Iron, Wood and Fiber – lille aeske Art House Annex & 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 – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin print edition.






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, Philipp 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 – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin.

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


Molten Glory – Viscosity Glass

By Julie Horner

Early spring in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the air is fresh and sweet, and warmth finally seeps into the frosty nooks that haven’t seen sun in a while under the shadow of the ridgeline. Welcome heat from a roaring furnace took the initial chill off, the open aperture beckoning like a porthole to the center of the earth as I arrived at the working studios of local master glass artists, Viscosity Glass.

Owners, Scott Graham and Cristy Aloysi settled in Boulder Creek from the world-renowned Seattle glass-blowing scene to open their own studio where they could create their art freely using decades of skills mastered from their experiences studying and teaching at some of the most prestigious glass studios from Brooklyn to Venice, Maine to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I arrived as Cristy was working on a new piece. Wielding a long iron rod, or blowpipe, with a blob of gooey material spun around the tip, she welcomed me quickly then excused herself to deftly continue the process I had caught her in the middle of. “Let me finish this…it’s a timing thing!” With amazing grace, she poked the blob end of the rod into the maw of the furnace (called the “glory hole”), and with a series of fluid movements, came to a stopping place with what she was making. I was witnessing the inception of what would become a delicate and unique hand-blown work of art.

The art of glass blowing is its science. Cristy explained that the term, viscosity, is the resistance of a liquid to flow; the trick is getting the molten glass material to the right temperature to shape. “The most beautiful moment in glass is right when it comes out of the furnace…when the fresh, hot glass is dripping off.” This molten blob, or gather, comes from another furnace that contains a crucible, a basket filled with clear viscous material glowing volcanic red and seemingly bottomless. The gathered material is then manipulated by a combination of breath through the blowpipe and rolling on a table topped with steel or other resistant surface to cool and shape, often with the help of other tools, into the final piece.

To have a piece “survive” from gather to completed object takes time and patience. Cristy says it gets easier over time but she never stops learning. “It’s like playing an instrument. The longer you play the more fun it gets.” And where understanding the science of it plays a role, Cristy says, “It’s the making of it where the object gets its life.”

Cristy and her husband, Scott met in art school in Brooklyn. Scotts remembers, “We started blowing glass together, drinking beer together, and, well…” Nuff said there. “For us, glass blowing is an art that goes beyond the object itself. It is a dance between two people, perfectly choreographed to form a unique creation.”

Deciding between whether to continue to create art with a commercial studio or branch out on their own was a question of what they wanted to make versus what they had to make. “We didn’t get into this to be machines, we wanted to express ourselves.” And they’ve gotten pretty good at blowing glass in general, “We can make almost anything.” Scott says he loves finding out what people enjoy, making that connection, and the satisfaction of making the piece, packing it, and sending off.

For Cristy and Scott, glass blowing is a social art. “It’s exciting and super fun when you’re on a team of two or three other people, especially when you’re making something big and monumental.”

Opening their first storefront in downtown Boulder Creek this March 2015 definitely qualifies as both monumental and off the hook socially. The shop sits on the sunny side of the street, the western light pouring through the windows setting the glass inside aglow. Scott says, “It’s been nice seeing people coming through, a mix of part-time BCers and people from out of town,” and of course the locals, “It’s great to see folks, talk to folks.” The community has been very supportive. With a successful long standing wholesale business, countrywide art shows, community glass blowing classes, and the new display space for foot traffic downtown, Viscosity Glass clearly brightens the Santa Cruz Mountains, CA.

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

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

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Out of the Blue – Chas “The Shotgun Suitor”

By Julie Horner

Alabama 1989, maybe the early 90s – all he remembers is that the first Batman movie had just come out, the one with Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Robert Johnson, John Brown, and Johnny Winter were chilling on the tour bus parked out back, taking a break from recording in his mom’s home studio. These legends of electric blues had just let the then 12-year old guitarist jam with the big boys and now they were all shooting the bull on the bus waiting for the stripper to show up.

Until his mom found out and hauled him off the bus by his ear.

Fast forward a few years, this southern gentleman has taken Santa Cruz by storm, materializing out-of-the -blue with a prolific schedule hosting open mics and collaborative jams, maintaining a thriving online forum that brings local musicians together to tout their performances in a non-competitive atmosphere, and basically becoming the go-to for hooking musicians up with each other and with killer venues all over the county.

“The Shotgun Suitor” is the operative extension of this all-inclusive mindset. As of March 2015, Chas says he has played more than 230 shows in 365 days since coming to California. Sometimes solo, sometimes with one or more seasoned local musicians, you’ll hear everything from swamp rock and Delta blues to music that’s “southern-ish with a California vibe.” Sometimes, as guitarist Scott Polland puts it, “…it’s just straight-on right down the middle rock.”

Shotgun Suitor is at its most soulful, gritty, earthy, country raw, and danceable as a quartet featuring four-part harmony with Chas Crowder (rhythm guitar, harmonica), Scott Polland (‘lectric guitar), David Clark (drums), and Diana Wells (standup and electric bass) singing unapologetic originals and covers with a twist.

The stars were lined up the day I walked over to Barry Tanner’s Boulder Creek studio to meet the band in person: It was Chas’ one-year anniversary in California. And yes, he had a show scheduled that evening at Joe’s Bar down the street to celebrate. The full band had converged at the studio to do some recording, and I was in the right place at the right time to have a quick sit-down with these busy players.

Chas started playing harmonica and then drums as a kid growing up in Alabama and began rubbing elbows with blues legends who influenced his playing and his persona early on. He joined his mom’s band in Memphis, Tennessee and, according to his online bio, went on to play over two thousand gigs with various bands in thirty-three states at over a thousand venues across the south, southeast and west coast.

He told me he met California bassist, Diana Wells on Craigslist and decided to cut bait and head west. He said after a pickup gig in Seligman, AZ, “I crossed the state line and never looked back.” That first night in Santa Cruz he played at Blue Lounge.

Chas has fallen into good company here in the Golden State. Diana is a member of the Sweet Adelines barbershop harmony organization and substitute bassist for The Killer Queens, an all-girl Queen Tribute band. She shares Chas’ tenacity and propensity to jump into challenges, “What can I do now that will scare the heck out of me!” She says they do a lot of things off the cuff on stage – with just a wink or a gesture she knows where to go; she watches Chas’ hands.

Scott “The Shredder” Polland slings the six-string for a number of local outfits including Squeeze Daddy and Funkranomicon while Dave is the mad dog on drums, balancing passion for family, surfing, and music while wielding an understated gift for turning a wicked phrase. Playing in the band, he says, is “so much fun it’s ridiculous!”

A couple of weeks ago Chas thanked his family and friends on Facebook for helping make his first year in California so rich. One friend wrote, “There could not be a person who has worked harder and stuck to their guns more, brother…your peers will be in awe of your tenacity where e’r you go…”

Chas’ mom added, “Here Here!!! People are always asking about u here and I tell ’em to check Facebook and I give the latest news…It has been a BIG year for you, indeed, with many more wonderful ones ahead….!!!”

Drummer Dave summed it up: “Chas, you’re an animal. Thank you for promoting all the local bands, music and events in S.C. County. You’ve done more for the local music scene than anyone else I can think of in recent memory. Now go get some sleep!”

Catch the Shotgun Suitor at the Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival on Saturday, May 23 2015 and all over SLV and Santa Cruz.

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

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