Iron, Wood and Fiber – lille aeske Art House Annex and Gallery

By Julie Horner

Framed in a spray of electric snowflakes behind watery glass, John Updike’s words hung in pieces; simply arranged snips of cut paper that read, “The days are short, the sun a spark hung thin between the dark and the dark.” This discovery framed within the tall window that so struck my curiosity was a mid-winter stirring of life foreshadowing an intriguing new downtown destination soon to bloom in Boulder Creek.

Inspired from the Danish words for “little box,” lille æske is an art house collective inspired by owners James Mackessy and Sarah Farrell Mackessy’s relationship with intimate spaces. The couple has lived and created together in the renovated back rooms of this downtown space for some time – the gallery, which is now open to the public, is the extension of their journey to create objects of intrigue, honesty, and beauty for the home utilizing wood, paper, metal, rope, leather, and other natural materials.

Once inside this warming place, the unusually vaulted wood ceiling immediately held me enthrall, built plank-by-plank by James and hung along its length with vintage theater spotlights. It was like stepping reverently into a place of worship, surrounded at every turn by found objects and relics repurposed; a matrimony of reclaimed wood to reworked iron, wood grain and linocut prints hung against smooth white walls all somehow woven together in a tapestry of pure minimalist, rustic simplicity. The dry, sweet aromas of herbs and handmade paper combined evocatively with the scents of leather, jute, natural plant dyes, a hint of earthy oils and the salt of human hands on vintage metal tools.

James is the furniture maker. He loves wood. Using reclaimed timber, old fences, barn wood, and salvaged pieces, he joins organic suppleness with the inorganic sturdiness of iron and steel. “The fact that wood is grown and has life brings the story to the space.” Using light fabrication skills to marry the wood to iron, the thrill is in working with materials that have come from the earth in one form or another.

He also creates hand-rubbings on paper from the grain of the cut wood. “The rubbings create an illusion of two-dimension, there is a story hard-coded in the wood’s surface…where the wood was cut, where a branch was…there are a lot of things happening.”

Sarah loves paper, textiles, mixed media, and the art of placement. She carefully designs the expressive window installations that passersby have enjoyed for nearly a year. Each has had its own whimsy, introspective nuance and message to share, ultimately showcasing the Mackessy’s ability to dream, build and create. The installations are also a declaration of independence together and an invitation to explore the story of home, telling it through the objects Sarah and James design and make.

But objects d’art are not the only offering being presented in this gorgeous venue. The Mackessy’s have also dreamed up “Events @ the ænnex” by reservation in the gallery. The Supper Table Series features local culinary artists curating extraordinary meals in a unique family style setting, and the Performance Series showcases guest artists for an intimate journey into their works. Says James, “Whether filling stomachs or observing things of beauty, everyone is looking for a new experience.”

The Mackessy’s goal is to promote an artisan way of thinking. Lille aeske is the staging ground, a multi-faceted hub for art, performance, and the culinary to bring different types of people together in one inviting space. “Whether it’s a dinner, a piece of art, a piece of furniture, we’re looking to share stories in a visceral sense and to forge friendships across the spectrum.” They invite you to share in the journey.

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(c) 2015 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post:






Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

Harmony in the Valley of the Moon

By Julie Horner

Two girls sit singing in an old Chevrolet, fiddle and mandolin in playful duet and voices blended together in sweet harmony. The Chevy, though firmly grounded and rusting resolutely on Boulder Creek acreage among a dozen other relics of bygone byways, makes one imagine this pair hitting the road, Thelma and Louise, Devil-may-care.

Formed by long-time friends, Justine Lucas and Lee White, Moonshine Jelly got its start in San Francisco driven by Justine’s innate gift for songwriting and Lee’s ability to easily harmonize. Both women are accomplished multi-instrumentalists who are at ease accompanying themselves on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. Joined by Kent Kessinger on acoustic guitar and 5-string banjo, the trio captivates with a blend of original and traditional songs. Moonshine Jelly uses dynamic harmonies and bold arrangements to explore music influenced by Celtic, Eastern European and Americana genres with a pinch of gypsy jazz for piquant.

And there is strong sense of the gypsy wanderer among the members. Lee is a full time musician who splits her weeks between Boulder Creek, Oakland, and San Francisco, fiddle strapped to her back ready to busk on the street, join music friends for impromptu performances, or teach. A fiery singer, Lee says, “I love to harmonize.” And she’s obviously gotten good at it. To her it’s about the atmosphere, the sound. You can hear Lee’s vocal strength on her CD recorded with The Gallowglasses, a San Francisco Bay Area-based Celtic band.

