David Balmas of West Hollywood peers into Heather McLarty's tepee.… (Christina House, For The…)
Although a chilly rain was pounding and there was an opening in the roof above her anvil, Heather McLarty's blacksmith shop was dry and warm for those crowding inside on Sunday.
And why not? A fiery, 2,300-degree propane-fed forge was blasting away inside her shop — which happens to be a 25-foot-tall Sioux-style tepee in the backyard of her Highland Park home.
The North Figueroa Street residence she shares with actor and fabrics artist Troy Evans was one of 60 studio sites in Highland Park, Mount Washington and Eagle Rock that attracted some 650 art enthusiasts to the Arroyo Arts Collective's 19th annual Discovery Tour.
The work of 120 painters, photographers, sculptors, ceramics makers and woodworkers was showcased during the 71/2 -hour event.
The tour, self-guided or aboard free buses, began at the historic Lummis Home, built by pioneering author and southwestern U.S. photographer Charles F. Lummis starting in 1896.
Since then, the hilly northeast section of Los Angeles has continued to attractive creative types, said Edith Abeyta, an Arts Collective leader and artist who does large installation pieces.
"Artists like it here because it's conducive to their work. They like the views, the nature all around them and the affordability of the area," Abeyta said.
Many of the artists participate yearly in the tour. Others, like Bonnie Lambert, were mounting their first public exhibitions.
"This is my art teacher Margaret Garcia's studio, and she is letting me display my oil paintings," said Lambert, a Burbank resident whose large canvases were filled with vibrant hot-orange and brilliant red.
Inside the Figueroa Street space, Elena Valles was admiring Garcia's three sweater-clad rescue dogs. "I've been coming to these tours since 1995. To tell you the truth, I don't like to see the art as much as I like to see the animals and the interesting houses and studios," the Highland Park resident said.
Across the Arroyo Seco, Griffin Drive architect David Mesa turned his self-designed house over to three artists for the day. He was persuaded to take part by a neighbor, a sculptor who goes by the name Lt. Mustardseed.
Her mixed media sculpture of a 26-foot dragonfly stood in Mesa's frontyard. Mustardseed explained that her unusual first name is taken from the seven years she spent in the U.S. Navy; her last name is based on a Biblical verse.
The works of photographer Jody Miller and acrylics painter Cecilia Farnum also lined Mesa's walls.
Back at her tepee, McLarty was clad in overalls, protective eyeglasses and ear plugs as she pulled a piece of metal out of her roaring forge and pounded it into the shape of a delicate leaf. As she hammered on the anvil, David Balmas of West Hollywood watched in awe.
"I'm a contractor, and I work with metal guys all the time, and I've never seen anything like this," he said.
McLarty said her canvas tepee has only caught fire once, and that blaze only burned a foot-long hole before it was extinguished. The hole was promptly patched by her fabrics artist husband.