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The Orion

Great Garden Art Weekend features stunning local talents, creations

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Photographs by Matthew Vacca

It’s 93 degrees on Saturday and Barbie and Ken are lounging in a water-hole styled planter box, listening to live music performed by local quartet Bogg at Magnolia Gift & Garden on East Ave.

Barbie and Ken are listening to the quartet’s signature jazz tunes at the first Great Garden Art Weekend, which took place Saturday and Sunday and featured live music, 17 garden artists, cupcakes and crafts for kids.

“Barbie planters are one of our signature things,” said Courtney Paulson,
co-owner of the plant nursery.

A Barbie planter up for sale at Magnolia Gift & Garden during the Great Garden Art Weekend on Saturday. Photo credit: Matthew Vacca

And that’s just one of the things that makes the nursery unique.

“There’s work in every medium you can imagine,” said Ritzy Champers, horticulturist and event coordinator. “Ceramics, glass, wood, metal and mosaic.”

At the event, children climb on giant ladybugs with round glasses that were once part of an amusement park ride at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Directly in front of the ladybugs, a giant Styrofoam skull covered in glow-in-the-dark tiles sits on a table. The artist, Robin Indar, has created mosaics all over California.

The neighboring booth features work from artist Susan Kirk, who builds ceramic pieces and creates totems using recycled metal. Atop most of the totems are ceramic birds with delicately textured feathers.

Stacked sculptures by ceramic artist Susan Kirk on display at Magnolia Gift & Garden. Photo credit: Matthew Vacca

Nearby, a one-eyed metal creature wearing a Speedo covered with peace signs and children’s snow boots waves its axe hand.


This piece is artist Michael Dietz’s interpretation of the madman from Elton John’s album “Madman Across the Water.”

“(That eye is) a $400 headlight that got broken on my motorcycle,” he said.

Another creation of his is a mosaic that includes sharp pieces of rusted metal titled “Mars ain’t the place to raise your kids,” a line from Elton John’s famous song “Rocket Man.”

Creations by Michael Dietz, made from found metal objects, on display at Magnolia Gift & Garden for the Great Garden Art Weekend. Photo credit: Matthew Vacca

Another display features ceramic pomegranates, garlic cloves and pears on a tiered stand. The artist, Lauren Mesa, said the event staff have been wonderful.

Across the nursery is an old yellow school bus from Nevada that serves as the backdrop for the stage where local jazz quartet Bogg performs a funky cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.”

Local jazz quartet Bogg performing at Magnolia Gift & Garden for the Great Garden Art Weekend on Saturday. Photo credit: Matthew Vacca

Next to the bus is glass blower Mylee Francisco, who specializes in glow-in-the-dark glass work.

“We make (glow-in-the-dark) bedside drinking glasses so you can see your glass in the middle of the night,” she said.

Francisco and her boyfriend intend to open a glassblowing studio in Chico, she said. She also has the innovative idea of incorporating ashes of loved ones into glass pieces as a way of memorializing them.

Another artist at the event, Bernard Vigallon, has been making birdhouses for 15 years from almost all recycled materials.

“Anything that’s new is donated,” Vigallon said. “I don’t buy hardly anything.”

Bernard Vigallon's birdhouses are made from recycled and donated materials and on display at Magnolia Gift & Garden during the Great Garden Art Weekend. Photo credit: Matthew Vacca

Vigallon, who makes 300 to 500 bird houses a year, donates his proceeds to Youth Build Chico, the nonprofit local organization where he is a counselor. Last year he gave out four scholarships from $250 to $1,000.

As the warm late-summer sun lowers on the first day of the Great Garden Art Weekend, a plastic dinosaur, unicorn and lion can be seen peacefully sharing a planter box. It looks as though they’re enjoying the music just as much as Barbie and Ken.

These are just some of the artists and sights featured at the event, which the event planners hope to make an annual occurrence.

“We’re just hoping to continue and make it a better event year after year,” event coordinator Champers added.

Emma Wood-Wright can be reached at [email protected] or @emmawoodwright on Twitter.

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