmic Chocolate: Outta This World


    Fun, hip, approachable.
    That’s how Carly Baumann, the creator and “cosmic muse” of Cosmic Chocolate, describes the glittery designer line of gourmet truffles, ganache and bark she makes in a Temescal confectionary off the Doña Tomás patio.
    And they are, as well as visually interesting and full of unusual flavors. The two most distinct lines—the Cosmic Bombs, one-bite cocktail-infused truffle orbs, and the Cosmic Bliss, smooth ganache-filled hearts—shimmer with celestial metallic color. A newer line, Cosmic Icons, veers from the cosmos into the world of fame featuring caricatures of celebrities, Barack Obama being the most in demand.
    Baumann, a former interior designer with a passion for chocolate (“I absolutely love chocolate,” says the bubbly chocolatier whose glossed lips are as sparkly as her candies), is all about the look and “new flavor profile” of her sweets, dreaming up the combos herself. Hot sellers are sea salt caramel, bananas foster and dulce de leche chipotle, which she sums up thusly: “Those are just a party in the mouth.” Look soon for more “manly” combos—Guinness, barbecue and blood orange bourbon—and chocolate bars.
    A San Francisco chocolate tasting prompted an epiphany for Baumann, who was in the market to start a business, to become a chocolate maker. She found inspiration from British band Jamiroquai’s 1997 pop disco song “Cosmic Girl” for the company name and product line. She wrote a business plan, took classes in chocolate technology and then launched her high-end gourmet goodies (from $4 for a two-piece box to $20 for a nine-piece box) in January 2006. Immediate attention from the Today Show got the company going in the right direction, and coverage in Diablo also helped, she says.
    After two years of chocolate immersion, Baumann, who grew up in Crockett and now lives in Walnut Creek, hasn’t tired of chocolate, “the No. 1 most-craved food in the world,” one bit.
    “I love it, and I eat it every day, even when I’m not here,” she says, disclosing that her daily allowance is no more than 1 ounce, or one or two pieces of her own confections.
    Cosmic Chocolate, 5002 B Telegraph Ave., (877) 612-2639, www.cosmicchocolate.com.
—By Judith M. Gallman
—Photography by Paul Skrentny

THE GREEN BIN

Sneaker Feature

    Don’t know what to do with all those pairs of old running shoes lining your front hallway? Oakland’s Transports does.
    The running and swimming specialty store, like several retailers in the Bay Area and elsewhere, participates in Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program in which old athletic shoes of every make and model are recycled by being ground up to become athletic sports surfaces for track, tennis, soccer, basketball and playgrounds and other activities in facilities around the world.
    Athletes can drop off their used and worn-out athletic shoes in the Transports in-store bins during regular business hours, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 12 p.m.–5 p.m. Sunday. The athletic shoes can’t contain metal, so no cleats; and if your trainers are sweaty and muddy from your morning 20-mile run through creeks and mud puddles, clean them up and dry them out first before pitching them in.
    The typical Transports bin user, says Richie Boulet, a store owner, is a customer who recycles his old shoes as he’s walking out the door with a new pair.
    Many local running clubs and school athletic clubs also recycle running shoes. In general, Nike retail shoe recycling partners like Transports are only equipped to accept limited donations at once, but Nike and Transports still want your shoes. Runners with an Imelda Marcos–sized collection might consider sending them directly to Nike by packing them up and shipping them to: Nike Recycling Center, c/o Reuse-A-Shoe, 26755 S.W. 95th Ave., Wilsonville, Ore., 97070.
    For more information about the local bins, contact Transports, 6014 College Ave., (510) 655-4809, or 1559 Solano Ave.Berkeley, (510) 528-8405, www.transportsrunswim.com. For more on Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe, check out www.letmeplay.com/reuseashoe.
—By Judith M. Gallman

