Gina Hyams Author

Category Archives: Mexico

POSTPONED Podcast Storytelling 101 Intensive with Susan Davis in San Miguel de Allende

UPDATE: We are postponing this workshop. If you are interested in future San Miguel de Allende podcasting workshops, please email Gina at ginahyams@gmail.com to be alerted when we reschedule.

Muddy Puppy Media presents

Podcast Storytelling 101 Intensive

with acclaimed NPR producer Susan Davis

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

July 31 – August 5, 2016

San Miguel de Allende photo by Jiuguang Wang

Podcasts are surging in popularity thanks to smash hits like “Serial” and how simple and inexpensive they can be to produce—all you need to get started is an idea, an iPhone, and a computer. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts available now about every topic under the sun. The ones that break through and connect with audiences share one thing in common: compelling stories.

Susan Davis is a storyteller—by nature, by craft, by art, and by profession. For two decades, she has ferreted out the most memorable, most profound, most complex, and most interesting characters and brought their tales to the listeners of Public Radio. In Podcast Storytelling 101 Intensive, she will teach students how to create vivid, narrative-driven podcasts. Powerful stories bring ideas to life, allowing listeners to do things like hear a painting, smell an architectural wonder, see a war zone, taste a taco, and feel a breeze.

Susan will detail the essential elements of audio stories and introduce the building blocks of a great podcast, including true listening, the art of hosting, perfecting a sound, achieving a tone, and designing an efficient production structure and schedule. She will also address tech issues and share tips on how to build an audience through promotion and distribution.

Workshop participants will hone their vision and develop plans for their personal podcasts. They will also gain hands-on recording, editing, and mixing production experience. Working in teams, the group will capture San Miguel de Allende’s soundtrack of mariachi bands, church bells, fireworks, and barking dogs and create podcasts that explore the multi-faceted expatriate community there.

About the Instructor:

Susan Davis photo by Michael Czeiszperger

Susan Davis has worked as a producer for Marketplace, Soundprint, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation at NPR, as well as for The State of Things on North Carolina Public Radio/WUNC. Her recent podcast clients include NPR’s Alt Latino, The Good Fight with Ben Wikler (#1 on iTunes), Press Record (from the Southern Oral History Project at UNC Chapel Hill), The Monti Radio Hour, and Classical Classroom. She has taught podcasting/audio production at a wide range of venues, ranging from Duke University to the Public Radio Program Directors Conference to the Cultural Affairs Department of the United States Department of State.

Location:

San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in Mexico’s central highlands. It is known for its Spanish Colonial architecture, thriving arts and food scenes, and lively expatriate community.

Casa Duende photo by Gina Hyams

The workshop will be held at Casa Duende, a private home in San Miguel’s mural-filled Colonia Guadalupe neighborhood. San Miguel weather in August is mild, typically with a high of around 80 °F and low of about 60 °F. It rains intermittently, rendering the high desert landscape green and lush with flowers.

 

Schedule:

The workshop will kick off with a welcome dinner on Sunday and then convene at 10:00am each day during the week. Mornings will be filled with lectures, tech demonstrations, and discussions; lunchtime will be when we brainstorm about personal podcast projects; and afternoons will be spent out and about exploring San Miguel, doing field recordings, and collaborating in small groups.

We recommend that you arrive at least a day or two early to adjust to the high elevation (6,300 feet) and stay as long as you can after the workshop, as you won’t be ready to leave Mexico.

Tuition:

US$749 early bird discount through June 30 / US$799 after July 1. Enrollment is limited to 12 participants.

Nourishment:

The workshop fee includes a welcome dinner, five lunches, excellent snacks, and a farewell tequila toast.

Lodging:

Accommodations are not included in the price of the workshop. Lodging suggestions near the workshop venue will be provided to you via email after you register for the class.

What to Bring:

Laptop, smart phone, USB cable, and headphones (not ear buds).

How to Register:

For more information and to register, please email Gina at ginahyams@gmail.com.

Cancellation Policy:

If the workshop must be canceled due to low enrollment or unforeseen circumstances, all tuition will be refunded in full. If a student chooses to cancel, for any reason, at least four weeks prior to the first day of the workshop, Muddy Puppy Media will refund the tuition minus a US$100 administration fee. If a student cancels between six and 28 days prior to the start of the workshop, they will receive a 50% refund. There are no refunds for cancelations made five or less days before the workshop.

Patrice Wynne Interview: San Miguel de Allende Expat Entrepreneur on Doing Business in Mexico, Beauty, Aging, and Love

Inspired by the colors, exuberance, and traditions of Mexico, Patrice Wynne created Abrazos featuring San Miguel Designs, her boutique in San Miguel de Allende and production company designing textile products, which are handmade by local seamstresses working in fair trade conditions. Her collection has grown from a line of aprons to kitchen wares, handbags, baby bibs, dresses, men’s shirts, and more, selling all over the world—from Paris to Beirut to Mexico City. She uses fabrics patterned with Mexican cultural icons, such as Frida Kahlo, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), lucha libre (Mexican wrestlers), cacti, and chili peppers that characterize what she calls “the fiesta of life in Mexico.”

baby-10

Expat Entrepreneur Patrice Wynne (2016 photo on right by Kate Frank Cohen)

Gina: Where are you from?

Patrice: I was born on October 5,1951 in Pottsville, in upstate Pennsylvania, but consider Minersville, a town nearby, where my grandparents lived, as my heart home or place of true birth. This is anthracite coal mining country. Both my grandfathers were in the coal mines, one as an executive, the other as a child miner.

