At 91, my mother still inspires me with all her creative energy. With an unexpected windfall, she just had an art studio built behind her house where she works on clay sculptures several days a week.
Today I mailed this “wise owl” card to my great-aunt for her 109th birthday. No, that is not a typo. Helene “Helli” Stehle was born to a butcher and his wife on December 6, 1907, in Basel, Switzerland.
But longevity is by no means the most remarkable thing about Helli. This pioneering woman first achieved fame in Switzerland as a stage actor playing strong characters. She has always been a vibrant, strong-willed woman with a great zest for life, so I can imagine how riveting her performances must have been.
She gradually began working in radio, performing and directing plays and reciting poetry for Basel’s state-run radio station, Radiostudio Basel. With the outbreak of World War II, all her male colleagues were called to active duty. So in 1939, Helli became Switzerland’s first female newscaster. She was soon widely known through the region; when she was out in public, strangers would recognize her by her voice.
She eventually became the chief newscaster and a mentor to many younger journalists. Meanwhile, she continued to act in and direct radio plays until her retirement in 1967. She is now Switzerland’s oldest living actor.
My great-aunt never married or had children—in those days, only single women were allowed to work in state jobs. But she had one great love, Otto Crone, a calm and quiet actor who grew up in Russia. He eventually moved into another apartment in Helli’s building; over their decades together, Helli learned to speak Russian.
When I was eight, my adventurous aunt joined my family as we travelled around Japan, soaking in the communal baths and sleeping on the floor in traditional inns. On train rides, she and I enjoyed many conversations in a secret, nonsensical language we made up called “Bochisch.” And she would perform comic vignettes for my sisters and me again and again on request.
Deep into retirement, she continued to travel. On one trip to Russia, her suitcase got lost on the flight over, and she gamely spent the week wearing shirts borrowed from the gentlemen in her group. She took gymnastics and Russian conversation classes well into her 90s, and had a circle of dear friends, many of them much younger.
When Helli turned 100, the Basel radio station threw a big party in her honor where she was warmly feted. A few months later, she finally moved into an assisted living home, but she gave an interview as recently as 2010, on the occasion of her 103rd birthday.
Back in 1999, when my grandmother turned 100, her birthday party was attended by a Basel city official. He joked with my grandmother that he would be back in five years for her 105th. Ever witty, her sister Helli replied to him, “Ah, but whether you will still be around…?”
My grandmother lived to a ripe old 104. Who would ever have thought that her little sister would beat that record by five years and counting?
However much longer my dear aunt Helli sticks around, she has inspired me and countless others through her example as a powerful, creative woman, forging her own path.
all the strong women
warmly, Annette Makino
UPDATE: Helli Stehle died in Basel, Switzerland on August 27, 2017. She was 109.
Makino Studios News
Mother's sculpture show: My mom, Erika Makino, took up sculpture around age 80, and now, at 88, she is showing her clay and cement pieces in a solo exhibit. The show opens this Friday, Dec. 2 in Ukiah, California (details in this Ukiah Daily Journal article).
Free shipping through November: Use shipping code FREESHIP2016 for free shipping in the US through this Wednesday, November 30 on orders of $15 or more from the Makino Studios Etsy shop. There you will find my 2017 calendar, laser-engraved wooden keychains, holiday and everyday greeting cards and signed prints.
Arcata Holiday Crafts Market: My only public event of the holidays, this fair includes many local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food. It runs Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata.
Pierson Made in Humboldt Fair: You can pick up my calendars, cards and prints at this fair of crafts and specialty foods handmade in Humboldt County. It runs through Dec. 24 at Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka.
Well, I’ve been back from Japan for almost a month now, and I still can't begin to describe this heart-expanding trip. Much as I had planned and anticipated the journey (see my last post, Eastward ho!), it was even better than I could have imagined.
