Shibumi Gallery

Inspiration

Footnotes from Havana

InspirationApril HigashiComment

I travel for inspiration, perspective and to find a new understanding that will help make my world bigger.  After the devastating US election, a busy holiday season and trying to be a decent parent, I was depleted by the end of December. I have always found a break is the best way to reset my life, discover greater empathy and restore my creativity.  

While a truly great journey will leave you feeling three years younger, and two years wiser, a difficult border crossing will reveal your true character. Difficult travel is a reflection of our true selves, whether you’re curious, in survival mode, a bigot or open minded.
— Studio D / Field Notes

Havana was a trip which expanded my world to include an understanding of a simple Cuban beauty and remind me of the circumstances we are born into. The pinhole of Cuban culture I witnessed in only a week was a mixture of socialism, history, music, dance, modernist architecture, art, tobacco, island time and of course Cuban flair.  While I have traveled internationally a fair amount, it had been awhile since I had actual culture shock upon arrival in a country.  Between the internet and international trade, one can often find the comforts of home. This is not the case yet in Cuba.  There are no traces of the US post 1959.  The old classic cars are the only reminders of the U.S.  since Fidel Castro overthrew Batista and set in place the socialist government. Socialism gives people housing, heath care, education and subsidized food, yet many people still live in poverty.  

While the government is starting to restore the historical center of the Habana Vieja to attract tourism, walk just a few streets away from the historic squares and you see how run down it is. The Cuban people don't own their buildings, only the apartments within them. Some families choose to paint the outsides but many don’t. That means you may see the bottom half of a building painted and the top crumbling because they are owned by two families. While walking on the Prado, a promenade for pedestrians to stroll, our guide Juan explained that only recently are the people to be able to buy property.  Before, they came to the Prado with details of their property and then traded dwellings amongst themselves when they needed to move.  He also showed us his food card which the Cubans use to purchase food at special markets and bodegas. Rations are reviewed monthly and they can pick up the basic food needs: 5 eggs, meat, beans, rice, milk, etc.  The rationed allotment is free and if you need more you can purchase it at a subsidized price. 

Walking and driving through Habana Vieja you see small snippets of the Cuban life. Their doors are open and their lives often spill out onto the streets. Through my walkabouts, I saw people dancing together or practicing solo in small rooms with techno and traditional Afro-Cuban music blaring - often with the TV still on. In a small living room children played with dolls. A man sat at his entrance, selling four little bags of macaroni pasta and a small pile of eggs. Some people sat quietly on their front step, others were talking with friends or neighbors. Teen girls whispered about boys. I spied a tiny tree with tinsel in a front room and a family enjoying a meal in back. There were entrances and tall staircases with electrical wiring that looked alarmingly unsafe. 

There were small logos on doors for new businesses popping up. It wasn’t until the end of Fidel’s rule he allowed entrepreneurial self-employment. There are now small gyms, dancing schools, home art galleries and record stores to name a few.

There is no internet (unless you find a wi-fi spot, which you’ll know instantly by the many young folks milling about with their phones or go to a tourist hotel) so people still interact and socialize.

Iliana our hotel host said it herself, "Cubans are loud people. Even if there are right here,”--- pointing a foot away from her--- "we speak loudly." They talk at great length even over simple things like directions. Drivers do not pull out maps or phones when they need directions; they simply yell over to the next car or pull to the side to ask someone standing on the street. The conversations can go on for quite some time. It reminded me of how isolated and independent we have become with information fingertips. I thought about how much are we missing when we turn to our computers or phones and overlook the people we are right next to.

Something has definitely been lost in our culture.

It was an expansive trip for me. I learned so much about The Cuban Revolution, about Amercia’s embargo on Cuba and the mix of emotions and tension it has created. I saw a country with hope that things are getting better but are still hard when faced with the reality that they can not easily leave. 

Being an entrepreneur myself, I couldn’t help but notice how businesses run in Cuba.

There was a dark grey Art Nouveaux building near the Prado that held a perfumery. I had big expectations - the thought of Cuban perfume seemed so exotic. However, upon entering this beautiful building the perfumes were not original scents but many of the bigger European brands seen anywhere else in the world. They were stacked in their boxes and locked up in two cages. Very unapproachable. Two nicely dressed sales people stood at the back behind an empty counter that would have easily been set up for sampling and spontaneous tourist purchases.

