Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Teens Learn to Sew at Idyllwild Arts

July 30, 2011

Teens from the U.S. and Mexico learn to sew at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Even with all their high-tech gadgetry available to teens these days, some are still interested in learning the old-fashioned skills of their parents, such as cooking and sewing.

For the past 12 years, Cat Orlando has been teaching a popular sewing class at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. With the help of her daughter, Catalina, they teach 11-to-14-year olds how to use sewing machines and knitting kits to make stuffed animals, purses and their own clothes.  In the end of their 2-week course, the teens will showcase their creations in a fashion show held on Saturday, August 6.

(from R) Instructor Cat Orlando discusses material options with Evan

“The class used to be called, ‘Sew What?’ But the name was a little ‘sassy,’ so they changed it to ‘Textiles & Fibers in Design,’ Cat said.

She still has a large backdrop with the words, “Sew What?” that she uses for presentations.

Recently, Cat took her class on a field trip to Hemet. They were going to buy materials and supplies to make a skirt or pajama bottoms. There were four girls in the class, and one boy.

“Evan was going to take a painting class, but decided to take sewing instead,” Cat said. “His mother is a popular artist from Idyllwild, so he’s open to all things creative.”

During the first week of Cat’s sewing class, they started to make their stuffed animals. Typically, teens will make teddy bears, Cat said, but this class stretched it a bit by making lions, snakes, and monkeys. During the trip to Hemet, they could also pick up fake fur or things to embellish their stuffed animals.

The five hour trip included getting supplies at JoAnn’s Fabrics, Michael’s, Wal Mart, the 99 Cent Store, and Goodwill Thrift Shop. In the end, Cat treated them to ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

Cat speaks to the sewing class about sticking to a budget

This trip was not just a chance to get off the hill for the day, Cat said, but a genuine learning experience. The students had to stick to a $20 budget to buy their material, and supplies, such as the pattern, thread, elastic for the waistband, and any other embellishments.

“Sticking to a budget can be difficult, especially when they see all of the material available,” Cat said. “They usually go crazy when they get to JoAnn’s, but we have to limit their material choices to only two.”

They also had to figure out and measure how much material they’d need to make the skirt or pajama bottoms.

“Nothing’s worse than coming up short of material,” Cat said. “Many of these students will come back to JoAnn’s to make clothes on their own.”

She said that teaching a sewing skill was rewarding, and something they can use the rest of their lives. In fact, after each class, she often gets calls from parents about purchasing sewing machines for their teens.

Do you think I can get all this for $60? asks Catalina, Cat's assistant. She hopes to launch her own denim clothing line online.

Cat and her daughter, Catalina, practice what they preach. In January, Catalina got married, and Cat made her wedding dress from blending two patterns and material that they purchased from JoAnn’s Fabrics. Then they both also made all of the bridesmaid’s dresses.

For the past 20 years, Cat has a booming bear-making business online, and now Catalina is going to showcase her denim creations online on Etsy.

“Do you think I can get all of this stuff for $60?” asked Catalina, showing off a cartload of material.

In the end, Catalina made it under budget, with the help of JoAnn’s 20 percent off coupons that Cat brought.

“We always go to JoAnn’s first because they honor the coupons that we print online,” Cat said.

She also talked to the students about the value of coupons, and how they can affect the bottom line.

Since this was a beginning sewing class, the students wouldn’t be sewing any zippers onto their clothes. To make the skirt, the students would attach and “dart” the material to the elastic waistbands.

However, they get plenty of experience sewing zippers and seams in class, Cat said. There are about 10 sewing machines available for them to use. Most of them came from Cat’s trips to thrift stores and estate sales. In fact, when they stopped off at Goodwill, Cat spied another sewing machine for $50. She checked out the contents and the brand, but didn’t think it was worth the price, not in today’s economy.

“If it was only $20, I’d snatch it up in a second,” Cat said later. “But if it quit running, it costs us a lot to repair sewing machines.”

(from L) Catalina, Cat and Rose measure out their material.