Over three weeks in June, my family and I explored serene Zen gardens and bustling city streets. We spent one day hiking the ancient Nakasendo trail between post towns, and another day hiking through ten thousand vermillion torii gates at a shrine in Kyoto.
We climbed to the top of a 400-year old castle and we soaked in mountain hot springs. We shopped in glitzy malls, a temple flea market, and a tiny paintbrush store founded in 1863. At an alley bar with just nine seats, we heard a Japanese duo play American jazz. Inside the moat of a wooden castle, we happened on a free concert by a popular boy band. We hiked through bamboo forests and flew past rice paddies on bullet trains.
We were mystified by the high-tech toilets with explanatory signs only in Japanese—a member of our party, who wishes to remain anonymous, learned the hard way that the big red button is not for flushing, but to call an attendant in case of emergency! One day at a busy Kyoto subway station, we encountered about a hundred massive sumo wrestlers, all wearing colorful summer kimonos and top knots.
We were amused by the odd English translations, like the restaurant offering “pig hormone soaked in a pot.” At the Meiji shrine in Tokyo, among the hand-lettered prayers for good health and high exam scores, we found one we could relate to: “I pray that America doesn’t elect Donald Trump.”
Our 19-year old daughter Maya, whose main exposure to Japan had been the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, kept exclaiming, “This is so frickin’ dope! It’s like anime, only real life!”
Our 14-year old son Gabriel ate everything in sight, from breakfasts of grilled fish and pickled vegetables to chunks of battered octopus passed among bar patrons. But he passed on the sardine tea offered at one ramen joint, even though the sign promised, “Tastes like a junior high student.”
We also visited with my relatives, enjoying their warm hospitality and hearing about the Makino family's samurai ancestry.
A highlight was spending a day at Makino Brewery in the mountains beyond Takasaki, a business run by my second cousin which has been making award-winning sake for 320 years. Near the brewery, by a bamboo grove, is the Makino temple and a family cemetery where ten generations of Makinos are buried.
The beauty of Japan flooded my mind and heart. I’m sure I will draw inspiration from this trip for years to come. It was a great blessing to celebrate Makino Studios’ fifth anniversary with this “bucket list” family adventure. Thanks to all who made this trip possible by supporting my artistic journey along the way!
the time we are given . . .
sparks rise through darkness
to join the stars
Makino Studios News
More Japan photos: If you'd like to see more images of our trip to Japan (mostly shot on my iPhone 6S), I've temporarily made this Facebook album public.
Summer retreat: The week of July 30-August 7, I’ll be relaxing and painting at a cabin on the Klamath River. If you would like to place an order through the MakinoStudios Etsy shop, please do so before or after that week.
North Country Fair: Humboldters, mark your calendars for the 43nd annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 17-18! I'll have paintings, prints, cards and new 2017 calendars at the Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.
At the Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington last fall, we started with a fun icebreaker: write down five items from your bucket list, then walk around the room and share with other participants. (For more about Seabeck, see The path unfolds.)
After the exercise, my daughter Maya and I compared lists. I definitely don’t share her dream of working a stint as a bartender! But it turns out that we both had the exact same number one wish: to travel to Japan as a family.
Meanwhile, Makino Studios turned five years old in March. Thinking about how to mark this milestone, I remembered the bucket list exercise. It occurred to me that the best way to celebrate would be to use some of my earnings to take our family to Japan. How fitting that a business that draws deeply from the traditions of Japanese art and haiku would enable us to travel there.
So we are off early next month for three weeks of exploration and adventure! This will be the first trip to Japan for our teens; it is the fourth trip for me and the second for my husband Paul. My sister Yoshi will join us for the first and last few days of the trip.
Our itinerary includes visiting Japanese relatives in Tokyo and touring the venerable 320-year old Makino sake factory in Takasaki. We’ll also see the Makino temple and a cemetery there containing family tombs from ten generations.
