“Water is Life” – Mosaic Art on the Bandersnatch Trail

Karen Rycheck’s amazing artistic journey.
Honoring watershed animals.
29 photos!
Artist: Karen Rycheck.
Ashland Public Art series.

“In this sculpture, I was trying to make people aware of all the life that is supported by the Ashland watershed; how important it is to keep it clean, not just for our use but also for the wildlife in the area.” 

Karen Rycheck

Try the Bandersnatch Trail art walk

“Water is Life” is a dramatic sight as you ascend the Bandersnatch trail from Lithia Park up the hill toward the Siskiyou Mountains. It is the third, largest, and most complex sculpture you will see on this art walk. If you don’t know the Bandersnatch trail, I give instructions to the trail at the end of this article.

Water is Life on the Bandersnatch Trail in Ashland. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“When did you first create art?”

Artist Karen Rycheck replied: “I’d say before pre-school. I started taking art classes when I was five with the local art association. My dad was instrumental in that, because he was an amateur photographer.” In her Oklahoma K – 12 schools, she didn’t get much support for art. For example, the art teacher was a football coach and they had to bring their own art supplies from home. 

During her high school years, she thought she would become an architect. Jon Keith Swindell, a professor and mentor at University of Kansas, inspired her to pursue fine art. She also pursued furniture making for a while.    

“How did you become a mosaic artist?”

Karen’s response turned into a fascinating story. “I kind of fell into mosaic art,” she told me. “There was a guy in St. Louis who was a sculptor. He was also a real estate mogul, which is how he supported being an artist. He would buy up old buildings, rehab them and flip them. In the process, he bought a 10-story building that had been vacant for a long time.” The photo below shows the 10-story building after he developed it into a museum.

St. Louis City Museum
Exterior of the St. Louis City Museum. Notice the full size school bus “driving” off the roof. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I interrupt the story of Karen’s artistic journey for a brief description of this no-longer-vacant building from the City Museum website: “Housed in the 10-story, 600,000 square-foot warehouse of the International Shoe Company, City Museum is a mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects. The brainchild of internationally-acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor, City Museum opened for visitors in 1997.” I looked at the website and wished I could transport myself to St. Louis to see the astounding place they have created. If you want to see it, including a drone video tour, here is the link: https://www.citymuseum.org

In Karen’s words, “He turned the building into a huge art experience. People started donating materials to him. A large donation came from a ceramic factory in Oklahoma, which donated two full truckloads of tile, seconds from the factory, all different colors and shapes and sizes.” What to do with them? The warehouse floors were cement, like a parking garage. Cassilly decided to mosaic the huge expanses of floors, thousands of square feet. Initially a couple women with some ceramic tile experience began laying the donated tile on the floors, a little each day. 

St. Louis City Museum
Intricate mosaics at the St. Louis City Museum. (photo from St. Louis City Museum website)

This brings the story back to Karen Rycheck. One day in 1997 she was waiting by the elevator to go to an upper floor and paint the ceiling. Cassilly saw her there and said, “Hey, have you ever done this mosaic thing?” Rycheck replied, “No, but it looks really cool. I’d like to try it.” He said, “Then go over there, where they are laying tile.” And for the next year and a half she laid mosaic tile every day, 8 to 12 hours a day. It was an intense learning-on-the-job experience, and she has loved working with mosaic tile ever since.

That brings us to Karen’s creative mosaic sculpture called Water is Life.

How “Water is Life” was chosen for this site

Karen submitted a design idea to the Watershed Art Group for a sculptural mosaic piece. She highlighted flora and fauna that are present in the Ashland watershed, especially animals and plants that people might not notice. Her proposal was accepted and she built the piece over the next year or so.

“I like to look at the big picture, and also focus on the tiny little critters and plants that we take for granted or don’t even know are there.”  

Karen Rycheck

This was only Karen’s second sculptural mosaic artwork! Her first sculptural piece, a reclining nude made in 2010 or 2011, is displayed at Paschal Winery in Talent (and is for sale). 