The trips to the 99 Cent Store and Goodwill were to help the students find inexpensive tops and jeans to make purses and shoulder bags.

One of their projects, Cat said, is to take a pair of old jeans apart and turn it into a purse or shoulder bag. Goodwill had jeans on sale for about $6 each, which was within their budget.

Most of the students also bought $3 T-shirts and tank tops to go with their skirt material.

“Otherwise, they’d have to go with the tops that they packed in their suitcases from home,” Cat said. “Goodwill or the 99 Cent Store is the perfect place to get inexpensive tops to match.”

“I’m having such a great time!” exclaimed Rose, a student from Mexico.

Rose was a scholarship student who took a digital photography class at Idyllwild Arts last summer.

“With the economy, I didn’t think I’d be able to come back this year,” Rose said. “But Idyllwild Arts worked it out and here I am making a skirt!”

(from L) Evan shows off his monkey material selection for his PJ bottoms.

All of their outfits will be showcased during the Children’s Fashion Show on Saturday, August 6th at 9:30 a.m. in the Children’s Center on the Idyllwild Arts Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Cat, who usually MC’s the fashion show, will turn over the mic to Evan. He said he’s looking forward to the event.

For more information on sewing or other classes at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, contact, or (951) 659-2171.

For examples of some of Cat’s teddy bear creations, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:54

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San Jacinto Dressmaker Worked on ‘Gaslight’

July 27, 2011

A young girl looks over sale fabrics at Jo-Ann's in Hemet. Not far away, a former MGM dressmaker recalls working on Miss Bergman's white gown.





By Marcia E. Gawecki

A smart-looking couple poured over books of sewing patterns at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics in Hemet. She was looking for the perfect dress pattern for an upcoming wedding outfit. As it turns out, Rhea was a former dressmaker for MGM Studios in the early 1940s, and worked on the film, “Gaslight,” which also happens to be Cafe Cinema’s Feature Film this Friday night in Idyllwild.

“I worked on Ingrid Bergman’s dress,” Rhea said, “The white one that she wore coming down the stairs.”

Director George Cukor’s 1944 mystery-thriller, “Gaslight” is about a woman who is driven out of her mind, wrote Jeffrey Taylor in a Cafe Cinema email. Ingrid Bergman received the first of two Academy Awards for this film, which also stars Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and an 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut.

“Gaslight” was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography (black and white). It won for Best Actress and Best Art Direction.

Rhea said that she couldn’t remember any details about Miss Bergman’s dress.

“That was about 100 years ago,” she joked.

However, she was one of many dressmakers at MGM who worked on that dress.

“No one ever made the whole thing,” she said.

Rhea said that working at MGM Studios was as good a job as any after WWII. The pay was sufficient, but, after three years, she left.

“We all worked different shifts, and it was really cutting into my social life,” Rhea said.

She later worked for Douglas Aircraft, where she met her second husband, Rick. They’ve been married for 54 years and now live in San Jacinto.

“Back then, dressmakers could sometimes mix up the colors on the star’s dresses,” Rick reminded her.

“All the movies were made in black-and-white, so color wasn’t all that important,” Rhea explained. “For example, if a star had a larger bust, and we needed to add more material to the front of her dress, it didn’t have to be an exact color match–just close enough.”

“Of course, now with color film, you have to be exact,” Rhea added.

Rhea said that she had seen “Gaslight” about three times and really enjoyed the film. However, she and Rick won’t attend the “Gaslight” screening in Idyllwild this Friday night because of other plans.

“You should see it,” Rhea said. “It’s really a good movie.”

Festivities take place at 7 p.m. at the new Cafe Cinema in Idyllwild. Food, beverage, and admission are free. Cafe Cinema is located at 53290 Deer Foot Lane. For more information, visit, or call (951) 659-6000.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Youth Jazz Concert Saturday Afternoon

July 21, 2011

Louis Armstrong art banner at Cafe Aroma. A summer jazz student wrote a song about a club in New Orleans where Sachmo hung out. It will be played at the IAF Theater on Saturday.


