I'm Oliver Webber, here with my research assistant, Kaydence Ribetnauer. You may not be able to see us because we're tucked in between these blades of grass, waiting for our next meal to fly in and land on one of them. To nourish our bodies and souls, we ponder leaves. We encourage contemplation... especially in regard to issues that will have to be handled when we become worm grub. We hope to motivate others to thoughtfully cultivate preferences and decisions while still vigorously leaping around. We recommend croaking... using voices to broadcast wishes before it's too late to have a voice in this matter. Other than a sumptuous supply of insects, this is assuredly the most "toad-ally" considerate gift we could leave for our life companions! Don't you agree? We invite you to get your feet wet by joining our pond of pondering pre-planners. Let's make croaking meaningful!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


JOURNEY JOURNAL... Sorrento Valley (San Diego), California


Many things are aggregates composed of elements, parts grouped together to form wholes.  Separately, the individual components might not be so functional, aesthetically appealing, or impressive, but integrated with others to form a composite they may become strategic aspects of a magnificent ensemble, possibly even a masterpiece. For instance, think of a bouquet or handmade quilt!

“It's the sum of the parts that make up the whole, so in my opinion excellence comes from how one undertakes to do something. 
It all begins with the thought process - which is creative and exalted to produce something out of the ordinary.”
                                                                                                                  ~ Pankaj Patel 

Indeed, “out of the ordinary” characterizes the Narro-Niche columbarium permutation conceived and designed by the Conrad Pickel Studio.  The slim, yet full-capacity bronze urns that comprise the inclusive composition are box-like in shape and covered by a three-quarter-inch slab of solid marble or granite.  A mosaic design, dubbed a “Mosaicfront” by the originators, may be applied as an exterior embellishment.  The design on the front of niche unit is a cardinal element of the larger depiction.

Besides aesthetic appreciation, practicality underlies the conceptual rationale for this, as indoor or outdoor walls and corridors ordinarily unsuitable for niche installations can be utilized, requiring only five and a half inches of depth.  A joined assemblage of niche compartments can be applied directly against an established surface without the need to forge a recessed indentation.    

Beyond utility, though, is the potential for a vividly captivating illustration created by visionary artists.  That is, by nature of a coordinate frontal design, a single niche is like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle… a necessary component that’s pivotal to the larger image layout.  Without it, the picture on the wall would not be complete.  It is an essential part of the whole. Crafters use Venetian glass smalti to create the decorative wall panels.  The mosaic fronts are framed in bronze using conventional mounting systems.    

The El Camino Memorial Park in the San Diego area draws visitors aiming to see the gravesites of notable individuals, such as Jonas Salk (founder of the polio vaccine and the Salk Institute) and Ray Kroc (founding partner of McDonalds and owner of the Padres baseball team).  But straying from the usual tourist pathways can lead a visitor to the site of a Narro-Niche installation.  

Here, the structure and its mosaic portrait stand out against a blank mausoleum wall.

The site is embellished with plants, cenotaphs, and other stone structures.

Nameplates are positioned above individual niches. 

From the vantage of a side view, an unknowing observer might not realize that a collection of urns is behind the decorative panorama.

The only building in this image appears on the frontal facade of a single urn.  

This creation is but one of many stained and faceted glass windows, mosaics, and sculptures for religious and secular buildings that are produced by the Pickel Studio artists. Niche and crypt facades are only part of their focus. The enterprise was founded by the late Conrad Pickel, a world-renowned stained glass artisan as well as a sculptor and painter.  Since his death the company has been managed by his son, Paul.  

Professional artists on staff specialize in various aspects of design and installation while developing new techniques and applications.  

Photo Source:  Pickel Studios

Their work is featured in churches, cathedrals, and cemeteries around the country.  Among their showpieces are the faceted glass windows at Michigan Memorial Park’s Shrine of Remembrance Mausoleum (photos via link below).

At the Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois (Chicago area), two stories of magnificent glasswork enclosing a mausoleum purportedly form the largest stained glass window in the world.  Huge stained glass depictions of Bible narratives and more can be viewed by walking clockwise around the second and third floors of the building.

Photo Source:  Flicker by Robert Powers 
(more photos in blog reference)

The company’s Narro-Niche innovation, though of diminished proportions in contrast to their other productions, affords a balm of soothing representations, nonetheless.  “Good things come in small packages,” or in the case of cremated remains, go in small packages… and, at the hands of Pickel Studio creators, sometimes in narrow ones.  The packaging here invariably amounts to inspirational works of art.  Whether the projects are undersized or massive, their resplendent renderings reflect the words of an exemplary figure with an artistic eye who said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” 
                                                                                                              (Vincent Van Gogh)