Karen and her “Reclining Nude” mosaic tile sculpture.

Meaning of the sculpture

I asked Karen about the overall meaning of the Water is Life sculpture. She replied, “I was trying to make people aware of all the life that is supported by the Ashland watershed; how important it is to keep it clean, not just for our use but also for the wildlife in the area. [The watershed] supports a lot of plants and animals, many of which are not found anywhere else in the United States. The Siskiyou region is a really unique area biologically, so protecting the land here is really important.” 

Each of the four levels of the sculpture depicts different plants and animals. Let’s learn in Karen Rycheck’s own words what she portrays in each level, starting with the bottom.

Bottom (first) level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Water is Life, bottom (first) level. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“The bottom layer is imagery of the forests and mountains. I moved here from the Midwest, the flatlands. We went to the mountains on family vacations. That’s where my love of the mountains originated, so I wanted to have that as a base.”

The bottom level shows the Ashland watershed’s “greater ecosystem, a forested mountainous area.”   

Second level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Salamander on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This level honors small, ground-dwelling creatures in the watershed. The small native salamanders live in moist areas near streams. Karen: “They tend to hide out so you’re not likely to see them unless you are looking for them, and that’s one reason I wanted to bring some attention to them. They are dependent on moisture and plant life in the area.” 

Notice the variety of plants in the mosaic design around the salamander. Karen took walks in the area where her sculpture was going to be installed. She found local plants to feature. Near the salamander’s head is a small, easily overlooked native flowering plant with tiny purple blooms. Above the salamander is a fern and by its tail another local plant. The green tiles below the salamander represent the mosses in its habitat.

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Rough-skinned Newt on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

On the other side of the second level is a rough-skinned newt, another animal in the watershed. Karen explained that “They have a pebbly-textured skin, so I found some tile that had a lot of texture to it.” You can see the texture difference in the photo and feel it on the sculpture.

Delightful details — notice the pebbles

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Notice the pebbles the artist found in Ashland Creek and incorporated into her sculpture that honors the Ashland Watershed, its animals and its plants. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Here’s why I like to talk with the artist, when possible. I didn’t notice this detail when I viewed the sculpture. I didn’t even notice this detail as I looked at my photo of the salamander on the second level of the sculpture. 

Take a look at the salamander’s front foot. What is it resting on? Those are not mosaic tiles. Those are pebbles that Karen picked up in Ashland Creek! This truly gives her mosaic creation a sense of place. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Notice the pebbles from Ashland Creek making up the “creek bed” on level 3 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Again, look for the pebbles in this detail photo from the third level. The third level features fish amidst the flowing multi-colored blue hues of river water. What is below the water, in the real world and in the sculpture? Pebbles in the creek, and from the creek. I love that creative touch. Learning that little detail helps me appreciate the entire piece even more.

More delightful details — notice the plant leaves

Each of the small ceramic tiles needs to be cut to shape. This is much more challenging in a rounded mosaic artwork like Water is Life than in a flat mosaic. Now look closely at the leaves next to the salamander and the newt on the second level. Unlike all of the other tiles, which have smooth edges, many of the leaves have serrated edges. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Detail showing the serrated plant leaves on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I asked Karen how she could add that kind of detail to hard ceramic tiles. She explained that most of her tiles with smooth edges are hand cut. However, to create the serrated leaf shapes she needed to use a tile “wet saw,” which has a diamond-encrusted grinding blade. In fact, she had to use different kinds of wet saws to give the leaves their individual details. I haven’t counted the leaves, but that’s a lot of individual serrated leaf creation. 

Third level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Level 3 of Water is Life contains stylized steelhead or salmon. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

A variety of blue-themed shapes, colors and sizes of tiles make up the flowing stream in which the stylized steelhead or salmon are swimming.

Back to details, notice how many tiles shaped as small scales are on each fish. “Each of those little tiles I shaped like scales was hand cut and then ground on a glass grinder to shape the curve better.” Karen added, “At the time I was doing this, my dad was in the hospital. I would go to the hospital with my tile and my nippers and a clear plastic bag. I would sit there and I would nip the fish scales by his bedside. It was my therapy as I was there with him.”  

