It is with a sense of personal sadness that I announce the passing of Don Wobber! In the North American Jade culture Don was a real giant! He was a Jade diver who found some of the largest and finest boulders of Big Sur Jade ever recovered, see his book "Jade Beneath The Sea". His passion for the stone was not satisfied with the hunt or the discovery of Jade , he just loved the stone. If you ever visited Don it did not take long to realize this! As Don would guide a guest through his outdoor Jade displays or his workshop, he would touch many of the stones and sometimes you would notice his touch becoming a caress, something personal and almost affectionate. If Don was working on a particular piece he would point out what he was aiming for in his work but also the color or form that first drew him to the stone. As he talked about the stone you could see the passion and the twinkle in his smiling eyes. I had the honor to dive with Don, we were neighbors at the "Jade Fest" in Big Sur. It was Don who tutored me on some of my first carvings, but I will always remember the affection as he touched the stone and the twinkle in those smiling eyes. The Jade world will miss you Don!
Cheers, Mike Burkleo
Here is a link for an amazing video series on Jade. I enjoyed it and learned something new about Jade.
AS the fall season comes to the central California coast, Jade lovers are not thinking of autumn leaves and pumpkin pie, they begin to anticipate the Big Sur Jade Festival. Although this event goes unnoticed by a large part of the population in California, a growing number of people from many states and countries mark their calendar and set the time and money aside for a Jade experience unlike any other in the world .
Mike Burkleo showing his new "Ogdon Mtn." mountain stone.
This year marked the twentieth year since some of the locals got together and started the festival as a fundraiser for the South Coast Community Land Trust and the Pacific Valley School. I remember one of the early years when my father and I headed down Highway One to Jade Cove and were surprised to see a sign that said "Jade Festival" as we passed the Pacific Valley School. Our thought at the time was "who would hold a festival out here in the middle of California's outback"? For those who have not traveled this road , it is one of California's most untamed unpredictable and yet most beautiful roads.During the fall and winter storm months the road is often closed due to landslides that can take out entire stretches of the highway for months. And yet as the years passed and the word grew so did the festival which now has thousands of Jade loving regulars coming to get another sculpture, cobble or piece of jewelry to add to their collection.
Dick Horan mixing with customers.
I believe it was after the seventh year of the festival that my wife Joan and I asked Kenny Comello to add our names to the waiting list of vendors who would like to sell at the Jade Festival. To our shock and surprise two days before the start of the eighth festival we received a call from Kenny that someone had cancelled and "would we like to come"? I believe that sometimes seemingly small decisions can have dramatic impacts on our lives and our choice to do a small festival in a remote part of California was a game changer . As it turned out the Jade Festival was only the tip of the iceberg for us. Through the festival we met and became part of a dynamic community of people who love Jade and what it stands for. For me, the son of a jade hunter who taught his children that Jade was a treasure, I felt as though I had come home. This love and appreciation of Jade is one of the strongest impressions you will get if you come to the festival. You will actually find vendors who have Jades on their tables that are not for sale, they just bought them to share and be appreciated. Others come to the festival wearing a pendant made of one of the treasures they found at one of the local beaches, or they will take a piece out of their pocket or purse and with the face of a mesmerized child share their treasure. Often they will look at your face to see if the light goes on in your eyes as you look it over. I have seen this scene played out over and over and in the act of sharing these moments you may just notice that a type of affection is displayed as people caress and gently pass to one another the stone we all treasure.
The famous Jade Festival 'Belly Dancers'.
As we look back over the past twenty years of celebrating Jade at the festival I am so encouraged about the future. I was talking this subject over with a close friend in the Jade community from Canada and he shared that what is taking place through the festival is having an impact in jade cultures around the world. What an impression that statement has made on me and as I have pondered it my appreciation for what we are doing as a community of Jade lovers has grown. We are indeed blessed to live where we do, to be a part of a community of kindred spirits that reaches to China, New Zealand, Central America,Russia or British Columbia. Wherever people find a place for Jade in their lives, we have something in common.
One day on a dive in North Cove with Don Wobber, he looked up from getting his gear ready and said, "I am always amazed that I get payed to do the thing I love most , to work with and hunt Jade", then he continued to get ready. These casual words have challenged me to keep a balanced perspective in my business and life . I too am thankful that I have been given the incredible opportunity to make a living working with Jade . I get to share the stone and what it means with others, then watch as their face changes as they touch it and it touches them. So much to be thankful for!
Happy Thanksgiving to all, Mike Burkleo