Adobe Home

adobe artist author blue Cher the Fire Creative desert desert life dinner napkins grandmother hot summer days intuitive moonlight nostalgic rust southwest desert southwest usa southwestern surface design tea towels textiles

adobe home and adobe in the moonlight tea towel and dinner napkin collection

When I originally designed the Adobe Home and Adobe in the Moonlight patterns, they were snippets of watercolor ideas in motion. There were adobe bricks here, a saguaro or two there, flowers and blooms from cactus, as well as rocks and pebbles as walkways and paths. There were also saguaro ribs and ocotillo lines and prickly pear cactus randomly placed on paper. It wasn’t until I started to place them together that a multi-layered storytelling image appeared.

For those who are unfamiliar with adobe, it is mud brick usually made from earth, water and straw or grass to help bind the material together. It is one of the oldest building materials and so effective in keeping interior climates cool in hot climates that is has migrated in language and location. The original Egyptian word, moved to Arabic, Spanish and English, where it used in common language.

The simplified description of adobe creation is the mud is prepared, shaped, and then dried in the sun. In some cases, the bricks might be fired. Adobe bricks tend to be large and can be quite heavy. They have been used for residential homes, churches, monuments, walls, and don’t tend to mix well with modern building materials due to the natural way the adobe expands and shrinks with environmental changes. Historical mortar was usually mud-based, so restoration of important buildings need to be done with care. You’ll often find National Landmarks covered with a large remada to protect from future deterioration. The southwestern United States has the largest adobe structures to count.

My great-grandmother’s home is made of adobe and is in southern Arizona. The walls are 2 feet thick and always had a different feel to me as a kid when I was on that side of the house (away from where an actual kitchen and bathroom were added by my great-grandfather). It felt cooler, had a different sound, dampened somehow, and it felt quietly alive. There are stories of my great-grandfather discovering a secret compartment in the house with empty moonshine bottles hidden within when he added onto the house. “If these walls could talk,” has a definite meaning at her house. The house is surrounded by a thick, plastered, adobe wall that was once, long ago, draped and protected in all colors of flowers, roses and fruit trees. I remember when I very young being afraid to go through the chain linked gate because the success of her green thumb also meant the garden wall buzzed vibrantly with bees and other pollinators.

She has since passed away, but the house is still occupied by my family. It was at one time, the great gathering place as all the great-aunts, great-uncles, their kids and their kids’ kids would meet up for food and conversation on Sundays after church. Now, the older generations are few, many have passed away, and the younger are living different lives than we did 30-40 years ago. And still, I can feel the memories of being in the house even if I haven’t been inside of it myself in many years.

When I was a pre-teen, I went with one of my parents to visit a friend of theirs way out in the desert where they had custom built their house and along their driveway was an adobe wall separating them and their neighbor. Apparently the neighbor had the wall built with adobe bricks to maintain continuity with the landscape and their home. I remember walking over and studying the details of the bricks, the space between the bricks, the color, the sheer size of constructing a wall of adobe. I don’t know why, but it fascinated me. Maybe it was bringing back memories of working on the archeological dig in 6th grade.

There was a two year grant connected to the University of Arizona to conduct an official archeological dig in an area not far from my elementary school and my grade was that lucky last second year. Every Wednesday we trekked from school to the dig and performed all the archeological duties as we explored what was believed to be a Hohokam trash pit. Odds and ends of all kinds of pottery were the majority of our finds. Pottery; another earthen clay creation.

All around the southwest there are remnants of adobe forts, walls, churches, homes, pueblos, and glimpses of long histories of peoples, times and places that many of us will not know the full story of. There is a richness and strength in earth, water and straw with maybe a bit of caliche holding things together. And even though my great-grandmother’s home never looked as rustic as the pattern in Adobe Home, I feel the draw of culture, heritage and longevity in the line of strong women that comes from a place connected to the earth.

Now, for you, well….you might not have memories of being inside adobe homes and touching the clay walls that are still standing after hundreds of years, but you can imagine! Imagine a time of hot weather days, shade from the desert sun and watching the saguaros bloom in spring. You can imagine walking along a path (which in many cases in the southwest were actually just cleared dirt), sharing a meal with family and being together. Or perhaps hearing the coyotes call to each other on a clear moonlit night.

Whatever story you experience, may you always “Cher” your fire and find your adobe home.