Fourth (and top) level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
The Bald Eagle is soaring on level 4 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This is the level of sky and birds. The Bald eagle is soaring above (and within) a green forest in a blue, cloud-filled sky. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
One of Karen Rycheck’s favorite local birds is the Spotted Towhee, here on level 4 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

On the other side is a Spotted towhee, a favorite of Karen’s and one of the common birds of the Rogue Valley and Ashland watershed. 

How Water is Life was made

I was surprised when Karen told me that the core of each sculptural level was made of 2” or 3” thick insulation foam board laminated together. I had assumed the cores would be made of concrete, but that would have made them much too heavy for a four-level sculpture at this location. The recycled foam board was much lighter than a concrete core would be, and she could hand carve it to just the right boulder shapes. Karen told me insulation foam board is used a lot in creating theater and movie sets. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
“Boulder” base made of foam board. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

The ceramic tiles were attached to fiberglass mesh, which was attached to the foam board base with Thinset cement.  

Here is the bottom level showing tiles attached to fiberglass mesh. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

Each tile was attached individually, glued on with Thinset, a special type of mortar made for attaching ceramic tile. Early in the process, Karen created drawings and a small model of the sculpture. For the flatter areas of each level, she was able to transfer her drawings to the concrete as a guide for placing the tiles. The curved areas were much more challenging and often required cutting tile pieces smaller to make them fit. 

You can see four real rocks in between the mosaic “boulder” layers. She got these rocks at Leave Your Mark in Phoenix. They were kind enough to drill holes through the rocks for her. A long steel rod holds the levels together and anchors them to the concrete base.

Ashland Parks Department staff assisted with Water is Life installation in early 2018. (photo by Karen Rycheck, 2018)

The levels of Water is Life were assembled on site with the help of Parks Department staff. Karen is very grateful for their help!

Ashland Parks Department staff who helped Karen install Water is Life. (photo by Karen Rycheck, 2018)

Water is Life dedication

A dedication had been planned for early 2018, but it was rained out. Karen laughed as she told me a few people showed up anyway, so there was an informal ceremony in the rain. Except that Karen wasn’t there because she had been told it was cancelled!

Water is Life
Karen Rycheck (on the left) and Stef Seffinger of the Watershed Art Group at the formal dedication. (photo provided by Stef Seffinger)

Fortunately, later there was a formal dedication on a sunny day in September 2018. It was held the same day as the dedication of the nearby sculpture “Elevation,” by Cheryl Garcia.

Other artwork by Karen Rycheck

“I love public art. I love the idea of art being free to everybody. I know that there are a lot of people who never get to go to museums, so I like that they can live with it in their community.”  

Karen Rycheck

Karen makes both private commissions and public artworks. As you can tell from the quote above, she loves to create public art, especially in collaboration with others. See examples below of both public and private pieces she has created.

Talent Bee City U.S.A. mosaic

This community mosaic was designed by Karen Rycheck. (photo by Karen Rycheck)
Detail of the Talent Bee City U.S.A. mosaic. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

Karen initiated and designed this stunning 32′ long mosaic for the City of Talent, Oregon. This mosaic flower garden was once a blank cement wall at the base of a stage that is used for music during the Harvest Festival and other gatherings. Karen told me, “People sat there facing the blank wall and I thought it needed to be brightened up.”

She took her idea to the Talent Public Arts Committee, which loved it of course. They presented it to the Talent City Council, where it was approved.

Karen explained the purpose behind this mosaic. “We tried to focus on plants that were host plants for pollinators in the valley, some native, some non-native. We wanted it to be educational, so people could see what kinds of flowers people could plant in their yards to attract pollinators. It’s around the corner from the Pollinator Garden in front of Talent’s City Hall building.”

This is truly “public art,” as over 100 community members worked on the mosaic with her. Following training by Karen, the individual flowers were initially laid out on fiberglass mesh by many different people. Then Karen put them together in the overall design. The mosaic was dedicated on June 22, 2019 after about a year and a half of community creativity.

