Photo Essay

Christy's legacy ceramic garden

crooked nose

Don Quixote on a wooden hobby horse

Sancho Panza on a rocking donkey

a mermaid with a crooked nose

a woman with a glazed eye woops a few babies bottom-up

a striped boob

a blue gypsy palm reader

body-less babies

angels and fiery-eyed bulls

When I first came here, I often saw this lovely lady, dressed like Holly Hobbie... light blue jumper dresses, long and ample skirts with a plaid shirt, comfortable shoes and socks. The only thing that did not match my childhood Holly Hobbie was that she wore a big brim hat – apt for the tropical sun that shines most of the year. Back then, although I spoke English, I did not meet her. I was told her name is Christy – from California, married to a local guy and had two kids about my age. She, with her husband, still own the local hardware store where you could find most things needed on an island full of boats and buildings built with salt water and beach sand. But she also owned an art supplies shop; then I heard she is an artist too.

I grew up in an arty environment. My mom worked in my hometown's University Art Department and during our school holidays we used to go there to play with the clay and the pottery wheel pretending to make Ming Dynasty vases; or to use the easels and pretend we were Dali or Picasso or Klimt. My then-best friend is an artist – and a very good one too, so I would hear about different types of mediums available; the difficulty of mastering watercolor and the impermanence of its results; or the relative ease of working with oil paints; or the brightness and the vivid colors of acrylic. So an art shop was like going back to something I understood and to which I belonged. I stopped quite a few times at Christy's art shop – never bought anything. Hardly spoke to her but the usual queries about prices. Sometimes I would only stare through the closed windows wishing I could draw, paint, sculpt or something, I could buy that lovely stuff.

Then I left and came back. I found Christy still dressing in her ample light blue dresses, she still owned both the hardware store with her husband and the art shop, and now with a bit more pocket money I could afford some materials to match the 'Drawing in the Right Side of the Brain' book given to me by my husband. I never progressed much but then Christy became an acquaintance and soon – a friend, because she closed down her art supply shop.

A few years ago, Christy started to decorate the entry way to her ocean front house with mosaic. Her fascination with tiles and ceramics had started long ago, collecting all sorts of odd ceramic tiles on her trips: bright cobalt blue ones, flowery ones, deep crimson ones, some with lettering, some with textures, some with scenes of animals. She was seen around town lugging a broken toilet tank in one hand and some orange plates in the other. Before long, we all started gathering our broken ceramics to hand them to Christy.

About three years ago, Christy got diagnosed with lung cancer and started chemotherapy. In between treatments, she started developing her ceramic garden in the alleyway to her house. A mermaid with a crooked nose was first – a maiden starting a voyage with ornaments on her forehead and a colorful necklace; her exuberant breasts framed her body whilst her fish tail was ready to jump into the nearby sea. At the roadside entrance, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza attempt to fight windmills riding a wooden hobby horse and a rocking donkey each; the finger maze and the A-B-C-D entertains passing kids whilst their parents admire the array of ceramic bottom-up babies, body-less babies, teacups with native succulent plants, striped blue-footed boobies, dancing green fairies, an angel surrounded by fiery-eyed bulls and ceramic faces that stare into posterity.

She is 68 and has been an artist most of her life, but now she is able to do this full time, for good, for real. The Ceramic Garden is Christy's legacy to us. A reminder of how simple things could mesmerize the eye of the beholder; how color can change our days; how her passion for her world could make our world a much brighter one. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and I am so happy to have my eyes resting on her beautiful Ceramic Garden.

VOTE: Do you like this story?

Tell a friend about this story!

Tell a friend about this story!

  1. or

Hi there!

thought you might like this story!

—The JPG team

3 responses

  • Kelly Nichols

    Kelly Nichols gave props (24 Jan 2013):

    Wow. The story gave me chills. It it such a shame that a person with Christy's talent and views of life should suffer such a horrible disease. They should make her home and garden into a museum in her memory when she passes. What a wonderful study of this beautiful woman you have created. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Kelly Nichols

    Kelly Nichols said (24 Jan 2013):

    P.S. I can identify with Christy's "Holly Hobby" way of dressing. I still have my Holly Hobby doll from my childhood.

  • Veronica Toral-Granda

    Veronica Toral-Granda   said (30 Jan 2013):

    Thanks Kelly for nominating this essay for 'essay of the week'. Christy is no longer with us - she died in her sleep yesterday. This is my homage to her, to her work and to her colourful way to look at out everyday life...

Want to leave a comment? Log in or sign up!