how this even happened


SkyPalace came out of me in a most peculiar way, it was my desire to achieve a spire (something I've been drawing over and over in varying forms since I was a kid in Antwerp, Belgium seeing the cathedral there pretty much every week on some school outing or being dragged willingly my by my Mother to see Rubens and all the other darkish brooding painters works spattered through the cities galleries and museums)... an antenna to the skies, a version of all that Gaudi and Corbu and Weight had done... my client allowed this within the fixed budget we set. I had a smaller design at first that required a central support structure for some cantilevered arms which suspended five or six macro-pods for people to lounge in. I found an old 36' tall steel windmill tower on Craigslist near Prescott, AZ and bought it... with this thing I could create great cantilevers... or... I could go up, really tall... so I went up.

behind the scenes: designing and making the Clover Corporation sculptural nest elements

from start to finish: a step by step pictorial overview of the project from initial contact by the designers of the new offices for software company Clover with specific desires and inspiration imagery, to my response sketches, then concept and scale models, more sketches, continual designing and modifying (easily 20+ iterations on this project), followed by local materials sourcing, then the weaving and fabrication, tearing apart and reassembly, then some sketching and more assembly, then heat treating for insects and eggs and finally spray-on fire proofing, some team and glamour shots by the rail lines a block from the studio, then loading, shipping, arrival on site, inside delivery, placing, accessorizing and final touch-ups... then a bit of celebrating!

a hot and creative Navajo STAR summer

Summer in Northeast Arizona gets pretty hot, like over 100F degrees every day sort of hot! It is quite dry though so sweat evaporates immediately which keeps you feeling cooler than it actually is. In June and July it is not unusual for it to be 110F.  Working away at 2 PM, in the sun, it still feels bearable. Since the Earthaware program has us creating outside in these conditions we have to be very aware of covering up, taking lots of breaks and hydrating with clean drinking water almost continually.

local knowledge

The kids of the STAR School near Leupp, Arizona know all this of course, they grew up in these conditions. It’s the pale instructor, formerly of Portland(rain), Oregon who must be reminded… by the kids of course… to hydrate and cover his arms and bald head. Teachers should always be open to being taught by their students.

Summer School 2013 at the Navajo STAR School was two weeks of Earthaware curriculum overlaid on the foundation of the schools four R’s foundation: Respect, Responsibility, Relations and Reasoning. The kids at STAR are introduced to these four principles upon entering the school in kindergarten, they are the tenants of Navajo peacemaking which has been taught in the culture for centuries. In our summer school program we focused on the third R: Relations, as the link between the individual, the team, community, country, species and all other benign and living things on Earth. We did this through a series of team art projects.

landfill materials diversion

We started by contacting the folks at the Flagstaff Municipal Landfill asking for freshly dumped green, flexible sticks and branches from local landscape maintenance outfits. They said they had a ton and to come down anytime to gather what we wanted for the school project. Normally such materials are just ground up and used as composting layering material for the plowed-under garbage in the landfill. We loaded a trailer up four feet high by 12 feet long mostly of ash, some sort of willow and some ponderosa pine and hauled it all back to STAR.

Next we visited the Leupp Family Farms area on the flood plains of the Little Colorado River in the town of Leupp to harvest brush. The areas we cleared are to be the next fields for the farm and are adjacent to where they are now replanting traditional blue corn, an historic staple of the Navajo. Our gathering efforts for the school project partially helped the farm open up new arable land.

With plenty of organic material to work with we next raided the STAR School kitchen for cardboard boxes, plastic packaging and other reuseables. Summer School was now ready to begin!

drawing Mother Earth

First we spent a few hours drawing impressions of Mother Earth, all things that came to mind. They drew trees, animals, landscapes and people. We talked about how all these elements work together, what can effect their health and how we can assure that all these souls can live in harmony.


We had been asked to do the exterior work in and around the school garden. Looking over the space we saw an opportunity to create an outdoor, shaded area and to paint Earth inspired forms on some surfaces. With dappled shade over the space it would be ideal for outdoor teaching and just hanging out. There was a nondescript steel tool shed at one side and the schools' straw-bale classroom building on the other. The materials we gathered lent perfectly to constructing our version of a traditional Navajo shade structure, examples of which can be found across the Navajo Nation made from lashed poles and branches. So we started as all Earthaware projects do by gathering our focus, stretching our bodies then discussing safety and tools handling procedures.