I wasn’t sure I was aligned with the aesthetics in Cuba before I left for my trip.  However after a week of walking through the city, which I can only describes as a shade brighter than power pink, mint green and sky blue, the pallette made complete sense and seemed perfect and beautiful. Women dressed in bright colors, neon even, skirts that fit so with such body contouring I was impressed that they were so comfortable in their bodies. I saw a lot of men in black and white patterns with brightly colored accents. Red shoes were very popular as were distressed jeans on both sexes.  The accessories on one woman were a hot pink belt and matching pumps which made me recoil at first. But when I saw her dancing rumba with her partner at the Casa de la Musica and the way she moved her hips to the beat, I suddenly thought her choice of attire looked lovely and tasteful and I wanted to be her. She later returned to her group of friends with a big ice bucket on the table with a large bottle of rum and poured some in her glass with the Cuban equivalent to coca-cola.

The art of every culture is always a big draw for me. One day I had a big dose of Cuban art.  Going from Miramar to Playa, areas with points of interest far apart from one another, you can hire a cab for $25 an hour and they will wait as you enjoy each stop. We were taken to an alley with many murals, El Callejón de Hamel by Cuban muralist Salvador González. Besides his murals there is outsider art including bathtubs as benches to rest on and rough plasma cut metal and found object sculptures. The alley is said to have dancing (Rumba) on Sundays.

El Callejón de Hamel by Cuban muralist Salvador González

I’d wished we’d put in more effort to architectural points of interest. We had hoped to see the architecture of the ISA (the art school). However we could not get in without an appointment.  But the brick domes and organic arches looked very interesting as we peered over the fence. Driving on El Malecón we passed Parque José Martí Stadium an abandoned stadium built in the 1940’s. Architecturally interesting with it’s faded colored benches and shell-like arches, I have had dreams about it since I have been back and have looked up further images and information to ponder.

There are two artists in particular I took note of.  The first is Kcho, an internationally recognized artist who became well known in his 20’s and has shared his success with the community by opening up his studio and compound to all. His complex is in walking distance of ISA. You are supposed to make an appointment in advance, but we got lucky stopping by and joined another tour already underway. The complex has a gallery where he shows guest artists and a working warehouse/studio for himself, which is the most interesting.   He also shares the space with his 18 year old son, who is in the arts. Outside are more works in progress, outdoor sculptures and public artworks. The piece that pretty much describes what some of the more outright Cuban people think of American was a tall tower of luggage with the American flag draped over the top titled "I don’t want anything from you.”  There is also a small theater and computer lab. Through a sponsorship with Google it is the one place in Havana with free internet. 

The second artist of note is Casa Estudio Jose Fuster (Jamanita).  This tile artist has made a museum that is definitely worth seeing. Not only has he created an endless tile mosaic world of sculptures and murals that has totally transformed his own property, he also extends his work into the neighborhood, neighbors’ houses, alley walls, bus stop, and practically any available surface.

For me, travel is not about seeing things that align perfectly with who I believe I am. I think I travel because it shows me where I am limited. I have to say the pollution from leaded gas was hard to breath in and the food was a little underwhelming.  But even with this I had some notable adventures.

Imagine the thought of planning a peaceful trip to the countryside of Viñales to escape the pollution and crowds only to find your driver waiting for you with a Lada - a Russian car from the days when Russians support was integral to Cuba (1959-1991).  Ladas have notoriously poor exhaust systems (which fill the backseats with fumes), no seat belts and our driver had to pull over several times for roadside repairs and adjustments.

Lunches sometimes felt a bit like torture as we had to wait up to 2 1/2 hours for the food to arrive. What do you talk about with no iPhone to distract you? How do you keep up conversation? You don’t. You let the pauses and many moments of stillness be there. You wait patiently and enjoy the moist air awhile you relax. And when your food finally arrives and it expectations let you down, you eat every bit and appreciate the way you feel nourished and have regained some energy for the next adventure. 