She also studies traditional song in its native tongue from around the world. Songs sung in a foreign language with unfamiliar rhythms and unexpected harmonies is exceptionally haunting to listen to and is a passionate course of exploration for those who learn it appreciatively as a cultural treasure to preserve and hand down.

Lee grew up in a musical family and learned to “go with the flow” at a very young age picking up old time, Celtic, and bluegrass music by ear from her folks and their contemporaries. She began to study fiddle formally at age 11, but it wasn’t until she went to Alasdair Frasier’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School at Camp Campbell in the Santa Cruz Mountains that she “unlocked the desire” to play with her peers.

A true roving spirit, Justine literally ran away to join the circus and spends most of her time on the road performing for circus, clown, and sideshow troupes on the West Coast of the US and traveling internationally with a variety of circus productions. Touted as an extraordinarily gifted minimalist avant-garde singer-writer, she captures audiences with her storytelling. Lee says, “Justine has this wonderful personality” that enables her to network easily and engage with audiences live and through film and her audio recordings.

Justine has produced two solo CDs, and Lee joins her on the latest, “Untangling.” Although Moonshine Jelly is relatively new, Justine and Lee have several atmospheric YouTube videos that showcase their exquisite musical ability as a duo and as a trio with Kent. See Moonshine Jelly on YouTube.

Kent is an Oakland-based filmmaker whose area of interest centers upon homelessness, human freedom, and migration issues. His work takes him around the world to capture evocative, often troubling politically charged subject matter. From Honduras to Mexico, Skid Row to the Rainbow Gathering, his talent documenting human experience through film translates plaintively to the ear with Moonshine Jelly. Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Kent is influenced by Doc Watson, Philip Glass, Jose Gonzales, and the Rev. Gary Davis. See documentaries by Kent Kessinger.

These three free-spirited musicians don’t let moss grow too long under their feet. After their upcoming show at Boulder Creek’s lille aeske Performance Series on Friday, May 29, they’re off to concerts in Oregon, Humboldt, Seattle, and Vancouver. Hot fiddle, intimate vocals, unpredictable harmonies, and formidable songwriting and musical strength will carry this bluegrass-Celtic-gypsy-swing folk band straight into your psyche.

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(c) 2015 Julie Horner.

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

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Painting the Fantastical Canvas – Deborah J. Ross

By Julie Horner

On an unassuming back road in one of Boulder Creek’s rustic wooded neighborhoods not too far from downtown, I found myself at the threshold of another world. I had heeded the “Dragon Xing” sign and was standing at the gate eagerly waiting to meet the writer of such epic science fiction fantasy novels as The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy, Jaydium, and Northlight, and the enduring and evolved voice of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover® series. Local writer Deborah J. Ross had invited me into her little piece of mountain paradise to “peek inside her magnificent imagination.”

I was ushered into the writer’s retreat by Tajji, a 10 ½ year old retired German Shepherd service dog. Shelves of reverently ordered books dominated one wall floor to ceiling; cats on well-lit perches, a teapot with cozy, and a piano set a welcoming tone. Through the windows an expanse of winter garden shivered expectantly in the not-quite-spring sun. It is in this warm nook surrounded by the creatures and comforts she loves, where Deborah embarks on fantastic journeys through time and space and all imagining.

Deborah has been writing science fiction and fantasy professionally for over 30 years. Her connection to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley began with a fan letter that Deborah wrote to Bradley in 1980. “Marion wrote back, three pages of single-spaced typewriting. We began a correspondence, and I must confess to a certain giddiness that my favorite author had taken the care to write to me,” Ross writes in her blog.

The Darkover series is a science fiction-fantasy chronology consisting of several novels and short stories set in the fictional world of Darkover. Deborah writes, “I began working with Marion in the final year of her life, thinking we would collaborate on one or more novels.” Deborah eventually wrote six books in the series after Bradley passed away, under contract to the MZB Literary Works Trust, which holds the copyright.

Initially, she tried to maintain Bradley’s voice and vision. “By the end of the sixth book, I realized how much of my own imagination colored the story and its landscape. I found myself drawn away from the characters and situations that Marion had envisioned, and toward those I had invented.”

Ross recalls while living in Lyons, France the commemorative placards posted throughout the city honoring victims of the Holocaust. Reading them caused a deep awareness which infuses her characters with the resilience to overcome. She writes of heroines and heroes with big hearts who carry out necessary roles on fantastical alien worlds, putting them in situations wherein they become a touchstone for social politics, feminism, gender fluidity and ultimate equality in society, stretching the reader’s perceived notions to illustrate the assumptions people make and how wrong they can be.