By Marcia E. Gawecki

The slow, distinct jazz sound came wafting into the reception area at Idyllwild Arts. Unmoved, the girl behind the desk kept typing on her computer. But like the smell of home-cooked meal, it was drawing me in.

“It’s the jazz band practicing for Saturday’s concert,” the girl said.

I snuck in during one of their numbers, and sat in the back row. There was no one else in the large auditorium.

Onstage, a student with a saxophone around his neck was directing the group of 11 young students, mostly teenage boys and one girl. In total, there were three saxophones, two electric guitars, two trumpets, two trombones, two drummers and one pianist.

“Play loud so I can hear it,” instructed Ben, their student leader.

Ron Stout, their jazz band leader, had to leave early to go to a gig, Ben said later.

The song the group played was called, “Funky Butt,” and it was written by Ben, age 14.

‘Funky Butt’ got its name from the “Funky Butthole,” a New Orleans club in the 1920s, Ben explained. It was kind of a raunchy place, where gangsters, whores, pimps and musicians hung out, including the great Louis Armstrong.

“The reason the song is so slow is because everyone wanted to make the night last as long as possible,” Ben said. “The musicians played all night so everyone could keep dancing.”

Another song the summer jazz students will be playing Saturday afternoon is called, “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” arranged by Dave Brubeck.

“We almost didn’t get to play it, if it wasn’t for Randy,” Ben said.

When someone in the band suggested playing “Blue Rondo” for the conertt, Ron said that he didn’t have all the sheet music. But if someone could arrange it, he’d take a look at it.

That’s when Randy Plummer, age 17, a sax player from Riverside, CA, stepped in. In a day and a half, Randy wrote the other band parts so that everyone would have the “Blue Rondo” music.

“That’s really fast, dude,” Ben said.

Randy, who looks more like a football player than a saxman, was modest about his efforts.

“I just grabbed a pen and paper and started writing,” he said.

Obviously, he was motivated to play the song. For his efforts, you’ll get to hear him play a solo for a few seconds on Saturday.

“How can both of you know so much about jazz when you’re only 14 and 17?” I asked, thinking of Louis, Miles and Ella, whose health and looks took a toll.

“People tell me that I’m an ‘old soul,'” Randy said.

“Funky Butt” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” will be part of the music lineup at the Youth Jazz Concert on Saturday, July 23, at 1 p.m. at the IAF Theater.

All concerts at Idyllwild Arts are free and open to the public. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 21, 2011 @ 12:58

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Students Try Candid Photography at Venice Beach

July 16, 2011

Venice Beach offered a plethora of treasures to the young photo students

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Yesterday, the photography class from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program went on a field trip to Los Angeles. Like their B&W photography, it was a trip of direct contrasts.

They went from the elegant art studios at Bergamot Station to the eclectic outdoor chaos of Venice Beach.

Most of the 11-to-13-year olds in the class had never been to either place. At Bergamot, they were encouraged to visit the galleries dedicated to photography, including the Peter Fetterman Gallery and the Rose Gallery.

There, the students had to do their homework. Each had to select one photograph and critique it.

“There’s a whole laundry list of things we have to look for,” explained Alex, a student from Idyllwild Arts Academy who is also taking this summer photography class. “Basically, they want us to see what works and what doesn’t.”

“Make sure that you ask the gallery if it’s OK to take photographs,” advised Eric Metzler, their photography instructor, who also teaches at Idyllwild Arts during the school year.

Instructor Eric Metzler views Tomoko Sawada's "Reflections" at the Rose Gallery at Bergamot Station

In the Peter Fetterman Gallery, one student was critiquing a photo by Elliott Erwitt, entitled, “Man with Two Dogs.”

The black-and-white photograph featured two large bulldogs with their owner seated on the steps of a Brownstone, possibly in New York.

The artist’s twist was that the second bulldog, sitting on the man’s lap, totally obscured his image. (All you could see was his left ear). In short, it looked like Sci-Fi hybrid of a bulldog’s head with a man’s body.

