Diane Varney's About Diane

artist, botanist, jeweler, student, ceramist, gardener, nature -lover, designer, environmentalist, teacher, painter, photographer, writer, traveler...

 

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I'm a California native and went to UC Santa Barbara for a degree in botany, then headed up to Seattle for an MS in botany (studying the pollination biology of four species of rare Delphinium in the Wenatchee Mountains of Washington (my thesis was a real page-turner). Had an epiphany one day and decided being a professor of botany was NOT what I wanted after all. While in Seattle, I married Rob, a fellow student I'd met in a Plant Morphology class in Santa Barbara.

In Seattle I learned to spin, weave, dye fibers with natural and chemical dyes, knit, machine knit, batik, make paper, bind books, make quilts--I've always liked to know how things are made and where they come from. Meanwhile, I worked at a variety of jobs until 1987, when we sold most everything, bought shiny red mountain bikes and one-way tickets to Australia. We rode our bikes around the world, covering more than 20,000 km over 20 months, touring through some 20+ countries along the way (including pedaling up and over seven 17,000+ ft. passes in the Himalayas). It was definitely one of the most challenging and best things I've ever done.

After the trip we settled in Berkeley. I’d written a book, Spinning Designer Yarns and upon returning found that I’d become a minor celebrity in the fiber arts world, and taught spinning workshops around the U.S. I began painting with watercolors to create art for our new/old house. Then I got a real job, a corporate job, as Director of Store Operations for The Nature Company (a large, nature oriented retail chain, which later became Discovery Channel Stores). After five years I knew that my soul would shrivel up and die if I didn't get out. After hours, I created jewelry and t-shirt art for the company. My products sold well enough to give me the confidence to quit and become a commercial illustrator. I created art for notecards, t-shirts, store displays, toys, posters--and illustrated a cookbook for Chronicle Books.

I wanted to get further out of the rat race and on a Baja camping trip we found and eventually bought a cactus-scrub lot in a wonderfully remote piece of paradise on the Sea of Cortez called Cabo Pulmo, known for its National Marine Park. We did not know how we would make the final lot payment, yet alone spring ourselves free to live there, but it all worked out perfectly over the next several years as Rob (entrepreneur and inventor) came up with great new products in the outdoor industry, enabling us to sell his business and be liberated. We moved to Mexico in 1996 and built a charming small home and an art studio for me to play in. I taught myself to make cloisonné enamel jewelry and ceramics (including all my own glaze formulas), and sold prints of my paintings out of my studio with my customers all coming to me--an artist's dream. I also created a gorgeous garden with succulents and native plants appropriate to the desert climate.

Eventually the desert climate felt restrictive and the pace of development in southern Baja worrisome, so we explored the real tropics of Central America, thinking that we'd resettle in Nicaragua. We sold our original Baja home, and designed and built a new one on our adjacent vacant lot. The project took two years, and it's truly a work of art and a labor of love. We operate it as a vacation rental—El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo.

In  2008 we drove to Costa Rica in our truck/camper and discovered the wild rainforests of the Osa Peninsula and lived there most of the year. It turned out that Rob and I had different ideas of where and how to live (he loves the Osa Penninsula) and I prefer culture and civilization, living for almost two years in the beautiful colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We went our separate ways, divorcing in 2011.

I spent the spring of 2011 and 2012 long distance walking in Europe. My first walk was 1,000 miles starting in Le Puy, France and ending in Stantiago de Compostella, Spain. In 2012, I began in Arles, France and ended in Pamplona, Spain walking around 600 miles. I've got the itch to walk again, but am preoccupied with my latest project.

Rob and I reunited in late 2012 and are working together remodeling the hovel I'd purchased in San Miguel de Allende. We've been working on it since October, 2012 and hopefully, we'll be finished in summer of 2013. It will have a solar home for us and two apartments we'll rent to visitors to San Miguel, plus, best of all, I'll have my very own art studio again, plus extensive roof gardens for flowers and food. You can see how the project is progressing on my new blog.