AHA Giving Wings to Creativity

AHA presents a special award to local community members who exemplify the creative spirit we endeavor to foster. The honor is given only when an individual’s achievements are recognized as truly exceptional, rather than as an annual award. Instead of a trophy, the recipient receives a piece of original artwork created by an AHA member.

Giving Wings to Creativity Award – 2021

Cathy Gamble presented with Giving Wings to Creativity Award by Linda Bjornson and Jane Rekedal

During 2020, the world was besieged by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to help prevent the spread of this unknown virus, we sheltered in place, stayed apart from family and friends, and wore masks. But with a global demand for masks, it was difficult to purchase them, so resourceful people began sewing their own. Enter Cathy Gamble, a stained glass artist and AHA member with vast experience in fiber arts. She pulled out her sewing machine and got right to work, procuring fabric and supplies through a network of family and friends. Working hours every day, Cathy made masks in various sizes of colors and patterns, and then gave them to friends, family, and neighbors. She continued to sew more masks, and provided hundreds to health care workers, farm workers, outfitted entire classrooms of students and teachers, and gave to families in Aromas. Looking further afield, Cathy even made masks for residents of the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico.

After a year of sewing and miles of fabric, Cathy has created and donated over 2000 masks. Her generosity and talent is a gift that saves lives and shows true compassion and concern for the global community. AHA recognizes and honors Cathy for her loving labor to help us beat the virus, one mask at a time. As she is a nature lover and bird watcher, Cathy received a ceramic Birch Tree Vase with Bird, made by AHA artist Jane Rekedal.

Giving Wings to Creativity Award – 2019

Joyce Oroz and Leslie Austin receiving their stained glass “Giving Wings to Creativity” awards. The panels are the same designs that Joyce and Leslie painted on the bridge.

In 2019, Joyce Oroz and Leslie Austin were both recognized for their creative spirits. Joyce, a longtime member of AHA, is a professional mural designer and painter and author. She led the design team in the creation of the Pajaro River Bridge Mural as well as designed and painted many of the AHA murals. Her leadership and creative thinking has shaped much of the visual artistry on display throughout Aromas and the area. As a successful author with many published books, Joyce’s imagination also transports us to places in another, literal, way.

Leslie Austin is a community organizer and activist whose mind never stops thinking about how to improve our community. Her first idea was to see if AHA might install some public art in our Town Square Park, which resulted in the “Big Fish in a Small Town.” She again approached AHA wondering if there was a way to “beautify our bridge, and include high school students as part of the process,” which turned into a public art effort that involved over a hundred individuals’ contributions. The end result is our stunning Pajaro River Bridge Mural. Leslie is a superb example of how “thinking big” can lead to transformative acts.

Joyce and Leslie each received a stained glass panel that feature fish designs as they appear on the bridge, made by AHA artists Linda Bjornson and JoAnne Andrews.

Giving Wings to Creativity Award – 2015

Linda Bjornson presents Tina Baine with the “Giving Wings to Creativity” Award

In 2015, AHA member Tina Baine was presented with the “Giving Wings to Creativity” award. Tina was inspired for her public art piece, the “Big Fish in a Small Town,” while on a trip to South Korea, where local townspeople had made a large sculpture from many contributors. She recognized how well this idea could work to involve the whole community of Aromas in the creation of a public art installation for our Town Square Park. Tina spearheaded this wonderful project and did much behind the scenes work.

Since Tina is an expert gardener, her award (created by SanDee Adams and using ceramic fish made by Sally Diggory) was a large mosaic flowerpot featuring an underwater scene with fish encircling the pot. When the award was presented, a humorous fishy touch was added as both Sally and SanDee came on stage wearing diving masks, snorkels, and flippers.

Giving Wings to Creativity Award – 2012

AHA honored Paul Fleischman in 2012 with our “Giving Wing to Creativity” Award

In 2012, author and long time Aromas resident Paul Fleischman was awarded the “Giving Wings to Creativity” Award. Paul received fifth place in the world in the Hans Christian Anderson Award for Children’s Literature. This prestigious award is based on the author’s total body of work. Paul championed the creative environment of Aromas when he said, “Just as the book, Blessed Unrest, catalogs the vast network of people working on myriad aspects of the environmental challenge, there’s a similar low-profile web of people devoted to creativity, beauty, and imagination, its many nodes and strands indicated by little Aromas’ long roster of artists. I’m honored to count myself among you.”  Paul’s award was made by stained glass artist Linda Bjornson, and depicts a Red Tail Hawk soaring in a blue sky.

Giving Wings to Creativity Award – 2011

The “Giving Wings to Creativity” Award was presented to Paul Burns by Joyce Oroz and Linda Bjornson

It’s not every day the Aromas Hills Artisans gives an award to a local business owner. In fact, the “Giving Wings to Creativity” award was created because of Paul Burns, owner and President of Fireclay Tile located in Aromas. Today I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Burns and touring his Fireclay factory in Aromas where old toilets, recycled windows and granite dust are magically turned into beautiful ceramic tiles. 

The magic happens when the oddest of materials, the sharpest minds and excellent equipment come together. It’s the “green magic” we’ve all been searching for. Who knew it would be found in old toilets? In this case, 1,700 donated toilets from the Monterey Presidio, but don’t worry, replacements are on the way.

Linda Bjornson, president of the Aromas Hills Artisans, presented a handmade wooden box (crafted by Daniel Smith, AHA member) to Paul Burns, owner and mastermind of Fireclay Tile. It was a joyful moment for all, and all because fourteen years ago Mr. Burns had an idea. He wanted to make tiles out of porcelain toilets. He worked at the idea for a year before he found a way to successfully incorporate ground up toilets with other ingredients to make tiles. Now his Debris Series tiles are 70% recycled material. 

Mr. Burns ordered a special kiln from Wisconsin. It arrived in four boxcars—yes, it’s that big! How hot is 1,800 degrees? He says his biggest expense is labor. Gosh, do we still make things in America? YES, WE DO!

Paul’s thirty employees turn out thousands of tiles ranging in size from one inch by one inch to six-foot long solid countertop slabs. The tiles come in a full range of textures, shapes and vibrant colors. The intricate Italian and Mexican style tiles are hand painted by ladies with steady hands and good temperaments.

The process is beyond interesting. It was wonderful to see 

-Contributed by Joyce Oroz

American enterprise in action. Hats off to Paul Burns!