Sale of ‘Mermaid Diary’ will raise funds for the nonprofit Open Studios

Three local artists contributed to the creation of the “Mermaid Diary” that will be on display at Colibri in downtown Morgan Hill.
Photo courtesy John Dorrance

By Vera Todorov

Three local artists have joined forces to create a captivating kinetic sculpture called “Mermaid Diary,” which will be showcased at an upcoming Morgan Hill Open Studios event.

The collaborative artwork aims to raise funds for the non-profit organization. It promises to expand the scope of the annual local art show and education event. With each artist contributing their unique skills and mediums, the whimsical sculpture captures the imagination and showcases the vibrant artistic community in Morgan Hill.

The artists are Cindy Blanton, a ceramist; John Dorrance, known for his kinetic art,; and Jennifer Blalack, a mixed-media and fabric artist who created the fabric tail for the sculpture.

The sculpture will be displayed and available for sale at the Colibri Gallery in downtown Morgan Hill. The Morgan Hill Open Studios event is scheduled for Oct. 21-22, with an artists’ preview event on Oct. 14 at the Morgan Hill Community Center.

“It’s a fun idea, getting our local artists to do collaborative work and donating it to a good cause,” Blanton said from her home-based ceramics studio in south Morgan Hill and  a founder of Morgan Hill Open Studios. Her creative space is light and airy, a happy vibe, with various glazes lining the shelves. Garden totems and ceramic outdoor sculptures of fanciful foxes, rabbits and dogs inhabit her yard from time to time.

Now in its third year, the group highlights more than 48 local artists who, for one educational weekend, open their studio doors to demonstrate and talk about their creative process with South Bay Area visitors and to sell their artworks.

Blanton sculpted the mermaid’s head from clay. She fired it, glazing its long loopy hair aquamarine in an advanced ceramics course taught at Gavilan College.

“I’d seen John Dorrance’s work in class and because of his creativity in making kinetic art I thought it would be a fun piece for him to transform,” She said. “I was very pleasantly surprised with how he ran with the idea of turning my little ceramic head into a swimming mermaid.

Dorrance has been a part of the Morgan Hill Open Studios and enjoys showing neighbors and others his place and process of creating art. Weird and wonderful gizmos fill his garage studio which overlooks Anderson Reservoir. His contraptions range from  kinetic pencil sharpeners that tell a person’s fortune as they sharpen their writing implement to camshaft-driven plaster fingers that thrum themselves on a tabletop.

Cindy Blanton in her studio.

“Making inanimate, disparate objects move and or make sound is my thing,” he said. “When I was handed that ceramic head I knew it could make the perfect salt-water goddess.”

Two weeks of tinkering and a tiny electric motor salvaged from a broken water softener and Dorrance was ready to hand over the donation project to the final creative to Blalack for her mixed-media artistic contribution.

“I enjoy collaborating and so was pleased when asked to participate,” she said. “My part was the mermaid’s tail, transiting from a ceramic head and upper torso to a fabric lower torso and tail.”

Located in the hills above downtown Morgan Hill, Blalack’s studio displays works of colorful fabric from across the world including Australia, South Africa, Fiji, and Syria. Her studio bins hold fabrics of varied type, texture, and hue awaiting their transformation. Her bright and spectacular mixed-media canvases line the walls of her home causing guests to stop, gaze and ask how she gets so inspired.

“I approached ‘Mermaid Diary’ from a practical and fantastical perspective,” Blalack said. “I made a simple paper pattern to ensure the right fit. I then experimented with different fabrics, the really playful part, eventually settling on an iridescent turquoise fabric for the torso and an embellished blue-lace fabric for her tail. Cindy’s suggestion of beads inspired me to make the beaded sash around the mermaid’s mid drift. ”

Blalack has been a strong supporter of Morgan Hill Open Studios. She purchased ads in the organization’s annual brochure to help support its printing. She also designed the El-Toro-Poppy-Jasper logo.

“It really is iconic for us,” Blanton said. “It really speaks of the talented,  imaginative and inventive artists of Morgan Hill.”