The Etching Leads Me Down the Rabbit Hole and I Arrive at Pam Marlen

We lived on Ferguson, just off of Fox Farm Road, in Great Falls.  The Marlens were our neighbours.  Charlie, a medical professional, was a big hunter.  I remember, at my age, thinking that was a pretty amazing thing, but really different.  My Dad and brothers were big fishermen, but they had never journeyed into that world.  As for Pam, she was a life-giving free spirit.  She exuded creative and fun-loving energy.  Our families shared many wonderful times.  A little younger than me, the Marlen kids; Jimmy, Chuck and Ann, were all sweet.

When I headed to Lethbridge for University and my family was moving east, my mother had my etching framed up professionally and I gave it to the Marlens as a gift.  I believe Mr. Winenger allowed me to take the copper plate home, and yet all these years later, I haven’t a print or the plate, but have only a strong recollection of both the process and the piece.

Searching for a photograph of the etching, led me to go deeper into the rabbit hole and there I found young Chuck’s tribute to his mother, eloquently written in 2017.  I tried leaving comments on his blog, but every time I clicked “POST COMMENT”, my words were eaten up and disappeared into who-knows-where.

I think that it is the fact that I haven’t been able to connect that has led me to this series of posts because today has been a day of nostalgia since coming upon the blog post about Pam.  Once, through University, I traveled by bus to Great Falls and visited Pam and Charlie.  I have also tucked away the gift of a Fanny Farmer cookbook they gave me as a wedding gift.  It is one of my treasures.

Young Charlie’s blog…

Art Studio Poster Explaining Pam Marlen’s Glass Bead Making Process

Today would be my mother’s 79th birthday, she passed away in 1997.

Pam Marlen ( Mary Pamela Smith) 1938-1997 Artist

I have very little of my Mother’s artwork, and if not for the kindness of my little brother sending me several items I would not have any.

As-well-as designing Passive Solar Houses, Gardens, and Landscaping – She also created amazing fused glass creations, pottery, glass beads, quilting, water colors, stained glass, and probably many other items I’m not remembering as I write this post.

She would even make the  unusual fun vests she would wear to events …

Back label on Pam Marlen’s ‘Buttons to Beads’ Self-Portrait

Much of my mother’s artwork was sold and anything left after her death was distributed amongst the family; therefore, the stunning Fused Glass pieces are owned by others, but I am very happy to have what might be one of my mother’s only artistic self-portraits.

Buttons to Beads Quilt with Glass Beads by Pam Marlen

Pam Marlen didn’t do anything normal, and if she was going to do a self-portrait of course it would be something unusual like combining Quilting & Glass Bead making to make the portrait of her making Glass Beads …

Paper that was pinned to Quilt – Houston National Quilt and Beads Showing

She also included herself playing with buttons as a child in the portrait …

Pam Marlen as Child Playing with Buttons

All of the Glass Beads attached to the quilt were made by Pam Marlen and they were sewn to the quilt using buttons on the back …

Back of Buttons to Beads Self-Portrait Quilt by Pam Marlen

My mother liked to save items that she didn’t feel were worth selling because there was an imperfection on those items… she didn’t save much but some items had imperfections she liked and would save them inside her studio, just for her own collection.

I’m not sure how many people knew about her ‘imperfection collection‘, but she and I talked about them once and it was fascinating how she liked something special about each one.

Fused Glass Examples in Background

A few years ago I found 2 new glass fusing/ceramic kilns for sale at a very good price and I purchased them … While my mother had taught me a little about fusing glass, I took a private ‘one-day’ class to refresh my memory.

Link to Post: Firebox-8 Kiln Height Extension

This Firebox-8 Kiln’s Temperature is Manually Controlled

Creating Fused Glass artwork is about predicting how it will look when finished semi-melting/fusing together … Thus, having no idea how to predict, I just overlapped interesting colors of broken glass into a pattern.

