The Artists of Del Monte Park- 1950's
My Father, Bill Nelson, became involved in the ceramic arts after moving to Del Monte Park with his family in 1950.His neighbors the Chaffins, Savo's,Mc Reynolds,Eddy's, Digessu's and other artist residents were involved in different art media and all shared ideas, opinions and arguments over art and design.
He had previously studied oriental sciences at Columbia University in New York which brought a minimalist zen quality to his work. A summer was spent at San Jose University in the ceramic studies program and other than this course he was self taught as many of the artists in Del Monte Park were in their chosen media. In 1952 Dad purchased a lot adjacent to his house for $175.00 and a ceramic studio and kiln were constructed accessed by a narrow path from his house which required walking past a neighbor's attack rooster named "PoPo" . The studio had a dirt floor with screen mesh material for the windows.He made his ceramic tools as well as his potter's wheel and formulated glazes which had a textural, organic quality to them.He would load his GMC panel truck with camping gear to spend days in the Sierra's looking for clay to dig and use in his ceramic projects.
By Erik Nelson
Bill Nelson and son Erik- 1956
The artists in Del Monte park were interactive and sharing of their art with each other was the norm. Joan Savo traded a painting for some of my Father's ceramics. A Jay Chaffin carved redwood fox mask hung on a wall by the living room fireplace while the Chaffin's used Dad's pottery in their everyday living. Art and life's necessities were one in the same to this bohemian community in the Del Monte Park. Although sometimes competitive amongst themselves as artists can be, there was always a communal appreciation for each other's work which was shared through gift and trade.
How my parents came to live in a wooded art community has always interested me. Their journey from their growing up in middle class conservative households in San Diego to living as artists in the rural area of Del Monte Park seems quite a stretch given the 1950's post WWII life style choices. This was the case for most of our neighbors. My parents, although they passed away quite young, lived life in the fullest sense with individuality, creativity and sense of purpose demonstrating, just as their artist neighbors did, that there are life choices that can be made to live creatively and that these opportunities can be realized through imagination and free will.