I’m happy to share my favorite finds or an itinerary that I think would be helpful for anyone thinking of visiting Cuba. But I suggest instead to simply be present and watch. Cuba is a beautiful culture so different that ours. Once I slowed down and realized I was not looking for big a-ha moments, I began to appreciate it much more. I feel lucky to have visited. A Socialist government I had never experienced. If I were to go back I would go with a better camera, take a dance class, do a little more research on the architecture and food, and hopefully know some Spanish. 

I don’t know how quickly travel in Cuba will change but, email me if you would like my highlights of my week in Havana. I have a detailed list. As a woman I should say I did not travel alone and was with a man, but found the people either friendly or indifferent and I felt safe in all areas we ventured. 

I am never sure how I will process these images and cultures into my work but I know for one thing it changes me and refreshes my world.

 

June by April

InspirationApril HigashiComment

I was 30 when I met June Schwarcz at her 80th retrospective at the American Craft Museum. When I approached her to ask work as her assistant, we complimented each other on our skirts, both Commes des Garçons, and were soon so lost in conversation that I forgot to mention I'd love to work for her. The line behind me getting long, I gave her my card and told her I admired her work and that I also worked in enamel. June had the same idea I did, and a month later invited me to join her in the studio. Mondays were filled with three hours of work and four hours of lunch, sharing stories about art, the people who made and sold it and ordinary things like family and relationships.

Working for June, I learned how she saw and created in three dimensions. One of the first task she gave me was to lay out a flat pattern and cut it out of thin copper, like cutting fabric for clothing.  June's process was much like sewing.  Inspiration came from anything she felt was beautiful: when her grandson Adam went through a phase of wearing oversized, droopy pants, she did a series of vessels about his pants.  She often said she didn’t like conceptual art because if it wasn’t beautiful, she couldn’t relate to it. 

Though she was 50 years older, she always wanted to pull her own weight.  I had to trick her into letting me help her with things.  When leaving her studio together, June carrying her heavy basket of supplies up the stairs, I'd offer, "June, let me get that." She'd refuse and ask me to get the lights. I knew in the future not to ask before grabbing the basket.

Over the last seventeen years, I visited her regularly, we went to art shows and dinners. I dressed for June, because we were both interested in fashion and we had similar taste.   She always wore something interesting unless she was in the studio.  I like a gal who has a sense of style but also gets down to business. For an opening at Susan Cummins Gallery, she arrived in black Issey Miyake, and someone had handed her a bright pink peony.  I complimented her shoes, so cool and perfect with the outfit! I asked her where she got them. "Oh honey, it's the best little shoe store called Gimme Shoes, I've got to take you there!" I loved that she thought I wouldn't know about it--the hippest shoe store in San Francisco--and I imagined her there picking out her shoes. 

I was lucky enough to trade work with her.  One piece of mine she wanted was an all-red enameled Panel Bracelet that was in a show at the Richmond Art Center. June called me and said, "I know the show is not coming down for a week but I am going to New York and I have the perfect outfit to wear that with. Would you ask them if you could get it early?" I got her the bracelet for her trip.

There was so much more to June than fashion. She was young at heart and I never felt our age difference until I started to see her hand shaking as she picked up her tea.  She was the most inspiring and curious woman I've ever met. She had great taste and gave her opinions freely. Beauty, honesty and curiosity were were our connection.  If you were fortunate enough to have met her even once, your perspective on life as a woman artist was changed forever.

June 10, 1918– August 2, 2015

Wear It Everyday!

InspirationApril HigashiComment

Sometimes my clients inspire me...

Here is the Fredrica Bracelet. 18k Yellow Gold with three Raw Diamonds.

This bracelet is great to wear on its own or stack it with a nice thick cuff or other thin bracelets. I made this for my client, she inspired me with her style. Once I made it and put it on, I had to make one for myself. I wear it everyday....yes, everyday, so easy to wear and elegant on the eye.

I also make them in a white gold or silver, which has a cool look. These days I'm a yellow gold girl. But I don't hesitate to wear mixed metals. It is about wearing an aesthetic, not a single metal color.