Gina: Where all did you live before moving to Mexico?

Patrice: I have had the good fortune of living in tremendously wonderful cities and small towns all over California before moving to San Miguel in 2000.

Gina: What sorts of work did you do before moving to Mexico?

Patrice: I got my training in business and management as a young executive at Fotomat, the drive-through stores in shopping centers all over the US. Over my ten years with the company, I managed 500 “fotomates” [employees].

Fotomat

By the time I quit, I was ready for a huge change, so I took six months off to travel around Europe and ponder my future:  in my late twenties and in a soul crisis. I was interested in becoming a Unitarian minister because it had saved me from corporate America’s grip and seductions. Since I was nervous about public speaking, I decided to get my degree in women’s studies not knowing what I would do, but fascinated by all of the writings by and about women of the 70s and 80s. I just followed my passion.

In college, I was the co-founder of the Rising Spirits Cafe at the Ecumenical House of San Francisco State University and I started the Amnesty International group at SFSU, specializing in Latin American human rights. The Cafe sponsored readings by authors, conversations with professors, poetry readings by Vietnam Vets and organized large scale events for the nuclear freeze movement. It was important political work, but psychologically very challenging. When I graduated I took that summer off to heal in nature at the Ojai Foundation. It was there that I was invited to open their bookstore. I discovered that I loved being in the book world, and opened my own bookstore, Gaia, a few years later in North Berkeley, where I was living.

Patrice at Gaia Bookstore in Berkeley, California

In the beginning, I spoke to other booksellers to learn what I could from them about the business. Without exception they thought it was a tough field and strongly challenged me on my area of specialty, women’s spirituality, not feminist studies, but women’s spiritual processes, religion, psychology and health. I forged ahead, and rented a small space that was so tiny that we never bothered to alphabetize our books, we just put them wherever there was a space on the shelf. In retrospect, it seems like a wild idea, but I was committed and had a ton of contacts and put them all to good use. We flourished, growing into a large store with 25 employees and expanding into other areas of interest, all with a focus on the human spirit. We became nationally known for our nightly author readings; I hosted 3,000 events during my career. When we closed under extreme financial duress from Barnes and Noble and Amazon, I told the world, that I would never ever, under any circumstances, ever open another retail store.

Gina: What skills did you learn in your previous work that came into use when you started Abrazos?

Patrice: Audacity, confidence in myself and my vision, originality in concept and design, people management, mentoring and leadership training, importance of novelty and the new in retail business. Again, I heard the same things: “Oh, you can’t succeed, you are too specialized, it will take over your life.” Blah, blah, blah. I did it anyways, and although there have been times when we barely survived, we are growing for the last three years and I am optimistic about our future.

A few of Patrice’s many San Miguel Designs products

Gina: What new skills did you need to learn to do business in Mexico?

Patrice: Listening to and observing the subtle cultural cues in Spanish that differ from English; tolerance for differences in banking, regulations, tax collections, border crossings, importations; manufacturing complexities; and most importantly, the expectation of courtesies and respect at all times. For example, always asking customers and employees how they are doing before leaping into the question on your mind.

Gina: How good is your Spanish?

Patrice: Functionally conversational, but not fluent: good enough to speak to employees all day long; good enough to go to Mexico City every week in search of supplies; good enough to manage a tour business which I did before I opened Abrazos. I cannot carry on a lengthy intellectual discussion on complex issues, or spend an entire night over dinner and understand the conversation if it was all in Spanish.

Gina: How many people do you employ now and what are their jobs?

Patrice: I tell people that we have one hundred seamstresses, but we really only have thirteen, however when you hire a Mexican woman you are hiring her children, her neighbors, her family, and extended family, since everyone helps her and everyone wants to work, too. Abrazos has a talented, professional team that manages the retail and wholesale responsibilities. Since we have two businesses out of one location, it takes a lot of coordination and superior communication and teamwork to operate smoothly. Our business manager, Aaron Leon, has been with us since we opened; Samantha Nogueda is the Abrazos store and production manager and marketing genius; Gaby handles social media coordination; and Lorena is the general assistant who does everything and more to keep the store beautiful and merchandise ready for sales.

San Miguel Designs longtime seamstresses

Gina: What sort of advisors do you have on your team?

Patrice: I have an accountant that we are in contact with all the time, a lawyer who I talk to about once a year, and a Mexico City woman taxi driver who also runs errands for us in the City since our biggest clients are located there.

Gina: What and/or who are your design inspirations?

Patrice: Anything to do with fair trade and slow fashion, so mostly other small-scale designers and creators. I find videos and working cooperativas on Facebook that move me. I am not inspired by anyone in the fashion or manufacturing industry.

Gina: Do you have any personal and/or business role models?

Patrice: I am most inspired by Frida [Kahlo] in spirit, fierceness, individuality, Mexicanismo, and passion.

Gina: What gives you the most pleasure about running your business?

Patrice: Seeing the women come in every day for work with their children and their mothers; watching the brand grow as we are sold in stores and museum shops all over the world; watching the confidence grow in the young women who work in Abrazos. For example, one in particular was very meek when she came to work for us as a housekeeper and now does just about every job with confidence and high performance and speaks up to her controlling father and brothers because she has found her voice and her talents.

Gina: What is the most challenging thing about running your business?

