It was with great excitement that we went to interview Barbara and Wayne Chapman. Barbara has been one of the most iconic “adorned” women we have ever known and we were very curious about her environment. When we saw her home our breath was taken away at the fairy tale world she and her husband Wayne had created.
Their house in Solana Beach was originally a rectangular stucco box bought in 1957. In 1970 they hired architect Kendrick Bang Kellogg (recently featured in Three On The Edge at the Mingei Museum) to give them a very modern look.
They spent years filling it with wonderful treasures from all over the world. Among their favorites was their collection of Ikebana Japanese baskets.
A raging fire in 2001 destroyed much of the house and the contents – all their treasures up in smoke,the baskets tinder in the flames. But the Chapmans were undaunted and rebuilt the house with the help of the same architect. Being born collectors they ransacked importers, antiques shops and warehouses finding new arcana, while they painted the walls mad and improbable colors, filling the rooms with their own art.
For many years they have given tours of their home in conjunction with a boutique sale of artful clothing and jewelry and some of their own designs – Barbara’s extravagant jewelry and dolls and pottery by Wayne.
Both were members of the San Diego Allied Craftsmen, a small prestigious group of artists and crafts people very active in the 50’s and 60’s and recently featured in an exhibit at the Mingei Museum.
They met each other in that group. Barbara was working as a sales girl and would spend her lunch breaks shopping. One day she came upon a beautiful weaving in the San Deigo Allied Craftsmen gallery and that led her to meet Wayne.
On the first date they went to see the movie Camelot and she fell in love with the beautiful fabrics in the costumes. She met the woman who designed the costumes in Hollywood and who gave her scraps of some of those gorgeous fabrics – the beginning of an inspiration of lush style that characterizes all of her art. Today Barbara combines gorgeous fabrics and trims into imaginative dolls and accessories to wear. For years she taught doll making but recently retired from teaching giving herself the freedom to create her multi-layered and mysterious designs.
As she showed us her magical house she remarked on the disorganization especially in her studio but quoted A.A. Milne who said “one of the advantages of being disorganized is one is always making exciting discoveries”. She also lives by the adage that “never do when you can over-do”.
Wayne, one of the youngest marines in WWII was only 15 when he enlisted. He spent much of his duty in Japan. Wayne studied ceramics in his first year of college and became hooked. All during his long career in law enforcement he was making ceramics, and now his fancy has shifted to dichroic glass beads.
The Chapmans are such warm and gracious people, as well as being great artists, that our interview felt like a visit with old fiends.