Perhaps it’s appropriate that I am posting the story of this amazing fire artist on Fourth of July weekend! The fireworks in her studio, however, definitely are more productive than those in the sky.


Carmen Wagner is a dear friend and first-class artist as a glass sculptor. Words are inadequate for her glass sculptures and jewelry.


I had a hard time deciding between this dragon and the dolphin for the opening photo.


When Carmen was introduced to Howard Richie at the Crystal Gallery at age sixteen, she was hooked. She soon started an apprenticeship with him. “I was only paid when I made something good enough to sell,” she says.

After she inherited all Richie’s old equipment, she re-machined torches and fixed broken tools. That was the start of her workbench setup. She still uses most of her original tools.

Isn’t this arrangement of coral and fish exquisite?


She has always loved to create things, and says that when she found glass work, she knew there were few people with that skill.


Carmen surprised me at the school one day with a beautiful pair of red seahorse earrings. All of these earrings are stunning!


Her father was a Filipino immigrant and her mother was born in Ka’u. Her parents had a farm in Honaunau, but they moved to Oahu before Carmen was born. When she was three, they moved back to the Honaunau farm.


It was difficult for her to learn a trade that was dominated by men, but she was a determined young woman.


Her work can be found in collections world-wide. A set of ornaments were hand delivered by Neil Abercrumbie to President Obama for Christmas last year.


I took a shot of a photo of one glass sculpture that hangs on Carmen’s studio wall.


During the few minutes that we talked, Carmen started a new project. The term for what she does is “lamp working.” She uses bottled oxygen and propane with a pre-mix torch.


At the end of my visit, she showed me her newly created jelly fish.


Here is another view.


And finally, here is beautiful Carmen. Please check out her website for more of her art.


If you are looking for her work on the Big Island, check the Showcase Gallery (Kainaliu), Elements Gallery (Waimea), Gallery of Great Things (Waimea) and Dovetail Gallery (Kona). She is working on accounts for Maui and Oahu. Perhaps you will treat yourself to a sculpture for your home, a pair of earrings for yourself or a friend, or order something special to commemorate your visit to Hawai`i.

Click here to view a slide show of Carmen at work and more of her fragile pieces.

A hui hou!

Feral Fables, my newly published e-book, will be available for a special promotional price of $2.99 until August 1, 2010. Go here to to buy or sample Feral Fables. Use the promotional code “SL25S” (not case sensitive) at checkout.
Mahalo! (Thank you!)

Gardener Gifts

gift card and candle
click here to see larger image

My brother gave me a terrific Christmas gift – an ACE gift card! Of course, now I have to decide how to spend it! Do I need new cedar chips for a walkway? Do I want new tools, more cinder, mulch, or soil? Maybe lumber for more shelves in my shed?

Gift cards are great for the giver, but when you have a problem with making decisions like I do, the burden of shopping now shifts to the receiver. Gift cards might not always a good idea in this economy, since so many stores are going out of business, but ACE should be around forever.

Thanks, Bro! I think I’m able to handle the challenge! Besides, this gives me a segue into the topic for this post.

Most of you have probably completed your holiday shopping. On the off chance that you are still wondering what to get for that gardener on your list (or even for yourself), here are a few suggestions.

Gift cards of any kind are generally a good idea. We don’t know what the other person really needs or wants, so it gives them the opportunity to make their own choices. Save yourself the gas and the mailing costs. For your gardener, you might look at ACE, or check with Home Depot or Lowe’s, or any store where the gardener shops regularly.

Start with an Amazon Gift Card. Just click on this and shop! I was amazed at the variety of garden and patio products you can purchase through Amazon, and mostly at a discount.

And of course Amazon has books for the gardener. Check out the list of just a few of my favorites on the right-hand side of this page under “Useful Books.” There are garden books on everything you could ever imagine, from beginner to expert.

4-wheeled garden
click here to see larger image

You might browse through one of the local garden shops or hardware stores. Pick up a sturdy basket or 4-wheeled cart like the one above, then begin to pile in various small garden tools, seed packets, books, and more. Tie a big red bow on the top for a flourish. A friend gave me one of these carts for my birthday and I absolutely love it!

If you live near a college or university that offers horticulture courses, you might even pay for a special friend to take a class. That happened for me in the early 70s at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I took a course in landscaping designed for the home owner who was an amateur. It was such an exciting thing that I ended up taking horticulture courses for the next three years!

One of my favorite gifts from friends who live locally is a cutting (or a dozen cuttings) that I can put out in my own yard. It’s a constant reminder of that person every time I water or weed. Recently I had one of those friends stop by and he was amazed at how certain plants had grown that he and his wife had given me in exchange for eggs.

I’m not at a point of being able to give cuttings out of my yard yet, but some day I hope to do that. I can, however, pick up potted plants at the nursery to take. These plants can look nice in the home for a while, later to be planted outside in a more permanent home. Our local garden club meets the Saturday after Christmas. We’re bringing pupus and a plant for the gift exchange.

Finally, there is nothing like a personal gift of time. Coerce your favorite gardener into sitting down for a chat with you over a cup of tea and your homemade cookies. Walk around the place with your gardener and let her/him show you around. As bleak as we may think our garden is, we are always still proud to show our accomplishments.

You’ll think of other gifts, and who knows? You might even get the gardening bug yourself, if you haven’t already been bitten.

This is Lava Lily, with a wish for all of my readers to have a super bloomin’ holiday!