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Provincial Splendor

0By Jim McCloskey

I have always been inordinately fond of fireworks.  Indeed, and as my children will not-so-patiently attest, my year isn’t complete if I don’t get to spend part of every Fourth of July either watching a big fireworks display or, better yet, helping to stage one myself.

In the summer of 1978, however, I was in France for most of the month of July and wasn’t shocked to find that the Fourth passed with nary a

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A San Francisco Treat

4-20 travelogue art 0By Jim McCloskey

I don’t get to San Francisco as often as I once did, and that’s a shame because there so much to see and do.  On the plus side, however, when I do make one of my infrequent trips to the Bay Area, there’s always a lot that’s brand new to me, even if it has been around for a while.

The monument I’ll discuss here, for example, has been around since 1998 or so – but

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A Technicolor Pageant

3-16-16Travel0By Jim McCloskey

It may be an old-school fountain display, but it’s still a pretty amazing exhibition of technical know-how and ambition – and, better yet, opened my eyes to the story of a man named Frederic W. Darlington who, in a colorful career, apparently installed fountains across the country in the last years of the 19th Century and into the early years of the 20th.

Most of these pioneering watershapes are gone now, but one is

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Shotcrete Reborn

0By Lily Samuels
& William Drakeley  


The years after the Second World War were times of opportunity and awkwardness in the shotcrete business.  

From 1920 until the early 1950s, the Cement Gun Co. owned the trademark to “gunite” and established an aggressive licensing/franchising system to maintain as much control as it could over the process and profit from it to the greatest possible degree.  By 1952, however – and apparently with

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Water with a Side of Satire

2-17 travelogue art 3By Jim McCloskey

No matter whether it’s for business or pleasure, I’m always open to the history of a place when I travel:  It helps me put what I’m seeing in context and enriches my understanding of how things have come to be – and why they endure.  In trips to Europe, for example, you often come across small, nondescript public fountains, usually in the oldest parts of cities from London to Paris to Rome.  In several cases, my curiosity about them has led me to

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  • Guest - jennifer Linda

    I like it
  • Loved this article Jim. I too am a student of history and don't often get the story behind. Thanks for doing the research and posting. Will repost this one-- Maria von Brincken
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Rotten Timing

1-20-16travelogue0By Jim McCloskey

I had a friend many years ago who tried in vain to persuade me to visit Detroit.  She’d grown up there, and despite the city’s many problems, she still harbored the born-and-raised view that her home town had so many virtues that simply seeing the place would be enough to win me over.

I never made the expansive sightseeing trip

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A Supple Vision

12-16-15travelogue0By Jim McCloskey   

I’ve been to New York often through the years, mostly on business trips that have only rarely afforded me opportunities to get out and take in the sights.  But on one occasion many years ago, I managed to shake out several extra days and spent my time experiencing as much of

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Mist and Mystery

11-18 travelogue artBy Jim McCloskey

As though it weren’t apparent by now, when I travel, I look for watershapes.

It’s been a professional practice of mine since 1986, when I started working at Pool & Spa News, but it was established as a personal habit long before then.  Even as a child (and as my parents could attest

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Aquatic Ceremony

By Jim McCloskey

Whenever I visit the area with any time to myself, I enjoy visiting the Art Institute of Chicago.  Not only does the museum host a collection of artwork expansive enough to include Renaissance masters as well as cutting-edge Modernists, but it also has what may be the best museum shop

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English Lessons

Travel and garden tours are a great way to improve design knowledge and skills:  All the ideas and inspiration drawn from the work of other times and cultures can be brought home, suggests Gail Fanning, and used to differentiate your work from that of stay-at-home competitors.
Travel and garden tours are a great way to improve design knowledge and skills: All the ideas and inspiration drawn from the work of other times and cultures can be brought home, suggests Gail Fanning, and used to differentiate your work from that of stay-at-home competitors.
By Gail Fanning

As a garden designer, I’ve often heard about wonderful English gardens, historic British designers and specific design styles that have radiated from England through the years.  

I’ve studied books, seen wonderful profiles in magazines and searched the web for photographs and descriptions, but in recent years, the modern miracles of frequent-flier miles and house swapping have enabled me to experience these truly marvelous gardens for myself.  My family and I, in fact, have visited England ten times since our first trip there in 1999.

Each trip has given me the opportunity to visit amazing and inspiring gardens in different areas of the country – an education in design that I have fully integrated into my garden-design practice with Blue Hill Design in northern California.  

For their part, the English people are very welcoming – and especially, it seems, to gardeners:  Gardening hosts on television are major celebrities, garden shows draw enormous crowds in a country where everyone

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Floating in Style

9-23 travelogue 1By Jim McCloskey

I came out of college as a full-fledged art-and-architecture geek:  By the time I was through, I’d taken more than my share of classes in very dark rooms.  

When I set out on my self-directed tour of Europe about ten months after graduating, I knew there were countless places I wanted to see with my own eyes

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Water Emotion

8-19 travelogue artBy Jim McCloskey

Our early-summer trip to Yellowstone National Park was a revelation to me, pure and simple.  As I related in my Travelogue for July 22 (click here), the thing that occurred to me is that the inspiration at Yellowstone comes less from

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Nature's Studio

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_7-22-15travelogue_7-22YNPopener.jpgBy Jim McCloskey

For most of my life, I’ve been lucky to live within easy driving distance of a bunch of great national parks.  Yosemite, Sequoia, Joshua Tree – the names alone flood my mind with memories of towering waterfalls, raging rivers, incredible landscapes, amazing rock formations and campfires that couldn’t quite keep the cold at bay.

In all my visits through the years, I’ve seen these “neighborhood” parks as naturalistic-design laboratories, as settings in which careful observation influences the work, fills the spirit and send watershapers back to the drawing board with all sorts of general ideas that might be of use down the line.  Conceptual and visual treats, in other words – the stuff of inspiration.

Last month, my wife and I ranged a bit farther afield than usual, hopping a plane to visit Yellowstone National Park.  I have to say that the experience completely altered my sense of what a “naturalistic-design laboratory” might be.  In this one park, I saw more

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Recent comments

  • Very inspiring. I have added it to my bucket list. I have avoided it due to heavy use. Want to get there during off season, maybe late fall before snows set in? You have been fortunate to spend so much time in those spectacular CA Nat'l Parks!
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