Beacon Hill’s own Tess Martin, a multi-faceted animator who’s been featured at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), presents an evening of animated shorts on Saturday, August 3, at 4 p.m. at Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum.
The show, curated by Martin and titled Strange Creatures: Contemporary Independent Animation From Seattle, features ten short subjects from seven local animators, all members of the Seattle Experimental Animation Team, and all focused — for the purposes of this show — on animal and/or nature themes.
The best-known artist in the show is probably Seattle native Bruce Bickford. Mr. Bickford made several clay animations for Frank Zappa and is featured in his own documentary, Monster Road, named for an actual road in his old neighborhood. A longtime master in clay, Bickford’s been working more recently in pencil animation. The show features an excerpt from a pencil-drawn work-in-progress, Dream Of A Beatnik Poet.
Ms. Martin included two of her own works: The Whale Story, animated on a 16-foot wall at Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park, and They Look Right Through You, a mediation on the difficulties of understanding house pets, shot using marker-on-glass animation.
Webster Crowell presents a coming-attraction teaser for his Rocketmen project, an old-style segmented movie serial about government sentinels left behind by a changing world, waiting for their chance to shine anew. Drew Christie’s Song Of The Spindle features a heated debate between a man and a whale on the subject of who’s really the smartest species on Earth.
Christie also contributes Hi! I’m A Nutria, shot for the New York Times, about a rodent who’s arrived and wants to go native. Britta Johnson’s Crashing Waves explores the psychological travails of two shipwreck survivors washed up on a desert island. Are they controlling nature, or are they losing their exhausted minds?
Clyde Petersen’s Harsh Tokes And Bong Jokes takes us back to the agony, the ecstasy, and the parts perhaps better forgotten, of young people growing up queer in 1990s Seattle. Stefan Gruber looks at slightly younger people in his Edible Rocks short, the story of the animator playing a prank on his baby brother.
Another Britta Johnson work, King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-Oh, concludes the program, using watercolors to depict the courtship of a frog and a mouse. The soundtrack song is by Laura Veirs, featuring the banjo of Bela Fleck.
Each guest will receive a zine program designed by Seattle cartoonist Marc Palm, featuring portraits of the filmmakers by comic artist Kelly Froh.
The screening takes place on Saturday, August 3, at 4:00 p.m. at the Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $6 for Film Forum members, and $7 for seniors, children under 12 and students with valid photo ID. Tickets may be purchased online at the Film Forum website.
Jefferson Park neighbors and local skaters had plenty of questions and concerns at a meeting Monday night sponsored by Seattle Parks and Recreation regarding the proposed “skateable art” installation at the Park. Discussion, after the presentation of the project, became intense and occasionally heated. The seats at the Jefferson Community Center were not packed, but most attendees to the meeting had something to say.
Pam Kliment, a planner from Parks and Recreation, opened the meeting by stating that three sites for the skate sculpture had been tentatively chosen in Jefferson Park. Red Bull energy drinks, the sponsor of the project, hope to “have the project in the ground” no
later than August. Kliment added, “Red Bull has dealt honorably with the Parks Department.”
Ryan Barth, identifying himself as a “cheerperson” for local skateboarding activities and by the Parks Department as a representative of the Seattle Sports Advisory Council, praised the city’s “great skateboarding culture.” He mentioned that Red Bull had decided on Jefferson Park after an inquiry into putting the sculpture at Myrtle Edwards Park “didn’t work out,” in large part because of the park’s neighbors.
Bob Snyder, Marketing Manager for Red Bull in Seattle, took the floor. He gave his word that Red Bull was “not here just to advertise our brand,” and the purpose of his company is “to give people and ideas wings.” He said Seattle has been chosen for the skate sculpture out of seven cities originally considered.
Metal artist C.J. Rench showed a short presentation of his previous projects, giving an idea of what the completed sculpture will look like. He mentioned that he’s working in collaboration with Torey Pudwill, a prominent professional street skater, to work on the artistic and skateable aspects of the sculpture at once.
