Like the roller coaster we call our lives, one day is a sweet, temperate day with blossoms more impressive than the pollen count. We are sitting in a quiet corner of San Jose’s Japantown appreciating the lull of the afternoon, and notice stone work at the entry of a open air gallery across the street whilst sipping coffee and dividing a portion of orange poppy cake between two, making it feel slightly less indulgent. The coffee house serves a wide variety of teas, small cakes or sweets, and also has a lush red La Marzocco with which they skillfully deliver my favourite local roaster’s Boss espresso blend in a traditional cappuccino that meets all my requirements.

We pop by San Jose Tofu for a couple of blocks of fresh tofu, stash them in the cooler so we then can explore the intrigue of the gallery across the street. As an amateur stone carver, working in softer stones, I am quickly in awe of some of the vessels combining rough and silken smooth stone. Some are Sierra Jade (not jade at all, but a lovely greenish grey stone that polishes to a high luster, similar to basalt, we are later told by the artist and gallery creator, Ken Matsumoto) while others are onyx or perhaps granite. Ranging in scale from intimate pieces that you want in your personal space up to large boulders and huge fabricated public art works, there is much to intrigue the eye.

Inside the building is a recently installed exhibit of three local artists who were unfamiliar to us, but each remarkable. The encaustics by Sara Cole have a lush beauty while being unsentimental. Collage and sculpted or assemblage pieces by Luis Gutierrez drew us further in, and large canvasses by Rachel Lazo completed the trio of the current show. Further back, we saw more of the work by Ken Matsumoto, who has his studio there (and has for many years). Some of his stone work just makes it impossible not to reach out and touch it. A familiarness of the concrete and river pebble piece reminded us of a larger piece we have admired for nearly 20 years, installed nearby in San Jose at the Center for Performing Arts (CPA) and that was for a very good reason – it was a commission of Ken’s as well. He willingly invited us to his work area, where he works outside on large stone, using tools and rigs, often of his own design, to shape and coax the sculptures from their raw origin.

This space is also available and well suited to events – and is clearly a vibrant and active supporter of local artists. I am inspired to work again in three dimensions, and to return to see what next appears on their walls or in the outdoor space. Clearly while this long surviving art space is well recognized by the arts community, it was a new discovery for us, and a gift of the spring afternoon.

Today, the storm forecast to arrive tomorrow has arrived early, perhaps to give it time to deliver the estimated 2” of rainfall, or simply to make today’s plan to start the spring season of weed whacking irrelevant, and require us to bring in more firewood.

update 2011/2012: these days Roy’s is serving Verve, often Sermon or Streetlevel, beans we often use at home as a favourite roast. The folks at Roy’s continue to make terrific espresso as well as host a great series of monthly Ukelele Jams from late spring thru fall