Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ojai Day, a community celebration and arts festival...

I was asked to answer a set of questions for an interview in the Ojai Valley News tab that is printed especially for this community event. I feel honored! Here goes:

What am I doing for Ojai Day this year?
I am attempting to update the Ojai Day website that I designed last year, one or two pages per night, as new information streams in. I have made the 2011 cover for the Ojai Recreation Department's FALL QUARTER schedule of classes, etc., featuring Ojai Day in pictures. We are advertising in Ojai Quarterly magazine with a full page ad also... I do much of the print design for our event, such as post cards, rack cards and flyers galore for schools and businesses celebrating the event and promoting all of its various sponsors. I have, by default, become the coordinator of graphics for Ojai Day, working with a growing crew of talented designers who have volunteered their expertise in various areas. Hooray for volunteers!
How long have I been involved with the Ojai Day crew?
Uhhhhhhh.... long time, mid-'90's, I think
What have I done in the past?
I painted a dark blue banner that stretched across Ojai Avenue back in last century, and I think that's when I was hooked. What a privilege it is to be involved in this creative community celebration!
What do I do the rest of the year?
I tell people that I do everything I can to avoid having a real job. I am self-employed as a graphic designer, web designer, apps animation graphics designer, fine artist, freelance illustrator, sculptor, hand engraver, die maker, scrimshander, art teacher of nearly-lost hand skilled arts and cartoonist for the Ojai Valley News. Many people know me only for the cartoonist position, for which I am humbly grateful.
Background info: How long have I lived in Ojai?
I came to Ojai in fall of 1967 just before I entered Nordhoff High School as a freshman. I was fresh meat, didn't know a soul. I got involved in working on the yearbook at Nordhoff because I wanted to learn who was who, and my first gig was sorting class photos and spelling names correctly. I ran for Sophomore class president against another newby named Ken Vadnais and won by a slim margin, I'm sure - I probably made more election promises than Ken. I am not sure that Ken ever forgave me! I'll ask him at our 40th reunion.
What brought me to Ojai?
My father was looking for a comfortable community away from the madding crowds of Los Angeles County where he could raise his two younger kids and start his own business. My two older brothers were already young men on their own when my folks moved my younger brother, Neal, and myself to rural little Ojai. When we arrived, Ojai wasn't even considered an artists community or a visitor destination yet - it was more agricultural and back-woodsy. The new agers had discovered it as a spiritual center at the beginning of the century, though, and private schools were well established, too.
What is the story about my family?
My father had a hazy memory of Ojai in his mind because he was in the Navy during WWII, stationed at Point Mugu and San Nicolas Island. His CASU 8(Carrier Aircraft Service Unit) was given R&R at the Ojai Valley Inn, and the swabbies spent most of their free time in an alcoholic haze between beer drinking bouts at Camp Comfort area on Creek Road (where they could walk to from the rear exit of the Inn's grounds) and The Wheel bar near Wheeler's Gorge where the "world's smallest post office" sent out letters and post cards that were postmarked with those words in the hand cancel stamp. Because of the impaired memory of this beautiful Shangrila, my family spent the weekends of the first half of 1967 searching Santa Paula and Fillmore for suitable workspace and family home. Nothing seemed to fit, thank goodness. One day we came to the lookout over Ojai Valley from Dennison Grade, and my father said, "Wait just a minute..." as his eyes and memory focused. We drove down the hill into Ojai Valley from the east end, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My three daughters grew up in Ojai: Jessica Mills Trent, Ally Mills and Michele Seliger. They tolerate my involvement with the Ojai Day event. Two of them have helped paint mandalas beside me, and my eldest brings two of my grandchildren every year, wouldn't miss it! This year I will have a table at the flagpole in Libbey Park, in the interactive demonstration area, next to Ojai's own bubble blowing artist/sculptor, Dennis Shives. I will be demonstrating scrimshaw and hand engraving at my bench, welcoming friends to the park activities. My grandkids, my daughters and my mother Lola will help me man the booth - four generations! That's SO Ojai!


  1. This really does sound so "Ojai", Colleen! I recall feeling it was so unfair that you had to leave Lynwood just as we were starting high school but it would have been a sad day for Ojai if your Dad hadn't looked fondly down from the Dennison Grade all those years ago! Maybe I'll get a chance to come to Ojai Day and catch a glimpse of what it's really all about! Dori

  2. Dori - Watching Ojai grow from a sleepy little village to embrace all the fruits and nuts that So Cal and the world has to offer has been a wild ride! Some incredible true artists have gravitated here along with some fabulous charlatans that add to the sense of circ de soleil. I think you would really appreciate the weekend of October 8th and 9th, which is the Ojai Studio Artists Tour. That is truly worth a visit! http://ojaistudioartists.org/studio_tour.html