After a short announcement from a man who entered the meeting to say a Pontiac in the parking lot had had its window smashed, Kliment opened the floor to questions and comments.
Frederica Merrell of the Jefferson Park Alliance spoke out against the three proposed sites, saying all three are in heavily-trafficked areas and might also interfere with irrigation. She proposed placing the skate sculpture at Lafayette Avenue South or on the west side of the reservoir at 16th Avenue South. She encouraged Red Bull and the Parks Department to “go back to the site discussion.” She also mentioned that the existing art pieces in the park are attracting graffiti and tagging, so that would be a concern for any new art piece.
Mira Latoszek, also of the Jefferson Park Alliance, wanted to make sure that the skate sculpture would not interfere with the general layout and “flow” of the park: “We worked in the spirit of the Olmsteds [when designing the Park].”
Other discussions involved the level or levels of skating ability the sculpture would require, and whether the piece would attract crime or graffiti/tagging issues. Ryan Barth spoke in favor of installing a graffiti wall that would allow graffiti artists and taggers to express themselves within the limits of the wall, although Merrell seemed skeptical of this idea.
The parties present agreed to meet later in the week to review a map of the park and discuss alternate sites to the three proposed so far.
See the 24-page presentation for the project, including information on the artist and the planned schedule, here.
The Beacon Hill Merchants Association presents a special treat for this coming Saturday, July 20th: A “Walk About” and Scavenger Hunt at Beacon Hill Station and Stevens Place Park (the park commonly known as “Triangle Park” at Beacon Avenue South and South Stevens Street).
The Stevens Place Park info booth for the event will sell four different “Walk About” collectible buttons featuring local artists. The buttons are also good for that-day-only bargains at local shops.
A “Taste Of Beacon,” starting at 4:30 p.m. at the park, features a piñata at 5:30, plus samples of food and drink from the following Beacon Hill restaurants: Traveler’s Thali House, Baja Bistro, Inay’s, La Cabaña, El Sabroso, Beacon Avenue Sandwiches, Victrola Espresso, Despi Delite Bakery, and Golden Daisy.
Free entertainment on your way all along Beacon Avenue starts at 4 p.m. and includes: The Adam Hicks Trio at the Station; DJ WD4D, DJ Shorthand, Culture Shakti, and Naira Kai at Hanford Mural Stage; a community art project at 15th and Beacon; DJ Joel Mercado, Gosona, and Dansing Lolos at the El Quetzal/Victrola stage; and an ongoing letterpress printing demonstration at Day Moon Press.
The Scavenger Hunt can be played one of two ways. Register at Stevens Place Park or at Beacon Hill Station starting at 4 p.m. The smartphone version uses the Munzee app to play. The competition runs between 4 and 8:45 pm. The top three hunters of Munzee sites will receive trophies.
Those desiring an old-fashioned scavenger hunt may register, then follow a map and clues, to pick up twenty items at participating “Walk About” businesses. The fastest person to collect all twenty wins a trophy.
Among many other creative lifetimes including co-founding the Home Alive organization for women’s self-defense and graduating from and then working for Cornish College Of The Arts, Beacon Hill’s Gretta Harley co-created (with Sarah Rudinoff and Elizabeth Kenny) These Streets, a rock musical derived from interviews with women on the Seattle rock scene. She graciously took a few questions over email.
Beacon Hill Blog: How is Beacon Hill like, and unlike, Long Island, where you grew up? How long have you lived on Beacon Hill and what are your impressions of the place? How, if at all, does it influence your work?
Gretta Harley: I bought my condo on Beacon Hill at the height of the market, 2006 — so I am “stuck” here. I love Beacon Hill. It is a neighborhood, with small businesses and a lot of families, and diversity. Tree-lined streets are an easy place for me to walk my dog. Fantastic views! Jefferson Park is awesome! I know a lot of my neighbors. There are block parties and neighborhood watches. Long Island was suburban, so the tree lined streets and neighborhood feel are similar in that way.