Patrice: Balancing personal time with being the owner/founder. I travel frequently—to open new accounts, to service existing accounts, and to enjoy life all over Mexico with Ernesto. Fortunately, I have employees who enjoy being in charge of the business and are fully trustworthy to manage all the business affairs. From the road, I manage the financial responsibilities, fabric ordering, and off site questions that need attention. The downside is that I am online frequently, but when you’re sitting in a plaza in the Yucatan on an iPad, it’s still a paradise.

Gina: What do you wish you’d known before you launched Abrazos?

Patrice: Opportunity is not the highest value; being part of a family system is much more compelling. Years ago I mentored a very poor young woman who wanted to be her own person. She was my housekeeper, then my assistant, then my store manager. She traveled with me; I left her the business and the house in my will; she was my right hand gal in everything and we were very close. But when her brother and sister were caught stealing from me and I fired them, she had to walk away from it all. Her family would not allow her to work with me, if they had lost their job. Kindness and generosity and opportunities offered do not mean a thing because family wishes always prevail. Family is everything and more in this country.

Gina: What do you think are the most important character traits for being a successful entrepreneur?

Patrice: Focus; kindness and toughness; confidence and humility; and in today’s world, willingness to do shameless marketing, a phrase I coined. You take the point of view “people care and are interested in my life and my work.” You have to be willing to share what you are doing boldly, creatively, and authentically. Professional marketing is no substitute for personal enthusiasm. Marketing skills have to be self taught and exercised confidently, even though your shyer self has all kinds of messages telling you to hide yourself under a blanket.

Gina: How do you stay healthy and keep your amazing energy? Do you exercise or follow any particular diet?

Patrice: Recently I attended a pre-performance talk by Farruquito, the world’s greatest gypsy dancer. When someone asked him this exact same question, we both give the exact same answer: Nothing. PASSION for one’s life and work and “dance” keeps us healthy. This passion keeps us energized, keeps us dynamically engaged with life. However, I do eat modestly, and never overeat, for one thing, because stuffiness makes me groggy. I don’t use any drugs including marijuana, don’t smoke and drink only when dining out.

HOME from FARRUQUITO on Vimeo.

Gina: How would you describe your personal sense of style?

Patrice: Bohemian Mexican Indigenous Contemporary. I wear the Abrazos dresses when I travel because they go over anything and are super comfortable. Natural fabrics, often mismatched, artistic one-of-a-kind jewelry created by friends, indigenous clothing that I adapt to be more stylish. I’m into style, not fashion. Fashion is dictated by businesses and industry. Style is your own artistry. Your body is the canvas; your closet is the palette.

Patrice Style

Patrice Style

Gina: What are your thoughts on aging and beauty?

Patrice: It is a grace and an opportunity to let life show up in your face, eyes, body, and soul. And it’s fucking hard to have a body that aches with joint pain, which is my suffering. But in my relationship with Ernesto, I am lucky to have a guy that is enjoying me as an older woman and adores me just as I am and validates it all since he thinks aging is cool. And it is, basically, as you watch yourself handle things with more gentleness and love. I actually think I am more beautiful now than I was ten years ago and at various times in my life, when I was more stressed and pushing myself harder.

Gina: Please tell me about your wonderful house in San Miguel. Did you build it?

Patrice: I bought the house twelve years ago after renting it for two years. I wanted to make sure that I would enjoy living a twenty-minute walk from Centro. I do, because it is a break from the constancy of traffic, events, tourism, fireworks, and street closings that are the conditions of life in the Historic Centro. Since my store is located there, it is the best of both worlds: I get the pleasures and benefits of tourism as a business and the peace of living in a quiet Mexican neighborhood.

My colonia, Independencia, is a mixed neighborhood, mostly Mexican, with few businesses so few trucks and deliveries, mostly residential, on a hill, with breezes and natural sounds from birds and the wind, as well as the church bells, which we can hear from our bedroom in the mornings and at night. There’s also a mariachi school nearby so I get to hear them play and watch them go by. Love it.

Patrice’s Casa

When I bought the house it was a wreck. Ernesto calls it “the place that Frida came to get ideas.” It is muy Mexicana colorful. I paid a little over US$100,000 and put in another US$50,000. Over the years, I added a rooftop terrace and a landscaped garden where we spend time being restored and secluded. Avenida Independencia, the main entrance to town on this side of the city, is two doors from our house. So we can watch the world go by and the religious processions, which we love to do from our rooftop. Also horses and donkey pass by our house frequently.

Gina: When and how did you and Ernesto meet?

Patrice: I met Ernesto when a friend introduced us three years ago though I had a crush on him a decade ago when he dated a friend. I kept it to myself and never spoke to him, only to my therapist. I was a goner and could not figure out why I was so fascinated by him. After we began dating I understood: he seduced me with his kindness, his gentlemanliness, his Mexicanismo.

Ernesto and Patrice

Ernesto and Patrice

For the full story, see an essay I wrote for the Huff Post called “Reborn On Cobblestones” about how we met. It reveals a lot about me. I let it all out about my fierce independence and the stages of meeting him and letting myself surrender to that love in my sixties.

Gina: What is he interested in (besides you!)?

 Patrice: He enjoys taking care of our home, caring for our darling rescue dog Rudi (notice a theme here?), documentaries, reading thriller novels, hanging out on the rooftop, and napping. He loves the simplicity of life that he can create for himself. We are both huge admirers of each other’s ways and interests and place no demands on each other to be anything but the best we can be: he as a professional napper, reader, and walking retiree; me as a professional social entrepreneur and slow fashion advocate. Our daily activities are a huge contrast, but that unites rather than separates us as we talk about every detail of our days when we are together in the evenings. We share a passion for eating delicious, simple meals, reading, talking about Mexico, music, and traveling all over Mexico. And we both love Facebook and find amusement to read all kinds of things to each other.

