Magic Carpet Ride Tour of Benicia

Golden Gate BridgeSeptember 19-20, 2012. My trip to San Francisco was nearly perfect. It was so easy to take the Airporter Express, a very nice bus with free wi-fi and a bathroom, to Petaluma. I finally got to travel across the Golden Gate bridge, and I had perfect views of the Marin and Sonoma County landscapes, which surprised me the whole trip. It was less mountainous, less tree-covered, and much, much less developed than I expected. There were marshlands and wide, hilly pastures. Not many people there for the Art-is-You retreat seemed to be around that night, so I ate a delicious kabocha squash ravioli and knocked back a couple of Red Tail Ales at the hotel bar. This area of the country is dedicated to local food and has some of the most active Slow Food convivia in the country. (I know that SFUSA calls them “chapters” now. But I love the word convivium and choose to use it.)

Magic Carpet Ride Tour of BeniciaOn Thursday, I went on a “Magic Carpet Ride” in Benicia, a nearby arty little town that was once a capital of California. Some of the retreat attendees took two-day workshops there in a former arsenal that has been repurposed for small studios and businesses. Our tour guide, Lorri-Marie Jenkins, was a resident artist and was the perfect hostess. Our small group walked the town to visit small shops and the library, stopped for scones and coffee at the Rellik Tavern, then joined the other students at the arsenal for lunch. We then toured the Arsenal, where we visited individual artist studios and a vintage wallpaper company that screenprinted its product by hand.

I came away from this day determined to take one of these pre-retreat workshops next time because of the amazing work the students brought back.

One nice plus of this day was that I was able to spend a little time talking to Ricë Freeman-Zachary and the Ever-Gorgeous Earl. They have somewhat of a rock-star status in the mixed media world, and the last time when I met Ricë face-to-face they were both covered in artists and students wanting their company. Ricë was especially sweet when I kept running into her for the remainder of the retreat. And it was nice to have another obsessive photographer in the group. The EGE and I would say at the same time, “Did you see this? Oh, look at that,” and go wandering off, camera always in hand, often taking the same shots. I felt like I already knew Ricë from reading her blog, even though I have hardly read any other blogs in the last couple of years.

That is a very weird feeling — meeting a stranger who “knows” you from reading your blog. I suppose she must be used to it but back when I had a lot of readers it always came as a shock to me when someone in the farmers’ market would say, “Oh, YOU’re THAT Laurie!” and proceed to ask me about whatever cat problem or gardening issue I had written about in the last month. Not that I didn’t get a kick out of it. But in a way, I’m sort of glad that I write for myself and don’t feel the obligations that a widely-read blogger begins to feel. My readers began to fall away when I stopped writing about gardening and food, and that’s okay. I had written enough on the subject and there were several local bloggers who came along and did it better around here.

But I digress. Here are some photos from Benicia. Picking the photos for this post is tough, so I’ll refer to you to the Flickr set for more if you’re interested.

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Wonderful show at the local library and public art by Guillermo Wagner Granizo on the sidewalk of downtown Benicia

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The waterfront and the fabulous styles of Lorri-Marie and Ricë.

Magic Carpet Ride Tour of Benicia

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Sharon Payne Bolton‘s studio and work from her book class

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Hip Chick Designs

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Screen printing wallpaper at Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers

Magic Carpet Ride Tour of Benicia

The Ever-Gorgeous Earl admires the wallpaper samples in the office.

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Joseph Mele’s studio and Mary Oros’ studio.

Magic Carpet Ride Tour of Benicia

Outside view from a studio in the Arsenal.

Magic Carpet Ride Tour of Benicia

“This is not a white sofa.” In Beatrice Guttman‘s studio. I didn’t get a clear photo of her work.

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This is Slow Food country – Benicia Farmers’ Market in the late afternoon. I love being able to buy almonds directly from the farm!