There were no good views on Long Island. It’s completely flat with lots of concrete and fewer parks, but the beach was a stone’s throw away. The Atlantic Ocean is beautiful and the beaches where I grew up were gorgeous (before Hurricane Sandy).
“I was never a fan of Ken. I thought he was a dweeb.”
Long Island is a very very different culture. Where do I begin? Long Island is a trip. The people are a little harder on the outside… very direct with their opinions (which I like), and not as PC as in Seattle. I like the liberal ideals of Seattle. Several famous hip-hop artists from my generation come from my section of Long Island, but the Island was extremely segregated when I grew up. A bit of white, macho, braggadociousness. I still have a lot of connections and love over there though. Ya know, this is a conversation over a martini…
I am not sure if I can identify specifically how the place I live influences my work, but I do believe that any environment does. I did say Beacon Hill has a neighborhood feel, but I live on the main drag, so the energy of movement and city is always right outside of my windows. It’s not quiet. I like that.
Beacon Hill Blog: You mention in your bio that your Barbie dolls gave rock concerts. What were their favorite jams?
Gretta Harley: Ha ha. When I was a little kid playing with dolls, I listened to The Beatles, Grass Roots, Argent, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, Elton John — so those were the jams those dolls’d be jammin’. I got most of the records by stealing a mailer for a Columbia Records offer. “Buy 10 Records For A Penny.” I thought that sounded good. And I had a penny. I went through the catalog and checked off my records (largely by liking band names and record artwork), and put my choices and a penny in an envelope.
When the box of records came, my mother was furious. She got on the phone immediately and chewed out the person who answered the phone from Columbia (because the deal was that you got charged every month after the first delivery for the 5-10 records they’d send you every month, at full price). My mom let me keep the records I ordered, and thus began the merging of my pastime of doll weirdness, with music.
I recall building a stage for the dolls out of spare wood blocks my dad would bring home from his shop, stored in an old refrigerator box for my using. Those blocks were a constant source of re-building “sets” I designed for my pleasure.
Ya know, back in the 60s, we weren’t scheduled like kids are today. We made our own entertainment. I spent a lot of time alone. I didn’t have a ton of toys, so I made do with what I had. I never felt like I was missing anything. My turntable was as much my joy as the “characters” I created out of my Barbies and “Little Kiddles.” I also remember making clothes for my dolls, ’cause I didn’t like the ones they came with. And I cut their hair and drew on their bodies.
I was never a fan of Ken. I thought he was a dweeb.
Beacon Hill Blog: Please describe the three new projects you’re showcasing in this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. Two are shorts, one is a feature including your sand animation. Which project was the easiest and which the most difficult?
Tess Martin: The three projects I have in SIFF this year are two animated shorts directed by myself, A Walk in the Woods and They Look Right Through You, and then I have 7 minutes of sand animation in a documentary called Barzan directed by Alex Stonehill and Brad Hutchinson.
They are very different — A Walk In The Woods is a one minute short, the shortest film I’ve ever made! And it is animated with objects–sticks and leaves, etc. They Look Right Through You is a nine-minute short, and I was working on it on and off over 18 months, but was seriously animating for about 4 or 5 months. This one is marker and paint on glass with some time-lapses thrown in.
The sand animation in Barzan took me about 7 months all together. In some ways Barzan was the hardest because we picked some very challenging things to represent in sand, but the results were worth it.
Beacon Hill Blog:They Look Right Through You combines interviews with pet owners and marker-on-glass animation. Had you used this style of animation before? What are its particular challenges? How did you go about obtaining the interviews for the soundtrack? What was Susie Tennant’s contribution?
Tess Martin: I hadn’t used marker-on-glass animation before. I was playing around and discovered that it’s very nice for animation because the marker can be easily wiped away, as opposed to paint, which is often stickier. I’d say the main challenge with marker-on-glass is that is requires a lot of drawing! You’re basically re-drawing the image over and over, and erasing where it was previously, so you have to be on your drawing game so to speak when you’re animating.
