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On the Detour talks with sculptor Ross I. Sheehan about his latest body of copper sculptures and his recent open studio.

Sheehan takes us inside his cavernous garage studio and fills us in on everything from constructing the pieces to where he gets his ideas.

To learn more about Ross I. Sheehan’s sculptures visit:

You probably won’t find professional pumpkin carving at a booth on career day. But for Mike Valladao, better known as “Farmer Mike,” carving pumpkins has become an unlikely second profession.

Farmer Mike started growing giant pumpkins 25 years ago on his Uncle’s land in Half Moon Bay, “Pumpkin Capital of the World.” He is now the official pumpkin carver of Half Moon Bay.

“Farmer Mike is my alter ego. It allows me to make people smile. It’s a kick,” says Mike who works for a software company during the week and lives in San Jose.

Mike carves with a buck knife and chisel and says it takes him 3 hours, on average, to carve a pumpkin.

Just over a year ago he published his book “Farmer Mike Grows Giant Pumpkins” which takes kids through the seasons from seed to harvest of giant pumpkins. But he says pumpkin loving is ageless.

“The pumpkin applies to a lot of ages. I think some of it is childhood memories. It’s a time when everyone gets to be creative and use imagination,” says Mike.

And, perhaps, the fruits of his labor also remind us of something else: That even the largest masterpieces start from a tiny seed.

  • Morgan Sterling - September 18, 2012 - 11:51 pm

    I was wondering what it would cost to get you over to Pizza Rock in Sacramento to do some live carving. We were hoping somewhere in mid October. Hope to hear from you soon!ReplyCancel

Every fall, Emily Duffy leads a caravan of drivers who are quite literally taking their art to the streets for ArtCar Fest.  Cars decorated with butterfly wings, doll heads, skulls, Mardi Gras beads, and a slew of other whimsical materials caravanned through downtown Berkeley on Friday before hitting the road for the 10-10-10 weekend in Sacramento.

“Its borderline illegal,” says Duffy who is the Festival Director.  “Its not a parade because these are street legal vehicles that happen to be going in the same direction.  The surprise is part of it. Its more about everyday being surprised by art,” says Duffy.

Duffy leads the caravan in her autobiographical art car VainVan, a vehicle she designed like a woman’s body.  A bra covers the front of the van and the back is plastered with fattening food.  On the sides are writings that talk of exploitation such as who profits from your self-loathing? And Vanity thy name is woman marketing.

“The VainVan was a way to apologize to all the women in the world who’ve been told they’re not good enough,” explains Duffy who worked in the fashion industry for 13 years and says she was trying to undo that.

“The VainVan is my midlife crisis manifested onto a car,” Duffy says.  She’s noticed the car attracts a deep felt response from women over 40 and under 5 (because they think its Barbie’s car).

“In between are the women who really need to pay attention to it but are not able to yet.  They think it’s garish,” she explains.  Duffy says the number one question people ask her is how long did it take you? Not why did you do it?

“People rarely ask why.  Its so infuriating,” says Duffy.

ArtCar Fest launched in Berkeley in 1996 and was always the grand finale in theHow Berkeley Can You Be Parade until last year when that parade was cancelled.  This year, ArtCar Fest had a peak of 42 cars, which was its lowest number ever.

“We’ve basically been shrinking,” says Duffy who explains that there have been up to 100 cars some years.

Still, Duffy believes the success of this year’s fest, which was sponsored by Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, is a positive sign for the future.

“The art car artist has a way of literally taking their art to the streets. It is really public art—more than murals.  It really breaks you out of your humdrum life. That’s what art is supposed to do,” says Duffy. “It’s not for the rich.  It’s for everyone.”

To view art car festivals around the country check out the calendar

Going into any garage is like going into the bowels of a house–you never know what you’re going to find. And there’s no doubt that some odd stuff is lying behind the closed doors of many San Francisco garages.

But what’s behind Ross Sheehan’s garage door is arguably the oddest.

“People have walked by and said, Wow I never knew this existed on my block. They feel like they’re in some kind of cave,” says Sheehan whose garage has revolutionized the term man-cave with his 9-foot tall floor-to-ceiling copper stalactite.

Sheehan’s art studio/garage also houses a 6-foot tall copper dinosaur and a 6-foot wide copper ram skull wall installation. A total of 30 metal sculptures live in the copper cave.

“They’re built from things I’ve experience in nature. Lately its been the hills of Montara, wild succulents, rocks, windblown plant life, and other gnarled formations,” explains Sheehan. “Some people say they’re robotic or mechanic looking.”

Once Sheehan has finished constructing the sculptures, he leaves them outdoors until they’ve reached the patina he’s looking for because copper oxidizes if exposed to enough natural elements. The sculptures go out shiny and they come back rusty brown with blues and greens. He says that can take 2 weeks to 2 years.

“Its always a surprise to me when I go out and check them. Sometimes they’re not at all what I thought they would look like,” says Sheehan who is usually working on 2 or 3 sculptures at once.

The 30 sculptures have taken 3 years to complete, and Sheehan says many of them he created while working in an entirely outdoor studio space. He admits he prefers his latest unsuspecting retreat in Sunset.

“There’s sometimes a phobia of a garage. Its forgotten space. For me, it’s the ultimate workspace,” says Sheehan. “I can just go there and get away from anything.”

Sheehan’s copper and found-metal sculptures are on show as part of ArtSpan’s Open Studios during Saturday October 23rd and Sunday October 24th in Sheehan’s garage from 11am-6pm, located at 2550 30th Avenue @ Vicente Street. Please visit or for more details.

Click here to see more photos.

Yesterday marked one of the best homegrown events around.  The annual Petaluma Whiskerino drew people from all over who came to flash their stache and show their grow while onlookers ate chocolate mustaches.

Its no doubt the contest for the best facial fur got a little hairy, but Tiffany Renee tweets “Jack Passion swept the competition.”

Passion is a long-time beard beauty and acclaimed world beard champion. He is also author of The Facial Hair Handbook which teaches men how to grow and groom facial hair.

One look at this man’s flowing red mane and its apparent beard building is in his blood.

Photo from Passion’s Twitter page