“I think the artist is trying to say that men are dogs,” said the young female student.

Several other famous photos of Elliott Erwitt’s were on display in the gallery, notably couples kissing.

“They’re definitely staged,” said Jenny Kirchner, one of the van drivers on the trip, who is also an award-winning photojournalist. “That’s OK, they’re still great.”

French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master of photojournalism who perfected “street photography,” didn’t stage his photos. He just had a keen sense of when things would appear, his wife said in an article.

Students had the option of photographing the beach also

Likewise, Erwitt’s photos were not staged, argued Margaret, another student.

“They’re ingenius, like the one of the couple kissing in the sideview mirror,” she said. “Most photographers would photograph themselves, but he got out of the way and took one of them.”

After Bergamot, armed with their 35 mm cameras (no digitals allowed), rolled film, tripods and lenses in hand, the group of young photographers then set out to capture Venice Beach. Eric gave them ample time for their “plein air” photography experience, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.. They would leave L.A. just before sunset.

Like Cartier-Bresson, many of the students took pictures of bodybuilders, skateboarders and basketball players. None wanted to “tip” to Spider Man and Elvis for their photos as they walked along Venice’s Boardwalk.

“Bye, Spider Man!” shouted a young girl walking hand-in-hand with her mom. “I know you’re not really Spider Man, but a man in a suit.”

“Aw, you really don’t believe that!” said Spider Man, as he sat rubbing his feet.

Other candid “photo opportunities” on the Venice Boardwalk included: a man with multitude of hats stacked on top of one another; a snake charmer on a ladder holding two green snakes; a man with a cardboard sign offering passersby the opportunity to “Kiss My Ass for $2,” medical marijuana huts; a peripeligic on a skateboard; and young girls in bikinis shopping.

With her digital camera, Jenny took pictures of skateboarders doing tricks. Then, she handed them her card and said that they’d be posted on her web site later on that evening.

“If they like the photograph, then I’ll just charge them a nominal amount for printing,” Jenny said.

In her web site, Jenny has a built-in security device that won’t allow people to steal her images.

In the backdrop, of course, was Venice Beach–with it’s miles of coastline, surfers, swimmers and seagulls.

I found a “No Swimming” area where the surf sprayed over some large rocks. It would happen only occasionally, like a humpback whale coming up and spouting air, but it was a wonderful cascade!

At day's end, a Venice Beach seagull rests for a moment on a parked car

On the way back, some of the students groaned about having to develop their film in the darkroom. Cartier-Bresson despised printing his own prints too.

“I get nervous whenever I go in there,” admitted Margaret. “So I give myself little pep talks, saying, ‘You can do this!'”

Amelia, another student agreed.

“I always manage to get chemicals on my fingertips, so they make smudges on my prints,” she confessed. “I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a ‘perfect print.'”

How did their Venice Beach photos came out?

You can actually view their photos at an exhibit at the end of next week. The details of the students’ one-day exhibit TBA.

For more information on the Black-and-White Photography class or other Summer Programs, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Native Plants Class Traces Cahuilla Roots

July 13, 2011

Evan Mills looks closely at a rock painting in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Students from the Native Plants class at Idyllwild Arts were going to look at rock paintings that were estimated to be 300 to 500 years old.

This is one of the many classes available during “Native American Arts Week” held July 10-16.

Daniel McCarthy, a Tribal Relations Manager from the U.S. Forest Service, stood next to a placard in the Idyllwild, CA, County Park, about 20 feet from a fenced-in boulder.

(from L) Abe Sanchez instructs how to "cull" chia seeds

One of the rock paintings in county park is difficult to reach because of the large fence

Students take pictures of the handprint rock painting

“This is an improvement from 40 years ago,” he said. “The fence will keep rock climbers out, but it prevents anyone from getting close.”

Daniel explained these rock paintings were not graffiti, but a sacred component of a coming-of-age ceremony by Cahuilla Indian girls.