Something About Love: A Three Part Affair

Events, Press, InspirationApril HigashiComment
                             Tina Rath/Black Beauty: Brooch 7                                 Pink ivory wood, fox, 18k gold

                           Tina Rath/Black Beauty: Brooch 7

                              Pink ivory wood, fox, 18k gold

Our current show, Something About Love, opened one week before the infamous Valentine's Day. We hope that the show created a more complex and inclusive experience than the holiday we are all subjected to every year on the 14th of February. Because love is for everyone and about everyone the show was our attempt at shaking off the old cliche in order to examine and celebrate the multitude of emotions, relationships, and experiences that fall under that one simple word. If you havn't had a chance to come by, we will be holding a closing reception Sunday March 22 from 12-5. A big thanks to the folks at B Restaurant and Bar in Oakland's Historic District for providing the delicious nibbles at the opening reception.
The show views the concept of love through 3 lenses.

1. The photographic lense of Bay Area artist, Ace Lehner. Ace an accomplished photographer and is currently an MFA Candidate at The California College of the Arts.

1window.jpg
 Ace Lehner. With an eye for the slightly strange and a background in painting and illustration Lehner uses photography as a tool to re-draw the way we see the world around us. Lehner has produced intervention work and exhibitions internationally including London, New York and Montreal. Currently Lehner is pursuing projects that deal with issues of the power of vision in relation to love and desire, the reconfiguration of family and the emotional impact of deportation.

Ace Lehner. With an eye for the slightly strange and a background in painting and illustration Lehner uses photography as a tool to re-draw the way we see the world around us. Lehner has produced intervention work and exhibitions internationally including London, New York and Montreal. Currently Lehner is pursuing projects that deal with issues of the power of vision in relation to love and desire, the reconfiguration of family and the emotional impact of deportation.

2. In conjunction with these photographic images, exhibition organizer Anna Adair considers her own practice as a jeweler and thus her role as a maker of objects that symbolize love. Inviting other Jeweler’s to do the same, the show features work by Curtis Arima, Sarah Davis, Nick Dong, Karen Gilbert, April Higashi, Maya Kini, Chris Neff, Jaydan Moore and Tina Rath.
 

  Curtis Arima / Untitled  A gardener negotiates the definition of a weed. One can pull out plants prematurely without knowing what they have to offer, or neglect branches allowing plants to become promiscuously overgrown. We often disregard ideas before they grow, plucking them out, rather than transplanting them into otherpaths in our unconscious, later to emerge when they are mature. Dandelions are full of potential to prosper. This piece is dedicated to my dearest Joe as a memento of our many years to come, hope for prosperous times and our love for gardening.Sterling silver, 18k gold  April Higashi / Untitled  When I was young, just old enough to start being interested in boys, I heard a poetic line in a story. "As a couple sleeps, the threads of their lives intertwine." I always have thought about that image. As I have matured, I see these threads as both metaphorical and energetic, enhanced and strengthenedwith historic experiences. Like love they are delicate, beautiful and complex, 20k gold and thread

Curtis Arima / Untitled A gardener negotiates the definition of a weed. One can pull out plants prematurely without knowing what they have to offer, or neglect branches allowing plants to become promiscuously overgrown. We often disregard ideas before they grow, plucking them out, rather than transplanting them into otherpaths in our unconscious, later to emerge when they are mature. Dandelions are full of potential to prosper. This piece is dedicated to my dearest Joe as a memento of our many years to come, hope for prosperous times and our love for gardening.Sterling silver, 18k gold
April Higashi / Untitled When I was young, just old enough to start being interested in boys, I heard a poetic line in a story. "As a couple sleeps, the threads of their lives intertwine." I always have thought about that image. As I have matured, I see these threads as both metaphorical and energetic, enhanced and strengthenedwith historic experiences. Like love they are delicate, beautiful and complex, 20k gold and thread

 Karen Gilbert / Link Joined together, two things have more depth, beauty and complexity than one alone, Sterling Silver, pyrex, 18k gold

Karen Gilbert / Link Joined together, two things have more depth, beauty and complexity than one alone, Sterling Silver, pyrex, 18k gold

