CalEarth... a wintry 2016 open house for Super Adobe!

I just moved my art business to a 5 acre property in Joshua Tree and across the street from me are a couple of "Super Adobe" structures. This reminded me of a couple mentions by friends of mine over the years about a place north of LA that created this construction methodology and they are called CalEarth: California Institute of Earth Architecture. It just so happens that their open house coincided with my drive back to Santa Barbara so... I went! And it is a place worth getting to know. I learned alot and I will definitely be going back for their intensive workshop in 2017... 

Third Mexican Bamboo Congress: March 8 -12, 2016

Sketches from "Tercer Congreso Mexicano del Bambu" (3rd Mexican Bamboo Congress) held in Huatusco, Mexico from March 8-12. I was invited to present my work to an international gathering of experts, enthusiasts and people generally excited about sharing their experiences with the world's most dynamic plant species! 

Topics included: Utilization of the incredible bamboo biomass generated in the tropics; cultivating bamboo for food, energy, and building products; How NOT to compete with China ;) New structural concepts in engineering and architecture. 

My own presentation was titled "Art is the Climate Changer" (Arte es el Cambiador Climactico). To change our world, we first need to change the climate in our minds and hearts... and I believe art is one of the most effective vehicles for doing that.

Seeing and walking amongst the incredible murals, stone carvings and architectural wonders of Mexico... words are hardly adequate to describe the chills one feels when the imagination of these great cultures enters your consciousness!

Thank you to the incredible organization and welcome by our Mexican brothers and sisters who are doing what they can to help improve forestry and our standards of living.



Year Two: Sketches from Week 3 (April 13 - 19, 2015)

I laughed really hard on two special occasions this week. 

The First: 

My nephew, of course :)  Watching him and his teammates run amok on the baseball field, chasing balls and the opposing players with their oversized helmets and colorful bats was way too much for myself and all the amused adults. Soccer will always be my favorite sport to play but I think I've now discovered my favorite sport to watch: little league baseball! 

The Second: 

I went on a tour of the S&S Seeds "Native Grasses" growing grounds with Ashley and Betsy and learned alot about bamboo's cousins in the plant world. S&S will never grow bamboo, of course, since they are focused on California natives only but it was a fun and highly educational tour nonetheless. And the hay ride... how long had it been since I'd done that???

Speaking of grass: My own little Dendrocalamus asper that Skip gifted to me sprouted its very first stalk last week. It's only about 1.5" thick and leans heavily to the west, where the sun hits it strongest. The other stalk is on its east side. So they are beginning to look like twin stalks, whereby yawns and stretches in the morning glow and the other cruises to a warm afternoon finish... 

Year Two: Sketches from Week 2 (April 6 - 12, 2015)

Alot of things seem to happen in April. 

Cactii and flowers bloom, giant windmills hum in the strong gales blowing through the desert, and festivals awaken from the long winter slumber and begin demanding creative nourishment... So here we go! 

Lucidity, Coachella, Earth Day, Lightning in a Bottle... he organizational infrastructure we worked so hard to implement at the ranch is paying big dividends already in our preparations for these events. Less running around looking for things. More pieces slotting into their correct or natural place. It feels great working here again. I'm even thinking of doing some more deco work to spruce up the place.... Really???

Thursday was a tough day, divided into 3 locations. The Lucid Stage had to be completed; We unloaded a 40' container at the ranch; And I personally had to finish a couple bamboo bedhouses in Palm Springs. So the Bamboo DNA hive mind was spread out over 3 places ! 

Just another day I guess ;) 

Year Two: Sketches from Week 1 (March 29 - April 5, 2015)

It's been just over a year now since I "quit" my blog in frustration over the drawings and memories I'd lost when I left my sketchbook in the rain... that book contained all my experiences from the last few weeks of my yearlong illustrated journey and it was horrendously irresponsible of me to have left it outside. I was just in a mad hurry. Whatever happened to my year of trying to slow down, breathe, and record an irreplaceable moment? It was damn thoughtless of me to have left my book on that boulder... 

I didn't stop sketching, however. There have been plenty of amazing experiences since that mishap... it's just that I'd lost the will to keep going with it on a daily basis. I guess I was wondering what the point was, anyway. 

