Built with Love
Written by Genie Davis
Artist Stevie Love and husband Bruce Love, an anthropologist and archeologist, are also the builders of and residents in a superb work of art. That artwork is their home in the Juniper Hills, northeast of Los Angeles on the edge of the Mojave Desert.
The Loves have chronicled their master work in a beautiful, photographically illustrated book, Brick by Brick, Building a Modern Adobe.
The Love’s stunning, large adobe home – and the story of how they came to build it – is an absorbing one. Like any great sculptural work or art installation, the home was carefully conceived, a dream realized into reality through 7 years of hard work, extended study, and by traversing carefully the legalities of building codes and choosing the least obtrusive footprint into the ecology of the region.
Dedicated to using traditional adobe building techniques, along with all the study undertaken and skills learned, the Loves gathered the material for their structure from their land and utilized both a passionate love of and for nature and a wide range of traditional design creativity. The result was a home not only as beautiful as the land they live on, but one that is a true part of it.
Love says the idea to build their own home arose from a desire to sell their business and move to the country, combined with the fortuitous arrival of friends who’d taken a four-day workshop to learn about adobe at Adobe Builder in New Mexico.
They took the same workshop, and thus began their path of creation and construction. The result is a burnished gem of a home, from the handmade, solid bricks to the fine curve of the walls, the smooth wood of its floors, the bright colors in bathrooms and kitchen with unique and one-of-a- kind “found” fixtures.
After purchasing their land, the couple attended a four-day workshop at Southwest Solar Adobe School in Bosque, N.M., bringing with them, to quote the book “a 5-gallon bucket of soil from our hillside from which Joe took a sample, shook it up in a jar of water, and let it settle out. As he carefully studied the layers that formed, he pronounced our soil a perfect natural mix of clay and sharp sand.”
The only other ingredient the Loves would need to make stabilized adobe was asphalt emulsion to coat the particles of clay. Not that this led to an easy road. The Loves camped at the house site, and after finding water on the land they ran a hose from the well they’d dug for washing up. They first built a beautiful-looking garage – but garage nonetheless – and moved into that as a temporary home. The word temporary is relative: they lived there for two years, after selling their existing home in Riverside.
And through it all, they built, with the most satisfying experience in their home’s creation that of the adobe blocks themselves. Along with many visiting lizards, Love herself, Bruce, and two others, Melinda Melluzio and Mateo Mermejo, worked on each 28 pound block in a painstaking process that included adjusting each one for vertical fit.
When the beautiful home was at last complete, Love recounts the experience of living there as a lyrical, poetic existence: “…the quiet steadfast rhythm of the adobe walls when you enter the passageway that plunges into the structure from the exterior…In the passageway you are blessed by the appearance of saints and angels willing to guide you through your day. You feel the mass and quiet of the adobe walls even as you are welcomed into the space.”
From the beautiful descriptions of the sanctuary of her home to the detailed and fascinating progression undertaken in building it, Brick by Brick, Building a Modern Adobe is a fascinating read. Appendices describe a thoughtfully conceived lap pool, and the devastation – that spared the home but seared some hundred pieces of Love’s artwork in a steel storage shed – of 2020’s destructive Bobcat Fire.
Immersing oneself in the book, the reader can almost feel what Love describes as the “earth energy” of the home which shelters her “permeated by the slow energy of the adobe, and the ancient energy of the mountain.”
Sharing this build and her insightful look at the process of creating and living in the home, Love’s book is well worth savoring. It not only depicts the construction of a stunning residence, it also describes the creation of a blissfully Zen, livable artwork.
The home will be open Saturday, October 9th, for a fundraising tour organized by the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster. And, from October 2nd through December 26, MOAH’s exhibition, Structure, will feature a gallery containing photos from the book. For information about the exhibition itself and the home tour, visit https://www.lancastermoah.org/
To order the book visit www.stevielove.com, and click on Adobe House Book.
Whether viewed through exhibition photographs, seen in person, or through the pages of the book, the Loves experiential residence is not to be missed.