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Walking Tour: Idyllwild

February 15, 2010

Art Garden sphere in orange

On this sunny Sunday, Paul and I took a day-trip to Idyllwild. Idyllwild is a small town of 3,500, about 5,000 feet above sea level, in the San Jacinto Mountains. Taking California Highway 74 all the way up, the winding, narrow road was mostly clear of traffic. And, weather-wise, it could not have been a more beautiful day: clear, a crisp 60-degrees and altogether perfect. There were traces of recent snows in evidence but it mostly lurked on the edges of roads and in the shadows of trees, dirty and melting fast. As we turned off the highway, toward Idyllwild proper, in an area about 5 miles from Idyllwild called Mountain Center, we caught sight of some interesting sculptures off the side of the road under the banner, ART GARDEN. Needless to say, we had to stop in and have a look …

For the artful garden

We parked, and walking through an open gate, were met by the creator of most of the metal garden sculptures on display on the grounds, Dore Capitani. The affable artist had been in his workshop but came out to invite us to look around the grounds, telling us that the on-site gallery would be open soon upon his partner’s arrival. These photos are of garden art pieces we found there while waiting. Using diverse mediums, they were striking and unexpected. There were metal sculptures of every shape and size; huge powder-coated spheres and other shapes, both standing and suspended; carved benches and chairs made from enormous tree stumps, some with amazing designs etched in hammered copper; a few ceramic pieces and metal fountains. Most were both too large — and too expensive for us — but there were more affordable, smaller pieces, too. I’m looking forward to visiting at another time and finding the perfect piece for either the Rancho’s yard or as a wall sculpture on our fireplace’s exterior front. Leaving the garden art behind, we proceeded on to Idyllwild’s center …

Clear, sunny and snowy up high

Idyllwild itself was awash in tourists, with parking not easy to find. The streets were wet from snow melting on the fringes (see above) and up high in the distance, the white stuff still capped the mountain’s highest peaks. We began walking, stopping in at shops and galleries, of which there are many. Idyllwild has quite a few artists in residence and they show a range of works, some in galleries and some not, like the chainsaw artists displaying their rough-hewn sculptures at roadside. There are painters, photographers, artisans of every stripe, jewelers, ceramists and others working in glass. Shops in the town center offer the usual tourist fare but there are gourmet shops, tea parlors and restaurants as well. Meditation, massage and other new age-y businesses are in evidence, too. For a little mountain town, Idyllwild is quite diverse, and we couldn’t decide whether the rainbow flags reading ‘OPEN’ didn’t have more than one meaning …

Refined rusticity

A shop we stopped in at, The Rustic Cabin, was indeed rustic, but refined, too. The goods here would appeal to the cabin dweller who was well-traveled, slightly bohemian and liked their decor warm and charming. Looks ranged from lodge-y to Asian. Paul and I liked many things here; I purchased two really nice metal garden finials. They were a steal ($8 for both!) and I knew just where one of them would go as soon as we arrived back home. The owner was really sweet and had great personal style; she told us that more garden items will arrive as summer nears, so a return trip will definitely be in order.

Organic artfulness

A few doors down we came across the John Carroll Gallery. Intrigued by the ceramics in organic shapes and colors I could see through the window, I had to look. Inside we found not only pots and other vessels and sculptures, but also fine paintings and even potted succulents in unusual hand-formed containers. Some of the ceramic pieces were so large we had to ask how they were fired, and, luckily, the artist was on hand to inform us that various kilns, in various sizes were employed to achieve them (the largest being 7-feet tall!). The work was quite interesting, but we bought only a planter from a selection literally hanging out in front of the gallery.

Continuing our tour, we eventually returned down the mountain, enjoying the scenic views in reverse as we made our descent into Hemet, and finally home to Riverside.

Sunday souvenirs

It was great spending time in the clear mountain air and even nicer to have met such interesting artists. Here’s a shot of the items we brought home: the larger of two metal garden finials from The Rustic Cabin, and a very interesting hanging pot from the John Carroll Gallery. The smaller of the two finials found its home atop a support I created for a large yucca that was threatening to teeter under its own weight and it looks smashing. I’ve filled the planter with mini blue senecio succulents; don’t the shape and color of the plants contrast nicely with the pot-hanger? And, I love how the finial’s perforations seem to echo the ones puncturing the dessicated branch of ‘desert driftwood’ (dried ocotillo) that creates the ceramic pot’s perch. Both items should find their new valley home quite hospitable.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 6:24 pm

    I knew I should have kept my dead ocotillo! Seriously, I really enjoyed your trip to the mountains, vicariously.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 15, 2010 7:06 pm

      Thanks, Marjory… I’d love to take a trip through your garden sometime, too.

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