Oftentimes I see a lot of hesitancy and nervousness when people who think they have no drawing skills pick up a pen and try to draw. This may leave you incredulous but that's true of me, too! Seriously... I always start a drawing with some trepidation. Sometimes I don't even want to draw... I think I fear rejection and shame from producing something "worthless" to myself or others. I don't want to make mistakes. I don't want to give away the fact that maybe I just don't know what the hell I'm doing...

I re-started my blog out of sheer instinct. There was an instance where I just couldn't help myself... to let the moment go unrecorded would have been just another obstinate act of stupidity on my part. Adan was measuring out hundreds of yards of blue fabric and, because it was taking quite a few minutes, I just started drawing him. Soon there were a few laughs and smiles going around as the news got passed around the warehouse that he had suddenly appeared in a drawing. Happiness... and appreciation. A connection between myself and the others that went beyond the conventional roles we had previously filled. A burning, tingling feeling all around me that shouted "This is right. Just right!!!". 

Is that all? A memorable moment for us all. A moment where fear and hesitation give way for inspiration to swell my chest and personal connections to remind me that yes, you and everyone else matter in our own miniscule way. 

I don't know. I'm just happier when I'm drawing. Other people seem happier. That's good enough for me. So I'll keep going...

Sketches from Week 52 (Mar 3 - 9, 2014)

I took my parents out to Lotusland this week to see the famous gardens founded by the slightly eccentric but visionary Polish performer Madame Ganna Walska in the 1940's. Though greatly washed out by the hugely dumb move of leaving my book out during an overnight rainstorm, you can still see some interesting things from the botanical grounds. I especially enjoyed the "blue" garden and the unusual cactii. There were some beautiful mosaics, too, and it was inspirational learning about Mdme Walska as well. We've had some incredible characters pass through the Santa Barbara region! 

I've also started dreaming about BOOM festival in Portugal for the summer of 2014. We'll be creating the Dance Temple, a ridiculously huge structure inspired by Antoni Gaudi, the famous Catalan architect of the 19th and early 20th century. It's an honor to not only have been selected to do this project but create something that draws ideas from the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. If you've never seen this stunning cathedral then you are missing one of the great architectural marvels of our time! How a designer created something so futuristic looking when he was a 19th century conservative Christian continues to puzzle me... then again, it proves that inspiration leads one in truly unexpected directions!

Sketches from Week 51 (Feb 24 - Mar 2, 2014)

There are no sketches for this week. 

RAIN!!! It wasn't the rain that ruined my sketches, however... it was me. I completely forgot to retrieve my sketchbook from outside the house where I was working and one of those rare Santa Barbara storms just happened to pour down that night and almost completely washed out my book.

Actually, it feels like my memory has been washed out, too. I can't even recall what I was doing that left me in such a harried state. I'm writing this over a year from the event... I was so distraught and personally disgusted with what happened that I just quit the blog. 

I haven't stopped drawing, however. It's just a break from this year-long journey which I am now continuing... next week (what's left of it) is coming up...

Sketches from Week 50 (Feb 17 - 23, 2014)

Every year I think to myself, "Self, you can't expect better and better volunteers every year. Someday this bubble will burst and you'll be left working with a bunch of dullards!". 

Thankfully, "self" hasn't been right at all... Both my regular crew and the volunteers that have agreed to work with us have been nothing short of stellar. I know that if we have time to go jump in the ocean and spearfish for a couple hours each day, things are going pretty damn well! Everyone is in great spirits, they are doing excellent work and we are going to come up with the coolest festival showers ever (thanks Mo , Taran, Danielle and crew) and a hugely awesome main stage (thanks Geronimo, Josh, Clay, Marta, June and everyone else who just pulled an all-nighter with me!) 

Sarah went on a botany mission into the beach groves on the festival site to see what plants are growing there and she cordially let me tag along and sketch what we saw. Unfortunately, rain got to my drawings before I could scan them but I think you can see a bit of the interesting greenery populating the Envision site... 

Sketches from Week 49 (Feb 10 - 16, 2014)

This is my third year with Envision Festival in Costa Rica and we're doing the main stage, showers, a small bridge and simply helping out wherever we can. AND, I have another excellent volunteer corps! So I'm happy. And the new site is simply gorgeous... a short walk through a grove and you're at the beach! What could be better than that? No crocodile-infested jungle swamps this year... 

