Ruth Azawa, an American artist, died on August 6,2013. She was a woman who devoted her life to art and became very well known for her sculptures in wire, and her public commissions, especially her fountains which are found all over the San Francisco Bay Area. There is one in Santa Rosa in our town center depicting scenes from Santa Rosa, the surrounding wine country, and our local history.
Ms. Azawa was, unknowingly, an inspiring force in the development of our products for Calliope Designs.
She had completed her famous fountain sculpture of the streets of San Francisco which is located near Union Square at the side of the Hyatt Hotel. It’s quite large, and shows all kinds of fun scenes – the Hills of San Francisco, the famous Winding Way of Lombard Street, the Palace Hotel, Legion of Honor, riding the cable car, and the Cliff House at the Beach are just a few of the many to find. Tourists from all over the world come to see and photograph the fountain and enjoy it’s whimsicality.
I believe the fountain is made of cast metal which had been poured into a mold of the scenes just mentioned. Then the pieces were put together to form the fountain. But the interesting thing to us was that the mold itself, and everything and everyone on it, was originally made of “baker’s clay” or “bread dough”. And following the installation of the fountain, a popular Home and Garden magazine, Sunset Magazine, did an article on Ruth making the fountain and using “baker’s clay” and then she gave her recipe for the clay/dough and showed how she made some of the figurines.
It was this article that inspired our friends, John and Kathleen Holmes, to have a fun party at their home to make our own “sculptures” – and since it was close to Christmas, we later thought of this as a way to make Christmas gifts! The night we had the sculpture party was quite fun – half of the people there were artists, but even the less artistically gifted guests, such as myself, were able to form figures and create some pretty fun little items.
That year we made so many of these little figurines, and gave them away at Christmas time. With the positive response we received from family and friends we were encouraged the following year to join the Great Dickens Faire of San Francisco to sell the wares from a tiny cart. The Dickens Fair is still going on, 44 years later, and we’ve been to every single one. As well as having a business that sold to gift shops and department stores all over the world!
Twenty years later the City of Santa Rosa commissioned Ruth Azawa to create a fountain for our downtown city center plaza. She accepted saying she would like to have the children of Santa Rosa participate in making the baker’s clay figurines to be used in the fountain’s design. For several months it was our delight to give boxes and boxes of our colored dough to the local schools that had been selected to participate. We worked with the teachers giving tips and techniques so that the kids could have some practice in using the materials. When Ms. Azawa came to Santa Rosa she had many willing and excited school children to help with her project.
The fountain is an integral part of our City and it’s lovely center plaza, and we are proud to have been an influence to her project.