Rudi

Rudi

Gina: Have you had a formal public wedding ceremony yet? I enjoyed your wedding dress quest on Facebook. Did you end up buying any of those dresses?

Patrice: I am still collecting wedding dress ideas that I see on Facebook and in stores. Have tried on a few and find that they always look better in theory than in practice. A friend summarized my problem: I can’t decide whether to have ten people or a thousand. I know a city full of people and don’t want to leave anyone off the guest list that I have known all these years. However, a wedding of ten is not my dream since my first marriage was a small one and I never felt that I celebrated enough. As you can see I am stumped, but it will sort itself out over time.

Mexican gowns

Some of Patrice’s potential wedding gowns

Gina: Why do you want to get married rather than just live together?

Patrice: We want to be married because we love the idea of doing it over again this time around as a married couple with all the lessons culled from living to this age of sweet wisdom. And because we are so much in love, we want to formally proclaim it to the world by a marriage. In some ways, we are both old fashioned about marriage, it is a joyfully public expression of a commitment that just being partners in life does not satisfy.

Gina: What are your tips for a happy relationship?

Patrice: Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly; Nothing is worth fighting over if you can resolve it with forgiveness and a kiss and most everything can; speak up if you are hurt because holding grudges will come out later the wrong way; listening is better than speaking because we all want to be heard; spending quiet times together at home builds intimacy, even if you are both in other rooms doing Facebook—as long as you share stories and read to each other periodically; give each other the freedom to be apart if that is what makes another happy; primarily, enjoy your own company and share as much as you can with your partner whenever you are together.

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Follow Patrice on Facebook at Abrazos featuring San Miguel Designs by Patrice Wynne.

Announcing the 2016 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Recipient: John McCarthy

My family and I are delighted to announce that John McCarthy of Santa Monica, California, is the recipient of this year’s Leigh Hyams Studio Residency.

How John describes his art: “My work is about giving form to memories, visions, and dreams. Intuition, interpretation, and imagination are the driving forces that have fueled my passion for making art since the 1980s. Inspired by nature, I pay close attention to the forest, to the ocean, and to the qualities of light at night, especially faint illuminations cast by lit windows, campfires, and moonlight. These elements often surface in my painting as abstractions. My painting process includes sensory awareness techniques that allow me to relinquish control and invent new ways of making marks: painting with the canvas behind my back while looking through a mirror; painting the shape of a sound; and painting in near darkness. I often work with both hands simultaneously.”

John’s thoughts on how he’ll spend his time during the residency: “I spent  five weeks with Leigh in San Miguel de Allende in 2006. If I had a month to spend in her studio, I would take walks we used to take together, look at things we used to look at, and remember conversations we had. I would then take those memories along with the emotions they elicit and weave them into new works. Leigh continues to be a large and living presence in my life and work. The experience of being able to work in the place where she once lived and worked and to feel her presence and guidance, would be most meaningful and inspiring. And, I would love to be able to work freely, without distraction or interruption!”

"Mulholland Drive Dream" by John McCarthy, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 72” x 60”

“Mulholland Drive Dream” by John McCarthy, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 72” x 60”

Announcing the 2015 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Recipient: Sally Heppner

My family and I are delighted to announce that Sally Heppner of Portland, Oregon, is the recipient of this year’s Leigh Hyams Studio Residency. Her application is so moving, I am publishing it (with her permission) in full below.

Cheers,
Gina

“Where are you going?” by Sally Heppner, 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 24″ x 36″.

Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Application for May 2015

Submitted by Sally Heppner

How I’m connected with Leigh

Journal Entry from Sunday, June 8, 2008: She said to be ready to hate my work. She said to be ready to cry. She said to stop being nice. She said others have started looking for plane tickets back after a week. Apparently she is going to kick me in the butt. Big time.

This is exactly what I want.

And that’s exactly what happened.

I heard Leigh speak in March, 2008 in Portland, Oregon. The minute I heard her speak, I knew there was something within her that was luminous. At that time her paintings were loose, drippy, luscious botanicals. They drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. She said her painting was about “this incredible joy of being alive.” I knew then I wanted to be near her and learn from her.

She worked me hard. I painted for two and a half weeks in the little garden shed, painting from exquisite dreams I discovered I had only while in Mexico. I changed and my work transformed. Leigh had the ability to help unlock me, to loosen the tight intellectual constraints learned while earning my recent fine arts degree, and I began to paint from the center of my soul.

When I came home, I built out a wall in my little apartment like the wall in Leigh’s studio so I could continue to paint freely, and I did until two and a half years ago when my world turned upside down.

On August 10th 2012, my 24-year-old son, Michael, died in his sleep. We don’t know why, he just went. He was a luminous soul, like Leigh, an artist to the core of his being. His medium was music; when he played the saxophone I was mesmerized. Now I hear him in the sound of the geese overhead as they head to the nearby park, the harmonies of water as a river wends its way through boulders, the whisper of glacial wind blowing down from a mountain at dusk.

When Michael died, I felt him with me, guiding me through my grief. I felt an intense surge of creativity and love. But my painting heart became locked up. I’m still not sure why.

The following summer I realized if anybody could help me unlock this frozen painting heart, it would be Leigh. I would go to San Miguel and study with her again. When I searched and found she had died a few months previous, I was filled with new grief—for you, Gina, for those who would never get a chance to soak up Leigh’s spirit, and for myself because I would not have her to guide me again with her rigorous, exuberant, honest teaching.

