{ Category Archives: watershed markers }

Wowhaus Projects Update

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My 1/6 scale model of the humpback whale tail for our ‘Fluke’ project

The arrival of spring typically finds Ene and myself juggling proposals, installations and fabrication at the wowhaus studio, having spent the rainy months laying the groundwork for new production in public sculpture, furniture and product design. We’re particularly excited about a new commission from the City of Santa Cruz to create a public project for the new NOAA Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. We proposed making a full scale whale tail to be cast in bronze and sited at the new building’s entryway courtyard, for which we also designed a colorful hardscape. Based on the stylized tail of a diving humpback whale, the sculpture is called ‘Fluke’ and will be approximately 13′ long and 3.5′ high.

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rendering of ‘Fluke’, showing the hardscape (illustration by Chemisa Kellogg)

I carved a 1/6 scale model of the sculpture, which is now being scanned by Scansite in West Marin County, one of the world’s most reputable 3d scanning services. A full scale 3d model will then be CNC cut in foam, which we will texture with plaster before molds are made and it is cast in bronze by Berkeley’s Artworks Foundry. I carved the model from old growth coast redwood and Alaskan yellow cedar, both species native to the Pacific Coast where the humpback whale makes its annual migration. The tight grain allowed me to cut precise, symmetrical  contours by eye using tiny spokeshaves, the grain’s pattern changing subtly enough with each shaving to match the two sides. I would occasionally rub the model with wood ash to expose slight imperfections.

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Our ‘Watershed Creek Marker’ project is being installed at 5 sites in Oakland (photo: Ken Katz)

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(photo: Ken Katz)

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mother & daughter peets

Meanwhile, Ene has been working with a construction crew in Oakland, installing the cast bronze stepping stones for our ‘Watershed Creek Marker’ project at five sites throughout the City. To read more about the development of this public art project, click here and scroll down.

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research for the visual identity of SHED, a project in development in Healdsburg

I’ve also been working closely with Cindy Daniel, Doug Lipton, and Mark Jensen Architects, designing furnishings and consulting on the visual identity and material culture for SHED, an innovative new concept combining local food and garden-related retail, and community gathering under one roof. The project will soon be under construction in Healdsburg, CA, and I’ve thus far designed and prototyped three new chairs, several built-in seating and retail display units, and two types of table, one of which has a stacking base and easily disassembles for storage. I will post more as this project takes shape. Meanwhile, please click here to follow earlier posts.

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prototype of my shed stool concept, which can be modified for use as an indoor/outdoor cafe chair


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Wowhaus Projects Update

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‘Rockfish’, one of two monumental fish sculptures to be installed at a new library in SF

Ene and I have been preparing to install two major wowhaus public art projects we’ve had in development over the past year. ‘Abundance‘, which consists of two monumental, ceramic tile mosaic sculptures honoring the significance of ‘feeder fish’ to the marine ecosystem, will soon be installed at the Ortega Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, sited near Ocean Beach, within view of the Pacific. Ene recently met on site with Mary Chou of the San Francisco Arts Commission, who commissioned the project, to finalize location of the sculptures as the new building nears completion.

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Community members help Ene determine the location for our two large fish sculptures

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materials used to make patina at Berkeley’s Artworks Foundry

Having selected final sites of significance to Oaklands urban watershed, we’re nearly ready to install our ‘Stepping Stones‘ project, commissioned by the City of Oakland Public Art Program funded through Measure DD Bond Program, which was approved by voters for Oakland watershed improvements. We have been working in collaboration with the Environmental Services Department of the City of Oakland. The project consists of five relief sculptures, cast in bronze, depicting ‘stepping stones’ one might encounter when crossing a stream. The individual sculptures vary in size, but each one features animals native to the region seeking refuge on or around the stone, which has water flowing around it. The stones will be installed in various configurations on sidewalks with heavy pedestrian traffic, where creeks have been diverted underground. Ene recently met with the incredibly skilled artisans of Berkeley’s Artworks Foundry, who cast the sculptures, to discuss patina before the sculptures are installed.