IN THE SCENE

Fall Into the Trappist
Belgian Beers Find a Home in Oakland


    When Oaklanders Aaron Porter and Chuck Stilphen opened the Trappist on Dec. 7, 2007, they didn’t know what a scene it would become. “We knew into construction that there was some excitement in the beer community, but we didn’t expect it to be as busy as it is,” Porter says. “We are slammed every weekend.”
    Timing seems to be perfect for the new Belgian specialty bar in the Old Oakland district; two similar establishments have opened in San Francisco, and locals seem ready to embrace the thicker, more flavorful and stronger brews rooted in Old-World tradition. “People are becoming more knowledgeable,” Porter says. “If it’s a trend, then Chimay is the gateway beer.”
    The audience for the beer includes business-people in suits, hipsters, tourists and young and old alike. They all meet that same challenge at the Trappist—jostling for a seat or a place to stand in the narrow 10-foot-wide bar area that holds only 49 people.
    This, however, is exactly the effect the two friends, Porter and Stilphen, were going for, after frequent beer-research tours of Belgium. “We emulated the spaces we liked in Europe—cozy, oddball, hole-in-the-wall places,” Porter says about the location, with its exposed brick wall, dark wood columns and bar, intricate tile, tin ceiling, and walls lined with old bottles and beer signs. But it wasn’t always this way: Photos on the Trappist’s Web site show that the place started out as little more than a storage closet.
    To keep costs down, the partners did their own construction, adding authentic touches like a fascinating-to-watch glass washer that sprays cool water into an inverted glass (as seen in Amsterdam) and attractive tap towers from France. The most important part of any bar is the taps, and the 15 at the Trappist (yielding a rotating selection of brews, in addition to approximately 135 varieties of bottled beer) are topped with porcelain handles from Belgium. And the best part—they are always just a pour away from taking you on your own personal tour.
    The Trappist, 460 Eighth St., (510) 238-8900, www.thetrappist.com, open 4 p.m.–12 a.m. Wed.–Thu., 4 p.m.–1:30 a.m. Fri., 2 p.m.–1:30 a.m. Sat. and 2 p.m.–12 a.m. Sun. Closed Mon.-Tue. and major holidays.
—By Daniel Jewett
—Photography by Lara Hata

Summer Movie Madness


    Several Oakland neighborhoods do it, and now Temescal is following suit.
    “It” is a six-week outdoor summer movie series, and the Temescal Street Collective and the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District are bringing free popcorn, beverages and movies to Temescal Street Cinema in June and July.
    Organized by collective founders Suzanne L’Heureux and Catarina Negrin, this series will include documentaries, shorts and feature films by Bay Area filmmakers—newbies, pros and youth—as well as films on Bay Area subjects. Titles range from Girls Rock! and La Corona to Shelf Life and The Grand Inquisitor.
    L’Heureux and neighbor Negrin formed the collective in 2007 to create and support community art and to foster connection among residents and their community. Their goal with Temescal Street Cinema is to produce community crossover among residents, merchants and filmmakers, L’Heureux says.
    “I teach art history at the Academy of Art University, and film has always been an area I don’t have much information about,” L’Heureux says, explaining her motivation to connect more with the film arts.
    The first screening is 9 p.m.–11 p.m. June 5 on the Bank of the West Building at Telegraph Avenue and 49th Street, which will be closed to traffic to accommodate 50 chairs and create space where moviegoers can plop down concert chairs and blankets. Movies are also scheduled for June 12, 19 and 26 and July 10 and 17. If
the series run is successful, L’Heureux says, more may follow.
    L’Heureux is also encouraging area businesses to stay open later on movie nights, thereby drawing more neighborhood foot traffic. Some businesses, such as Désa Arts, Tip Top Bike Shop and Rowan Morrison Gallery are planning coinciding special events. Such interaction, L’Heureux says, is a perfect example of the community-building activities the collective stands for.
    For information on the collective or Temescal Street Cinema, including the movie schedule, visit www.temescalstreetcollective.org.
—By Judith M. Gallman

You're an Oaklander If ...
Your favorite brand of baseball was Billyball.


    True Oaklanders remember the media blitz and excitement that was Billyball in the early 1980s. It started when Alfred Manuel “Billy” Martin came to Oakland in 1980 and took the Oakland Athletics from the previous year’s last-place finish to the second spot in the American League West by the end of the season. The A’s quickly followed this with a $1 million advertising campaign promoting the team’s unique manager: Billyball was born and hard to miss anywhere in the Bay Area.
    The Berkeley-born Billy Martin was seen as something of a genius for his unconventional approach to the game, emphasizing aggressive base stealing and hit-and-run and squeeze plays. All of it led to a meeting with the Yankees in the 1981 American League Championship Series. The Yankees swept the series, Billy’s star was on the decline and he was finally dismissed at the end of the 1982 season. But for a few action-packed years, Billyball was the only game in town.
—By Daniel Jewett

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