Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sound of Walking

A late winter walk on Mowry beach, Lubec.
When you walk on stones do you ever think about just how ancient they are?

 Sea Witch Juju
Mowry Beach, Lubec, Maine

 Spirals in nature.

 Herring Collectors Series
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

Ink and Charcoal, 18"x24"
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

 Phenomenal women, partners in a journey at the Heartwood College of Art MFA program.

 Paste Paper workshop with instructor Bonnie Faulkner
at Heartwood College of Art.
Another fabulous residency weekend on the Biddeford campus!
I sure do love that mill and the creative energy that abounds. I come!

Colorful paste paper used for a bookmaking.

 How cool is this? The Whiz Bang Popcorn Machine. 
We are well fed during our MFA weekend residencies.

Thrilled to have my djembe back in my hands! It sounds fabulous with a new head, and looks great too.  Resounding Rhythms in Bath did a wonderful job with the repairs!!!!

Counsel of the Stones
I walked the beach this morning and happened upon the Counsel of the Stones. They are the oldest of souls, you know, and therefore the most wise. Hoping to hear an answer, I waited my turn as each element, plant, and shell lined up to beg their question. The Seaweed lolled back and forth like a teenage girl, looking at her feet, trying to muster the courage to speak. Water rolled and swirled about, eager and impatient, talking out of turn. Shells opened bearing all, and sea grass whispered in the breeze. A lone feather tumbled amongst the crowd but did not speak. Finally it was my turn. I wanted to know why they, embedded deep in the clay, would choose such stillness. They replied “It is from our stillness that we are kissed by the wind, the earth, the feet of you. When the tide draws in, we are surrounded by the plants, the fish, the water and all of the beginnings of life. We are softened by the elements, and we are worn. Fragments of our soul split and meander, tumble, roll, and journey. When they are ready they come back to us and teach what they have learned.”  I bowed my head in reverence, appeased and humbled. Then the stones asked me “Why is it that you avoid the stillness?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I love to walk. It is probably one of the few things that I do that catapults me into silence. Not silence as in the absence of sound, but the type of silence that is more difficult for me to experience, the kind that erases the chatter that swirls inside my mind. I envy those who claim to be able to meditate. When a thought enters they say "to let it go". How does one do that? I mean if you let one thought go, and you make a conscious effort to do so, aren't you just replacing one thought with another? I have been practicing this "letting it go" a bit of late and thought perhaps I was meeting with some success, but somehow a song has slipped into my mind for the past four nights while laying in bed. I suppose that wouldn't be so bad, being a song that I like and all, except for the fact that I only know one or two lines from the chorus. Maybe, just maybe, this repetition which has become a sort of nocturnal mantra, has in effect cleared my mind of all other thought and in essence become a form of meditation in and of itself?

Like I said, I love to walk. A simple act, one foot in front of the other and off I go. When I meet up with friends to walk in a group it is like a finely orchestrated round of roller derby. We start as a cohesive unit but take turns falling back or moving forward engaging in varied conversations that change with each new coupling or small group within.

Walking alone is different though. Sometimes I walk to work out a specific idea. This kind of walk has a bit more physical speed to match mind's pace. I have a mission and that is to within a relatively short time frame figure out, usually, the technical aspects of a particular project. There is a problem to be solved and walking offers that focus away from the studio and the usual visual clutter.

All good, but the best, the absolute BEST walks are the ones where I feel simply compelled to walk, to keep walking, and there is nothing to be done other than to be in the moment. My mind silences and I am able to listen to nature's conversation, and if I am so fortunate, hear some of her wisdom. Sometimes she speaks in the chatter of a squirrel or the call of a bird. Sometimes her words are heard in the wind moving through the trees, or the crunch and snap of fallen twigs as stepped upon by a four legged. Sometimes she is more subtle and metaphoric, begging to be heard in the warmth of sun, shine of the moon, or in the puffed white formations against the blue sky.

Walking on the beach offers a different kind of sound, different from that of the woods or road. Softness underfoot makes one aware of every step, creating a somewhat syncopated rhythm that works in tandem with the consistent bass line of the waves rolling into shore. This embodies a meditative quality likened to sounds of mother's womb and water-echoed heartbeat. Water, such a gentle fluid presence but with the strength to smooth the most hardened of her shoreline partners, the stones. The coupling of these two, the water and the stones, creates a soulful song with bits of brushed sharpness as they methodically clack against one another.