I’ve continued to paint through my grief but it’s not the same. I’ve been painting about my search. What happens after we die? Where is Michael now? I’ve also been painting pure expression, like Leigh taught me, but only occasionally. I have lost my heart.

I still need Leigh. I need to feel her joyous spirit; her dedication to drawing; her passion for paint; her love of life. Though her body is not here, I believe her spirit is, and I know that while working in her space she will be near.

When I worked with Leigh previously, I was driven. I couldn’t stop painting. I felt like I was dancing with paint in the little garden shed and I didn’t want to leave. I kept learning from Leigh right up until the end. The last day as I prepared to leave, though exhausted, I decided I had one more painting in me. I started a diptych from a small, loose drawing I’d made at the hot springs the day before. As I worked, Leigh would come in and sit down, discussing the difference between value and intensity, suggesting just a bit more punch, or intensity, in the lower left corner of one. I was so very grateful for every hour spent with Leigh. She helped me open up and see from my soul. As I left San Miguel in the wee hours of the morning I closed my eyes. What did I see? Splotches of lush color juxtaposed against each other. My mind was playing with intensity, value and hue. Lush oranges were playing against the pinks, greens and yellows of Mexico. They were dripping and goopy and slopped-on in my mind. I was continuing to paint, continuing what Leigh had imparted.­­

What would I do for a month in Leigh’s studio?

To prepare myself, I will re-read the journal I wrote while working with her in 2008. I will also re-read her book, How Painting Holds Me on The Earth: Writings of a Maverick Painter and Teacher, which I continue to turn to when I need a good dose of Leigh. (She was writing her book while mentoring me and I had the privilege of helping her edit a few chapters. She also included portions of my journal in her postscript section on mentoring.)

The first morning in Leigh’s studio and garden I will sit and absorb. I remember her often sitting and reading in her garden. I want to hear what new things she has to tell me. I never got enough of her teaching.

Next I w­ill go out and find that luscious Mexican paint Leigh introduced me to. I will buy colors I like and colors I hate, just as Leigh suggested when we went to the little tienda on my first day with her. I will come back to the studio and tack up several large sheets of paper, nothing precious, and begin to paint. I will find those places within myself that I need to let go of and just paint.

Journal entry from Tuesday, June 10th, 2008: She said to think about painting joy later and think about shouting right now. It may not be beautiful or pleasing or anything I have been taught to do. My gut may paint ahead of my intellect. That will catch up later.

I need the time and the place to shout. I will revive what Leigh taught me; how she prodded me and pushed me to my limits. Since Michael died, I have painted when I can but haven’t set aside the time to inquire deeply. When I do have time, I have been reading everything I can get my eyes on and painting my questions about death. We don’t deal with these questions in our society very well. Mexicans seem to accept death much more fluidly than we. I had the opportunity to be in Mexico for Dia de Los Muertos in 2008 and experienced the celebration of loved ones remembered and returning to their families. What better place than Leigh’s studio in Mexico, where the veil between death and life is not drawn so tightly, to continue my inquiry? I will converse with paint in Leigh’s studio every day, then, in the evenings I will write of my experience. I learn by writing; it helps to clarify my thoughts and recall what I’ve learned.

As I was cleaning out my own small studio at the beginning of this New Year, I wanted to set aside painting about grief and paint life again. But when I think about it, I realize I am not done with grief. Leigh’s statement that her painting is about the incredible joy of being alive has never left me. It’s why I was drawn to her paintings and her exuberant spirit in the first place. My work tends to be about life and the joy I find when outside but I know I need the space and time to go deep into death and grieving before I can paint life again. I suspect there is much to learn about death and life and the interconnectedness of the two.

“Transition” by Sally Heppner, 2014. Acrylic and charcoal on canvas. 48″ x 54″.

About my work

In addition to my inquiry about grief, my work is about human interaction with nature. How humans respond to the environment surrounding them intrigues me. We are happiest and healthiest when in touch with where we come from; we have an inarticulate need to be an integral part of the natural universe. The more I turn over rocks to see lives below them and the more I absorb the beauty of what surrounds us, the more I feel a sense of wonder about what it means to be part of this unfathomable whole. Lately, though, when outside and when painting, I find my thoughts turning to life, death, and the nature of our being. I have so many questions.

I have lost my painting heart and I want to find it again. I used to find joy in the way art would open me up to the natural world—I would pay attention to shape, absorb color, bury my eyes in the texture of paint, and express deep emotion. When painting, I have a conversation with my work; sometimes a painting will tell me it is done but not yet ready to be understood. Leigh taught me that too. Looking at a particular painting months later, I begin to understand. I love the continued discovery.

I don’t want to let these things go. Now, glimmers of the power of art and nature emerge occasionally but the rigors of making ends meet clutter my mind and affect my art practice. I need the time away to focus, a fresh start, to revisit what Leigh taught me and push my painting to the limits. I am ready. Leigh said in her book, “For me, the act of drawing or painting a landscape fulfills some inarticulate need to be an integral part of the universe – to meld with the natural world, or, somehow, through painting, to touch the life force for an instant.” This quote exemplifies the mysterious and powerful interconnectedness of art and the natural world. Setting aside a month to paint and examine the connections between art, nature, life, and death in Leigh’s studio in Mexico would allow me to come away with a deeper understanding of this beautiful existence we’re living, a renewed pursuit of painting, and a good dose of Leigh’s spirit, so I may share with those around me this incredible joy of being alive.

