WALL STYLE | Amber Jean

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The legendary Fred Becky (and little o’l me)

Fred and I after climbing several frozen waterfalls together

Patron Saint of the Dirty Sock Club, Fred Becky dosed my life with inspiration right at the budding beginning of my intoxicating love affair with ice climbing. Super lucky to have shared a few days, a few meals, lotsa stories and some unforgettable pitches of ice with the legend when he was 83 or 84 years old.  He kept after it, climbing rock and mountains for yet another decade before he passed away in October.  One of highlights of the Bozeman Ice Festival last weekend was the screening of “Dirt Bag – The Legend of Fred Becky.”

Meeting Fred and viewing the documentary has spurred me to step up my game – both inside the studio and outside in Momma Nature.

Holiday goodies….!

“Fabulously weighty and viscerally alive in your palm” (as described by my friend Kris King)  The limited edition bronzes boast character, presence, weight, quality and a loving touch.  Perfect gift for yourself or someone you love.  If you act quickly there is still time to ship for Christmas…! (shop on my website)

 

 

 

Memorable Thanksgiving (mixing it up)

Two Thanksgiving dinners were shared with my mother in the warm embrace of Raymond’s family (which honestly feels like less than a year ago).  But lordy the last Thanksgiving with mom was TWO years ago (last year I celebrated Thanksgiving in Bhutan…!)  Grief induces a weird time warp.  Intensely vivid memories play with weighty emotions.  I needed another totally different Thanksgiving holiday experience.

We found it:

Unforgettable Thanksgiving

Rocky took this photo of me at Thanksgiving afternoon at the “Kicking Mule Saloon” – one of several buildings restored and recreated into an imaginative western ghost town beneath the Tobacco Root Mountains.  The ghost town was conceived and created by Kat and Rocky – two lovely warm-hearted beautiful inspiring people.  The wooden boardwalk western “Main Street” sits as a full-of-character embellishment between their home and Rocky’s studio.  We were lucky to be able to spend the holiday talking art, life, survival and adventure at their awe-inspiring home.  Kat prepared a scrumptious traditional dinner.

Rocky’s studio is one of my favorite places to refuel with “art juice.”  I’ve admired his work for decades:

Rocky Hawkins

Bison Bench – thankful thoughts on Thanksgiving Eve

Hardly a week goes by without a photo arriving from bison bench fans:

Various peeps sharing their love of the sculpture…

Generous supporters made it possible to donate the much-loved sculpture to our welcoming airport. I remember plunging my hands into a five-gallon bucket of ice water to ease the pain and prolong my ability to carve around the clock during the hottest months of summer in the air-conditionless studio downtown sixteen years ago. The intense deadline and the challenge of creating a three-dimensional relief carving from black walnut was challenging to say the least – but frankly so was the task of fundraising to place the sculpture in the airport since asking for help is far from my comfort zone.

The photo on the right was taken by Raymond early in the morning last November after I had pulled another all-nighter with final preparations for my first of three trips to carve for the king of Bhutan. I was weary and anxious, excited and curious – much like I feel before embarking on any new adventure inside or outside the studio.

The eve of Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time to share my gratitude for all of you who support me in various ways.  Your support means makes my creative life possible.  Thank-you!

Breaking the egg…

Sculpture created for HATCH (visit website for more information)

Yesterday after a visit to my studio with his daughter a friend posted a photo of the sculpture I created for HATCH and wrote, ““When an egg breaks from outside pressure it’s death. When it breaks from inside it’s new life.”

I have been breaking from the inside.  Relentlessly intense events the past few years left me exhausted and raw.  Exhaustion and grief forced me to rest and restore.

Feeling is healing – even if it isn’t easy.  

The BIG little eaglet

I pulled over in my truck to take this photo of the first little bronze cast at the foundry.

I created the palm-size little eaglet as a fundraiser for Eaglemount in 2015.  They named the limited edition solid bronze little sculpture”Soren.”  The little bugger found his way into many loving homes and even inspired chocolates molded from my sculpture (also raising funds for Eaglemount). Earlier this year they asked if I would make a big version of the eaglet for their new playground/garden.  Soooooo – before and after the last trip to Bhutan, BIG Soren was created.  He was delivered last month to the foundry to begin the process of becoming a bronze.

