I work intuitively by taking risks. My discoveries energize me. I want viewers to feel, to create their own stories from my work. I want to take them on a journey to a magical place pulsating with life. Because I'm a botanist/ gardener, plant forms are major characters, often with tentacles or filaments, reaching, stretching, seeking. I've always responded strongly to color, but am now also working with more neutrals. Patinas and aged surfaces attract me as do the world's tribal art traditions, especially older textiles and dots. My paintings go through dramatic transformation. Work is going well when I feel my new work becoming my friend, or my child--a part of me. I'm finished when there's nothing I'm compelled to fix, and I reach a place of connection and peace.
I grew up in suburban California and wanted to become a botany professor after I discovered plants at 16. I liked nature, making things, and being outdoors. In 1976 I earned a botany degree from UC Santa Barbara. In a plant morphology class, I met Rob, an environmental studies major a year ahead of me. I followed him to The University of Washington in Seattle where we both got Master's degrees in botany, then we became disillusioned with academia and quit. We had a hippie wedding in a cow pasture near Mt. Lassen in northern California. We square danced to the a women’s blue grass band. I wore a wreath of flowers and a ‘granny dress’ that I’d sewn. We crafted our vows—about how our relationship was symbiotic, just like the way lichens are a symbiotic combination of algae and fungi.
Rob started a solar greenhouse company called Northern Sun which doubled in sales every year and eventually had a factory with 65 out-of-control employees. I worked in real estate, performing home energy checks for Seattle City Light, and eventually at Northern Sun. In my spare time I learned to spin, weave, and dye fibers, knit, batik, make paper, bind books, and make quilts.
After ten years at Northern Sun, we were booted out by an investor who eventually owned more than 50% of the company. We quickly decided to sell most everything and bought new red mountain bikes and one-way tickets to Australia via Fiji and New Zealand. We rode our bikes around the world, covering more than 12,000 miles over twenty months, touring through some 20+ countries (including pedaling across the Himalayas.
After the trip, we settled in Berkeley. Just before the trip, I’d shipped the manuscript for my book, Spinning Designer Yarns, off to the publisher. The book came out during our trip and I became a minor celebrity in the fiber arts world. I taught spinning workshops around the U.S. for a couple of years. Our new house had little art so I taught myself watercolor painting. I’d always made utilitarian objects, thinking that ‘art’ was way beyond me since I couldn’t draw, but with tracing paper and copy machines I designed original compositions and painted them.
I eventually tired of the spinning workshop circuit and got a real job, as Director of Store Operations for The Nature Company (a large, nature-oriented retail chain). I loved it at first, but after five years, I knew my soul would shrivel up and die if I didn't get out. On nights and weekends 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 I illustrated a cookbook for Chronicle Books called Zucchini, Pumpkins and Squash.
I wanted to get out of the California rat race, and on a windsurfing/camping trip in Baja we found and eventually bought property in Cabo Pulmo, a tiny village on the Sea of Cortez known for its coral reef. On our bike trip Rob invented a camping oven. We baked endless brownies, pizzas and coffee cakes as we cycled across Europe. In 1991 he started Traveling Light, this time with only one employee and no investors, and The Outback Oven was born. Later, he introduced more products including Platypus, a collapsible water bottle and we sold the company in 1996 and were liberated.
We moved to Mexico and built a small house and an art studio while we camped on the beach. I had a ceramic studio and I made cloisonné enamel jewelry, and sold prints of my paintings from my studio with all of my customers all coming to me--an artist's dream. I also created a succulent garden and my blog is still up.
Years later, the desert felt restrictive and the village small, plus, Rob had became a surfer, so we explored the real tropics of Central America. We sold our original Baja home, and while still planning to settle in Central America, we designed and built El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo, finishing it in 2007. We visit a couple of times a year and operate it as a vacation rental—El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo.
After finishing El Encanto we drove to Costa Rica in our truck/camper and discovered the Osa Peninsula, living there for almost a year, then returning to Baja. When it was time to return to Costa Rica, I just couldn’t. I went to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, known for its colonial architecture and artsy community. I loved it, but Rob still loved the primitive Costa Rican jungles. We tried for a couple of years, but we couldn’t resolve the question of where to live so we went our separate ways, divorcing in 2011.
I discovered long distance walking in France and Spain, walking 1000 miles over two months, finishing in Santiago de Compostela. But, I needed a home so I screwed up my courage and bought a hovel to remodel in San Miguel de Allende. After more long distance walking I started building my new home. Soon after, Rob and I got back together and have been back together for five plus years. Casa Caramba’s success is due to our combined effort and talents. It’s an urban compound with our home, my old art studio and two beautiful vacation rental apartments, plus many green features.
I'd continued to paint sporadically and in 2014 had a show of my paintings at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray with Anado McLaughlin in San Miguel. Soon after, I went to a castle in Ireland for a pop up art school with academic instructors. After one on ones with all of the instructors, I was completely confused since they all had such different response/suggestions. Sadly, I lost all desire to create art for over two years. In early 2017, my interest in art slowly rekindled and I took a three month online class (Nicholas Wilton's Creative Visionary Path program) and worked hard for the rest of the year to create my best art.
My niece, Rachel, visited in late 2017 and said, "Aunt Di, your art is so xxxxing good--it needs to be out in the world, not just here in your house. What are you going to do to make that happen?" We put together a list of tasks. A few months later I had another show at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray with Anado McLaughlin, showing only my new art. The reception (sales) of my new work has been incredible and all I want to do now is paint. I've moved to a bigger, brighter studio and feel like I want to paint for the rest of my life. Nothing will stop me now! Stay tuned……