 

A Painting Tribute to Leigh Hyams by John McCarthy

Los Angeles-based artist John McCarthy was one of my mom’s favorite people. They met at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, in 1996, and he went on to serve as lead assistant during her master painting classes there from 2006 until her last seminar in 2011, as well as participate in workshops she led in Providencia, Colombia and at various locations in Mexico, including San Miguel de Allende, Patzcuaro, Guanajuato, and Xilitla. He recently shared with me this vivid series of paintings that he created in tribute to her.

Leigh and John at Esalen, April 2008

Remembering Days and Nights: 
A painting tribute to Leigh Hyams, mentor and friend
by John McCarthy 
January, 2015
These are memory-generated paintings inspired by the loss of my art mentor, Leigh Hyams (1926 – 2013).
 
For 15 years I painted with Leigh and other artists in Mexico, Big Sur, and Colombia, often working outside in the tropics to capture in abstract form the essence of the jungle, the wind, and the sea. This series is a remembrance of those days and nights: A recollection of the colors and sounds and smells of the forests and the shore as we all painted together, looking at each other’s work and delighting in conversations about art.

Leigh teaching at Esalen, 2007

The painting, Crossing the Bridge, was inspired by a vision that I had one night last year before I drifted off to sleep. I found myself in a forest in Big Sur with Leigh and another artist friend, Kay Bridge, who had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was a forest we had all painted in many times, and I could see Leigh walking across a footbridge, with Kay following behind. I was struck by the aliveness of that moment: I could see what Leigh and Kay were wearing; I could see the moon and smell the pine trees; I could hear leaves rustling and waves crashing in the distance. And then, in an instant, I realized that Leigh was dead and Kay was soon to die. That searing moment was the genesis of the painting.

‘Crossing the Bridge’, watercolor, charcoal and ink on paper, 53” x 42”, 2014

At Leigh’s memorial service at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco, her paintbrushes were placed in a basket and those in attendance were invited to take some. I took three brushes, mixed them in with my own, and used them to create this series.

Leigh’s paint brushes (photo by Gina Hyams)

‘The Night Walk’ acrylic on paper, 22” x 30”, 2014

‘Jungle, Xilitla’, acrylic on paper, 9.5” x 12.5”, 2014

‘Warm Xilitlan Night’, acrylic, caran d’Ache and charcoal on wood panel, 29” x 29.5”, 2014

‘La Selva Mexicana’, charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2014

‘Rhythm of the Sea’, acrylic on paper, 9 3/8” x 12.5”, 2014

‘Waterfall, Xilitla, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 16” x 20”

‘Remembering the Forest’, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2014

‘The Afterglow’, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 30” x 22”, 2013

‘Rituals of Spring’, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2013

John McCarthy drawing

‘The Winds of Change’, charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2013

John and Leigh at Esalen

John McCarthy is currently seeking gallery representation. Please email any leads to him at johnmccarthyartist@me.com.

Leigh Hyams Studio Residency in San Miguel de Allende: 2016 Application Guidelines

Leigh’s family established the Leigh Hyams Studio Residency to give an artist a free month-long creative retreat at Leigh’s casita in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The furnished casita has a painting studio, simple kitchen, one bedroom, Talavera tile-filled bathroom, and an extensive collection of art books, as well as access to the patio garden and roof terrace. Everything you need, including organic groceries and art supplies, is within walking distance. For more information about the house and neighborhood, see Casa Duende.

Leigh painting in her casita studio circa 2008

GUIDELINES

1. Applicants must have some connection to Leigh – be it that they were her student, friend, or fan.

2. The residency will take place May of 2016 and will include rent, utilities, housekeeping three times a week, and assistance as needed from the bilingual property manager.

3. The residency is for one person (no friends, no family, no pets) so that you, the artist, can focus on your art without distraction.

4. The artist is responsible for his or her own transportation to Mexico, food, and art supplies.

HOW TO APPLY

Application deadline: February 5, 2016.

Answer these questions:

1. How are you connected to Leigh?

2. What would you do with a month in Leigh’s studio?

3. Please tell us about your art.

Email application to: ginahyams@gmail.com.

Casita bedroom

Day bed in the casita studio

Casita kitchen

Casita dining area

Casita studio

Casita bathroom

Announcing the 2014 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Recipient: Painter Carolyn Miller

We are pleased to announce that Carolyn Miller of San Francisco is the recipient of the 2014 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency.

Here’s how Carolyn plans to use her May retreat in San Miguel de Allende:

“After being initially intimidated at trying to paint where Leigh painted, and finding it hard to be in the casita when she is no longer there, I believe I would be energized by her dedication to her work and as a result I would paint some large canvases. Last September I had a solo show at Canessa Gallery in San Francisco, and one of the paintings was of my mother’s famous dahlia bed at my childhood home in Missouri. On one of Leigh’s visits from Mexico I had told her I wanted to paint that dahlia bed, and she encouraged me to do. I tried to do that painting then and failed, but last year I did complete a large painting and named it ‘My Mother’s Dahlia Bed, for Leigh.’ After that painting sold, I decided I wanted to do several other paintings of the same subject. I also would like to do a series on the Missouri woods, and a series of Missouri rivers. I’m interested these days in large canvases, 48 by 48 inches, that would eventually be stretched.