They had created a variety of symbols with red paint, but it was difficult to determine what they all meant, but likely they were created over time.

“There may have been a ‘gap’ year or ten years,” Daniel said. “It all depended upon the acorn harvest.”

Near the rock, he pointed out several grinding stones.

The second rock painting featured two small handprints and no fence. Above, Daniel pointed out the white chalk marks.

“Here, rock climbers are practicing their skills, and below, there’s a 110-year-old rock drawing at risk,” he said.

He added that it was up to the County Parks Service employees to educate the public and warn climbers.

Abe Sanchez, their Native American co-teacher, discussed harvesting chia seeds.

“They’re high in protein, easier to digest than flax seeds, and could keep you from getting hungry,” he said.

Peg McClure, an Orange County firefighter, agreed.

“We were fighting the Laguna Fire, and didn’t have any food for about 36 hours,” Peg said. “So I chewed chia seeds and really wasn’t hungry.”

Originally, Peg admitted to taking the class for smoothies’ recipes, but has learned much more.

Even the young Cahuilla Indians were looking at native plants with new eyes.

“They’ve eaten our bad Western diet, and now have diabetes and heart disease,” said Evan Mills, another student. “Now they’re turning to their native plants for health benefits.”

The next day, the class had to cook a traditional Cahuilla meal, including sautéed nettles, acorn mush, pumpkin flowers, maze tortillas with elk sausage—and grasshoppers.

“They taste kind of nutty,” one student admitted.

The final rock painting was located three miles away in Fern Valley. The images were the most detailed and elaborate of the three, including red and black dyes.

The red dye came from hematite, an iron ore, which was ground into a powder.

“What were some of the bonding agents they could have used?” Daniel asked.

No one knew.

“Egg whites, blood, urine or any kind of animal protein,” Daniel said.

Some of the marks on the rock were more distinct, while others had faded.

“There is snow up here, so there’s natural erosion,” he said.

One time, Daniel found remnants of a campfire below the painting. He cleaned it up, and wiped the singe marks from the rock.

“Fire could cause stress to the rock, which would eventually erode the paintings,” he said.

There was no marker on this site, but Daniel said the neighbors knew about the paintings.

“With education and diligent caretaking, we can preserve this site’s cultural value for many years to come,” he said.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:32

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‘Our Town’ Play Opens Friday

July 7, 2011

Courtesy photo. Isis Theatre Company.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“‘Our Town’ is one of the most beloved American plays of all time,” said Suzanne Avalon, head of the Isis Theatre Company of Idyllwild. “We are Grover’s Corners.”

Suzanne was talking about a play which opens tonight, one that has many similarities to Idyllwild. It’s set in a small New Hampshire town and focuses on the daily lives of its residents. Although it’s set in 1901, Suzanne said it’s a timeless piece.

“Sure, we have a lot more technology now, but it’s about what we do in our everyday lives–our attitudes, how we cope and treat our neighbors,” she said.

“One thing that this play teaches us is that things go by quickly, and we forget to pay attention to how wonderful it al is,” Suzanne added.

The three-act play focuses on a young couple, as they go through life’s stages of falling in love, marriage and death.

“The playwright, Thornton Wilder, broke barriers with this play,” Suzanne explained. “He looked at things askew.”

“Our Town” is portrayed with minimal props and costumes, and audience members are not distracted by pageantry, thereby focusing on the words, she said.

Howard Shangraw (center) with Nelms McKelvain and friend

Gemini Anderson plays the female lead, Emily Webb. She is a current theater student at Idyllwild Arts, now on summer break. In fact, Howard Shangraw, who heads up the academy’s theater department, is also in the play.

“He plays plays Simon Stimson, a drunk choir director,” Suzanne said.

In the past, Howard has directed and acted in many Isis Theatre productions, including “I Am My Own Wife,” about an East German transvestite. However, this is the first Isis production for Gemini.

“Gemini is a treasure, and Rebecca, Zora and Chris,” Suzanne said of the young actors. “They found themselves and even though it’s a period piece, they have embodied their characters.”