The 35 kids divided into two main groups, half went with guest artist Bill Dambrova to the art department and came back with water based acrylic paints, brushes, cups of water and rags. Bill assisted and provided leadership to the painters of the group for most of the program, he went home each night with extra colors on most of his surfaces. The other half set about clipping the branch pile into manageable lengths. To start any structure we must think of how big it will be and how the weight of the materials we use will be supported. For our shade structure we selected the thickest and medium sized branches first and the kids set about fastening them between the straw bale building and the shed. We don’t tell the kids exactly what to do on these projects, we discuss our group ideas in general terms of what we wanted to collectively accomplish then let them experiment and figure out for themselves how to go about it. First they tried just stacking the sticks in place, then taping, then finally wire wrapping the horizontal members across the span which seemed strong enough. They put the thickest branch vertical in the center of the span as a column: wow - young architects!

making a mark

While the shade builders were at it the painters started a mural on the shed, on all sides of the shed including the roof! Then the adjacent garden wall, then some walls on the straw bale building, more sticks, more shirts and... it was time to stop the happy painting and look at the zoological masterpieces they had made. They created a virtual cornucopia of beings: insects, animals, plants and "beings" of unidentifiable sources.


for several hours each day over the course of the weeks we assembled our materials into a functional, modified Navajo shade structure, painted away at the bare surfaces and even painted the sticks that we used to weave with. We also wove an arch over the garden entry gate and enhanced the garden gate itself. All this while learning and talking about the environment and the effects that we all have upon it, what works and what does not work in it.

Our finale was an afternoon back at our drawing. The kids took the lessons of the building, the discussions of what we learned and created images of solutions to help Mother Earth be healthier. The results are quite amazing!

what we learned

The last one says, "the possibility of creating a generator that captures vibrations and makes energy"... speechless

see all the STAR School summer Earthaware program images here

zark masks and drums

Earthaware has started work with the kids of the Navajo Nation at the supergreen charter STAR School near Leupp, Arizona. Our first contribution was aiding the renowned Zarco Guerrero from Mesa, AZ in teaching 50+ kids over two days of his week-long mask making and drumming classes. We learned so much from him right along with the wide-eyed kids.

Zarco is best known for his incredible masks created in a variety of styles: traditional Japanese, Balianise, Mexican, Mayan, and more. The masks are meticulously carved and painted individually by Zarco. They are mostly made of paper, wood or clay. His creations have traveled the world in gallery and museum shows and are a part of numerous permanent collections. He is also a well known artist, sculptor, musician and is a dynamic speaker. Zarco has a fun, jovial nature... he became an instant brother to Earthaware.

Here he is talking about the famed Dia de los Muertos masks used in Mexico and the Southwest USA during the celebrations of the Day of the Dead:

As a musician who grew up in a family of musicians he is equally qualified to teach music. At STAR School, which he teaches at every year, he brought hand drums of several sizes that he had made in Mesa for the week of lessons in drumming and mask making. During the drumming section the students learned different beat progressions and how to off-beat each other, how to lead and follow and how to dance to the beats. The sequences were partially derived from Navajo Pow-Wow ceremonies and several kids not only danced but chanted to the drumming as they are accustomed to hearing and doing in the Navajo Nation.

The second day was mask-making. Zarco worked with simple materials: colored paper, scissors and white glue. He led all of us in a sequence of folds and cuts to our 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper to form a face shape with openings for eyes and a mouth.

With the basic form of a mask created the real interesting part started, Zarco instructed us to share the different colored off-cuts with each other to create color contrasting ears, noses, eyebrows, moustaches and so on. There were horns, teeth, warts, hearts and wings added. Creativity was in full force. Here are some of the results:

We look forward to the next opportunity to work with the amazing Zarco: the Earthaware invitation is out to him to join us somewhere, anywhere... on the planet Earth for a co-creative workshop where mask making, drumming and plain ole fun is being had!


STAR School Navajo+Hopi Peacemaking, Costume and Mask Making

the STAR School near Flagstaff, AZ

"Earthaware joins STAR Charter School and the children of Navajo and Hopi Nations to bring deep cultural traditions of Navajo Peacemaking into form as a bridge for solving a global increase in Human vs. Earth conflicts using found, local materials in costume and mask making inspired by reference to the ancient Hopi practice of Kachina making. The costumes and masks made will allow the children to teach Peacemaking through narrative, song and dance in ceremonies they write."


