To me, Nature is God. Without it, we simply would not exist. Conserving the world’s natural spaces and the creatures that live there is paramount to the survival of humans as a species, and I have therefore dedicated my life to studying environmentalism in order to help people co-exist more successfully and sustainably with the natural world.
All natural materials I use in my creations are either sourced from roadkill, Fish and Game, secondhand sources such as fellow artists and estate sales, or are antique. In this way, I'm ensuring that no animals were needlessly killed for the sake of the artwork I produce. I fully believe that no part of any creature should go to waste if a purpose can be found for it, but I do NOT support trophy hunters or overseas fur farms by buying 'byproducts' like bones, skulls, or claws directly from them. The only exception I make for this rule is for parts from animals legally culled for population control programs approved by Fish and Wildlife.
As a photographer and wildlife enthusiast, I've been involved with many fantastic organizations such as Images4Life and Wild Tiger, as well as the Sierra Club and many smaller, local groups.
I've been published, interviewed, and even featured on Rainn Wilson (Dwight from “The Office”)'s personal networking website, SoulPancake.com.
I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to visit many of the world’s most amazing wild places, like Komodo Island, Bali, Lombok, Malaysia, and the Cayman Islands, and have even documented entirely new species previously unknown to science.
Other interests include: Wilderness survival, primitive skills, backpacking, fishing, kayaking, boffing, airsoft, snowboarding, meandering around town, and caving.
I’ve heard that some of you were apparently as interested as I was to know where Andrew was taking me for my birthday. We left as soon as we could and started heading south-east. We drove and drove and drove into parts of the state even I have not yet seen. By nightfall, I spotted signs that told us we were in “Oregon’s Outback” - the high desert area near the Nevada boarder.
The hotels were expensive, there was no place to camp, and we were running out of gas. So we parked on the side of the road and slept in the bed of the truck with Cabal, singing goodnight songs to the many coyotes who chimed in through the chorus across the hills. I still had no idea where we were going.
I didn’t figure it out until we made it to the town of Plush, Oregon. There, a sign read, “Spectrum Sunstone Mines THIS WAY!”
Andrew grinned at me when he knew that I knew where we were headed. But we had to stop for food and water first. Then, we drove off into the desert.
The main road through Plush gave way to gravel and we were lumbering through the sagebrush in the early afternoon light. My camera battery was already dying, but I snapped some photos of Cabal, who ran beside the truck as we crawled along. We clocked him at 20-something MPH, which is pretty average for a dog of his build, but the fact that he kept up that pace quite happily for more than 4 miles was the most amazing feat.
The road finally lead us to the public digging area just outside of Spectrum Mines. We stopped there for a bit to get our first glimpse of Oregon’s state stone.
It was everywhere. I had no idea it was to plentiful! Sunstone pebbles littered the ground and made the desert sands sparkle. It was mind-blowing.
After digging around the public pits for a while, we headed in to Spectrum Mines. The place was run by a bunch of hippies who were very laid-back and friendly. They showed Andrew and I the ropes of digging at the schiller pit and we set to work.
Sunstones were everywhere. Many of them had the golden-peach glow known as schiller, which is created by copper inclusions in the feldspar.
We dug well in the late afternoon, pulling up hundreds of small sunstones and a few bigger ones, before checking out the belt run which was being manned by two women from out-of-state. The belt run is much more expensive, but we quickly realized that it was well worth it. Some of the stones they were finding were HUGE and had gem-quality color. Andrew and I agreed that we needed to save up and pay for the belt on our next visit.
While we were invited to stay the night in the cabins, it was agreed that we would head back toward Crater Lake and find a place to spend the night there instead. We were happy with our haul and left, after a cold shower courtesy of the mine owners.
On the way back, we spotted something in the road: Three giant forms were hunched over something. I initially thought it was vultures on a rabbit but soon realized as we got closer that they were actually golden eagles - two adults and a young male.
The young male flew in front of our truck for twenty yards or so, his black-and-white tail within an arm’s reach ahead of our windshield the entire time. Soon, he banked to the left and was gone, but I remained ecstatic about the close encounter for a long while. I had never seen a young golden eagle like that before; only the adults at the nest in Redmond.
The road we took back was familiar. It took me a while to realize why until we passed a sign that said “Summer Hot Springs”. I had been here before, on the way home from Burning Man with Now is All You Have in 2011. Andrew and I spent a few hours in the pools since no one else was there. We watched the sun set across the desert and then jumped back in the truck to find a place to crash for the night.
We ended up at a back road in Bend. Deer were everywhere despite the hunting season and we nearly hit a few. But off the beaten trail, we made camp and slept through the night undisturbed. We headed home the next morning, but stopped at a fish hatchery near Redmond, where an employee showed all the taxidermy at their education center and let us feed the fish. When he opened the freezer to ladle up their food for us, I saw two huge mule deer heads on the floor with hunting tags wrapped around their antlers. One was a classic dark brown, but the other was the palest mule deer I had ever seen. It was not albino - it was beige in color, like a mountain lion, even on the brow and lip line - but I found it strange that even the antlers themselves were an orange-yellow hue. For those interested, THIS is about the closest image I could find to what I saw in that freezer.
Near the fish hatchery was a stream full of spawning salmon, which Andrew and I watched for a while before continuing on. We stopped one last time about a half-hour outside of Amity to talk to a guy at a butcher’s shop about hides. He said he had all the hides I could want if I could come and pick them up. I left my name and number and furbuyer’s license information for him. He said he’d be working on ten llamas on the 11th, and that I could have any or all the of the skins I wanted from them. Later, he said, he would have deer and elk for me to work with, too.
We purchased some sausage to cook for dinner and then finally made it back to Amity, where we showered again and then crashed on the bed with the cat.