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Sculptor Ricardo Breceda is best known for the extensive metal sculptures in and around Borrego Springs. Many of the works of art depict the prehistoric animals that once lived in the desert. Breceda’s Aguanga workshop and gallery (free) has hundreds of sculptures of all sizes and prices. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
Arts & EntertainmentColumnsHit the Road

Photo culling unearths a few gems worth recalling

My laptop’s hard drive has finally reached critical mass, mostly because of the thousands of photos that live there.

Yes, I know. I could buy some space in the cloud (I did for my cellphone), but that would just foster the bad habit of stockpiling pictures I don’t need.

So, I began de-cluttering this week, and the process is laborious at best, painful at worst — mostly because I’m not willing to delete an entire folder without looking at nearly everything in it.

It’s shocking how many bad photos I’ve kept. About a year ago, I began editing photos on my camera as I went along in hopes of avoiding exactly the time-consuming task I’m doing right now, but I should’ve started the early-editing 20 years ago.

Live and learn.

While digital photography and the phone camera are two of the best inventions ever, like all inventions, they have their flip sides.

Technology makes it easy to share photos, and we can take a bazillion and pay nothing (some of us can remember the high price tag of printing those Kodak moments). But pictures accumulate, often because of multiple, nearly identical shots. Fail to edit and now you’re searching endlessly for just the one.

North Carolina ceramicist Joseph Sand has the largest kiln in the country on his compound near Greensboro. He fires it up three times a year (it takes mountains of wood to keep the kiln hot enough) to bake about 1,200 pieces. Photo by Jerry Ondash

One positive to photo de-cluttering: revisiting little-known gems I never wrote about — like the North Carolina studio of ceramicist Joseph Sand, about 20 miles south of Greensboro. Cousin David Norman, a pottery artist and ardent Sand fan, led a caravan of cousins to the artist’s rural compound, which boasts the country’s largest kiln.

On the outside, the giant oven resembles an earthen submarine emerging from the ground. On the inside, the domed kiln is lined with bricks, and three times a year, it fires more than 1,200 ceramic pieces at once.

Sand was absent because of an unexpected family trip, but apprentice Wesley Smith and Sand’s mother acted as welcoming hosts and guides. They spent a couple of hours showing the property, gallery, kiln, and Sand’s mother’s home, which the artist built and which displays much of his artwork.

Smith educated our mostly ignorant group on creating the exquisite Sand ceramics that grace the property everywhere.

To cap off the perfect day, cousin Bill Norman let me ride with him on his Honda VTX 1800 (motorcycle) for the 40-mile trip back to Winston-Salem. It was a thrill, but I had to pry my fingers from his belt loops when it was over. (That photo is on my husband’s phone.)

The shop fronts and yards of private homes of Madrid, New Mexico, one of the stops along the 50-mile Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway (Highway 14), are as interesting as the interiors of the stores and galleries. Madrid boasts that it is the “best-preserved ghost town in the country.” Photo by Jerry Ondash

Other gems that have not appeared in my columns:

  • New Mexico’s Turquoise Trail (Highway 14) and the tiny village of Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid), population 300. A historic coal-mining town and “the best-preserved ghost town in the country,” Madrid has morphed into an enclave of artists, writers and jewelry-makers. Find their wares in the galleries, shops, funky front yards that line the main road.
  • Albuquerque’s Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, or Balloon Museum for short. Named after two New Mexico balloonists who were among the first crews to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a balloon, the museum takes visitors into the world, culture and history of ballooning. It’s a fitting tribute in the city that hosts the annual International Balloon Fiesta and is considered the ballooning capital of the world.
  • Aguanga, a blip on Highway 79 on the way to Palm Desert, where sculptor Ricardo Breceda has set up shop. Hundreds of the artist’s metal sculptures — from small to the absurdly large — sit outside where visitors can peruse to their heart’s content. Wide variety of sizes, subjects and prices. Breceda is best known for the enormous metal sculptures of prehistoric animals that reside in and around Borrego Springs.

I hope that you and your loved ones can look back to 2023 as a year well lived and forward to 2024 with the promise of discovery.

For more photos and conversation about travel, visit


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