“Home of the year” in St. louis

Cover of St. Louis Homes + Lifestyles magazine, 2000.

In the year 2000, this house won the “Home of the Year” award given by St. Louis Homes + Lifestyles magazine. All it takes is a brief glance to see how stunning it is. Using plaster, Karen crafted the snake that surrounds the kitchen entry. Wow! Those are seashells circling the snake.

Karen, Red Keel and one other woman designed and laid the ceramic tile on the floor, kitchen countertops and backsplash.  Following the nature and ocean theme, the floor mosaic is a huge squid.

“mosaic marathon” healthcare mosaic

This mosaic designed by Karen Rycheck (pictured) is at La Clinca Wellness Center in Medford.

This mosaic was created during an Ashland conference put on by the Contemporary Mosaic Artists organization in 2015. Karen designed it, but it was put together by attendees of the conference during a “mosaic marathon.”

Tiles for this project were provided by a Los Angeles group called “Piece by Piece.” Karen worked closely with Dawn Mendelson, the Managing Director of the organization. Since 2007, their mission has been to “provide low-income and formerly homeless people free mosaic art workshops using recycled materials to develop marketable skills, self-confidence, earned income and an improved quality of life.” I looked at their website and was very impressed. Here is a link if you’d like to learn more. https://www.piecebypiece.org

This circular mosaic hangs at La Clinica Wellness Center in Medford. When Karen told me that, I immediately thought of Jeremy Criswell and his mentor Lilli Ann Rosenberg. Mosaic artworks by Jeremy and Lilli Ann are also in La Clinica buildings. At the end of this article, you will find a link to the article about Pacific Fisher, Jeremy’s public art sculpture that is also on the Bandersnatch trail.

How to find “Water is Life” on the Bandersnatch trail

Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins near the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive.

Glenview Drive, Ashland

After a short distance, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails

Near the smaller parking area is a sign that says, “Waterline Trail” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” 

Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

Ashland trails

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail. Next to Elevation is another sign pointing to the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail.

Ashland trails

When you see the Bandersnatch trail sign, head uphill a short distance to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life.

Built in 2012 for walkers and equestrians, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back. 

Ashland Public Art series – Links to other articles

Elevation by Cheryl Garcia

Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell

Street Scene by Marion Young

References:

Anon. City Museum website.
https://www.citymuseum.org

Rycheck, Karen. Interview and communications, August and September 2020.
Karen Rycheck kindly shared some of her personal photos with me for the article.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and communications, August 2020.

“Pacific Fisher” – Art on Ashland’s Bandersnatch Trail

The “Pacific Fisher” by Jeremy Criswell is part of Ashland, Oregon’s public art collection. I am writing an article about every public artwork in town.

Learn how it was made, step by step
Why is it named “Marty?”
31 photos!
Artist: Jeremy Criswell
Ashland Public Art series

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Pacific Fisher sculpture at its site. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I first saw the Pacific Fisher sculpture

My wife and I first saw the “Pacific Fisher” sculpture on the Bandersnatch trail in July 2020. As I climbed the hill and saw the front of the mosaic sculpture, I thought, “This is beautiful.” If you are not familiar with Bandersnatch trail, see detailed instructions for finding it at the end of this article. 

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Face of Pacific Fisher sculpture, front detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell
“Front” of Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I walked around to the back of the piece, then came the “Wow!” I immediately wanted to learn what a Pacific fisher is and about the artist Jeremy Criswell. This article shares with you what I have learned.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Face of Pacific Fisher sculpture, back detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell
“Back” of Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Jeremy’s artistic journey

When I asked Jeremy how he started making art, he laughed and told me “As a kid, I was sure I was not an artist. I couldn’t draw. But my grandpa was a potter. So when I got to RCC [Rogue Community College], I took a pottery [ceramics] class. I was fortunate that it was taught by Tom Wilson, who introduced me to sculpture and was an early inspiration for me.” 