In October or November 2011 I put a call out on my neighborhood listserv for people who were willing to be interviewed about their pets. I got a lot of responses and spent a few weeks traipsing to people’s homes and talking to them with an audio recorder. I read about Susie Tennant’s situation in one the Seattle weeklies, because her and her family were raising money for her medical care. The story included one sentence about how her dog alerted her to the fact she had cancer. I asked her if she would be willing to share her story for my little film. She was gracious enough to accept, and her story is so compelling that it became one of the two main stories in the film.
Beacon Hill Blog: How was A Walk In The Woods animated? How long
did you spend in East Haddam, CT, where the film was made, and what did you do there? What were your impressions of the area?
Tess Martin: The film was animated with objects I collected in a big park that makes up a lot of the grounds of the I-Park artist residency. I won a residency there in August/September of 2012, and I was mostly working on They Look Right Through You during that month.But I had hit a wall with that film and had 4 days of the residency, so I decided to do something completely different.
I traipsed around the beautiful park, brought all the material back to my studio and created a story with it. I thought it would be fun to try to make it exactly one minute. So that’s how that happened — it’s the shortest production time of all my films! I then worked with my composer, Spencer Thun, to get a beautiful score for the film that hit all the emotional points in such a short time.
Beacon Hill Blog: Your work on Barzan was integrated into the documentary film. How much contact did you have with the film’s directors, Alex Stonehill and Brad Hutchinson? How did you go about coordinating with them? What are the particular challenges of sand animation, and had you used that technique before? (Does the sand tend to go all over the place?)
Tess Martin: I was approached by the Barzan crew and they showed me the cut of the film they had so far, and where they were envisioning the animated segments going, and what the animated segments needed to contribute to the film. Once I had a clear idea about that I storyboarded the scenes as I felt they should be, and then there was a little back and forth about particulars. I’d say we met about 4 or 5 times, with a lot of email. It was a very happy relationship because to their credit they were on board with most of my ideas even though it must have been hard to picture exactly what I was talking about.
Sand is great fun and challenging of course. You’re working with a very thin layer of sand on a flat surface, and yes, I was finding sand around my desk for a long time afterwards. You just have to be really careful not to bump the table or sneeze near your work.
Beacon Hill Blog: How long have you lived on Beacon Hill? How does it compare/contrast with other places you’ve lived? How does the neighborhood/community influence your work and your attitudes?
Tess Martin: Beacon Hill is the only neighborhood I’ve lived in in Seattle since I moved here five years ago. It’s certainly one of the most residential areas of a major city I’ve lived in, even though I live right on the main road, so for me the experience is probably less quiet than most Beacon Hill residents. But I love living in a quiet friendly place with other friendly people. I’d say the best thing I get out of Beacon Hill is its diversity — it’s nice living in a neighborhood where there are residents of all ages and ethnicities — it feels like the real world.
Beacon Hill Blog: What are your plans for the future?
Tess Martin: I’m working on a few films right now and I may be moving to The Netherlands for a Masters program at the end of the year — it’s still up in the air but could be very exciting.
The February removal of the heritage Blue Atlas Cedar tree at North Beacon Hill’s Garden House continues to generate controversy. Two local arborists who examined the Blue Atlas contacted the Beacon Hill Blog to give additional testimony about the tree’s condition and the events preceding the tree’s removal. The arborists expressed concern that statements by Garden House trustee and rental agent Carolyn Nickerson in an earlier Beacon Hill Blog article (“Removal of Garden House Blue Atlas Cedar surprises community,” Andrew Hamlin, March 3) inaccurately represented the professional advice given by the arborists and the resulting decisions made to remove the tree.
In the March 3 article, Nickerson stated:
“…We hired an arborist to climb and inspect the entire tree to evaluate its health and possible remedies [for $400]. It was his opinion that the tree needed to be thinned, bolted, tied in various places to keep it from dropping other limbs. (I think that estimate was $1000, maybe less.) Before making a decision we had a second arborist inspect the tree and give his opinion and write a report [on] what he thought should be done. On a danger scale of 1-10 the tree was a 9. Part of the tree hung over the neighbors’ house, part over the sidewalk and street and part over our lawn area where children and adults gather for various occasions.”