Ross writes about things she has loved to read…”take me away to Dune or Middle Earth,” she says. But Ross points out that so much early science fiction was written by men (Heinlein, “who didn’t have a clue about women,” for instance) or by women under a male penname because it wasn’t fashionable in those days for a woman to write science fiction.

Many of Ross’ characters are women in “kick-ass” roles who drive conflict to non-violent solutions. Sci-Fi author, Tom Easton wrote about Ross’ writing in Jaydium, “There is an emphasis on the quest for peace that is unusual when so many novels focus on the quest for dominance and victory.” And in The Seven-Petaled Shield, females are the heroes. “From the outset, I knew that this story had to be told primarily through the experiences of women and would require a huge canvas…and a different kind of heroine.”

But Ross’ heroes are not hardened. Northlight, Ross’ novel about an otherworld female Ranger, a wild and savvy knife-fighter on a treacherous northern border, has been called, “A beautifully constructed fantasy with characters who grow and mature before the reader’s eyes and who are engagingly human while being fantastically heroic…” (Affair de Coeur)

Back on Earth you might bump into Deborah at Johnnie’s Supermarket or at a San Lorenzo Valley Community Band concert. She proudly knits for charity, plays classical piano, studies yoga and lovingly retrains retired service dogs. The warrior woman within also studies martial arts, with some 25 years of Kung Fu San Soo under her belt.

Recent accomplishments include winning Finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for her novel, Collaborators (as Deborah Wheeler), and she is a member of the online writers cooperative, Book View Cafe. Deborah has signed contracts for three more Darkover novels and is now finishing up the first, Thunderlord, and hopes to turn it in to her editor this summer.

A snippet from Deborah’s blog reads: “You are wise to trust your instincts, for they have served you well through many perils. All too often, women are trained to ignore our gut feelings about a person or situation. We allow ourselves to be persuaded into dangerous circumstances instead of standing up for ourselves. My advice is to come prepared for anything. Bring your slayer arsenal — stakes, spears, swords, the works — and keep your wits about you.”

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Darkover® is a registered trademark of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust.

(c) 2015 Julie Horner – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, March 2015

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email:

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Vibe Tribing with Grampa’s Chili

By Julie Horner

Late as always, especially after navigating Monday night rush hour into San Francisco, and breathless from walking several blocks uphill in the dodgy Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood, we met friends and dashed into the Regency Ballroom eager for an evening of amazing Peter Gabriel-era progressive rock from original Genesis lead guitarist, Steve Hackett. We made our way to our seats through the smoky, dimly lit crowd of die-hard prog rock fans and introduced ourselves to the guy sitting next to us.

Cue Twilight Zone theme: Another close encounter with a rockin’ neighbor…it was Victor Manning, guitar player and vocalist for local jam band, Grampa’s Chili.

Born in the Bay Area and adopted by the Santa Cruz Mountains, this legendary group of players is more than a band; they’ve created their own community attracting generations of people from all over to their shows to groove together. I met Victor for a sip one afternoon in February at Boulder Creek Coffee Roasting to dig into the meat and potatoes.

‘Chili has a long history starting in the 1990s with original members from Old Dead Bug, The Bliss Ninnies, and Soup and they’ve kept a following of fans from the early days known collectively as the “Vibe Tribe.” When they realized there was another band called Soup out there, the group renamed themselves Grampa’s Chili in honor of a friend’s culinary prowess and the new name seems to be sticking.

The current incarnation of Grampa’s Chili includes Mike Boston (vocals), Jerry Brown (bass, vocals), Tom McQuillen (guitar), Michael Palladino (drums, vocals).

Victor is a comparatively new member of the band who spent a few early formative years in London where he learned to play the piano, and later back in the States did time in a Texas DJ booth spinning jazz and learning “the difference between just hanging and understanding things.”

He grew up listening to his dad’s jazz LPs and cites musical influences such as Steve Howe (Yes), Alex Lifeson (Rush), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Roland Schaeffer (Guru Guru), Peter Wolbrandt (Kraan), Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Steve Hillage (Gong), Trey Anastasio (Phish), and Ed Wynne (Ozric Tentacles) to name a few. To say he’s enthusiastic about eclectic types of music is one way to put it. As he was adding Gulf Coast Blues, English folk rock and German prog rock to his list, he laughed and said “I guess I’m a bit of a tune snob…but I can see the error of my ways.”

