By Jim McCloskey
I’ve spent 50 of my years living in Southern California – an exhilarating half-century in which I’ve spent a lot of time, man and boy, in the presence of watershapes of various forms and sizes. The experiences I’ve had have filled me with opinions about the nature of these bodies of water and their accoutrements, so get ready.
The house in which I grew up had a small reflecting pool in its compact front courtyard, complete with a spitting concrete frog that I still have in my possession. (It wasn’t very functional by the time we moved in, and ultimately the shallow pool was broken up and replaced by a small formal garden.)
My next-door neighbor’s backyard featured a large concrete pond with a small waterfall and lots of fish that attracted all sorts of birds, frogs and insects I’d never see anywhere else. Every once in a while, the pond would go haywire and become a mass of pea soup, but it never seemed to take my miracle-working neighbor much time or effort to set things back on course.
Two doors down, the family would set up an aboveground pool just before each Memorial Day weekend and host riotous children straight through Labor Day weekend, after which the water would be drained and the components stored until the next year. A few blocks away, a school chum was in one of the few families that owned an inground pool, and I recall that his parents seemed to enjoy having visitors much more than my friend did.
Within walking distance was the local junior high school pool where my siblings and I all learned to swim. It was a place frequented (for reasons unknown) by excellent springboard divers who’d have informal competitions to see who could make the largest splash, the highest bound or the smoothest entry, depending upon what the eager crowd was able to persuade them to do.
To say watershapes have always been part of my life is something of an understatement: They formed a key section of my childhood, and while the beach and the ocean waves ushered me through adolescence and into adulthood, the memories I have of youthful watershape-related delights have never left me and still influence the way I think about these wonderful installations.
Along the way, I’ve rounded out my personal experiences with a lot of book learning and extensive observations of a wider world. That and more than 20 years of covering the watershaping industry as an editor and publisher have put me in a position to be fairly discriminating when it comes to likes and dislikes. It’s not simply an abstract matter of aesthetics: I’m just as interested in functionality and serviceability as I am in the way things look. This combined perspective made WaterShapes and now WaterShapes EXTRA! and watershapes.com natural outlets for me.
To begin this New Year, I will use this space to examine a few objects of my affection – and several that get my hackles up. Among the topics I’ll consider will be portable spas, diving boards, slides, tanning shelves, interior finishes and raised spas. I will also have a go with pond edges, rockwork and plantings, as well as bowl fountains, deck-level jets, fountain lighting and musical accompaniment. Some subjects will merit full blog entries; in other cases, I’ll whip through a range of quibbles and/or kudos all at once.
Watch this space: I’ll dig in starting on January 25.
My aim with this series is to open a dialogue with designers and builders who regularly work with these items — so please share your thoughts in the space below. In this instance, I would appreciate learning what topics you’d like me to consider.