Local arborist Oliver Bailey said in an email to the blog: “We [Bailey and Sue Nicol] are the arborists who actually evaluated the tree and recommended preservation. The most damning inaccuracy [in the original story] is the ‘9 out of 10’ scoring on the tree evaluation (false). The entire Heritage Tree Committee and others are group emailing about how we scared the Garden House into cutting the tree down and this was devastating news for us both.”
Bailey continued: “I brought [Sue Nicol] in after completing my report to objectively review my report, inspect the tree and attach a letter stating her second opinion. She is a highly decorated and respected Consulting Arborist. She’s one of Plant Amnesty’s highest referred Arborists. In a nutshell she thought I was exactly right about the tree. Because I proposed a viable preservation plan in my report she added another idea which was to fence off the area directly below the tree on Garden House grounds. However, that was not an option on the public sidewalk, street, or neighbor’s property, all of which were directly under these massive 30″ diameter limbs (yes, diameter, not circumference!)”
Bailey added: “[An inaccuracy] was that I aerial inspected the tree for $400. It was actually $160. Garden House is a non-profit with steep monetary problems. I was always particularly gentle with them.”
Sue Nicol, in her own email, said: “Oliver asked me to assess the tree to confirm/reject his aerial inspection of the Cedar in question in terms of risk. He apparently does not have the Risk Assessment Certification, which I do. I reviewed Oliver’s report and met with him on the site to look at, and discuss the tree. I then wrote my report, backing up his assessment. We both felt that the tree was actively failing, was in a location with significant targets underneath it, had a decayed leader at the top which was supporting a great deal of weight, and needed several actions taken to reduce its risk.
“I wrote in my report,” Nicol continued, “that if the client refused to take on those actions, that the tree needed to be removed. I felt, and still feel, that this tree could not be left to fend for itself. The likelihood of continuing branch failure was too great to do nothing. I did not meet with the clients, since they were Oliver’s clients. Oliver was my client and he paid my bill.” Continue reading Heritage tree removal still stirring up conflict→
According to Carolyn Nickerson, trustee and rental agent for the Garden House, the Blue Atlas Cedar had presented trouble going back to 2011, when “during some windy weather a large branch on the east side of the tree broke off and fell on the lawn. We didn’t think anything of it and had it chopped up and disposed.
“Then in 2012 without windy weather a huge (maybe 30′ long) [branch] broke off, fell to the west across the iron fence, sidewalk and to almost to the center line of traffic. Luckily it missed a parked car by a couple of feet, didn’t hurt any pedestrians or passing traffic. We called the city for help and they came, stretched out some yellow tape and told us they had no funds for trimming/cutting or removing the branch. We hired someone for approximately $600.00 to remove it.
“After the second branch fell,” Nickerson continues, “we hired an arborist to climb and inspect the entire tree to evaluate its health and possible remedies [for $400]. It was his opinion that the tree needed to be thinned, bolted, tied in various places to keep it from dropping other limbs. (I think that estimate was $1000, maybe less.) Before making a decision we had a second arborist inspect the tree and give his opinion and write a report [on] what he thought should be done. On a danger scale of 1-10 the tree was a 9. Part of the tree hung over the neighbors’ house, part over the sidewalk and street and part over our lawn area where children and adults gather for various occasions.”
“Apparently when a tree is very old,” she finishes, “it starts ‘sloughing’ its branches. This is not caused from wind or rain/snow but a natural way of a tree living its latter years. Since each of these branches weigh more than 500 lbs we had to consider the liability and danger it imposed on the community. Our neighbors to the south have asked that we trim all branches from hanging over their land. All in all we decided that we needed to consider cutting the tree down because our insurance wouldn’t cover damages that would be incurred by hurting someone or something through this process.
