Tag Archives: journalism

In the Studio w/ Guillermo Guardia


A couple of months ago, I interviewed ceramic sculptor Guillermo Guardia about his artwork. I was so inspired by his story and how he overcame the challenges of sculpting a perfect human body by sculpting bodies made of puzzle pieces. The new subject was symbolic of his journey.

When we finished the interview, Guillermo extended an open invitation for me to visit his studio and try the craft for myself. How could I pass up an opportunity to see a talented artist in action and learn hands-on about his process?

I couldn’t.

As the arts and entertainment reporter for the Herald, I often speak to artists about their inspiration and process. But after the interview, I’m always left craving something more. And this was it — my missing piece. I needed to see the artist in action.

And after much planning, I’m excited to present the first episode of “In the Studio,” a monthly Web series where we take you in the studio with area artists to show you a behind-the-scenes look at their craft and workspace.

Each month, we’ll visit another artist’s workspace, and I’ll share my hands-on experience with the new art form.

Since Guillermo’s offer sparked the idea, I thought it would only make sense for him to be the first artist.

Working with clay

Sitting in Muddy Waters Clay Center, Guillermo handed me a wad of clay. It was tough, damp and intimidating.He said we would make a dog and a llama, and I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t be too difficult.

I reminded myself that Guillermo typically taught children, so it couldn’t be too difficult, right?


I circled clumps of clay in my hand trying to form two round balls — one for the head and one for the body. While Guillermo made his effortlessly, I struggled to smooth out the lumps. As soon as I had smoothed one side, I’d pushed the opposite side out of whack. I laughed. I didn’t have time to get it right. I set aside my uneven pieces and moved on to the legs.

Rolling a slab of clay between my hand and the table, I thought back to making snakes out of Play-doh as a kid. “Why couldn’t we make snakes,” I thought. “I could handle that.”

I wondered how this long snake-like piece would become legs, but Guillermo quickly explained. We tore the long piece into four even parts. That was the goal anyhow; mine were all different sizes. Turns out, I’m not too great with dimensions.

I started putting my lopsided dog together. Again, I struggled while Guillermo worked with ease. We made two flat pancake-like circles for floppy ears and a little nub for a tail. When it all came together, I laughed and tried to see the dog in my jumbled cluster.

Next, we tackled the llama. “Great,” I thought, “even more pieces to struggle with.”

But, with one animal under my belt, the llama came together more smoothly.

The pieces were similar to that of the dog, except slightly different in size. I tried attaching the legs, but they weren’t stable. Guillermo offered to help, and I watched his hands as he worked. His fingers molded the clay proficiently.

Sculpting was second nature to Guillermo. He didn’t think; he just let his hands move and transform the clay.

He handed me my llama and with his kind heart he assured me that it was fine. I finished the face and tail. Then, we used a small sculpting tool to poke holes for the eyes and make lines along the body for the fur.

This time when we finished, I saw a llama, albeit slightly disfigured. I was proud of my little guy. We also made a tiny penguin with big eyes and angry eye brows, which turned out quite cute. With each piece we made, I gained more confidence, and I was able to relax and enjoy the process.

Despite my inability to form accurately proportioned smooth shapes, I had fun molding the clay and learning from Guillermo.

If we had more time, we could have fired the figures in the ceramic kiln and painted them. But, Guillermo said if I let them dry they would last forever as long as they weren’t knocked over. So, I thanked Guillermo for the tour and the lesson, grabbed my little figures and made my way back to the office.

The puppy fell apart in my hands. But, my surviving llama, Fernando, and penguin, Frankie, sit on my desk reminding me that art is not about perfection — it’s about experience.

First published in the Grand Forks Herald, Jan. 17.

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When a concert review becomes something more

When I arrived at the Blues on the Red summer concert last month, I expected to take in the music, grab a few quotes from attendees and be done. But, while the photo intern and I were scoping out the best spot to snag a photo, she heard the lead singer of the band dedicate the concert to a man who had been a staple at the concerts and had passed away the night before. I didn’t hear the tribute but when Jenna relayed the message, I knew we had to chase the story. We found an event organizer, Greg Hoover, who told us: the man’s name was Ray Ganyo, he was physically handicapped and the blues concerts were one of the few times he could forget about his illness. He also said a friend of Ganyo’s was at the front of the crowd, also wheelchair bound, and she may be willing to talk. Later, he introduced me to Peggy Dores, a longtime friend of Ganyo’s. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she talked to me about her beloved friend and shared their special friendship with me, one formed by blues music and blues festivals.

