Photo: Sara Morris Swetcharnik, Doby the Honduran dog, and members of the USA Girl Scouts Overseas Cadet Troop 01 on the Swetcharnik porch in La Tigra Mountain, Honduras.
Once upon a time, someone said "the more the merrier". This time, it all began when I got a call from Susan Rich, troop leader for the Cadet USA Girl Scouts Overseas in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Cadets were working on their Artistic Crafts badge and were interested in sculpture. Why not have them join my Saturday morning art class? And why shouldn't the troop leader join in the fun too? So it was a very merry and large Saturday morning art class.
My own art education started with Saturday morning classes. While I was in high school, I looked forward all week to Saturday. However, teaching a Saturday art class is even more fun than being the student. Some of my students like drawing, some sculpting and some painting. I feel like I am running a triathlon for two hours as I trot from student to student advising them on their projects. My art class also has a wide range of ages from the youngest -- a precocious six-year-old -- to the oldest, an eighty-six year old. I am not good at guessing ages, but I assumed that the Cadet Girl Scouts fell somewhere in this range.
The requirement that they were trying to fulfill was to hand-build a clay form. I usually start students drawing or sculpting simple shapes. But in this case they would be attending only one sculpture class, so I did not want to bore them. It was not too much a stretch of the imagination to propose a turtle as part of a simple sphere. My husband, William, also an artist, agreed that turtles would be popular. So hand-building a turtle-sphere was the main theme of the class.
After the sculptures dried, we had them fired in a ceramic oven. The Italians term for the fired clay sculpture is "terra-cotta" or baked-earth. Then the Cadets returned for a second class to stain their finished turtle sculptures. Then to fulfill their Career Exploration part of the badge, the young women attended a lecture that I was giving about my sculpture and then they interviewed me. It was a good interview and was published.
In the middle of this process, Sandy Thomas, the Director of USA Girl Scouts Overseas, came to Honduras. It was interesting to hear her encouraging the young women to summarize their fields of learning in order to meet their badge requirements. It seemed to me an excellent way to appreciate and remember the subject matter.
Ms. Thomas also suggested that the Cadets visit my studio up on the mountain. That's where you see us in the photo. The ugly creature is Doby our adopted campesino dog. He wagged his tail furiously as the troop came in our gate. Doby is a good-hearted guy, but life in the country has been rough for him. He is missing an ear, a few teeth and has a big split on his nose as well as many other scars. But Doby loves parties and wagged his tail all the harder when he realized that the Cadets would be willing to share their cookies. Later they insisted that he pose with them on our porch.
Later, as my husband William and I were sitting on the porch with Doby the dog. We tossed the dog another shortbread cookie that he caught in mid-air. I remembered a song that I had learned many years ago in Girl Scouts:
"Whenever you make a promise,
Consider its importance,
And when made,
Engrave it upon your heart.
Engrave it upon your heart."
My husband laughed and asked me if that is why it took me so long to say that I would marry him. Then I asked him if the wait was worth all the years we have been married. To which he replied, "The more the merrier."