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a sampling of patinas to consider for the ‘Stepping Stone’ sculptures

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the artisans of Artworks Foundry cast the sculptures and are now adding patina


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Wowhaus Projects Update

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Ene and me reflected in Anish Kapoor’s ‘Bean’ sculpture, Chicago, earlier this summer

Before I launch full bore into documenting A Year in Surf I wanted to update current wowhaus projects. I will maintain a running log of projects as they accumulate, but will soon shift the focus of deepcraft to my active pursuit of surfing. I think you’ll agree that surf culture is in many ways a unifying theme to the thrust of past and present wowhaus projects, which increasingly focus on watershed ecology, structural invention and making beautiful things and places.

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Our fish sculptures (‘Abundance‘) are coming to life as they are skinned with tile

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Our wax ‘Stepping Stones’ are ready to be cast in bronze for our Oakland Watershed Marker Project

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We’ve selected sites to install our ‘Stepping Stones’ relief sculptures, drawing attention to Oakland’s many hidden creeks comprising a complex, urban watershed

rosenfield table1Conference Table for the managing offices of  ‘Marin County Mart’ (photo taken when the conference room was under construction)

I recently designed this conference table for the offices of Jim Rosenfield, owner of Marin Country Mart. The design developed collaboratively from concept sketches by Jim, with proportional and color consultation from Greg Turpan, who has been instrumental in defining the look and feel of the innovative shopping center. The table is 10 feet long and 34″ wide with 4 x 4 legs in solid Claro walnut. The top is lightweight for its size, being a hollow ‘torsion box’ with a honeycomb core of 1/4″ plywood making an internal grid of 3″ squares. To make a seamless surface on all six sides, the top is skinned with full length panels of MDF, with ‘folded miter’ corners. The top is finished on all sides with six layers of catalyzed urethane, hand-polished to a high gloss. I borrowed from hollow surfboard construction when conceiving the table. I’ve enjoyed working with Jim and Greg on the project and am honored to contribute to Marin Country Mart, which is fast becoming a major Bay Area icon.

Meanwhile, I’m nearing completion of a residential interior I’ve designed and built in Marin County, and permits are in place and construction is underway on an ‘Observation Tower’ I recently designed for a rural property in Sonoma County. Photos to follow soon!


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Greet the Elders

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Living and working in West Africa many years ago, we learned to Greet the Elders

When Ene and I worked in West Africa as US Peace Corps Volunteers, we developed some habits that still inform our community-based projects. Principal among these is a kind of public ritual we call Greet the Elders. In remote villages, before introducing a new idea like a fuel efficient woodstove or method of filtering water, let alone seeing it adopted and integrated, it’s key to follow a certain protocol, at once formal and convivial. It always begins by meeting with the village’s key decision makers- the tribal chief and other elders, market women, the village shaman and sometimes a government official. These greetings could easily last all day and into the night, taking place either in French or Konkomba, a regional language we struggled to use for the basics. The most relevant information would be exchanged through a ritual call-and-response series of questions about the ‘news’ of the day, ranging from one’s health to the crops, the animals, the children and the neighbors, all without making eye contact while loosely shaking hands, nodding and bowing,

“Ajoko-poya?”, “Alafia”, “Amonko-poya?”, “Alafia!”, “Ditunde-poya?”, “Alafia-weh”, “eh-HENHH!”

After the exchange of news, the bonds of trust would be sealed by spending the remaining day together, eating fufu and drinking chukatuh, then dancing together into the night to the ‘mento’ beat of Ashanti drums.