After speaking with Dores, I was touched and knew we had a story. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Ganyo, but from speaking with several people who knew him, I could tell he was a good, caring man that always lived life to the fullest and had a “cup half full” view of the world even after an accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. I tracked down Ganyo’s mother, Marlene Dvorak, and spoke with her about her son. My heart was hurting as she told me she had recently lost her husband as well. She fought back her tears as she said Ganyo was her life and that he was always very gracious and thankful of her help. She said he never let her leave without a hug and kiss from him.

To learn more about Ganyo and his special blues friendship with Dores, read the full article at GFHerald.com.

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Internship update

Wow, it’s been quite a while since I last posted on here. I guess you could assume I’ve been busy with my summer internship at West Central Tribune, as well as updating my style blog and getting everything ready for The Advocate next year.

It’s been quite an interesting summer to say the least. I can’t believe I’m already down to my last few weeks at the paper. I truly have enjoyed working here and getting to know all the reporters and editors. They all have very different personalities, but they all seem to mesh well (for the most part anyway). I have also enjoyed meeting all the wonderful residents of Willmar and the surrounding towns.

I’ve met so many amazing people and written so many stories. An since I didn’t keep the blog updated like I had hoped, I suppose I should run through a few of my favorites:

  • One of the very first stories I wrote for West Central Tribune was about the changes to the Becker Market. The Becker Market is a weekly farmers’ market and a street fair all-in-one. Every Thursday afternoon people head to downtown Willmar for all their fresh produce. I still have not had a chance to make it down there due to the timing, but I absolutely loved meeting with the organizers and farmers to write my story. This year they added an e-coop to the Becker Market allowing customers to reserve items online and simply pick them up on Thursday. The organizers were so excited about going online this year, but the farmers were a little anxious about the new technology. Everyone was so kind and really made me feel welcome my first couple weeks in Willmar.

    Photo by Jasmine Maki

  • An unforgettable assignment was the storm in June. I had just gotten back to the house on Sunday night when it started storming really bad. The power went out, my phone was almost dead and I didn’t have any candles or flashlights. It was honestly quite scary, especially being in the old house. But, I made it through the night and was able to cover the storm damage on my way into work. It was awful to see all the fallen trees in yards and a few fallen trees had even damaged houses. But it was great to see how helpful and friendly everyone was to their neighbors. It was also interesting to hear all their stories from the storm and be able to take photos of the damage. (Article link)

    Photo by Jasmine Maki

  • In late June, I went to New London for a feature article on the local art group C.A.T. (Creating Art Together). I had so much fun talking with the ladies as they painted shirts for a special project. They were so sweet, creative and fun. It was cool to hear what inspired each of them and why they loved the group so much. (Article link)
  • I also had the opportunity to visit with Gavin Hill and Rosie Hartwig, who have been pen pals for many, many years and are now working together on several projects including a themed-theater with 15 children. I was able to go one of the rehearsals and photograph the kids, which was unbelievably difficult with the lighting and quick movements. Gavin and Rosie have such a touching story and truly are amazing people. I honored to have met them. (Article Link)

    Photo by Jasmine Maki

  • The four-day Christian music festival in mid-July was definitely my favorite part of the summer. I’ve been wanting to go to Sonshine Festival for many, many years. When I found out I would be covering the event for my internship, I was more than excited. I got to talk with amazing people, listen to a lot of music and write about all of it. But, my favorite part of the week was probably learning more about utilizing social media for reporting. I was Tweeting throughout the event and tried to post photos to Facebook when I got the chance. Utilizing social media during events like that is definitely necessary for reporting. People are looking for the latest news, even if it’s just what band is playing next or what people are doing to keep busy. It was a lot of fun and I really look forward to utilizing social media more for reporting. Not to mention, I also got to interview Drew Shirley, guitarist of Switchfoot. (Article link)

Photo by Ron Adams

Of course, I cannot forget all the articles I wrote for different tabs, especially the bridal tab. I also wrote two articles for the new issue of Live It!, which comes out in August. Since my dream has always been to start my magazine, I was more than thankful to have the opportunity to write a few articles for the magazine. I even got the chance to write a fashion article.

I have learned so much about the field of journalism from this internship and I can’t wait to put it to use at my school paper.

A big thanks to everyone at West Central Tribune for giving me this opportunity to learn and get more experience. Also, a big thank you goes out to Charly Haley. Without her I would have never got this internship!


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