 Anna Adair / End of The Line When thinking about love recently, my brother came to mind. The last man to carry our family name, Jeffryes, falling in love for him holds heavy significance within the traditional patriarchal structure. In making these cufflinks, a pair for each Jeffryes man that has lived within my lifetime, I reflect on ideas of family tradition and societal norms. Each pair pays homage to these men who have meant a great deal to me, while illustrating the restrictions inherent in such a system and thus the importance of allowing for more open ideas about love, family, and relationships., Sterling Silver and enamel. Maya Kini /Graphite Wedding Bands The graphite rings began as an investigation of the two-sided nature of carbon. I was intrigued by the genetics of the material and how a slight variation could produce a much harder relative - the diamond. Diamonds are so often used to signify durability because they cannot be cut by anything other than themselves. I wanted to pay homage to diamond’s lesser relative by making rings of graphite that literally mark a process of commitment rather than function as lasting jewelry pieces.

Anna Adair / End of The Line When thinking about love recently, my brother came to mind. The last man to carry our family name, Jeffryes, falling in
love for him holds heavy significance within the traditional patriarchal structure. In making these cufflinks, a pair for each Jeffryes man that has lived within my lifetime, I reflect on ideas of family tradition and societal norms. Each pair pays homage to these men who have meant a great deal to me, while illustrating the restrictions inherent in such a system and thus the importance of allowing for more open ideas about love, family, and relationships., Sterling Silver and enamel.
Maya Kini /Graphite Wedding Bands The graphite rings began as an investigation of the two-sided nature of carbon. I was intrigued by the genetics of the material and how a slight variation could produce a much harder relative - the diamond. Diamonds are so often used to signify durability because they cannot be cut by anything other than themselves. I wanted to pay homage to diamond’s lesser relative by making rings of graphite that literally mark a process of commitment rather than function as lasting jewelry pieces.

3. The third and final portion of the show will display a collection of personal belongings, gathered from Bay Area residents. The objects included will be the result of a request issued prior to the show to “borrow” items that have been given in the name of love.

 He began to sew me a love letter but as you can see, never finished. Needless to say, it didn’t last... Hillary Kantmann

He began to sew me a love letter but as you can see,
never finished. Needless to say, it didn’t last... Hillary Kantmann

 Sandra Enterline gave me these souvenir pendants for my 85th birthday. They contain 85 burnt match heads and one for good luck. I still remember when Sandra gave them to me, she said, “June that’s a lot of cake!”... June Schwarcz   Patrick H. Adair 1922-2000 WW2 Service Medals  Auld Pat, my father’s father A modest man who would rather Keep these medals in a drawer And never boast about the war But seeing as he’s not here today I thought I’d put them on display  Ross Adair    The Mix Tape  At the end of our first date, Ross gave me this mix tape that he had made for me. I listened to each song hoping to hear clues that would reveal his feelings for me. Ross is a mix tape master...  Anna Adair

Sandra Enterline gave me these souvenir pendants for my 85th birthday. They contain 85 burnt match heads and one for good luck. I still remember when Sandra gave them to me, she said, “June that’s a lot of cake!”... June Schwarcz

Patrick H. Adair 1922-2000 WW2 Service Medals
Auld Pat, my father’s father
A modest man who would rather
Keep these medals in a drawer
And never boast about the war
But seeing as he’s not here today
I thought I’d put them on display
Ross Adair

The Mix Tape At the end of our first date, Ross gave me this mix tape that he had made for me. I listened to each song hoping to hear clues that would reveal his feelings for me. Ross is a mix tape master... Anna Adair

 My grandfather Kenneth Kameo Higashimachi gave this engagement ring to Hisa Claire Morimoto, circa 1926. They were the first generation to break the arranged marriage tradition in their families. Both were Nisei generation, born in Hawaii, him in 1901 and her 1902. My grandfather’s family was from Farmer Class and my grandmother’s was from Samurai Class...  April Higashi

My grandfather Kenneth Kameo Higashimachi gave this engagement ring to Hisa Claire Morimoto, circa 1926. They were the first generation to break the arranged marriage tradition in their families. Both were Nisei generation, born in Hawaii, him in 1901 and her 1902. My grandfather’s family was from Farmer Class and my grandmother’s was from Samurai Class... April Higashi

Show concept Anna Adair
Co-curated by Anna Adair & April Higashi
Join us for our Closing Reception:

Sunday March 22 from 12-5pm