Cut & Broken Glass in Kiln before 1st Melting

After the first melting the instructor was very let down that the glass had cracked, but being my mother’s son I said, “Oh that makes it even more interesting, lets leave it and do the final melting to fuse it as is” …

Broken Slumped Glass that Broke and Re-Fused in Kiln

The final kiln firing softened the broken edges and created an interesting Fused Glass piece …  I placed it on my dresser and consider it the first of many of my own  ‘imperfection collection’ artwork pieces.

I imagine there will be many future Metal Castings to add to this collection 🙂

First Try and Glass Artwork on My Dresser

In addition to saving imperfect pieces, my mother also would create small pottery pieces that she could use to test out Pottery Glaze formulas …

Mini Glaze-Test Pottery Parts by Pam Marlen

It appears the items my little brother sent to me were part of a Green Glaze test and even these little items had her signature on the bottom.

While I only have test pottery pieces by my mother, I am proud to have those items because that is how I remember her – Always experimenting!!

Bottom of the Green Glaze
Formula Test Pottery by Pam Marlen

She signed all of her Pottery with a PM symbol  (Click images for larger view)

Pottery Signature on Test Glaze items by Pam Marlen

She had shelves of these small glaze-test pottery items in her studio …

A larger piece of pottery that was probably a Green Glaze-Test item

Mary Pamela Smith (Pam Marlen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to E.R. and Mildred Smith on July 31, 1938.
She created most of her artwork in or near Great Falls, Montana.

This looks like a Bowl she used to test some Green Pottery Glaze

The pottery I remember the most as a child was a natural wash look as shown in the image below with hand-touched clay items added to pottery she had thrown on her potter’s wheel.

Natural Glaze with Clay Hard Artwork on Pottery

For years she would make pottery Christmas Ornaments and give them out to friends and family… Many times having us as kids help her.

Received photos of an items my mother made that I had not viewed before …

Hat made for Pat Erickson by Pam Marlen

Pat Erickson sent these photos to me of a hat my mother made for her …

If you enlarge the photo and look closely the bugs on the hat are glass beads.

Hat with Glass Bead Bugs made by Pam Marlen for Pat Erickson

Pat mentioned Pam Marlen made this hat for her birthday 🙂

Hat created by Pam Marlen with Painted leaves & Glass Bead Bugs

Thank You Pat for taking the time to send these photos!! 🙂

.   .   .

Pam Marlen had a stroke at age 58 in April of 1997 while giving a speech to get donations for the flood victims of the Grand Forks, North Dakota flood of 1997… passing away later in the year.

She lived an interesting life … and myself being a Star Trek fan it was almost surreal to come home to visit and learn her quilting group was asked to be extras in a movie directed by Leonard Nimoy… being very private director he would rarely talk to people on set; however, he would come over talk to my mother about quilting and other artistic items.

My mother met SPOCK …Too Cool!!

… MISS YOU MOM  

. . .

Old Photos of Charles J. Marlen Jr. … So when I lose them they can be found
online in a Google Search 🙂 CMR High School called Chuck Marlen

I think this photo was taken in about 1966

This photo looks to be about 1985 … Sometime during College

Sometime in the Late 1980s

 

Chillin’ in Hot Key West, Florida

Drysuit Scuba ‘Cold-Water’ Diving in Alaska

There *grin* … at least when I pass away, something will be online. *lol*

  CHEERS!! 

.  .  .

 

4:00 a.m. wake up

I woke up early.  Not unusual.  I used to thrash around and get frustrated about middle-of-the-night wake ups.  Maybe I woke at this hour because I was speaking with a friend about insomnia and short sleeps, on the telephone, last evening.  Maybe it just happened because something roused me in the night.  I know that sometimes I land in that place where thoughts move in and out of my mind.  I don’t know if they are dreams or actual thoughts.

These days, when this happens, I get myself up, make my bed and put on a pot of coffee.  This morning, before the rest of you were up, I decided to sort that big pile of paper that has, over months, been turning into a mountain.  Why does this happen?