Our latest Wowhaus public art project, designing a system of ‘watershed markers’ for the City of Oakland, is a good example of how the final product relates to the process of engaging with the community. Although Ene and I have strong ideas about the importance of maintaining a healthy ‘watershed’ in an urban environment, we approached the project with very open minds, not knowing if the general population of any city necessarily knows what ‘watershed’ means. In a kind of sponge mode, we randomly surveyed people in diverse neighborhoods about what images and symbols connote water and stream ecology. We shared our findings with Oakland residents invited to public meetings, and learned more about how regular people think of the idea of a ‘watershed’. We were surprised to hear similar stories across cultural and economic spectra, boiling down to childhood memories about playing in urban creeks, turning over rocks to discover life teeming beneath, and finding ways to cross the stream.

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in-process detail of one of four relief sculptures in clay and stone, to be cast in bronze

We decided to make a series of ‘stepping stones’ to capture this spirit, to be cast in bronze and embedded in concrete paving over culverts where creeks have been diverted. Ene has made great progress sculpting these ‘stepping stones’ in clay. We have a sequence of four, which can be arranged in any order, and will be sited at Oakland’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares, drawing attention to the hidden creeks and waterways draining to the Bay.

To read more about the wowhaus ‘watershed markers’ for the City of Oakland, please click here and scroll down.


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Sand Trees

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These elegant ‘sand trees’ are unique to the low tide conditions of Doran Beach

As Ene and I begin to fabricate our relief sculptures for a system of watershed markers we’ve been commissioned to design for the City of Oakland, we’ve been returning to our local beach at low tide for research and inspiration. The way the sand behaves at a certain angle of incline, at very low tides, makes a lovely tree structure that micro-cosmically mimics the contours of drainage patterns constituting the local watershed.

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mussels cluster on rocks alongside barnacles, starfish and anemone

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The Beach Fleas (Orchestoidea) are everywhere along Doran

To follow the progress of this wowhaus public art project, please click here and scroll down.

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Collaborative Agitprop

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Scoping a site for Watershed Field Research in Fruitvale

One of the most rewarding aspects of a collaborative working relationship is that both the relationship and the work it produces tend to improve over time. Whenever Ene and I (aka wowhaus) perform field research for one of our public projects, we pay as close attention to streamlining the mechanics of our process as to the production of meaningful data. Sometimes this can be as deceptively simple as making sure we keep it entertaining for us and engaging for our participants. As with travel, the pleasure often derives from unintended consequences.

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Ene fields responses to visual symbols of water at the Grand Lake farmer’s market

The thing I like best about staging the mini interventions that comprise our project research is the opportunity to make the props. I like the formal constraints of having very limited time and money to design and make something that persists in functioning well despite the odds. Granted, the results border on slapstick, but that fits with my default craftitude. To support the field research for our Watershed Marker project for the City of Oakland, I made a portfolio case that doubles as a surprisingly un-flimsy, portable table. Able to carry several large pads of paper, magic markers, clipboards and more, the case is easy to carry over several city blocks, and the table sets up and breaks down in minutes, the legs being stowed within.

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My surprisingly un-flimsy, portable valise/table for field research sets up in minutes


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Watershed Morphology Workshop

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representations of water from across time and cultures

How do we indicate water, let alone its increasing significance in maintaining the fabric of a healthy urban watershed? As we prepare a final design for the City of Oakland’s system of Watershed Markers, Ene and I will spend the weekend at farmer’s markets and major pedestrian thoroughfares throughout the East Bay, soliciting feedback on how best to frame a contemporary Watershed Morphology.

In keeping with our preferred, ‘socially-engaged’ process, we’ve assembled panels of schematic, graphic representations of water (see above) from across time and culture to learn what resonates with people in the course of everyday life. The major challenge  will be to confirm a visual language that is both recognizable across the socio-economic spectrum, while presenting something compellingly new and replicable, with a long-range view of urban life.

We would love to have your feedback as we home in on a design over the coming weeks. If you’re in the East Bay over the weekend, please leave a comment with your contact info and I will let you know where we’ll be.


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