Living in a city these sounds are replaced by whizzing wheels, honking horns, ringing cell phones, multiples of voices, and banging equipment. I suppose we have these same sounds in our rural part, too, but somehow the sounds of a haying tractor or hum of a sea vessel's engine out on the waves complements the landscape in the way an artist knows how to use just the right combination of hues. I am reminded every day just how fortunate I am to be living amongst one of many of nature's masterpieces and, on the most fortunate of days to hear, and hopefully, understand  the wisdom of her words.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Warm Sand and Cold Snow

Save these dates!

 Assembled Construction, Factory C
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

June 14, 2014
Shanna Wheelock vending at the 
(details TBA)
(I will be debuting my latest handcarved Collectors Series, the North Atlantic Right Whale, as this year's selected artisan for the marathon awards.)

June 19-July 8, 2014
KINDRED: Women in Vision
Lubec Landmarks, Lubec, Maine
Opening reception Saturday, June 21st, 5:00 p.m.
(Women in Vision is a collaboration between Passamaquoddy Bay area artists Sherry Ashby Cunningham, Lisa Marquis Bradbury, Sharon Kiley Mack, Elizabeth Ostrander, and Shanna Wheelock)

August23 - September 5, 2014
SACRED: Women in Vision
Next Door Gallery, Eastport, Maine
Opening reception Saturday, Augsut 23rd, 5:00 p.m.
(Women in Vision is a collaboration between Passamaquoddy Bay area artists Sherry Ashby Cunningham, Lisa Marquis Bradbury, Sharon Kiley Mack, Elizabeth Ostrander, and Shanna Wheelock)

August 23, 2014
Quoddy Artsists Studio Tour
Artists from Eastport, to Lubec, and across the bridge to Campobello open their studios to public!

September 2014
Shanna Wheelock at Lubec Memorial Library
(details TBA, including a name for the show!!!)

Mid June-Mid October
Lubec Market
Saturdays 9-11:30
(Weather and travel permitting, this is where I will be most Saturday mornings this coming

I'm still hashing out the details of this summer and fall's vending/gallery schedule and already have 2015 exhibits in the works. Updates to come soon!

Shanna Wheelock, 2014
ink, charcoal

Shanna Wheelock, 2014

 The Space Between
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

Shanna Wheelock, 2014

A serene sunset with a magical low tide gathering at
Pawleys Island, South Carolina

at Huntington Beach, South Carolina
What a fabulous week!!!

 Bog at Huntington Beach, South Carolina
The peepers were so loud!!!

 Catching photographer Lisa Tyson Ennis at work
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
(This is NOT a black/white photo!!! This is a full color shot on a dreamy fog-filled morn!)

Meals at Pawleys Island were always fun,
from the prep in a crowded laughter-filled kitchen to the devouring around the dining table.

 Love me some big cats! 
Now if only I could do this with a large live feline rather than a bronze one.
Brook Green Gardens, South Carolina

My favorite sculpture at Brook Green Gardens
Fountain of the Muses
by Carl Milles

 Another angle from the Milles sculpture
Fountain of the Muses 

 Friends Molly and Lisa jumping exuberantly at Pawleys Island, SC.

She’s pointing her long icy fingers over the back stoop. Light filters and glistens highlighting their sharpness, beautiful and menacing at the same time. There is temptation to flirt just a bit with danger, maybe knock  down one or two of those slender frozen formations, wield it like a light saber, or maybe just admire it’s beautiful strength. In warmth, her liquid flows and nourishes; but in the dead of winter, hardens and hovers and makes slick underfoot. Judging by her stance it was of good resolve to pile by the armful a reserve of split tree, roughly humped alongside the iron beast. Soon there will be a fire in his belly. It won’t melt the icy digits that hover just outside the door, but it will warm the toes of this human concoction of flesh, blood and bone.