“After discussing our options and liabilities the board voted unanimously to pursue cutting down the tree.”
Local tree and plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson first became aware of the Blue Atlas in 1999, when it was nominated as a Heritage Tree. He wrote the description for the commemorative plaque that went with it.
“It was not sick,” according to Jacobson, who adds, “Atlas cedar limbs break, on some specimens often; but their foliage is usually dense and healthy except if the spring is sopping wet and there is too much summer irrigation. Then they can present a gaunt, unhealthy look.”
Asked whether the tree should have been cut down, Jacobson replies, “No. The decision motives were not shared with me. But I did read e-mails from experienced, careful, arborists who looked at the cedar, who judged that with careful pruning it could remain a safe and valuable asset rather than a liability. If the Federation of Garden Clubs based its removal decision on grounds of insufficient money, then that could have been addressed via fundraising. If the decision to remove was based on a report written by an inexperienced arborist, that generated fear — while cooler, wiser counsel was ignored, then that is a pity.”
Beacon Hill neighbor Robert Hinrix isn’t happy about the Garden Club’s decision. “I put quite a few hours into trying to save the tree, having written to the head of the board of the Garden House offering to put together volunteer arborists to maintain it, and to do fundraisers to help them pay for it. They did not respond positively. I spoke with other arborists who contradicted what their hired arborists had said.
“I also spoke with Arthur Lee Jacobson who wrote the book on Heritage Trees, and Cass Turnbull from Plant Amnesty. The tree was not sick at all, but Blue Atlas Cedars do lose branches when mature and need ongoing maintenance. The Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs had little interest in the maintenance of Beacon Hill’s heritage tree, and was only concerned about insurance and financial issues. The easiest, simplest thing for them was to cut it down.
“For me,” continues Hinrix, “it is an allegory for how we’ve lost all control of an important resource in our community (the Garden House itself). Don’t expect them to plant another tree to take its place. I’m glad I was out of town when it happened.”
Hinrix adds, “There are complex issues associated with insurance, the neighbors, various camps of arborists, a somewhat dysfunctional city commission that is responsible for Heritage Trees in Seattle, and the misplaced priorities of the board of the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs. I do believe it points to the need for the community to work hard to find a way to increase our control over the Garden House, to make it a better resource for our community. If we don’t, we could find it sold (or a portion of it, one of the lots) out from under us…”
Tess Martin, animator, resident of North Beacon Hill, and world traveler, decided to put visuals to a whale of a tale she initially heard over a podcast called “Animal Minds.” The story involving a whale first trapped, then freed by a caring fisherman, “It raises a lot of questions about animal consciousness,” she says. “How much do we know about it, how will we ever know? That sort of thing. The story stuck with me, and when I got the chance to work at such a large scale I thought the whale story would be perfect.”
The “large scale” turned out to be part of the large red wall around the construction for Capitol Hill’s light rail —- which became the shifting canvas for the animated images in her three-minute finished film, The Whale Story. Working in public did have its challenges, she relates: “The film was animated mainly over two days — we accomplished all of the wide shots and mid-shots then. I later went back to the wall with the actor to re-shoot some close-ups. The second day it started raining really hard and that pretty much stopped the shoot. The rain was streaking the paint as we were trying to apply it. If you look closely during the film you can tell where this starts happening. But I decided to re-shoot some of these scenes in close-up later because it was just too messy.”
She also “learned to have a confirmed ride at the end of the shoot to schlep all your equipment back to storage. I ended up with way more equipment than I could carry and hadn’t properly arranged a car to transport it, and had to scramble at the last minute. Especially if it’s raining, this is no fun!”
Always busy, Martin next plans “Some animated segments for a documentary called Barzan about an Iraqi immigrant who was accused of terrorism and deported. It’s all in sand and I’ll be working on that for a while yet. Next up I will be going away on an artist residency in August to work on my next short about human-animal relationships. It’s a similar theme as The Whale Story, except a more personal look at pets.”