In one rehearsal, Suzanne said she was so enthralled by their performances that she missed her cue. As a favor to the director, she’s going to play Emily’s mother. It’s also a tribute to her own mother who once played Emily.

There are 18 actors in the “Our Town” production, including many “extras” from Idyllwild.

“We had about a half dozen show up for the audition,” Suzanne said. “Some had never acted before, and wanted to try it and ‘see how it feels.'”

She gave many of them speaking parts, and only turned one or two away.

“I think it’s important to incorporate our town into ‘Our Town,'” Suzanne said.

Ana Lia Lenchantin, originally from Argentina, is in the cast of "Our Town."

Emily Heebner, a veteran Broadway actress, directs the show. Susan Hegarty is the stage manager and moderator. The cast includes Howard Shangraw, Suzanne Avalon, Marshall Smith, Chris Morse, Gemini Anderson, Jeri Greene, Jim Crandall, Duane Minard, Ana Lia Lenchantin, Chris Murphy, Zora Schoner and Chad Jones.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, July 8 and run through Sunday, July 10. A pre-curtain reception starts at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for general admission, or $15 for seniors and students. The Caine Learning Center is located at 54385 Pine Crest Avenue in Idyllwild.

For more information, call (951) 692-9553 or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 7, 2011 @ 23:35

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Jeweler Transforms Art After Loss

July 6, 2011

Amanda Taylor shows off her Iowa-inspired wall hanging

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When jewelry artist Amanda Clark Taylor closed Artisans, her art gallery in Idyllwild, it wasn’t her only loss.  Family members, including her beloved mother, had died all within a short time period. To cope, Amanda found solace in her jewelry making.

“I had lots of time on my hands when I was closing up my father-in-law’s house in Iowa, of all places,” Amanda said. “But I fell in love with the area and the people.”

At first, Amanda was frustrated because she couldn’t find her normal bead supply stores, or even the brighter colors in her artist’s palette. So she began working with square beads in earth tones and took a few classes.

“I drove to a bead class in Iowa City, which was four hours away,” Amanda said. “The trip wasn’t so bad because there were frozen custard stops along the way.”

The result was an impressive wall hanging made out of square beads.

“It started out as a 3-by-7-inch bracelet,” Amanda explained. “And then I just kept going, and made it into a square. Well, that didn’t look right, so I made it into a larger rectangle.”

Right now, she’s in the process of making the 26-by-13-inch sculpture so it can hang on a wall. She’s weighted the bottom and is attaching a backing to the top so that it can take a hanger.

“Ribbons,” the Iowa-inspired wall hanging is shown on her personal web site, Bead by Bead by Bead, but there are no prices listed—yet.

“I didn’t put any prices on my web site because they were all for sale at Artisans Gallery,” Amanda said.

The beaded wrap for this sculpture broke three times before Amanda perfected it

At her gallery openings, she was famous for wearing her own large, colorful jewelry with the price tag hanging out. When well-intentioned people would tell her to hide the tag, she’d laugh and tell them it was for sale.

“I sold a lot of pieces that way,” Amanda joked.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, Amanda and her friend, Tawny Crist of Banning, were selling their excess bead supplies at Oh My Dog Gallery in Idyllwild, which is right next door to where Artisans Gallery used to be. It’s now The Hub, a new bike shop.

Amanda has no bitterness about being so close to her former location.

“I miss the artists, but not the business end of running a gallery,” Amanda said.

But she talked about her transformation as an artist.

“I am now an artist who uses beads, instead of a beader who did artwork,” she said.

Tawny was sitting cross-legged on the floor of Oh My Dog Gallery looking at several of Amanda’s necklaces. The two she most wanted were made of Venetian coils about 15 years ago.

“There’s just something so special about the colors that she uses,” Tawny said. “She’s a true artist.”

"Amanda is a true artist," said friend Tawny Crist, with dog, Mick.

Amanda’s new art emphasis will not be on the beads, but the sculptures that she creates with the beads.

