Playing in San Miguel

Rediscovering my love of metal sculpture

Undoubtedly the creative highlight of my trip were the two days spent at Van Doren Metal Art studio in the Los Frailes district a newer development on the outskirts of the historic town.

IMG_4206view of Los Frailes from the studio deck

The house is open, with spacious rooms, high ceilings and full of Lane’s art collection and his own work. We were treated to lunch in the dining room both days, and of course the dog came along.


IMG_4205Alex and his father Lane have a big studio full of old style, accessible and easy to work with metal tools. The two of them facilitate with great ease, enthusiasm and joy supporting small groups to create metal art of all kinds. In addition to the tools, the studio has a great collection of metal bits and pieces gleaned from frequent scrapyard visits on Alex’s part, and regular donations from his circle of contacts in the metal scrap business.



IMG_4238IMG_4237Day one we ‘met’ the tools, everyone had a chance to use every tool, all the while the group of us were scheming and imagining what we might make. By the end of the day concepts were being drawn up, bits and pieces gathered and arranged, larger pieces of metal being cut, the creative juices really flowing. I knew early on that I would make a mask, don’t know why, I’ve never made one before, the idea of a two part representation, perhaps the classic theatre mask, perhaps some other approach. I mulled it over that evening and in the morning it was clear, one side would be pre-columbian, the other European. I was set and ready to roll.

Medwyn cutting

medwyn-welding.jpgCutting, welding, shaping, turning, finding small pieces, gradually the sections began to form themselves into something. Lots of helpful input from Lane and Alex, a hand here and there where my welding skills failed, experimenting with each step, just the way I love to work.

IMG_4239the base steel form cut with the plasma cutter, then cut in half and welded at an angle gave me my starting point. bits and pieces gathered from the collection made eyes.

IMG_4240acid washed steel strips turned around the cutter handle, became pre columbian hair.

IMG_4241then the mouth, two folded steel circles, some welding art and a piece of copper for the tongue, had to have that copper!!

Medwyn and Lanewith lots of help from Lane, masking the mask to add the final touch, paint in two shades for added emphasis.

The Mask

We five all left delighted with our new work to carry home – an essential element in my decision to make something I could fit into my suitcase!!

the crew


Hot Springs on a hot day

I was doubtful but game to give it a go when my new friend from the Writers’ Conference suggested a trip to the hot springs. Now I love hot springs, don’t get me wrong, but I just wasn’t sure that a hot spring on a 25 degree celsuis day would feel good. We headed out of town to La Gruta spa about twenty minutes on the wide smooth highway, pulled into the gravel parking lot and found our way to the entrance. I was so pleasantly surprised, I guess my expectations were not high, and this place exceeded them. The pool was lovely, soaking with friendly families and delightful curious Mexican children. It was a delight watching the easeful play of these good natured people. We ventured into the tunnel arriving in a white domed grotto where a blast of hot water spews from high on the rock wall offering a powerful back and shoulder massage.


We finished the afternoon relaxing with a marguerita after our dip, with our shade umbrella and table on an open grassy patio.


IMG_4102marguerita time at the hot springs with Doug Rice


Art Party at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray Gallery

I was assured by Doug that the Chapel of Jimmy Ray was not to be missed and he was right. The gallery is an amazing creation of mosaic artist Anando McLaughlin and his partner who have developed a piece of countryside into a fantasyland of delight. Whimsical works employing hundreds of wine bottles, tons of broken mirrors and pottery, sparkling costume jewellery and other notions adorn the gallery, the house, and the lands around them. The most unique composting toilet stands proud near the gallery, a testament to the brilliance of eco-friendly, practical sculptural art. I was among a goodly crowd in attendance at an art party and opening to celebrate the work of Shirli Marcantel and Greg Ellis wonderful collage artists whose work somehow complimented Anando’s mosaics.

IMG_0034welcoming entry

IMG_0036come into the galleryIMG_0039the composting toilet

IMG_0045the exhibit

Anando’s mosaics

the house

IMG_0106back yard wall in process

the entertainment so typical of Mexico, giant puppets.




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