This began his process of opening up to what he called “exploring and playing a lot.” His mind opened up to the natural creativity within him. He writes in his Bio: “With ceramics as my anchor, I began to explore other art forms. Painting, sculpture, woodworking, carpentry, and welding all found their way into my life.”

He studied art and ceramics at Humboldt State University for five years, then moved back to Oregon in 2006. He currently makes art in his home studio in the Applegate Valley. He wrote, “I created a space that supports all forms of my artwork, from tile and cement sculpture, to pottery, welding, and woodwork. My primary focus is on art for public enjoyment.”

Jeremy Criswell studio
Jeremy Criswell’s studio, from his website. (photo by Robert Frost)

When he is not making art, you will find Criswell in his fourth year of teaching at Madrone Trail school, a Waldorf-inspired public charter school in Central Point. 

Jeremy Criswell’s mentor

Criswell met Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg when they were in their 80s and still creating public art projects for placement in Oregon and beyond. He and Lilli Ann clicked from the start, and he was her assistant from 2007 until her death in 2011.

Lilli Ann Rosenberg, 2007
This 2007 mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg (pictured) for La Clinica was the first one Jeremy Criswell helped her with. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

“Everything I know about mosaics I learned from her [Lilli Ann Rosenberg],” Jeremy told me. “For a number of years, I was her assistant. I was her eyes and hands in many ways. My work is incredibly influenced by her. The things that she held important, they became such a part of me … if anything, I think I honor her when I work.”

Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg with sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, 2008
Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg with Jeremy’s first mosaic sculpture (photo by Jeremy Criswell, 2008)

The photo above shows Jeremy’s first mosaic sculpture, made in 2008, which he described as “sort of a self-portrait.” He said: “This was a joyous moment for Lilli Ann and Marvin” because they could see that “what they shared was coming to life in me.”

Lilli Ann had created public art nationally for decades before she and Marvin moved to the Rogue Valley around 1990. In the Rogue Valley, the Rosenberg’s are most known for their incredible ability to engage with people in the community and for their mosaic artworks at many La Clinica buildings. 

In 1978, Lilli Ann’s created what may be her most dramatic piece. It is a 12-ton, 110’ mosaic tile mural installed at America’s oldest subway station – the 1897 Park Street station in Boston. 

Mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg, Park Street subway station, Boston
Mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg, Park Street subway station, Boston. (photo from MBTA)

The Watershed Art Group

The Pacific Fisher sculpture exists because Stef Seffinger, Pam Marsh and Sue Springer formed the “Watershed Art Group” to place public art along a trail above Lithia Park. Their goal — to bring attention to the importance of the watershed. They received support from the City of Ashland Public Arts Commission, with funding primarily from the Haines & Friends art fund. 

They put out a call for artists to propose ideas for a sculpture of a Pacific fisher, an important but little known animal in the Ashland Watershed. When Jeremy began his creative process, he had an idea to include leaves picked in the watershed as part of the design. Criswell’s mosaic design was chosen for this public art commission.

How the “Pacific Fisher” sculpture was made

The first step was design. Jeremy fine-tuned the design he had presented to the Watershed Art Group. Since he makes his own ceramic mosaic pieces, he visualized the colors, textures, shapes and sizes of the mosaic pieces for Pacific Fisher. Then he hand-made all the striped quarter moon tiles for the front side of the piece and the round green tiles for the back side. The glass tiles he used on the back side are hand-made Italian glass.

Ceramic tiles made by Jeremy Criswell
Hand-made ceramic tiles by Jeremy Criswell. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

He cut out the exact shape and size of the sculpture in 2” thick Styrofoam. You can see in the photo below how he laid out his mosaic design.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Styrofoam mold of Pacific Fisher sculpture on slab of clay. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

The Pacific fisher was built flat on his large work table. Jeremy began with a huge slab of clay about 1” thick, laid out on the table. The Styrofoam cutout of the Pacific fisher shape was laid on the clay for a mold and held firmly in place. 