While I was sorting, I came upon this in one of my memory books.

For all of those who sponsored me on my 30 mile Walk for Development when I was sixteen years old, “Thank You!”  Did I actually collect?  I’m looking at the list of people.

Well, Ramona, you were a bestie…so, the fact that I walked all 30 miles at 5 cents a mile, I  collected $1.50 from you.  That was a lot of money in the day, right?  (I received your Christmas card…thank you, dear friend.) And, Veronica, it’s been so nice to reconnect and follow your beautiful family photographs shared in social media. Kyle Harlan, well, you just pledged money out of guilt, didn’t you?  I will never forget how you tripped me as I walked down the aisle in geometry class?  Did any of my readers witness that?  I was wearing yellow fishnet stockings held up with a garter (I’m not kidding you) at the time…and a mini skirt!  All the rage in the day.

We lost wonderful Jeff Marshall just recently to cancer.  I always loved your wit and humour, Jeff, but 1 cent a mile???  Really? Your sense of humour…again.

Dan Hinkin passed away in 2013, the year of Mom’s passing!  10 cents!  Now, we’re talkin’.  I had such a huge crush on you, Dan! Honestly, though, I’m sure that I likely went about with butterflies in my tummy for the entire day that you pledged 10 cents a mile for my Walk for Development.  I’m guessing that on the day of the walk, that pledge likely carried me around the route, floating.  Hmmm…Nope!  I remember the blisters!

Allan?  Honestly, I don’t remember you.  Mike Dial, I got to know you through student politics.  Thank you.  2 cents a mile…wow…so, at the end of my 30 mile walk, did I collect on that 60 cents?  What was I doing, any way?  Mr. Winenger…my art teacher…(spelled wrong…again!), really?  5 cents???  How many students were asking you to sponsor them?  Certainly isn’t like putting out for Simple Simon Pies or cookie dough, though, was it?  Marc Bauer…well, this was a bit of an insult.

To all of you, who sponsored me, thank you.  This archive serves a single purpose for me this morning.  It reminds me of how naive I was.  How much did I raise for world development, in the end?

Oh!  I’ll let my readers figure it out!  I’m going to turn off my 6:00 a.m. alarm!

Sunshine and Sky

Wonders 76 Lake Michigan and Mona

I met Ramona in 1971.  With a friendship as dear as this, I learned about how much fun life could be!  Ramona had a boyfriend.  I learned about and anticipated life experiences through the sharing of her experiences.  We walked for miles and miles together and while we did, Ramona would recount many adventures and amazed, I would rattle off my stories to her.  Ramona was one of the dearest and truest people in my life during those years.

She and I would dance in her bedroom.  I always compared her to Janis Joplin.  She called me Sky and I called her Sunshine.  She strung mismatched printed handkerchiefs on strands of trim and from this, created clothing.  She would dance with her arms completely free and open, spinning in circles to Black Sabbath.  We would laugh and talk as we wandered Lakeside in the dark.  We had no need of alcohol because we were both always so ‘high’ on life.  I felt free through her…her experience of music…her freedom to dance…her story.

She wore bangles and beads and her copper hair hung well past her bum, as her mother’s always did.  Ramona sang like a bird.  I whistled, because I rarely knew the words. We made pancakes whenever I slept over and her Mom hugged and loved me.  The last time I visited Mona in Manistee, Michigan,  I treasured the fact that she made us pancakes…just like old times.

On January 11th, Ramona retired from her role with the forestry service.  Through all of her years and various locations, Ramona always kept in touch with me.  I have compiled a full memory book of her wanderings and achievements and treasure her cards and letters, holding them always dear to my heart.  I am so proud of you, Ramona, and know that we’ll be connecting to do some traveling.  Congratulations, dear friend!

The following autobiographical information was shared by Ramona as a part of her retirement invitation.  I only regret that I couldn’t be by her side as she celebrated such a milestone.