Geronimo, Josh and I brought some spearfishing gear with us and I've rented a van so we are going to make the most of it. Work hard, play harder, right??? 

Sketches from Week 48 (Feb 3 - 9, 2014)

I think I have a better idea of what I want to do for EDC now. It started as a somewhat blocky series of structures but with Ian's input, we are now on a more curvilinear path... I think this is going to be good! Alot of video projection in the works and alot of bamboo poles. Not as many as 2013 (2000 poles!!!) but it should still be just as impactful in its own way. 

Also working on some bridge concepts for Ecotopia in Ojai. It's sited near some hot springs in Matillija and involves spanning a 40' pedestrian path over the stream. I've made a fairly convincing model of the idea but since I've never built a true bridge before, time will tell how this all goes down... :) 

Leaving for Costa Rica at the end of this week!!! 

Sketches from Week 47 (Jan 27 - Feb 2, 2014)

I had some time in town with my parents and introduced them to Skip, my friend who donated all of the bamboo root stock for the bamboo plantation at Orella Ranch. I've been working on a small bamboo and redwood fence for him on his rambling property.  

Carina H. also stopped by the house for a couple days and left us some beautiful sunflowers! It was great hearing her and my dad exchange Germany stories (she's of German descent and my dad studied medicine in Germany on a scholarship). 

Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara.... Envision Festival in Costa Rica... starting to plan something for Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, too... spring & summer 2014, here it comes! 

Sketches from Week 46 (Jan 20 - 26, 2014)

Mom and Dad have been helping me around the house with all sorts of things... clearing brush (dad), collecting firewood (dad again), cleaning all the windows (mom), keeping the bathroom tidy (mom)... you get the picture, so to speak! 

Roman, Jessica, and Josh have been amazing. I couldn't have done all this work around the place without them... it's a full house but I've been enjoying the interaction between my friends and my parents. My mom was especially taken with the burlwood jewelry that Jessica has crafted. It's my favorite sketch of the week, including the raindrops which pattered all over the pages ... 

I also paid another visit to Powerstride Battery in Ventura to upgrade my deep cycle battery system from 4 batteries to 8 batteries. THIS time I made SURE to connect all the terminals in the proper sequence (series parallel). No huge sparks or melting leads again, no thank you... 

I'll be leaving soon for the Envision Festival in Costa Rica so the concept sketches for the main stage have begun... 

Sketches from Week 45 (Jan 13 - 19, 2014)

Never in a million years did I think I'd be in the Super Bowl in any way, shape or form (I don't even own a TV), but that's exactly what happened this last week! The funniest part is that my team and I didn't know what we were building, nor for what, when we showed up with a truckload of bamboo, steel, and rope five days after the production designers first contacted me about this whole adventure.

For most of us, this was our first time taking part in a commercial shoot and it was so much fun. Everyone was so flexible and accommodating yet very serious about producing the best experience possible. And very organized… it seems that everyone knows what their job is and has a title: Boom Op, Script Supervisor, First Assistant Director, 2nd AC, etc… I had a lot of new faces, names and titles to absorb and loved every second of it.

So, for Non-Disclosure Agreement reasons, I can’t say too much except: Check out the bamboo and a hilarious TV commercial on Sunday afternoon, Feb 2, during the Super Bowl

Thank you to Harrison Paul from Pretty Bird and Ruth DeJong (production designer) for bringing in Bamboo DNA again on another cool set build. The last one we worked on was a massive bamboo scaffold / Chinatown recreation a couple years ago for Nike, which you can see here

Can't believe I'm actually saying this but: I'm looking forward to the game :)

Sketches from Week 44 ( Jan 6 - 12, 2014)

Roman, Jessica and Josh showed up this week to help me clear brush and dead branches all around my ranch. It hasn’t rained at all so the fire danger is pretty extreme and this project was way past overdue… so here we go!

