By Cindy Hardin, Director of Outdoor Education

I am listed on the Los Angeles Audubon website under two titles: Director of Outdoor Education and Volunteer Coordinator. Since I am a bit old-fashioned, and still enjoy a chat on my land line, my phone number is listed as well. As you might imagine, occasionally I receive some interesting inquiries via the telephone. Just such a call came in at the beginning of July. A gentleman named Loren Kantor contacted me, with the proposal of doing a bird oriented art project. Loren is a woodblock print artist of great talent. Now, if you have ever seen a woodblock print, you can probably imagine that it is an intricate process with many steps. First, an image must be drawn onto the block, and then painstakingly carved onto what can be a very unforgiving medium. After the carving is complete, the block is then dipped into some kind of coloring agent (usually ink) and then printed on paper. This is not an undertaking for the novice-sharp tools are in play, and the process is incredibly time consuming.

Fortunately, Loren and his wife Gabrielle know of a technique that creates a woodblock print effect that involves an easy to work with material and no tools with potential to cause a trip to the emergency room. They teach people how to carve on rubber blocks, and then make a print from the carved blocks. They have given classes to all sorts of groups, and Loren contacted me to see if anyone associated with Audubon would be interested in such a class, with bird images as a theme. Our roster of volunteer docents from our education programs at Ballona and Kenneth Hahn immediately came to mind. Summer, of course, is a quiet time for our group, as school is on break and there are no field trips to guide. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to check in with each other, and spend a morning at work on a fun project. I sent out an email to see if there was any interest, and the response from our intrepid crew was fast and furious—all open positions for the class were filled in 48 hours, and this over a holiday weekend!

Loren and Gabrielle met us at the wetlands equipped with a collection of 4x6 inch rubber blocks, upon which he had drawn images of different birds. They also provided carving tools and various colors of ink to be used after completing the carving of our masterpieces. Each of us selected a bird from Lorne’s collection-some stylized, and others quite detailed and realistic. We then gathered around tables under the shade of the E-Z UP that was donated last year by our friends at Santa Monica Bay Audubon, and went-to-work. The work went quickly and easily, and Loren and Gabrielle were terrific teachers. We worked carefully with our tools, and soon texture and design began to come together. It was time for the next step: the inking of the blocks. Gabrielle set herself up inside the Ballona trailer with trays of ink and paper, and carefully rolled ink over our blocks and then imprinted them on paper. As the crackerjacks who completed their work quickly emerged with the first images, those of us who worked a little slower (I am speaking mostly of myself!) became quite eager to see the results of our own projects.

They did not disappoint! I can safely say that all who attended the class were able to produce lovely prints from their labors over the rubber, with a surprising minimum of frustration and time. As a bonus, we each now had a block to take home for future use to create greeting cards, framed prints as gifts-lots of possibilities here.

It was great fun to see our fellow docents, learn something new, meet some talented people and spend some time in the beautiful outdoor space that is the Ballona Wetlands. A big thanks to Loren and Gabrielle for taking the time to teach the class, and for the enthusiasm of all who participated: Frances Sotcher, Melinda Dickinson, Beverly Kokin, Nancy Thompson, Christi Nash, Connie Semf, Pat Trujillo, Catherine Ronan, Gail Gentling, Marla Stevens, and Dixie Cleary.

We will all soon be seeing each other on a regular basis, as training for the Ballona program begins on September 11th, and for the Kenneth Hahn program on October 3rd. If spending time outdoors educating children about the wonderful nature that is found right here in Los Angeles, and working with a wonderful and talented group of people sounds appealing, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Or, you could give me a jingle on my trusty land line at (310) 301-0050. I hope to hear from you!

Published Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 1 Sept/Oct 2014