Friday, October 18, 2013

Candace Rowe

When I married my husband nearly a year ago, I happily relocated to Seattle from the Arizona desert where nothing grows.  I’d never had a garden in my life, a fact that my husband was determined to rectify.  My first effort was a questionable success.  A few tomatoes were made into salsa, a few cukes were sliced into salads, and a whole crop of spinach was included in everything from omelets to soups.

But the vast majority of what I planted was much ado about nothing, leaving us with out-of-control squash vines and a forest of green tomatoes that ended up hidden in shame in the lawn and food bin (also something they don’t have in Arizona.)  I’m not soliciting gardening advice here; I’m pretty sure we’ve figured out where we went wrong.  But we did want to take care of our little garden and prepare it for our better efforts next spring.  

After a perusal of our garage (which houses a motorcycle, a smoker, buckets of seashells and old paint, but very little in the way of heavy duty yard equipment) we decided to check out the PhinneyWood Tool Library.  I’d never been there, but had heard whispers of its existence.  I had trouble marrying the image of musty-vanilla scented bookshelves with power tools, but I’m a fan of worlds colliding. 

I headed to the main PNA office, and they directed me out the door, across the parking lot, down the stairs, through the gate, and into the brick building.  I didn’t even know there was anything PNA back there.  I was wrong.  (There’s also a yoga studio back there, FYI.)  I was pleasantly pleased with the ambience of the little tool library.

I was greeted by Todd, who was helpful and friendly even though I obviously didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  The place itself is charming.  It has a kitschy retro vibe, and everything is very clean, organized, and attractive.  It made me want to fix things.

Todd hooked me up with a Mantis electric tiller and a heavy duty extension cord, and offered to help me get it out to my little red car.  I’d gotten a dose of testosterone just from breathing the tool library air, so I politely declined and hauled the thing up the stairs myself…in heels.  Of course, that tool-infused air was out of my lungs halfway up the stairs and I made a mental note never to refuse chivalry again.

Once I got the tiller (and my husband) home, we went to town on the yard.  The powerful and clean electric motor starts just by plugging the unit in and pulling the trigger.  It’s lightweight and easy to carry and maneuver (unless you’re going up stairs in heels).  The compact design allows the tiller to get in tight spaces and is easy to fit into cars, even small cars like mine.  The reversible tines can be used to till down 10 inches or shallow cultivate the top two to three inches of soil.

Not only did my little garden get tilled and all ready for next spring, but three yards of compost and a rainy Saturday later, our entire yard is literally steaming with nutrients.  I must confess that I agreed to have the tiller back in a week, and it’s now been two and it’s still in my garage.  I haven’t gotten a nasty phone call or even an email, but they do expect patrons to be more responsible than I am. I’m taking it back tonight, I swear.
The hours of the PhinneyWood Tool Library are Wednesdays from Wednesdays from 3-6:30 pm, Fridays from 5-7 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm. Call 206.783.2244, extension 48 to check on availability or to reserve a tool.  You do need to be a PNA member to borrow tools, and they ask for a minimal donation.

You can go here for a complete list of what tools they have available:

We’d love to hear about your experiences with our Tool Library. Send them to and you may see them here in future weeks!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Come see Amaranta Ibarra-Sandys at the PNA Dia de los Muertos Festival!

Amaranta Ibarra-Sandys —Sand Painting

Amaranta grew up in Mexico City and moved to Seattle when she was very young. She had moved back and forth from Mexico City to Seattle several times, and now, 20 years later…. is back in Seattle. While she was studying Art and History in Mexico City, she was intertwining with musicians, dancers, and artists—realizing this is the environment she wanted to be a part of.  “Unfortunately, I knew I couldn’t have any support in my hometown and I came back in 2000, right after graduation, with a different perspective”.


Her first attempt at making a living as an artist happened right here in Seattle, selling clay masks at Pike Place Market. At this time, she was working at a restaurant and saving all of her money to pay for her art booth at the market, and was not ending up with any sales—so she quit. “Those were hard times—I knew I could do better than selling pigs and space needles made out of clay, so I then joined the Pottery NW school in Pioneer Square”.


She sold her artwork right outside Occidental Park at that time, with little to no hassle. “For a long time I did my ceramics as a way to make some money and show off my Clay Masks at galleries. A few years later,  I had a newborn at home and I couldn’t really go to work or have the support of a family member—Still I don’t have that luxury”.

After awhile, Amaranta started reaching out for opportunities and says she has been busy every since! “Good news is I took a business class through Washington Cash for Latinos and that really helped me—I opened up my mind even more and started seeing myself in the big picture”.


Some people may hear sand painting and ask, “What is that?”  Sand painting is “the art of pouring colored sands, powdered pigments from minerals or crystals, and pigments from other natural or synthetic sources onto a surface to make a fixed, or unfixed sand painting”.  This is one of the types of art that Amaranta creates and has been in the art world since she was 26 years old.


“I was about 23 when I found that pottery classes were offered at a community center in Mexico City. I was back in Mexico City after having lived in Seattle, and was looking for something fun and wanting to explore my possibilities”.


She has been fortunate to have many different avenues to display and talk about her artwork in the Seattle community. Places like SAM, Seattle Center, Tacoma Art Museum and Whiteman College—all have invited her to collaborate with a group of active and local Latino artists.

“Tapetes de Arena have been taking a rapid interest in Seattle, and I was one of the first female young Latina artists to be a part of it!”


As someone who is not an active artist, I always wonder how long the artists spend on their work—and what goes into that process. So I asked Amaranta—just how long does it take you to create a sand painting?

It really just depends on the size, the number of artists and number of volunteers that help carry in 25 pound bags of  sand. The biggest one was at Tacoma Art Museum, a 20x35 painting—huge!! It was displayed in the main lobby”.


She doesn’t just do sand painting; she has put her hands on multiple types of art. She has created “a hundred of pieces from clay pots, plates, tiles, garden ornaments to recycled media. When I create, I usually have a series and from that, I have one favorite one”.


Amaranta doesn’t just make art to support herself and her family, she has a sincere passion for it and does it recreationally as well. The business class she took helps make her aware of how to market her own work, web sites, e-commerce, etc. “So yes, doing art is my job. But I must say, art is very therapeutic for me”.



            As challenging as it may have been for Amaranta in the beginning, she is finally in a place where she is happy and successful! Not only is the beginning of her own company, a mobile arts school Art-Maranth.

She is producing her own art, a part-time Art Instructor, Spanish Art Teacher, Arts Advocate, a Mixed Media Artist and also volunteers actively for the South Park Arts Group. As an artist, she is currently working on a watercolor/newsprint series called “Angeles, Demonios y Sirenas”.  Her latest artwork will be available for sale at Art Under a $100 in South Park on December 7th.


You can see her Amaranta and her work at the Dia de los Muertos Festival at the Phinney Neighborhood Association on November 1, 2013 from 6:30-9 pm. The event will have a procession from 5:30-6:30 and the festival in the blue building 6:30-9 pm.


Written by:
Volunteer Jennifer Roberts