I’m working on a small screening fence for my friend Skip. While I was there setting in the redwood posts, he asked me if I’d ever had bamboo leaf –wrapped fish… but then quickly corrected himself and said “Ah no, I meant to say banana leaves!”. But I thought, “why not bamboo leaves?” So I tried it that evening with a small calico that I speared. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it tasted like exactly because I blackened the poor fish pretty badly after sticking into my wood stove, which makes a spectacular oven… all the bamboo leaf had burnt away! But I ate everything anyway and it was delicious :)

Met up with Luke Holden, the art director for Lucidity Festival which is taking place this year in April at the Live Oak campground just north of Santa Barbara. I’ll be taking on the Lucid stage and a few other areas. No Coachella for me this year but lots of things to keep me occupied nonetheless…

… including BOOM festival in Portugal. It takes place every two years and Bamboo DNA has had some of its biggest projects there in 2010 and 2012… and now we’re taking on our biggest yet: the Dance Temple! 100+ feet tall and 300’ long, this mammoth structure will contain 20,000+ dancing festival goers from over 100 countries. The entire design is inspired by Antoni Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia” cathedral in Barcelona. If you haven’t seen it, go now! Truly a wonder.

Sketches from Week 43 (Dec 30 - Jan 5, 2014)

It had been a long time ago ( I don’t remember when exactly) that I last took the coastal train from SF to Santa Barbara. The view, the views! So gorgeous… perhaps I took greater notice this time because it was the beginning of the new year and all of my senses were in taking in a much larger perspective. Either way, I felt extremely lucky to be living in such a beautiful state and country where so many things are possible.

Happy New Year y Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Gerard Minakawa

Sketches from Week 42 (Dec 23 - 29, 2013)

No one makes me feel both clumsily inept and exceptionally gifted as my family. How about that redwood low table? Too low! None of them are actually going to sit and eat there. When I asked my aunt which improvements she’d like to see for our next Christmas gathering: “Less bugs and clean, sanded floors!”

Needless to say, all this criticism has motivated me to start working my ranch again… plus it’s the winter, which means cooler weather and no flies! And miracle of miracles, my chainsaw is working…

We spent the last week in Las Vegas, all 16 of us… the Minakawas, the Kanashiros, and the Parkers. It’s fascinating- my experiment with veganism earlier this year has definitely left me with a far less appetite for meat in general. I really have no desire to chase down nearly as much meat as I used to consume prior to February 2013. I just enjoy spearfishing for food and I’m quite happy to have that be one of my primary protein sources. In addition to the realization that I don’t require much animal meat, veganism was a fun exploratory exercise in discovering new, sometimes underappreciated foods. I didn’t quite appreciate how limited my diet was until I took a bunch of stuff out of it and was forced to research alternative choices… much to my surprised delight! I could eat pumpkin/peanut/tofu coconut curries for a long time…

Sorry Arty: I had to dismantle that redwood and bamboo low table. However… I  modified and reused the leg frame to build a new picnic bench and the redwood slab lives on as the (now raised) dining tabletop, about 29” high. My parents can now dine in comfort :)


Sketches from Week 41 (Dec 16-22, 2013)

Didn’t get much sleep during my last 60 or so hours in Australia… not that I wanted to! We worked hard on Monday at Lexi’s farm and then left for Phillip Island on Tuesday before dawn. Cape Woolamai, the eastern end of the island, was our eventual destination and we arrived there around 9 am after a brief visit to Pyramid Rock on the south side of the island.

Cape Woolamai is incredible… not only are you afforded views of the entire island and surrounding country but the diversity of wildlife is astonishing. We only walked about 4-5 km from the parking area to the small cove on the northeast side of the cape but saw lizards, snakes, some cranes, lots of wallabees, butterflies, etc… and that was before we even dove into the water. Our cove was all pebbles and boulders and sheltered from the SW swells so underwater clarity was very good, perhaps 20-30 feet. Apparently this area is a shark breeding ground but we never saw any.

We encountered mostly sweeps and kelp fish during our dives… I misidentified the Australian salmon and had the guys shoot the wrong fish! So they (justifiably) ridiculed me about the “epic Australian salmon” that I’d led them to find… but during my last dive and last shot of my OZ adventure, a school of salmon did, in fact, whiz by me and I managed to spear one, just one, true Australian salmon. And, as Billy had earlier testified, it was DELICIOUS! So I redeemed myself… barely :)

We met up with Billy on the south side of the cape around sunset, where we found him digging up sand with his friend Cooper… crab hunting! Just scoop out a few inches of sand with your foot, feel them trying to pinch your toe, and then grab them from behind so they don’t actually inflict any real damage with their pincers. Then toss them into a bucket and voila… crab stew!