The rough and tumble life of a rodeo bullfighter

I was in the stands near the fence when Raymond got tossed (and tossed again). Third bull, first night of the 3-day Roughrider Finals. Out of more than 60 rides only three bulls were covered (ridden for a full 8 seconds). I didn’t take the footage. I was in the stands near the fence and could see Raymond’s face when he was in the air looking down with the notion to land on his feet only to see the bull’s nose between his legs. This was the pen of Junior Bulls and just the beginning of an intense weekend for multiple reasons. The bull riders vote for who they want to protect them at Finals – an honor Raymond is humble about and an honor he won’t get again as he went into the season with a plan to hang up his cleats and retire after Roughrider Finals. Before, during and after each event this year I could see his conscious effort to make the most of his final season. Seven years ago when Raymond began the arduous journey of stepping in front of and around bulls, he was an age when most bullfighters are retired. I tell him often it’s a good thing purple is my favorite color since bruised up and swollen happens at times (broken, split and stitched happens also). I discussed this aspect of bull fighting with two kids in the hot tub Sunday morning at the Jamestown North Dakota hotel, hours before Raymond’s final event. BIG eyes got bigger when I told the little girl and her brother that my husband was one of the bullfighters. Reverent silence followed, broken only by the hot tub jets and finally the little boy asked, “Did you see that guy get flipped?” His sister nodded solemnly with recollection. “That was my husband.” Long bubbly pause then he whispered loudly, “Did it hurt?” “Yes it hurt but that happens sometimes when bullfighters put themselves between the bull and fallen rider, near the fence, in the corner (added challenges to a challenging sport).” Banged up, Raymond continued to protect the riders that night, the next and next. Lotsa good saves by both Raymond and his partner Tim Walford. Rank bulls and intense moments down to the last bull on the last day with a final big bump and tumble when “Goldfinger” a great big o’l bull ran over Raymond after Raymond smoothly shot the gap to distract the bull from the tossed rider. Rider safe, the bull went for the barrel man whom Raymond ran to protect. So the scariest action happened just when I thought he was finished with the last bull and after the rider was safe. Obviously things aren’t always pretty, predictable or graceful in the arena with a 2000 pound bull. But they are real (as is my relief and pride). 

Cliff’s birthday

Missing you Cliff…

Cliff I know you hated to see me cry but you witnessed and cared for me through every simple and complicated crying spell imaginable during nearly 3 decades together on this mountain. I have been crying a lot lately – missing you so damn much. The loss of you in my life hasn’t gotten any easier or smaller or more bearable. I couldn’t even write and share stories on your 70th birthday yesterday. Raymond has been patient and kind. He even indulged in my nearly manic desire to hang two of your giant rusty grapple hooks with heavy chain because somehow it seemed important to salvage them from your sawmill and embellish my studio. I stood protectively at the bottom of the fully extended jiggly ladder with words of encouragement for Raymond (who hates heights and ladders). I could see you shake your head, eyes sparkling while your comments rang crisp and clear in my mind. I heard your laughter. Bonding, binding, storied and impossibly heavy chain just seems appropriate right now as I fumble with emotions equally dense and impossibly heavy. There is something in those hooks warm with rust…

I love you so damn much Cliff. Even as I miss you, I know your love was as unbreakable as that chain. Every clunking bit of horrific pain wracking my heart with loss is worth the love we shared. Every damn bit. 

Dancing with Bulls…

While this footage isn’t from this weekend’s event, it captures in slow motion a few seconds of what I prefer to call “bull-dancing” rather than bullfighting. Those who choose to protect the cowboys who ride bulls are a gritty graceful bunch. Raymond entered his career “dancing with bulls” at about the time most men retire. He got kicked, flipped, flattened, winded, whooped, whacked, squashed and even scalped once when a bull stepped on his head. But between the dirt and the snot, the air and the hard ground, the bull and the rider, Raymond got GOOD. Damn good. Last night’s event with a pen of rank bulls in a small dust-filled arena, ten young competitive college cowboys rode their hearts out knowing Raymond would go the distance and do everything possible to protect them. Raymond is too humble to brag but this little bit of footage gives a glimpse of his ability as a dance partner to lead and redirect his 2000 pound “partner” in the chaos on a dirty dance floor in Wyoming.

Momma Nature’s PMS

Autumn in the Rockies can be almost anything weather-wise.  Just check out the history of Facebook posts from September 10:

Snapshots from September 10

Momma Nature is moody to say the least but I love it…!  The last month has been full.  Ten days spent helping prepare for and participating in HATCH at Big Sky left me plumb tuckered.

Inspired?

Certainly. But the exhaustion that hit was bone-deep.  So deep I began to think it might be part of so many intense life events which have tumbled one after another.  I am wrestling with several desires:

  • to be fully in my studio creating with freedom
  • be caught up with  desk life/admin life (I need a leprechaun to help)
  • to scoot to the desert to climb or the ocean to gather energy
  • to spend some weeks just reading, writing, napping and hiking
  • to launch into and gain back momentum of my art career
  • to catch up with you (SO much has happened. 

    Mostly I like being home-sweet-home with Raymond.  We live in a beautiful place.  We have plenty of catching up and chores here on the mountain to keep us both busy without being bored.  We are settling into married life (I LOVE it).  I miss Cliff horribly and grieve the loss of my mother.  Last week I returned to 6am crossfit workouts (damn sore but a good kind of sore).

    The above list of desires will be fulfilled – just not all at once… 

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