Victor said, “Band members have come and gone over the years, but they’d leave their songs behind,” so there’s a deep archive of classic material and songs that never got finished. “Songs are like children, you can’t force them to be something they’re not, they’ve got to take their own direction.” The band is also going through a prolific period of writing new songs, and the new material wants to be played. Victor says he loves the technical ecstasy of being in the studio and he’s excited to help inspire ‘Chili to focus on recording a new album some time in 2015. “I feel like we’re getting back on our feet, putting on new boots.”

Grampa’s Chili knows how to build their own spectacle, make their own scene. According to Victor, “We’re all ‘heads’ and don’t know what we can’t do.” They like to go out of their way to make the synergy special and a little out of hand. So expect chunky Rock-n-Roll with some Americana spice, wavy gravy grooves, and some serious late 20th Century Santa Cruz Mountain boogie crackling with energy.

Don’t miss Grampa’s Chili at Lovefest 2015 on Saturday, March 21 at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall – A Bona-Fide Santa Cruz Mountain Vibe Tribe Tribal Vibration

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(c) 2015 Julie Horner – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, March 2015

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email:


Smoke and Glass – Sean McLean Photography

By Julie Horner

7:00 a.m. December 29, 2014. The early sky above the Boulder Creek Coffee Roasting Company was cast in Easter egg hue, the morning sun still below the mountain. In a personal test of will and strength I had agreed to meet Boulder Creek photographer, Sean McLean, on location to experience what he does best. Sean said, “Given that my niche tends to be coastal AND the long range surf forecast looks promising, how about we drive together down to Steamer Lane?” Excited, I asked if we REALLY needed to meet so early. He said, “Oh my friend, I’m usually at the lane before the sun has risen…the light goes all to pieces by 9:00.”

As it turned out the weather was good for boating, fishing, and going to the beach, but not so promising for waves after all. We decided on Plan B: A bone-chilling stroll through the mist-shrouded redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park.

I met Sean last summer at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art & Wine Festival in Boulder Creek. He was photographing the local bands and the scene on the green, families and singles, diapers, dancing and dangly earrings as the end-of-summer revelers drank in the last of the hot days and whatever was on tap among the local brewers and vintners who had enthusiastically thrown down in support of the local vibe.

Between last summer and this winter Sean landed an excellent freelance position as a photojournalist with Santa Cruz Waves, the place to go online for local coast 411. I was curious. As we pulled into Henry Cowell on that frigid December morning, I asked Sean if he surfed. He laughed, “Oh God, badly. I surf like I dance, and nobody wants to see that!”

Sean loves people, and he loves to photograph them in action in landscapes where they’re doing what they love. He said, “I take photos that tell a story…that invite the viewer in to explore and connect.” Sean focuses on trying to capture what’s on a subject’s mind – the interaction with the world. He is attracted to magic and wonder and things that make you go, “Ooo!!”

A completely delicious image to Sean? “A glassy backlit wave with a surfer either riding it or in the act of dropping in. This provides a warm blue-green light inside the wave that often frames the surfer’s upper body. The spray at the top of the wave can emphasize the power of the ocean – or it can completely negate it. The water has texture too; bumps and ridges of light and blue…the sea is alive and it’s not just about the surfer in the water.”

Sean posts his photos on Santa Cruz Waves online gallery every Saturday morning. He says, “Usually that’s surf action around Steamer Lane but it’s pretty much up to me. This area is rich with landscape, coastal, sunsets, wildlife, and the occasional human being.” According to Sean, there’s beauty, adventure, and friends everywhere. “This is a hoot!” He’s just a really friendly guy out shooting surf.

He’s also a big-time planner, consulting weather and tide reports and calculating when and where to be with his equipment to seize that moment when something spectacular happens, for that shot that’s “off the hook.”

Back at Henry Cowell the sun had finally sent dazzling tentacles of warmth into the forest canopy and the trees were smoking. It was one of those off-the-hook moments. As I stood shivering, my breath suspended in puffs, Sean was showing me how to use my own camera, which I’d brought along in case I could scrape off a little of his magic frosting. Sean said, “It’s all about the lenses…basically picking the brush to paint with.” Sean is quick to strike up conversation with anyone who is curious about what he’s doing. A tourist couple approached us and Sean dove right in to telling them about all the amazing hiking they could do during their stay. “I love to share. I mean, this is Santa Cruz County!”

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(c) 2015 Julie Horner – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, February 2015

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email:


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