By this time there were 7 of us in two cars and we headed off to our next destination: Evening sharkfishing at The Punchbowl, along the Bass coastal walkway directly east of Phillip Island. The site is boulder strewn with a large ledge that extends out from a cliff into the ocean… this is where people do their rockfishing. It’s actually a bit dangerous with the waves crashing up in the dark, slippery, and you’re not exactly sure what you’re catching with rod and reel. A big fish can move in awkward ways and throw you off balance easily. We were there all night, catching and eating fish, maintaining the campfire and simply enjoying the experience… I left with Billy and Cooper around 6:30 AM for the Melbourne airport to catch my ride home to California…

It’s always a bit odd being back home after a long time abroad... 5 weeks passed oh so quickly. A lot colder here, it’s dark at 5:30 (as opposed to 8:30 in Oz) and a quick dive in the ocean before heading to a family reunion in Vegas revealed a vastly altered wintertime marine environment. So many fish! New ones, too… Schools of olive rockfish, halfmoons (or blue perch) and another species that I have yet to identify. Even the calicos seemed different… they didn’t run as quickly as before for some reason. Maybe the cold water is making them sluggish? Not sure. I still haven’t seen the legendary white sea bass, however…

Now I’m in Vegas with 16 family members and 4 California coastal fish to share with them that I speared on Sunday. This week I really need to advance the design work for BOOM festival… the dance temple awaits!

Sketches from Week 40 (Dec 9-15, 2013)

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne Central Station, the aboriginal art exhibit at the Melbourne Museum…  my downtown wanderings these last few days were memorable though I especially enjoyed the design sessions at the Melbourne State Library. This is easily the best museum I’ve ever had the pleasure to work from. Soaring architecture, the La Trobe reading room with its softly glowing green lamps and wooden tilt-up reading desktops, free wifi everywhere, art galleries, a chess room (yes, really!), old maps… the list of pluses goes on and on. The museum is located in the heart of downtown yet it seem,s like a place where time is temporarily suspended… the way a great space ought to feel!

Lexi was our hostess for the next round of building… she lives on a small farm in Blampied, about an hour northwest of Melbourne. We discharged the 40’ container of bamboo on a flat field there amidst the cow patties and have been working on the prefabbed pieces for Let Them Eat Cake NYE festival ever since. The main stage design will be about 9 meters tall (33’) x 25 meters wide (just over 80’) and is based on our tried-and-true bamboo scaffolding construction techniques: bamboo poles, bamboo pins, and rope. I’m sure the Australian engineers are going to have fun with that :)

In addition to the main stage, we are also building 4 independent towers that will be used to project light effects; a main entrance for pedestrians; daybeds; a deco façade for the main bar; front of house; and facilitating the rest of the bamboo work. It’s a lot to take on for a total of 22 hours of installation time but I have faith in the crew. I won’t be there myself since I had to return to the U.S..

We took a one day field trip to the Great Ocean Road on Friday the 13th in a borrowed van (thanks Pete!), waking up at 5:30 am and not returning until late in the evening. Our goal? Spearfishing and surfing! Unfortunately, the weather gods were not 100% with us because it was windy and the ocean was churning up a lot of sand and such… underwater visibility was quite poor. However, we did manage to pull out 4 small fish and enjoyed a great little beach bbq using the trusty fish griller which we’ve all come to know and love very much :)I want to redesign this particular cooking implement, however, to make it more portable and a but more rugged.

We had such an amazing birthday party for Lexi on Saturday… what a hilarious group of people… Geronimo shared some fireside games with us, we jammed, climbed the nearby hill for some stargazing and surrounding views and ate a lot of food. We always ate a lot of food in Australia, hah.

Alot of hunters here... Though I've never hunted before (Australia was my first attempt- unsuccessfully, I might add ) Adam shot a wild hare with his .17 rifle and skinned/spitted it over the fire… but then it was promptly forgotten and got a bit overcooked. I’d never eaten wild hare before so Chasqui and I more or less scraped off the blackened bit and ate most of it ourselves. Not bad!