From mid-May to mid-June 2013 Earthaware founder Owen William Fritts will lead three separate 3-Day workshops exploring the traditional Navaho and Hopi Peacemaking process. The age-old Navajo peacemaking process includes both sides of the conflict first practicing Respect, then understanding the Relationship between the sides and finally taking Responsibility for ones part in the conflict.  The amazing, cutting-edge STAR School operates on these Peacemaking principles with an additional one added value: Reasoning. These constitute the Four R's. The STAR School sees almost zero fighting or bullying in its 110 students.

videos and pictures created by STAR School kids explaining the Four R's

We all know that harmony with Mother Earth has been interrupted through human activity. With the platform of the Four R's our workshops endeavor to form strategies to end the conflicts between Humans and the Earth. We will be referencing the ancient Hopi ceremonial methodology of Kachina making in our costume and mask making "vehicle" to activating the childrens' ideas for Earth Peacemaking. We will be working with over 100 K-8th grade kids of predominantly Navajo ancestry, in the communities on the Navajo and Hopi Nation Reservations of Northeast Arizona and on a camping excursion to Zion National Park in southern Utah. As with many global Earthaware projects the focus is on elementary and middle school aged children as their young minds expand and show us ways of doing things that adults often have forgotten. The program steps the kids through a basic framework where their ideas and voices become the content for an EarthPeace ceremony to be shared with all people of Earth.

We will listen to local Elders, to tribal leaders and learn the processes of ancient ceremonies invoking Great Spirits for the proper narratives to follow in our desire for Human and Earth harmony. Hopi Kachinas, or representative "Spirit Figures" are a perfect inspiration for the kids to create masks and costumes from. What we make will be used in our storytelling, our honoring and our ceremonies for EarthPeace.

traditional Navajo ceremony acted out by little ones with masks and costumes - provided by STAR School

We will scour the local desert landscape for pliable organic materials and safe-to-use discarded materials such as plastics, wire, string and fabrics. We will clean and sort our findings then set about constructing our costumes to tell our Peacemaking stories. Working as teams we will assemble life size and greater than life representations. As we create over the course of the three days per workshop we will reflect on the meanings and the day to day applications of the stories we are working with: "how do we make peace with the earth every day, how can we teach others?". The survival and harmony achieved by both the Navajo and Hopi tribes forced onto shared land is much accredited to their ways of Peacemaking.


At two of the workshops we will orchestrate a presentation for the honorable storytellers, those that shared their knowledge with us, the local community and the parents. The kids will present back what was learned while acting out their strategies for repairing the conflicts between Humans and Mother Earth using voices, dance and the newly made costumes and masks and who knows what else!

Please help us continue with this important cultural and educational work by donating to Earthaware today.


Earthaware partners with InventioBrains

Powered by the optimal experience of FLOW during Earthaware workshops, our charged neurons activate deep in the Hippocampus of our brains unlocking primary learning channels often forgotten in today's teaching programs.

Our partnership with InventioBrains brings the Earthaware workshop process to the cutting edge of brain research. We will be running a series of controlled and measured programs for kids this summer in the Los Angeles area where groups will be led through Spatial Recognition challenges before, during and after the Earthaware experiences. Results will be shared with educational curriculum writers. The intent is to identify best practices and methods to enhance and make more enjoyable the tasks of learning.

Sign up on the InventioBrains website for updates, brain games and a direct line on what's next in understanding a most cherished organ: the brain

Navajo and Hopi Nations

Coming this April Earthaware travels to NE Arizona for work with kids and adults of the Navajo and Hopi Nations: the First Nations of America. Our preliminary intention is to share stories of up to five significant past Earthaware projects done with indigenous cultures and tribes around the world - Jewish and Arab kids working together in Jerusalem, Tibetans Children Exiled to India, Haitians in abject Poverty, "Boat-People" Indonesians forcibly moved off the Ocean and Malaysian youth who escaped from Human Trafficking. These stories are a means for understanding the experiences of others and for seeing the similarities of Human Spirit in all. While these stories are sometimes grim, they all include children coming together to make co-created sculptures from found, local materials with the kids embedding charachter and personality into what they made. They all show how working together creates happiness, new friends and meaningful, shared experiences.

