The Bell Shrine is finally finished!!

This yet-to-be untitled piece has finally been finished!   Right now, I am referring to it as the Bell Shrine, a shrine for all the elephants lost to poaching.

Ironically, parts of it was made from old gunstock – the wood was from a rifle factory that had gone out of business and these were blanks that were made of beautiful old growth claro walnut.  Because of the stock’s odd shape, I designed this piece to be made of slats and sections of this material.

Kudos goes to Joyce and Bill Teague, members of the San Diego Buddhist Temple, who taught me the meaning of the obutsudan.  I would like to share Bill’s information with you because I found it to be especially meaningful.

The most basic elements of the obutsudan are

The Central Object of Reverence or Worship (Gohonzon).  The Elephant.

Flowers. Always on the left, representing impermanence.

Candle. Always on the right, representing unchanging truth (Dharma). We see the candle as a symbol of transience as the burning flame consumes the candle. But the candle works as a symbol of unchanging truth because the flame persists, even if transferred to another candle.

Incense Offering/Burner. In the middle, in front, as it relates to our spiritual state in the present moment, as a kind of living synthesis of transience and permanence. Sometimes our transient life is identified as horizontal time, and unchanging truth as vertical. Burning incense brings us to the current moment in which we experience the intersection of horizontal and vertical time.

 The cast bronze bell was made by Sophie Glenn – and rings every 15 minutes, which is when an elephant is killed by a poacher.  (that’s right: an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory).  

The piece will debut at The wildLIFE Project exhibition, which opens in September at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.

Shoot for Wendy Maruyama, July 15, 2015

Shoot for Wendy Maruyama, July 15, 2015

Shoot for Wendy Maruyama, July 15, 2015

Protect Pangolins!!

Another curious looking animal, with a sweet face, and scales and a long tongue is being threatened with extinction.  The Pangolin is a type of anteater that is being poached for its scales (medicinal qualities, they say: its just keratin, the same material that rhino horns and your fingernails are made of) and they are getting eaten to extinction. (the Chinese make a soup that is made of pangolin fetuses).

Why, oh why????  If ground keratin makes a man more virile, why don’t these men just rip their own fingernails out and use that??

My fellow artists at Glashaus (studio collective), Rondi Vasquez and Monica Hui and I decided to collaborate together on a letterpress print to help support Pangolin Advocacy.  Rondi is a letterpress artist, Monica is a mixed media artist who also loves animals.  We have created an edition of 50 letterpress prints and all are signed and numbered.  The unframed prints are $30 and ALL proceeds will go to wildlife and specifically to a pangolin preservation organization.  You can purchase these at this link.


Good News!! The wildLIFE Project will debut in Houston, Texas!!

I am pleased to announce that the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft will be exhibiting The wildLIFE Project in its entirety for its national debut!  Under the guidance of HCCC curator Elizabeth Kozlowski, the exhibition will also travel to five destinations across the country.  I am thrilled to be able to work with Ms. Kozlowski and the HCCC for the next several years.   While the exhibition is definitely opening in September 2015 at the HCCC, the other five venues are in the works.  I will keep everyone posted as to that final schedule via email.

Keep in mind that this exhibition seeks to support several important wildlife advocacy groups.  The exhibition will also provide an educational component on the plight of wildlife and animal poaching with hopes that the public will become more aware of the problems and will step up to help the cause.

If you would like to be on my mailing list, please let me know.


In Memory of Satao

I just finished the last of the six large elephant “masks”, this one being the largest, and made after my trip to Africa in January. The piece was going to be entitled, simply, “Satao”. But in the process of its making, Satao was tragically killed by poachers, his beautiful long tusks butchered off his face.

Completing the piece after his death was painful, but as the last piece was stitched on, I realized how much strength he gave me to complete it at the same time.


Haunted by a photograph

a compelling essay based on a wonderful old photo.

Mark Deeble

756 - blog

I came across a photograph recently that, every time I see it, causes an involuntary intake of breath, followed by a silent ‘wow!’. The first time it happened was twenty five years ago when I came across Peter Beard’s extraordinary ‘756’, a photograph of a huge number of elephants on the move – a ‘super-herd’. For me, it is one of those iconic images that after you have seen it, life never seems quite the same again – like Nick Ut’s photograph in Vietnam of Kim Phúk running naked down the road, to escape from burning napalm.

What drew me to ‘756’ was the ‘big picture’ it depicted – East Africa at its wildest and finest. A glimpse back into the Pleistocene … when huge herds of mammals roamed the land. I loved that I couldn’t see where the herd ended – how that is left to the viewer’s imagination…

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We MUST ban all ivory commerce to save elephants from extinction.


Unequivocally ban all ivory commerce to save elephants from extinction.

Future generations deserve to grow up in a world where elephants thrive. Children learn “E” is for Elephant, not Extinction.

Close to 100 elephants are killed each day for ivory. Africa-based terrorist networks such as The Lord’s Resistance Army, Janjaweed, and Al-Shabaab fund their nefarious activities with profits from the illegal ivory trade.

We applaud your Administration for issuing the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking to protect elephants and other endangered species and firmly support your leadership and unprecedented efforts to combat the illegal ivory trade.

Banning ivory commerce will turn the tide for elephants, enhance African security as well as our national security interests, and ensure a responsible environmental stewardship for future generations.