Sketches from Week 39 (Dec 2 - 8, 2013)

I hate to admit this, but I think I prefer the southeastern Australian coastline to the Californian coast. Not only is the water warmer but the combination of fine golden sand, turquoise waters, and abundance of sea life and surf breaks was utterly astonishing. And hardly anyone around, even in summer...

Geronimo, Chas, Chasqui, Dylan, Emily, Hannah, Issa and I have spent the last week on a spontaneous surf 'n spearfishing tour via the Princess Highway coastal route between Melbourne and Sydney. After getting some key logistical items figured out for our New Years' event over the weekend, we departed early Monday morning and just returned now around 4am Sunday.... what an amazing trip!

Cape Conran was our first stop. We showed up a couple hours before sunset and got some spearfishing in, then had a camp 'n barbecue night on the boulder-strewn beach. Not really sure what fish we harvested from the sea yet because we hadn't obtained a fish chart yet but they were tasty :)

Shipwreck Creek near Mallacoota was our next stop... a beautiful beach but the flies were oppressive... literally clouds of them, totally unstoppable. The fishing wasn't so good, either, although there was some decent surfing that Chas jumped on. We also picked up a fishing guide and licenses so we were better prepared by now.

One of our favorite beaches was Nelson (?) Beach in Mimosa Rocks National Park... a lagoon on one side that connected to a small bay full of sea life and a great surfing spot immediately south of that... gorgeous! We stayed there a whole day, camping and barbecueing all we could eat. Luderick, Bream and rockfish were in abundance here and I saw my first blue groper, a protected fish species that averages around 30-36" in length... big. Also some sharks, just the gummies, nothing threatening (yet).

Currarong was the best beach on this tour by far, however. We hiked in to a site called Lobster Bay and pretty much stayed there for a day and a half... Geronimo and I jumped in the cliffside waters on a late rainy afternoon to rainbow skies and the following day (Friday) was brilliantly warm, sunny and showed off the gold / turquoise contrast between the sand, reef and ocean. The water was noticeably warmer than Mimosa Rocks and there was alot more sea life... dolphins, bigger sharks, sea turtles, skates and rays, schools of tuna, bream, luderick, tailor and many other fish... too many to count! Visibility around 40-60 feet. Perfect? About as close as it gets!

We wrapped up our tour on Saturday / Sunday with a dive and surf session down at Bawley Point... Chas and Chasqui had a bomber surf day on an overhead right while Geronimo and I speared the biggest bream we'd caught yet... about 22" and 10-12 lbs (best guess!). Anyway- enough to feed all 8 of us! We are cooking up a grand feast tonight at Tara's house in Melbourne... voila!

Sketches from Week 38 (Nov 25 - Dec 1, 2013)

Well, I never did get my kangaroo... they are too wily and agile, at least in Tocumal. I even built a bush shelter to camouflage myself but couldn't get the shot I wanted. Elsewhere, they seem pretty docile and you can walk right up to them but not at the Strawberry Fields site. Who knows! Leave them alone, I guess.

Breaking down the site took a bit of time... the weather heated up quite a bit in comparison to the last couple of weeks and the place seemed like a ghost town at times. It's disappointing to see piles of trash left behind by the attendees in their campsites but this seems to be the norm with most camping events. Geronimo and I drove around in a jeep picking up useful items (i.e. "groundscores") like unopened beer, tents, mattresses, tarps, cans of tuna, etc... Oscar, Dale and their Wildlands volunteers did most of the trash pickup for days and days.

We returned to Melbourne late in the evening of the 29th to a scrumptabulous dinner courtesy of Tara, Lori and Issa, our hosts in the city... yum! Then we all showered and went out to the afterparty for some dancing and reconnection with the Strawberry peoplz...

The weekend weather was brilliant, the warmest it's been in Melbourne since we arrived on that cold and rainy Nov 9th (oh so many weeks ago :)) We all went out to the park for a walk, some acro yoga and paper airplanes... then had dinner at Lentils, a "Pay as you Feel" place run by a creative entrepreneur who serves up wonderful food and you just pay what you want. What??? It's true... and it works.

Sunday night was bar hopping night... The Rooftop Bar, Section 8, Cotton Club... then a walk to the riverfront... then I left early that morning to pick up a rental van and begin next week's Surf and Spearfish adventure with friends... ! Ya!