I’m also excited to hike along the ancient Nakasendo trail in the Japanese alps, where stone tablets commemorate visits by revered haiku poets Basho and Shiki. We will soak in hot springs and explore Japanese temples, gardens, castles, and museums.
To experience Japanese life more deeply, we will mainly stay in ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and a variety of homes booked through Airbnb. As lovers of Japanese cuisine, we are especially excited about the food! I imagine I’ll find much artistic inspiration throughout.
While the earnings from my art business are modest, the psychic rewards are incalculable. (I just don’t think I’d feel the same about bartending.) To all my store buyers, customers and supporters over the past five years, I bow in thanks.
all the countries
on my bucket list
warmly, Annette Makino
Makino Studios News
ukiaHaiku Awards: At the ukiaHaiku Festival on April 24, this poem of mine won second place in the Jane Reichhold International Prize, out of 412 entries from six continents:
with divorce rates
And this one took third in the Dori Anderson Prize for haiku about Ukiah:
a row of raindrops
hanging on the clothesline—
Newest stores: The list of Makino Studios card retailers now includes Down to Earth in Eugene, Oregon; Three Sisters in Ukiah; and Swish Healdsburg in Healdsburg, California. If there is no store in your area, you can order online through my Etsy shop.
Order by June 1: As I’ll be traveling in Japan, I will not be able to fill online or store orders between June 2 and June 28.
Publication credit: “salt breeze” was published in Exhaling, the Seabeck 2015 anthology; it tied for second place in the Seabeck kukai (a haiku contest determined by participating poets).
As you may have heard, the holidays are upon us. Amid the Christmas muzak and urgent appeals to buy mass-produced widgets, it’s easy to lose sight of the true spirit of the season. There is such pressure—to buy the perfect gifts, to cook lavish meals, to decorate the house festively, to have the most wonderful time ever.
(Prune Juice, July 2015)
But I believe that behind all that, there is a simple urge. We are looking for meaning and connection with the people we love. Even if we’re not particularly religious, in the darkest time of the year, we are seeking light: the spark of magic at our holiday gatherings, the light on the faces of our family and friends, and at the most primal level, the return of the sun.
My sister once did some custom work on a house that had a special closet just for storing the family’s artificial Christmas tree, with the ornaments attached. It just needs to be carried out and dusted off each December.
The mind reels.
Instead of that painfully efficient and bloodless approach, today we are going to put on some holiday music and decorate our old-fashioned, real spruce tree with quirky ornaments. There are charmingly awkward clay decorations that the kids made in pre-school. Odd mementos from our travels, like the satin girls and boys holding their Little Red Books that my husband and I once bought in China. A family of gray and pink velvet bats that my mother once sewed for us, just because.
The bottom 37 inches of the tree will be left bare because my curious two-year old nephew is coming to town, along with my two sisters, daughter, and mother. There will be much cooking and feasting, piles of presents (several handmade), and wintry walks on the beach. In this time of deepest darkness, such light.
Happy holidays to you and yours.
warmly, Annette Makino
Makino Studios News
Holiday Craft Market: Makino Studios will have a booth at this fair in the Arcata Community Center in Arcata, CA this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12-13. This is my only in-person fair this season.
Made in Humboldt: A selection of my cards, prints and calendars is available at the Garden Shop of Pierson Building Center in Eureka, CA through Dec. 24.
2016 calendar: You can still order my wall calendar of art and haiku, featuring twelve of my paintings of landscapes, animals and flowers. For US addresses, order by December 14 to receive by Dec. 24 via standard mail.
I’ve been thinking about cause and effect—and ripples. Even we fuzzy artsy types, who met our college science requirement by taking “Physics for Poets,” know that when you throw a stone in the water, the effect is not linear: the ripples radiate out in concentric circles, farther and farther from the source.
So it goes in the rest of life: while actions certainly have consequences, you can never clearly predict what they will be. A tossed pebble may create a wave that washes a bug up to safety on the far shore. And sometimes the effects radiate out much farther than you think.