Because the Canessa show went well, I would like to try for another show there, probably with another person, so a month of time to paint would allow me to gather some new work toward that end. Some other ideas I have for paintings include abstracts based on the sidewalks in San Miguel, because when I was there I became fascinated with the colors and patterns in the native stone. I would also like to do some paintings of the flowers, vegetables, and fruits sold in the mercado, some of which I sketched when I was staying in the casita. I would also like to experiment with some streetscapes and interiors, two kinds of painting I have almost never done but have always wanted to try.

Recently I’ve been taking a long time to do each painting and have found it hard to find the time to paint, but I believe that if I had an entire month to devote to painting I could achieve much more, as I did in the days when I took part in Leigh’s classes and workshops.”

 

Update June 16, 2014

To see photos of the works in progress Carolyn painted during her residency, please click here.

“My Mother’s Dahlia Bed, for Leigh” by Carolyn Miller

Interview with Author Andrea Lawson Gray about “Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes”

Andrea Lawson Gray

San Francisco-based author and chef Andrea Lawson Gray collaborated with Adriana Almazán Lahl on a wonderful new book titled Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). It delves into the foods of Mexico’s many holidays, each chapter featuring historical and cultural background information, along with recipes and photographs. This comprehensive volume explores both major and lesser-known fiestas, as well as rites of passage celebrations, such as quinceñeras, weddings, and funerals.

 

Andrea is the proprietor of Tres Señoritas Gourmet, a caterer specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine and Una Señorita Gourmet, a private, in-home culinary service. She writes a column on Mexican cuisine for the Examiner.com and a blog on food in San Francisco’s Mission district, My Mission: Tastes of San Francisco. A single mother of three children, she also volunteers at International High School of San Francisco, working on diversity and social justice issues. She is building a small hotel and cooking school in Tenango de Valle, Mexico, called Casa La Tia that she hopes to open in the summer of 2016.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gina: What are the roots of your passion for Mexican cuisine and how did you learn to cook it?

 

Andrea: My passion for Mexican cuisine really comes from my passion for Mexico, its people who are just so hospitable, noble, and humble at the same time and value the land and their traditions in a way that I think we have forgotten here. The cuisine is such a natural extension of all this that I actually had a yearning to become immersed in the cuisine as I became more and more immersed in Mexican culture. It really drew me in.

 

Gina: How did Celebracions Mexicanas come to be and how long did it take? Had you written much before?

 

Andrea: I had been writing a column for the Examiner.com for several years on Mexican food and Mexican restaurants. I had planned to write a book when I moved to Mexico; I wasn’t sure what exactly it would be about, but as I tracked the interest in my columns I found that whenever I wrote about Mexican food for a specific Mexican holiday, I attracted the most readers. So it came to me that I had the topic for my book, but I still planned to write it when I moved to Mexico (which will be in 2016).

 

Then I received an email from Ken Albala, who was to become my editor— he was looking for a writer for a book on Chinese cuisine. I never let an email go unanswered, so I replied, almost as a joke “I actually don’t know enough about Chinese cuisine to take on your project (even though I did own a Chinese restaurant in NYC…but I was the frontend person, not in the kitchen), but if you ever want to do a book on Mexican cuisine, I’m your gal.” He replied that I should submit a book proposal. I had never done one before. The rest, as they say, is history! I had NO idea that my book was the first of its kind until I read the description on Amazon: “the first book to bring the richness and authenticity of the foods of Mexico’s main holidays and celebrations to the American home cook.” I couldn’t believe it!

 

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Gina: How did your collaboration with Adriana work?

 

Andrea: As soon as I got Ken’s email, I knew I needed a collaborator to provide recipes. I am well-versed in Mexican cooking, but I wanted someone’s family recipes. All my Mexican friends, well, at least the women, have notebooks of their mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. I met Adriana and (several other amazing Latina ladies who cook) when I interviewed her for a piece I wrote for my column on La Cocina, the business incubator that gave her her start. Of all the women I had met for my article, Adriana was the first to come to mind. When I approached her, she said, “I have been waiting my whole life to write a cookbook!”

 

Almazán Family Cookbook

Gina: What did your research for the book entail?

 

Andrea: I began by locating original texts. Fortunately, there are several really wonderful sources, starting with Bernardino de Sahagun’s Florentine Codex, recorded between 1545 and 1590, when he first met the Aztecs right after the Spanish landed. There has been lots of scholarship on the subject, so many of the more important texts, like the Florentine Codex, have even been translated into English. My Spanish is good, but reading Spanish as it appeared in the colonial era is a bit of a stretch for me. There are wonderful texts from the height of the Spanish occupation, written by women with a great eye for detail, and these are widely quoted in the book. Fascinating material! And in December of last year, Adriana went to Mexico and was able to go to several libraries…that was invaluable.

 

Chile en Nogada

Gina: How did you source the photos?

 

Andrea: Everything about this project was blessed! First, Adriana not only had the culinary education and recipes to make the book really shine, she also minored in photography at the University in Mexico City, and is an excellent food photographer and stylist. I also have a food styling background from a previous career as a creative director (something I never imagined I would be tapping into again).

As for the amazing in-country photos of Mexico’s indigenous people, Jorge Ontiveros, our photographer, has a passion for this and was excited about the opportunity to share his work in this country, where it had never been seen before. Many of the photographs in the book were from a collection he already had, and he was able to take other photos we needed for the book, for specific holidays.

 

Gina: How did you find a publisher? Did an editor there help shape the development of the book?