Friends, Forest Service family, volunteers and project partners; I am retiring on January 12, 2013.  After 34 years, and 5 months of employment with the Federal Government (on the Beaverhead, Clearwater, Flathead, Los Padres, Lolo, Nicolet and Huron Manistee National Forests and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Temuco, Southern Chile.) New adventures are calling.  Here are a few career highlights, besides meeting and working with you:

® Wildfire and emergency assignments, especially as an Information Officer- for Hurricane Katrina in San Antonio, the Chicken Fire in Alaska and The Wesley Fire Complex on the Payette NF  this fall…

® Details with Wilderness; to The Aldo Leopold Center  in Missoula, and Training for Line Officers at Ninemile Station, to Guatemala with The Sister Forest Program and to the White Mountain NF -to enter trails data after Hurricane Irene

® Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness data collection, and kayaking recreation patrols on the Pine and Manistee rivers

® Working with and training volunteers and interns, from clubs and universities, and sharing information and ideas

® Monitoring Recreation Special Use Events and working with the event organizers, photographing participants

® Our partnership with “Explore the Shores” for improving Universal access to Manistee County river access sites

® Speaking to outdoor, school and youth groups, and representing the Forest Service at conventions and meetings

® Brainstorming with colleagues at Forest Service trainings, such as The Eastern and Southern Region University and at Clemson University as part of the 3-week intensive Outdoor Recreation Planner Course

® Organizing, planning for and conducting National Visitor Use Monitoring surveys with our forest visitors

® Leading trail hikes for The Forest Festival in Manistee and coordinating National Trails Day Events, as well as

® My Peace Corps assignment with the Ministry of Education in Chile, designing 5th grade environmental education curriculum, making a National Park slide program  for schools and organizing youth conservation summer camps

Reflections

Scents of pine, crunchy leaves, crystal snow, nose-hair freeze, I’ll still walk the forest trails, but without badges or uniforms regales.

Glistening shores, swift flash of fish, turtle’s splash, water’s itch, paddling onward fast and slow, I’ll be there too, don’tcha know.

Singing sand, fossil stones, bits of glass, pockets full, but a chorus of friends harmonize too, “come couch surf please; we’ve places new to travel and explore with you”.

Memories newly made or old, you’ll be with me too- minus blanket hogs or snores.

Reading, beading, polishing stones…, resale shop treasure hunts, volunteering, learning to teach English to non-native speakers, or even how to do computer Webpage Design, pottery creations, water color painting, writing and music listening too; oh my… “There is so much to do”!

Re-invention, re-tirement, waking with the sun, looking forward not back, perhaps I’ll even relax.

Thank you all, it’s been wonderful!

Mona 2April 2010 014 R

What About Bob?

In a Montana high school, we were both speech competitors, but in different events.  We sometimes had long journeys across state for competitions and the bus rides were very entertaining.  What I treasured most were long conversations about every topic under the sun.  Bob was always there for those.  So was I.  It wasn’t until university that I studied philosophy, but on one of those sleepy long drives in the dark in 1973 (all of us perched on seat arms in the aisles), I learned about Immanuel Kant and went out and purchased a book.  I’ve been inquisitive ever since…about most things.

This past weekend, Bob came up to Calgary and introduced me to an amazing A Cappella group from Finland, Ryjaton, performing at Knox United church.  We first shared in a bite at the Blackfoot Diner.  I only wished that I had taken a photograph there. 

Later, it was a beautiful thing to hear music that reached down into the soul.  Sharing the evening with our own Calgary Philharmonic Chorus, Ryjaton totally wowwed me with their vocal abilities and with their inspiring interpretations of music.  Thank you, Bob.

We shared a big Stampede breakfast in the morning and some conversation in the studio. 

Feasting

It is difficult to believe that it has been almost forty years since we shared our thoughts.  It was all so natural.  A blessing.  Before we knew it, it was time for Bob to head back to Montana…his home and family.  But, for that short time, we certainly were blessed by music, ideas and remembrance!  Friendship is a wonderful thing that transcends time and place.

Talking About Art and Life

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