Another piece that she had created during a workshop last year depicted a round, dark stone in the middle. The “wrap,” or beaded attachment, was a challenge, Amanda said, because it broke three times.

“The first time, the thread wasn’t strong enough, and then the stitch wasn’t right (too open),” Amanda explained. “Now the wrap is made with 14-pound fishing line with a peyote stitch.”

She said that the stone, which has a natural white line carved into it, weighed about 10 pounds.

Amanda plans to use more organic material like stones into her future work. Right now, she’s working on a beaded nest for a large ostrich egg. And she’s also making a patchwork quilt with 2 1/2-inch squares made with her leftover beads.

Amanda sold her excess beads to help pay for a class with Betsy Youngquist in Chicago

With the money she made by selling her leftover beads, Amanda is planning on taking a class with Betsy Youngquist of Chicago, whom she met through a friend.

On her iPhone, she showed us a picture of “Otto,” an octopus Betsy created with beads. (You can see the image on

“Isn’t that wonderful?” Amanda said with glee. “Of course, we won’t be making octopuses like that right away. They’re starting us off with spoons.”

Taking this class will help Amanda move her art in a new, and more challenging, direction, she said.

To view Amanda’s art, visit Bead by Bead by Bead at

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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No Stopping Biting Flies

July 4, 2011

There's no stopping the biting flies

By Marcia E. Gawecki

As summer settles in Idyllwild, there is one formidable nemesis. Actually billions of them: biting flies.

They can come upon you without warning, leaving red welts that sometimes itch for days. Instead of spraying insecticides, some Idyllwild locals are just staying inside.

“I was raking the yard and one bit me in the hand,” said Dan Carpenter, a local from Fern Valley. “It swelled into the size of a walnut for a couple of days.”

Others who are trying to abate their yards have changed their schedules to raking only in the early morning or at dusk, before the flies really became a nuisance.

“I’ve never seen the flies so bad,” said Lindsay, a counselor from San Francisco who has worked at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program for the past three years.

During Family Camp this week, she said they’re moving a lot of activities inside because of the flies.

“We used to host dinners for the families under the canopy in the Holmes Ampitheater, but the flies are too annoying,” she said.

Although most Family Camp members at Idyllwild Arts have been coming back year after year, they won’t be disappointed at the change, Lindsay said.

“Bugs are part of the camp experience,” she said. “They understand that.”

When we asked those at the Idyllwild Ranger Station about the flies, they didn’t have any new answers.

“We had a wet spring, so that’s why there’s more flies around,” said one of the volunteers at the front desk. “We just put on Off!”

The flies bite dogs and cats too

Insect repellants like Off! only work for a short time, claimed another local.

“On fly bit me right through my shirt,” he said, exposing a red welt that looked like chicken pox.

Domestic pets are not immune to the biting flies either. They swarm, biting their backs and causing them to jump. Sherman, the horse on Hwy. 243, has had a hood on every day.

One woman who was out raking her yard with her two cats tried to offer them some relief. She didn’t want to put Off! (made for humans) onto their fur, but sprayed on cat tick repellant instead.

“But that only worked for a short time until the cats rolled into the dirt and licked it off,” she said.

Yet, the Rotary’s Fourth of July Parade on Monday morning will have some respite.

Weather conditions are calling for cloudy skies with a chance of thunderstorms, said Sue Westphal, as she walked her dog, Sam.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 4, 2011 @ 16:58

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‘This River’ Author Bares Family Wounds

July 1, 2011

(from L) Bestselling author James Brown meets a fan at Cafe Aroma

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When he was signing books afterwards, you couldn’t help but notice the large veins in his muscled arms. They stood out like a river’s arbitraries and pituitaries. Then you noticed his eyes, dark and knowing. Like someone who has seen a lot, and not necessarily good stuff. You earn those kinds of eyes.

On Thursday night, July 30, bestselling author James Brown read from his new book, “This River,” on the deck at Cafe Aroma. It was the seventh installment of the popular Idyllwild Author Series, but the first at this venue.