He pressed the design of glass and ceramic mosaic pieces for the back side of the Pacific fisher into the soft clay, using gentle taps so the pieces would stay put but not sink into the clay. Each of the hundreds of pieces needed to be exactly where he wanted it. Once the mosaic pieces were in concrete, there was no going back!

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Jeremy at work. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

About half of the concrete (1” thick) was carefully poured into the mold so it would not move any of the small pieces that were pressed into the underlying clay. 

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Half of the concrete has been poured into the mold. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

As the cement dried, it “grabbed” the glass and ceramic mosaic pieces. When the cement was lifted off, the mosaic pieces remained attached to the cement.

After the first half of the concrete was poured in the mold, rebar armature was added for strength and for attaching the piece to its base. 

The second half of the concrete was poured, making the sculpture about 2” thick. While this concrete was moist, the quarter-moon shaped brown ceramic pieces on the other side of the Pacific fisher were placed directly into it. As I listened to Jeremy describe this, I started to get worried the cement would dry before he could apply all 140 or so mosaic pieces exactly where he wanted them. He laughed and told me, “You always have enough time. I used to get very, very frantic and Lilli Ann would tell me it would work.” (Back when he was her apprentice and assistant.)

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Applying the tiles to the “front” side of the Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

Working on his own a few years later, he once again would start to get frantic at this point in the process. Eventually he learned a routine to calm himself. “I would mix the cement, and while it was sitting in the wheelbarrow, I would go make a cup of coffee, just to remind myself that I had enough time.” When he told me there was a three-hour time period to work within before the cement dried, I was able to relax.   

“Real” leaves on the base

The base concrete was formed without a mold, using expanded metal lath as the structure. After hand-forming the base from thick wet concrete in and around the metal lath, he tapped the leaf ceramics into place before it dried. 

The ceramic leaves on the base had been created from fresh leaves Jeremy collected in the Ashland watershed. The multi-step process began by pressing the leaves into fresh clay and applying dark glaze around them. After carefully removing the leaves to preserve some detail such as the leaf veins, he fired the clay for the first time. Using a sponge, he then applied multiple colors of glaze to the individual leaves and fired the clay for a second time.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
This photo shows the metal lath for base. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)
Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
This photo shows the still damp hand-formed concrete applied over the metal lath. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)
Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
The ceramic tile leaves have been placed in the base. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

Introduced to the public in June 2015

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Ashland Daily Tidings, April 21, 2015. (photo from Stef Seffinger)

The Watershed Art Group introduced Criswell’s Pacific Fisher to the public during Ashland’s June 2015 Earth Day celebration, held at ScienceWorks Museum. Then it was on display at the Ashland Library until its October dedication on the Bandersnatch trail. There was even a contest to name the mosaic statue.

Dedication in October 2015

Pacific Fisher dedication October 2015
This photo from the dedication shows John Stromberg, an unidentified woman, Stef Seffinger (Ashland Watershed Group member), Ann Seltzer, and Pam Marsh (Ashland Watershed Group member). (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

About 40 people attended the dedication of Pacific Fisher on the trail October 9, 2015. People toasted the first sculpture on this new “Art Walk” with sparkling cider and cookies in the shape of Pacific fishers. Dave Clayton, a wildlife biologist who has studied Pacific fishers, spoke about their role in the ecosystem.

Pacific Fisher dedication October 2015
Jeremy Criswell keeps an eye on his sons Adrian (on the left) and Alden “riding” the Pacific Fisher during the dedication. In the background, Diarmuid McGuire is talking with Barry and Kathryn Thalden.  (photo by Greta Nikkelsen)

Why is it named “Marty?”

At the sculpture’s dedication, Ashland City Councilor Stef Seffinger explained why this Pacific Fisher is named “Marty.” It honors Southern Oregon forester and ecosystem restoration expert Marty Main.

Seffinger added: “This is somebody who has spent over 30 years working in this forest, who has spent his life educating and making sure that creatures in the forest continue to have a home. That the trees in the forest continue to be healthy. He’s one of the most generous and most wonderful men I know. Thank you, Marty.”

