A Toast to Original Moe


This blog is a commemorative to my friend and mentor, Leon Moburg, known to many as “Moe.”  I met Moe in September of 1969 when as a freshman, I entered the University of Redlands. I was a declared art major and Leon Moburg was the department’s ceramic and jewelry instructor and I soon found myself immersed in clay.  Although I took classes from the three other fine art department professors, it was under Moe’s tutelage that I found my niche.

I loved throwing pots as well as creating slab pieces and would spend hours each day in the meditative process of wedging clay and wheel throwing. I was one of the few girls in Moe’s class and struggled to compete with the stronger and seemingly more proficient young men in the class. They threw impressively big pots but I didn’t have the strength to throw large pieces and focused instead on creating small porcelain vases. Always present Moe would walk the clay spattered aisles between the spinning wheels inspecting each growing vessel. If he perceived that an evolving piece might be bottom heavy or aesthetically challenged, with a flick of his hand and a steel wire, he would slice the offending pot in half.  In retrospect, this was a good way for his students to learn and visualize the thickness of the clay walls, but I would tremble when he circled my wheel, wondering if my evolving pot was soon to be terminated.

In the Interim of my sophomore year I took Moburg’s introduction to jewelry making class and learned the basics in a few short weeks. The final project was a lost wax cast piece and I remember the excitement and satisfaction I felt when, under the practiced and critical eyes of Moe, I cast my first piece. I surmise that I made him proud because he encouraged me to pursue independent jewelry study and the following year asked me to “teach” the interim jewelry class under his supervision.

If memory serves me correctly, it was during the winter holidays in 1971 when Moe had a pottery exhibition at a gallery in the Marais district of Paris. I was a starving student, living on $5 a day and I took the train to Paris for a week to see his show and gratefully accepted his invitation to dinner at his apartment on Ile Saint Louis.  I remember walking in the freezing cold with Moe in the outdoor food markets of Paris and shopping for gourmet ingredients that we prepared that evening.  His friend John serenaded us with harp music as Moe and I worked in the kitchen. The food was gourmet, the music sublime and the wine plentiful.

In 1978 I floundered forth as a street artist jeweler and began a career that has spanned 35 years. Moe was on my mailing list and on several occasions he e-mailed or telephoned to check in and query me about my new designs pictured on the post card.

In 2009 and 2010, I took two road trips down to Southern California and visited Moe at his Redlands apartment. We had a great time talking  over old times and catching up  with each others lives. I was delighted to reconnect with this quirky man who proudly introduced me to his neighbors and friends and we had a great time talking over old times and catching up with the new.  His cackling laugh, his impish nature and the twinkle in his eye had not faded with the years.

On April 8th, 2013 Moe celebrated his 86th birthday out at dinner with friends. He passed away on April 13th. Moe significantly influenced my life and my career path and it is because of him (and a few other serendipitous events) that I became a jeweler.  I am grateful for his mentoring and I will miss him.



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3 Responses to A Toast to Original Moe

  1. Kevin Brown says:

    Wonderful tribute! Thank you for sharing! We will all miss Leon.
    – Kevin Brown (husband of his niece, Mandi)

  2. Abe Ortega says:

    I agree with Kevin. What a wonderful tribute to Moe.
    Moe made a special connection with everyone he met and, left them inspired…including myself. he is a true friend and he will be missed but not forgotten. I will cherish one of his last works he gave to me on my birthday. Thank you Moe.
    Rest in peace my friend.

  3. Nikos says:

    several years after his passing away, we still miss our Moe!


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