From First Nation tales already heard plus on-going reading and research we see there are many similarities between both the Navajo and the Hopi and many other cultures in terms of ceremony, connection to the Earth, connection to each other and a desire for coming together as One in a Peaceful World. Often there are struggles with the modern world across all these honorable people. Common themes of poverty, need for more education, better health care and historical land/resource management are cross-cultural. We have seen that connecting voices and experiences of people across the great distances that separate them ushers in the day when these issues are not just stories... but Stories of the Past. We ask to listen to the deep, culturally rich knowledge that may be offered by our hosts and ask permission to carry the Navajo and Hopi stories forward in similar fashion to other cultures.

As a part of the experience we also intend to co-create sculptures with the Navajo and Hopi children made with what we find right where we stand, the typical Earthaware thing to do. The form and content of what we make, as always, shall be directed by the people. We hope to work for five weeks across the broad areas of these "Nations inside Nations", offering the Earthaware experiences to numerous Navaho and Hopi schools. In Council with our hosts we will find the appropriate blend of programs that are based in story and tradition while connecting to Great Spirit and Mother Earth in our work.

Our first step is to attend the annual Naataanii 2013 event, April 20 and 21 on Navajo Land, see for details. In English this is the "Mother Earth Blessing Way" event. Earthaware has been invited to attend this gathering for Native American Ceremonies, Traditional Song and Dance, Peace Building and Live Music Concerts. Earthaware work in the communities will follow.

We are very grateful for the connections and support of, Steve Robertson of Project Peace on Earth and Jody Turner of Culture of Future.

Art Center College of Design

On the last SE Asia trip to Kuala Lumpur, Earthaware had the distinct privilege of teaching alongside Founder and Director of the GGI Neuro Science Institute of Los Angeles, Dr. G. Phd. A fast friendship was formed during the days of the KL workshops, over dinners of Malaysian curries with a collection of laughing and boisterous locals and risky experimentation with a fragrant "delicacy", the infamous Durian fruit.

Once back in the States we have kept up our communication going, sharing more and more on the backbone of the Earthaware experience: Flow State Learning. Dr. G. has taught at Art Center in Pasadena, CA since the mid 90s and graciously invited me to be a guest speaker in her current course: Design Science while I was on my scheduled Los Angeles visit.

We set the date and coordinated with timing and directions to the College. The drive through Pasadena was lovely although I arrived late to campus having misjudged L.A. traffic... again. Art Center is up atop a hill overlooking the L.A. basin and Pasadena with green grounds and smart buildings. I parked in the faculty lot then found the classroom with 15 design students and Dr G. waiting.

We started my part of the lesson with a history of how Earthaware was spawned and a summary of projects that led to the current workshop process; from the Seattle Public Library to the Wieden+Kennedy Nest and from the HaitiHands art-wall to the Kuala Lumpur Hut/Village. All the while having inspirational brain awareness and spatial thinking content merged into the presentation by Dr. G. Half way through class we had the group break into three teams for an impromptu exercise loosely based upon Earthaware processes.

We started by having each person draw an image, a doodle, of their favorite charachter or personal icon. We encouraged silliness and cuteness. Then, in their groups, we asked them to merge elements of their characters into a collectively made thing-a-ma-jig by drawing elements of each persons creation collectively on the whiteboards that wrapped the room. Each team came up with very different looking entities: one a big eyed furry squirrel eater, next a flamingo with scales and an calamari mouth and third a feathered unicorn with a beak. They laughed and joked and bathed in Oxytocin as they co-created their crazy fun beings... then the gavel fell.

Each team presented a meaning and some form of definition for their babies then Dr. G. got out the cleaver. She asked them to take away, with the erasers, the least important elements of the beasts. Teams were hesitant to do this as one members creativity needed to be clipped, cast off and deleted. It was interesting and palpable watching the squirming until moves were made. One team executed the elements of a team member who left the room for a moment, another team saw a member throw up her hands and kill her own element so that the class could move on. It was a bit sad until we all offered opinion on the final results which were all agreed to be better than the first finale.