Marty Main
Marty Main teaching in June 2012. (photo by Stef Seffinger)

Marty Main has been a consultant to the Forest Lands Commission since 1995, and he is widely respected in the community. Unknown to Main, several people from the City of Ashland Forest Lands Commission nominated the name “Marty.” He attended the dedication ceremony not knowing the sculpture would be named for him. He told me, “They surprised me. I was embarrassed.” 

What is a Pacific fisher?

Pacific fisher
Pacific fisher. (from the KS Wild website)

I asked Marty Main to tell me a little about the Pacific fisher. He explained that they are in the same family as weasels, and are about the size of a house cat. They are now rare on the West Coast, and a healthy, growing population of Pacific fishers in the Ashland watershed is a sign of ecosystem health in our watershed.

Throughout Oregon and North America, the population of Pacific fishers was decimated by the fur trade in the late 1800s, the use of powerful poisons at illegal marijuana grows in federal forests for decades (thankfully fewer since the legalization of marijuana) and the loss of old growth habitat. Pacific fishers nest and rest in large, older trees. They are nocturnal, so they are not very visible. 

What do they eat? Fish, of course…NO, not fish. Their unusual common name is thought to come from the word fiche (or fichet, or fitch, or fitchet), an old term for the pelt of a European polecat, a related animal that 19th century fur trappers were familiar with. 

They actually eat small mammals like mice, squirrels, rabbits, and one that’s a surprise…porcupines! Marty Main told me, “They are one of the few animals that eat porcupines. They have learned to flip porcupines over to get to the soft belly. They are unique that way.”

How to find the sculpture on the Bandersnatch trail

Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins near the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive.  

Glenview Drive, Ashland

After a short distance, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails

Near the smaller parking area is a sign that says, “Waterline Trail” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” 

Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

Ashland trails

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail. Next to Elevation is another sign pointing to the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail.

Ashland trails

When you see the Bandersnatch trail sign, head uphill a short distance to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life.

Built in 2012 for walkers and equestrians, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back. 

Other art by Jeremy Criswell

Lilli Ann Rosenberg, 2007
Lilli Ann Rosenberg in 2007, creating a mosaic for La Clinica. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

This piece, now at La Clinica in Central Point, was the first artwork of Lilli Ann Rosenberg that Jeremy helped create. It is still very meaningful to him.

Mosaic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell
Mosaic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell at Applegate School. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

This tree mosaic Jeremy called “Tree of Living Things” was created in 2017 or 2018 when he was the artist in residence at Applegate School. Every one of the school’s 100 students was involved in creating the artwork. Each one drew an animal or plant, pressed the drawing into clay and then painted it. Jeremy incorporated all of these into the mosaic tree. Look closely to see similarities between his hand-made tiles used in this mosaic and the ones used in Pacific Fisher.

Tortoise by Jeremy Criswell at Cantrall Buckley park
Tortoise by Jeremy Criswell, Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The tortoise at Cantrall Buckley County Park is one of Jeremy’s favorite pieces because of the way kids climb on it, interact with it and have fun with its colorful personality. 

Finally, what is a Bandersnatch?

I don’t suppose it’s helpful to know that the Bandersnatch is found in the vicinity of the Jabberwock and the Jubjub bird. It might be more helpful to know that it occurs in the follow-up book to Alice in Wonderland, in which nearly everything is topsy turvy.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll, from the poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

More articles about Ashland Public Art

“Elevation” – Art on the Bandersnatch Trail
https://walkashland.com/2020/08/28/elevation-art-on-ashlands-bandersnatch-trail/

Street Scene Sculpture: Who Are These People?
https://walkashland.com/2020/05/26/street-scene-sculpture-who-are-these-people/https://walkashland.com/2020/05/26/street-scene-sculpture-who-are-these-people/

Ashland Public Art map

A map at the link below shows City of Ashland public art, from the city website. Photos of the art are by Graham Lewis.
https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

References:

Anon. “Pacific Fisher is One Cool Critter,” KS Wild website, accessed September 22, 2020.
https://www.kswild.org/imperiled-species-profiles/2017/6/12/pacific-fisher

Criswell, Jeremy. Interview and personal communications, August and September 2020. Jeremy graciously shared some of his personal photos with me.