After his introduction by moderator Eduardo Santiago, James said that he came to Idyllwild because of Frank Ferro (Cafe Aroma’s manager/owner). They have been friends for a long time.

“I came because of his nice smile on the poster,” admitted Anna Ancheta, a youth orchestra conductor from Mountain Center.

Others were there because they’ve read his many books, including “LA Diaries.” They mingled in with the diners on the deck, who were chatting at first, but became captivated when James Brown started reading from his latest book, “This River.”

James described the Chetko River, located in Oregon, about 800 miles from his home in Southern California. He talked about fishing with his three boys for the first time, and hearing his father’s voice in his head.

“It reminded me a lot of ‘Big Two Rivers,’ by Hemingway,” Anna added. “Some rivers speak to people.”

Yet, James’ unassuming title, “This River,” doesn’t fully prepare the reader for what lay bare inside. It’s a memoir about James’ dysfunctional family life, his mentally ill mother, and alcoholic father, brother and sister, all of whom committed suicide. In the book, James describes how he put his brother’s ashes into the Chetko River, by wading waist deep and releasing them in handfuls.

“Of course, I didn’t file a permit to release my brother’s ashes,” James read. “This is a river of dreams, and stories of his childhood.”

He then closed his eyes and prayed to no one in particular. He was grateful for having known his brother, Barry, a talented Hollywood actor.

Eduardo Santiago introduces James Brown on Cafe Aroma's deck with bright banners

“Many of you may have known Barry from the film, ‘Daisy Miller,'” Eduardo said. “He had a promising career and was headed for the likes of James Franco.”

According to the IMDb web site, Barry Brown, who died at age 27, was also an author and playwright. Peter Bogdanovich praised Brown’s contribution to the film, describing him as “the only American actor you can believe ever read a book.”

“He was enormously talented. He had an IQ of 170, which includes only about 150,000 people in the world,” James said.”But he was an alcoholic, and when he died, he didn’t kill Barry; he killed the drunk.”

“I’m the last one standing,” James said.

In one evening, James Brown laid bare his own troubled life, including his struggles with drugs and alcohol.

“You may ask me if writing this book was cathartic,” James said. “It wasn’t. I didn’t want to return to those dark places, but they were the most defining moments that shaped my character. I knew that I had to get through it or I wouldn’t write another book.”

Eduardo said that James’ mother also had her share of troubles.

“She committed arson and homicide, but went to jail for tax evasion,” James said.

Yet, he nursed her in her old age, after a series of strokes.

“There was nothing to be afraid of anymore,” James said. “She was old and frail. But we talked and I got to know her better.”

“If you were an alcoholic, how do you know that you’re recording it as it really was?” asked one audience member.

Audience members and diners listen intently to James Brown read from his new book, "This River"

“I can’t recall things that happened 20 years ago sober,” James said. “But in memoir writing, there’s always a distortion, but we write to the best of our abilities. I like to think of it as ‘an emotional truth.'”

A waiter from Cafe Aroma, who had read James’ “LA Diaries”, asked him about forgiveness.

James said that he didn’t want his books to be negative, but redeeming.

“I have to learn to forgive myself for my bad behavior,” James said. “And forgive my brother and sister for taking their own lives. That way, I can love them more fully.”

Afterwards, Anna jumped up from her chair to purchase “This River.” B’s Books, which also sponsors the author series, had them available for sale. Some of the diners added the book to their bill.

“He’s a gracious man with a large vision,” Anna said. “His imagery is just beautiful.”

Next up in the Idyllwild Author Series will be “Deus Ex Machina” by Andrew Foster Altschul on Sunday, July 3rd at 2 p.m. at B’s Mountain of Books. Andrew lived in Idyllwild for some time, but he still returns every summer with his family.

“His new book is called, ‘Deus Ex Machina.'” Eduardo said. “It’s a fancy title for a fabulous novel about the effects of reality television on our culture.”

For more information, visit or call B’s Books at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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