Dr. G. had us reflect on the tastes and feelings of the different stages of the creation process done as individuals then as team in the coming togethers and the tearings apart as we cycled through the 30 minute exercise. We gained awareness of the deeper inner workings of activating different parts of the Hippocampus through the attachment and release to our work.

I'll bring elements of this learning and ways of teaching forward into future Earthaware curriculum.

Read Dr. G's very interesting blog on brain awareness here:


contagious learning

Last fall we ran an Earthaware three day weekend of creation and learning at Montfort Boys Town in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia utilizing found materials to build a small village of 16 shelters. The heart and soul of the program taught an increased awareness of the environment around us including the identification if wastes and organics and finding creative uses for both.

Today several months later we are happy to see that the kids at Montford are keeping their Earthawareness skills going by applying the learnings in other classes and projects. Click on this link to see recent arts projects made by the kids of reuse materials found on and around the campus! Well done Montfort team, keep the contagion going!!!

full circle

First entry for 2013 and boy are we happy about this one!

Through the years Earthaware has had the support of Nike and several of its divisions: Design, Considered, Equipment, Shoes, Apparel and The Nike Foundation (the charitable giving group). A great Nike designer, friend and advocate of our work, Tom DeBlasis is now part of that philanthropic work team. Tom is the guy who brought together the Waves4Water filtration system and Nike access to sport creating the Gamechanger Bucket which has been helping communities gain access to pure, filtered water across the globe for the past three years.

Tom in Haiti handing out Gamechanger Buckets

Tom is amazing, not only is he one of the most upstanding and truthful human beings I know, he is also continually looking for ways to connect solutions to problems while thinking at a global level. His latest endeavour is called Full Circle and he has asked Earthaware to be a ground floor member of the effort, to which we happily say yes!

Full Circle addresses an issue very close to our mission here at Earthaware: removal of plastics from the natural environment. The program utilizes local people and resources in the collection, re-purposing, re-grinding, and reforming of plastics, on-site, at locations all around the planet. As we have documented through years of Earthaware projects there is a choking volume of plastics, mostly food packaging, polluting the ecosystems of the planet Earth. We have seen ravines chock full of chips and candies wrappers at 18,000 feet up in the Himalayas and beaches strewn with bottles, bags and other plastics from Indonesia to New Zealand to the USA. It is all over our planet and it is well on the way to killing off most remaining life forms here, including humans.

The Full Circle initiative employs new, small and portable plastics molding machines that allow co-mingling of most plastics to form and press useful items from trash. These machines can easily fit into the smaller global standard 20' shipping container meaning they can be deployed to any port in the world and then moved on standard and small sized trucks to where they are needed most. The Full Circle organization will provide the process blueprint for deployment and operation. It starts with picking and gathering the plastics out of the environment wherever the material lays: mountains, river-beds, caves, oceans, beaches... generating employment for locals by creating a value for the trash. The plastics are brought to the forming machine site and sorted then fed into the machine by yet more locals who have been trained in these operations. The outputs are useful and of a more non-disposable nature: household items such as storage containers, tabletop bowls, dishes, and things such as building materials can all be made from the palletized, heated and pressed plastics from trash. These items too are then re-purposable, can be ground up again and reformed... effectively closing the circle on the the plastics impact. The consumption of the outputs is intended to also be local, cutting the trasportation of goods footprint. Its really going back to Cottage Industry using current materials and technology.

The ultimate result will be the shifting of the perceived value of plastics from something that gets dropped on the ground as soon as one unwraps it, to a material that they can get some value back from. The local environment will be picked clean of plastics because there is a value in the trash. People will forage further and further to pick trash because they can get a value for it: getting plastic trash to have a value is the intention. I invite you to pick some plastic trash up today as you walk around after reading this, I know I will.

We will start this year, 2013, in Bali and in Nepal by setting up a Full Circle system both in the mountains and at the sea and putting the program into action . We will create jobs, clean the environment, offer simple products and enlighten perceptions of what "disposable" and "trash" means. Tom is a visionary and we are visionaries too, once again we team up with Tom and all who are stepping up to Full Circle. As a team we intend to change the way humans look at, handle and value plastics, please watch here for more through the coming months.




froggy knows

amazing what a kid will retain, and even more amazing how drawing comes naturally to so many

Sinjin Green of Michigan, USA gives us his very special Froggy and some important messages for how we might handle things a bit better... thanks Sinjin!!!