This month my friend Amy Uyeki and I have a joint show featuring images combined with haiku and other words. We named the show “Ripples from a Stone” based on the idea that we all influence each other in surprising and unpredictable ways.
In fact, both of our work in this show was inspired by Amy’s grandmother, Shizue Harada. I never met her, yet this Japanese woman, who emigrated to the US in the 1920s in an arranged marriage and only began writing poetry late in life, indirectly launched me on my path as an artist and poet.
For more about this story and details on the show, see this article in the Eureka Times-Standard. And if you’re in Humboldt, we’d love to see you at our reception this Saturday, Nov. 22, 4-6 p.m. at the Adorni Center in Eureka, California.
By putting our work out in the world, we have tossed a stone into the river. Who knows what might come of that?
Makino Studios News
Holiday Open Studios: Visit artists Joyce Jonté, Patricia Sennott and me 11-5 on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 6-7 at StewArt Studios in Arcata, CA.
Made in Humboldt: My cards, prints and calendars are on offer at this holiday sale at the Pierson's Garden Shop in Eureka, CA now through Dec. 24.
Holiday Craft Market: Makino Studios will have original paintings, prints, cards and calendars at this fair in the Arcata Community Center in Arcata, CA on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13-14.
Holiday at Mateel Gallery: A few of my original paintings, plus cards and calendars, will be available at this group exhibit in Garberville, CA Nov. 22 through Dec. 27.
Living Room Retrospective: I am one of nine artists featured in this exhibit at MikkiMoves in Eureka, CA, opening Saturday, Dec. 6. The show runs through January.
We all know the fairy tale about the frog prince. In the traditional version, once the princess lets the frog eat from her golden bowl and sleep in her bed for three nights, he turns into a handsome prince. (In the modern, instant gratification version, the transformation happens as soon as she kisses him.)
The Brothers Grimm account concludes:
“They then took leave of the king, and got into the coach with eight horses, and all set out, full of joy and merriment, for the prince's kingdom, which they reached safely; and there they lived happily a great many years.”
Nice story. But closer to real life, I think the couple might be just as happy foregoing the fancy coach, the grand castle and all the expectations of a perfect fairy tale life. Instead, they could spend their time together as two frogs in a pond, catching flies in the sunshine and enjoying each day as it comes.
For the past 21 years, I’ve been blessed to be married to a kind, brilliant, funny and warm-hearted man who is also my best friend. We don’t lead a fairy tale life—our Toyota and Subaru “coaches” both date from the last millennium, and we spent part of yesterday pulling weeds and scrubbing toilets. But we deeply appreciate each other and the sweet, everyday world of home and family we have built together.
Last night, as we were watching the BBC series, “Sherlock,” with our 13-year old son Gabriel, I got a text from our 17-year old daughter Maya, who is off at a journalism workshop: “I’m having a moment of appreciation for you and dad because you’re both genuinely good and cool people. I’m proud to have you guys for parents.”
No prince or princess could ask for more.
for better or for worse
our lights and darks
The Heron’s Nest XVI:1 (March 2014)
Makino Studios News
Savor the Day: There is a reception for my solo show this Saturday, August 2, 6-9 p.m. during Arts Alive at Humboldt Herbals in Eureka, CA. Seabury Gould and Frank Anderson will play old-style acoustic blues. There will be new cards, prints, and a 2015 16-month calendar for sale, plus free refreshments. The show runs through August.
New cards: I’ve listed nine new card designs in my Makino Studios Etsy shop, plus the new 2015 calendar.
North Country Fair: Humboldt folks, come celebrate the fall equinox at the 41st annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 20 and 21. I'll have a Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.
Feedback: I love to hear from my readers and I respond to every email or blog comment. Thanks for all the insights and encouragement after my last blog post, “Yeah, but is it art?” I look forward to exploring your reading suggestions on the nature of art and being an artist.