 

Andrea: Our editor, Ken Albala, already had a series with Alta Mira Press, the Food Studies and Gastronomy arm of Rowman & Littlefield. He presented the proposal to the publisher for us. He was also invaluable in guiding me in terms of voice for the book, recommending sources, and across the board. We were just so lucky…we couldn’t have wished for an editor more versed in our topic!

 

Gina: What’s your favorite Mexican celebration and why? Please share a related recipe.

 

Andrea: My favorite time of year to be in Mexico is for Dia de Los Muertos, as the altars start to appear in the pueblos and the puestos (market stalls) sell special chocolates and alfreniques (sugar skulls). I love Adriana’s recipe for pumpkin mole, made with chiles, chocolate, and pumpkin purée, but my favorite from our chapter on Day of the Dead is for Marigold Patties in Tomato Stew, because this is not something we really cook with here, marigold petals (cempazuchil), the traditional Day of the Dead flowers. Their bright orange-yellow color represents the brightness of the sun, and their aroma is believed to attract the souls of the dead to the altars prepared in their honor.

 

Marigold Patties in Tomato Stew

Tortitas de Cempazuchil en Caldillo

(SERVES 6–8)

 

1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded (see recipe below)

1 egg white

10 cempazuchitl flowers, petals only (edible marigolds, should be organic)

1/2 cup Mexican sour cream

1 sprig epazote

1/2 tbsp Mexican oregano

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

2 cups of Tomato Caldillo (See recipe below)

2–6 tbsp oil

MIX shredded chicken with egg whites and the petals of 4 flowers, finely chopped. Add cream, epazote, oregano, salt, and pepper; mix well. Form 2-inch patties. Chop the remaining flower petals and cover patties with the petals. Prepare Tomato Caldillo.

Add oil to a sauté pan and fry patties (you will need to continue adding oil, 2 tbsp at a time, as you remove cooked patties and add new ones to the sauté pan). Cook 2 minutes on each side. Drain well on a paper towel and add to Tomato Caldillo. Serve with rice, beans, and warm tortillas.

 

Chicken Stock, plus Shredded Chicken

(MAKES ABOUT 1 GALLON OF STOCK, 5 POUNDS SHREDDED CHICKEN)

 

1 ½ gallons water

6 chicken legs and 6 chicken thighs, with skin and bones (about 4–6 pounds)

1 head garlic, roasted

½ onion

½ tsp whole black peppercorns (or 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper)

2 carrots, peeled

1 celery stalk

1 sprig fresh cilantro

1 bay leaf

1–2 tbsp salt

If time allows, first roast chicken in a pan in the oven at 350° for 30–45 minutes to get a stronger flavor. Bring the water to a boil and add the chicken. As it returns to a boil, skim the foam and particles that rise to the top with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the garlic, onion, peppercorns, carrots, celery, cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 30–45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. (If chicken has been previously roasted, remove after 30 minutes.) Remove the chicken and cool. Strain the stock and reserve. It will keep for 2–3 days in the refrigerator, up to 3 months in the freezer. For convenience, you may want to reduce stock and freeze.

When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand—not with a knife. The meat should not be too finely shredded.

 

Tomato Stock / Caldillo de Tomate 

(MAKES 4 CUPS)

 

¼ cup minced onion

1 garlic clove, puréed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup tomato purée (see below)

3 cups chicken stock (see above)

1 large sprig of cilantro

1 large bay leaf

Salt to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, add tomato purée, and cook for 12–15 minutes on medium high until it changes color and volume is reduced by half. Add chicken stock, cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Allow to boil for at least 10 more minutes to season well. Your stock is ready to be used in any recipe. Use it within 48 hours or freeze for up to 3 months

 

Fresh Tomato Purée

(MAKES ½ CUP)

 

3 small tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

½ onion

Blend all ingredients until smooth; strain and reserve. Use immediately or within a day. Or keep refrigerated for 2 days. You can also freeze for up to 1 month


Gina: I understand you’re building a home in Mexico. Please tell me about it. How far along are you? What are your hopes for the property?

 

Andrea: Yes, about seven or eight years ago, I went to visit friends in Tenango de Valle, in the state of Mexico, about half an hour from Toluca. I arrived at the Mexico City airport and we drove through an area known as La Marquesa on our way to Tenango and I instantly had this feeling of familiarity—that I was taking a trip that I had been preparing for all my life. When I arrived, I knew this was where I wanted to live.

 

Casa La Tia Kitchen

The idea of opening a casa de huesperas or guest house, and cooking school came later, as I thought about how I would earn a living in Mexico. This also seemed like a great way to share my love of Mexico and Mexican cuisine with many of my friends here in the U.S. The area where my house is doesn’t have a significant American population, at all. I like to say that if you ask where “la gabacha” (the foreigner) lives, people just point to my neighborhood. I began construction of Casa La Tia in what was just a cornfield five years ago, and now we have plumbing, electricity, and the house is almost complete. All five bedrooms and four bathrooms are done, as is the kitchen, which is colonial style and has a parilla instead of a traditional stove. The entire kitchen is covered with hand-cut hand-painted Talavera tile produced in Metepec, about a half an hour away.

 

Gina: Do you plan to write another book?

 

Andrea: Yes, I am working on the proposal as I write this. It’s a book more specific to sustainability and using all the parts of the plant, animal, or even seeds in some cases, but through the lens of Mexican cuisine. The topic was actually recommended to me by one of my readers! I think the timing is perfect, and there should be a lot of interest!

Our 2012 Day of the Dead Altar

San Miguel’s Day of the Dead Alfeñiques Market

Sugar skulls and other treats for the dead to be placed on Day of the Dead altars.

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