Darling, John. “Watershed Art Trail: Elusive Pacific Fisher to have prominent spot,” Ashland Daily Tidings, April 21, 2015. 

Darling, John. “Mural artist Lilli Ann Rosenberg leaves a lasting legacy,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 23, 2011.

Dickinson, Alec. “Ashland Watershed Art Trail inaugurated with unveiling of ‘Marty,’” Ashland Tidings, October 12, 2015. 

Main, Marty. Interview, September 2020.

Marsh, Pam. Email communications, September 2020.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and communications, August and September 2020.

Kestrel Parkway: by Bear Creek

The ‘front yard’ is Bear Creek

Ashland, Kestrel Parkway
The view across Kestrel Parkway to the riparian zone open space along Bear Creek (photo by Peter Finkle)

On a chilly blue-sky day in February, my wife and I walked Kestrel Parkway in the North Mountain neighborhood with one of the “locals.” Sherri Morgan, who showed us around, lives near Kestrel. I met Sherri when she gave an informative talk about fertilizing plants to the Ashland Garden Club. If you enjoy gardening, think about joining the club. Learn more here.

Bear Creek
Here I am enjoying the flow of Bear Creek, just steps from Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Kathy Campbell)

The ‘front yard’ is Bear Creek

It’s quite a spot. The top photo shows the view from a front yard along Kestrel Parkway. To take the photo just above, my wife and I walked across the lawn shown on the top photo, and found a bench along Bear Creek. Had it been a summer day, I may have lingered there for an hour. With the temperature about 40 degrees, I only managed five minutes or so of lingering.

Looking north on Kestrel Parkway from the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue (photo by Peter Finkle)

Kestrel Parkway is only two blocks long right now. It is currently being extended. Towards the end of the article you will see a photo of the road under construction. This North Mountain neighborhood is on the opposite side of North Mountain Avenue from the Mountain Meadows retirement community. Quite new, it has been gradually built up through the past 20 years, with several areas still to be developed.

Kestrel Parkway
Lovely statue in a Kestrel Parkway yard (photo by Peter Finkle)

I enjoy finding creative, lovely or whimsical yard art during my walks around Ashland. This looks like it could be a Quan Yin (or Guanyin) statue, symbolizing the Buddhist goddess of compassion. In the photo below, it looks like angels are visiting the house.

Another artistic Ashland front entry, this one on Kestrel Parkway (photo by Peter Finkle)
Someone in the streets department added some artistry here at the intersection of Kestrel Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Street art

This circular brick work brightens the intersection of Kestrel Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue. It provides a feel-good moment as you walk or drive through this intersection.

Here is a close-up of the circular street artistry. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway
I enjoyed this very green house on Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I see many dark green houses as I explore Ashland, but rarely do I see a bright green house. This one really works for me, especially in this setting.

bird feeders, Kestrel Parkway
Here is a front yard “bird haven,” offering two kinds of bird food and a bird bath. (photo by Peter Finkle)

The wind gave a spin to this yard art as we were walking by on Kestrel Parkway. It’s a fun one. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway, door
I enjoyed the Southwest theme of this door and entry area as I was walking by. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway is being extended (as of February 2020).

Kestrel Parkway is only two blocks long right now, but it looks like it will be a block or two longer by the end of 2020. Fifteen small “cottages” with solar panels on the roofs are planned to be built in this area.

This view shows part of the North Mountain neighborhood, taken from the Bear Creek riparian area. In the photo, we are looking across Kestrel Parkway and up Fair Oaks Avenue. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Taken from the Bear Creek riparian area up Fair Oaks Avenue, this photo gives a sense of the current North Mountain neighborhood.

One more view of Bear Creek flowing near Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I will leave you with another look at Bear Creek very near the Kestrel Parkway homes, as the creek flows north towards Talent, Phoenix and Medford.

As part of his contribution to building community, Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street.  Please subscribe with your email address, and you will be notified each time a new article is published.