Still in the depths of winter but I managed a week long reprieve with friends to South Carolina where my toes frolicked in the warm sand while waves rolled and combed the shore; my first vacation in well over ten years. I have never before left Maine winter for a warmer climate, but now I understand why so many do.When my friend Amy called in December and said in that beautiful but gently commanding southern voice "Shanna, I want you to say Yes right now", without hesitation I did, and then was told that I would be traveling in February. This mode of phone greeting is an excellent ploy that my friend has developed which seems to sway me out of work mode on a fairly regular basis.

The week down south was just what my soul needed. As frenzied windy day waves can be, they soothe. Laughter, the kind that makes your belly ache and leaves you gasping for air, was plentiful and meals were always a communal sharing of culinary expertise, savoring the flavors of local fare. The best part of the experience, however, was the bonding between friends, some that I have known for years and some that I met for the first time. 

Back to Maine I was greeted by the reality of winter. Over three feet of snow had fallen while away. The shoveling task was perhaps my best seasonal workout to date in 2014, involving three hours of lifting and relocating the heavy frozen precipitation. After that day of "rest", I jumped right back into the studio to work on a current drawing series. As with all recent work the past couple years, local factory ruins provide inspiration. I seem to be expanding my interpretation of those ruins, however, a bit more than previous.

Pottery production was in full swing before I left for Pawleys Island and will resume next week. I have the privilege of once again creating the awards for the Bay of Fundy International Marathon and so far all seems to be going well with that project. The first pieces have been bisque fired and I will soon be experimenting with the glazing phase. Some folks are waiting ever so patiently for orders that were placed in December. Rest assured those items are near completion and will be out soon.

It's always a bit like a juggling act here, to get it all done....but what a fun circus it is!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Out of the Den

A fresh blanket for snow from yesterday's storm. 
The muted colors of winter all seem a bit brighter now.

I am already thinking about spring hiking at West Quoddy. Even though it's been cold here but I have been able to get a few walks in outdoors on the less brutally frigid days. Good for the soul.

 I am working on a new series of drawings, still inspired by Factory C, but taking a different shape than the last two series.

 The North Atltantic Right Whale carving has begun! The official debut is slated for June 2015.
This "jar" is an award for the Bay of Fundy Marathon. I am thrilled to be creating the awards again this year for the amazing cross-border event!

 A few sardines made it onto this greenware.
Most herring work at this point is commissioned. Once I catch up I will create more works, both herring and whale, for summer vending.

Every season is mug season! Preparing for summer already.

It snowed yesterday. All day and into the night. Though the season started off with a flurry of wild winter weather it seemed that the ground had grown too bare, the landscape a monochromatic earthen scheme with remnants of dirtied snow and ice in ditches and along the drive. The day darkened the house but allowed for a warm internal glow of fire, flame from both heat and candle. I love the serenity of a stormy day, that feeling of inner calm even though just outside the window mother nature is in a fluster, tossing flakes and branches at her whim. I woke this morning to the fresh blanket of white, pristine and allowing by way of contrast an emergence of colorful intensity in the blue of sky, green of spruce, and tawny brown of last autumn's dried grass.

Bundled in warm fibers I set out to shovel the various necessary paths around the house and barn. These cool winter days just after a storm make way for a silence that in some ways seems louder than a spring day. Cars are not passing the road and people are either nestled inside for warmth or, at this hour of morning, are already off on their way to work. Each time the shovel struck a rock neath the snow cover, the ting of metal against stone produced a loud echo. The sound traveled far, through the trees, into the sky, and up the road. The solitude outdoors deemed that perhaps no human other than myself heard this noise, though the lone eagle that flew overhead, soaring in the cool blue aether, might have taken notice.

Winter is my hibernation time. Like the bear, I go into my den. I try to slow the pace, retreat, and rejuvenate my self. This January started off with more than than the usual workload and it has been difficult to find a reclusive groove. Last week I allowed myself to put away the daily production tasks at hand. I unplugged the phone, which is often a source of unrest for me, and spent time in my nook with minimal human contact. Just me and the cats, a pile of books, silence or music, reflection, writing, meditation on fox and bear, walking, and drawing. I allowed myself to nurture me for a few days. My thoughts formalized into several short pieces of prose and I, for a change, succumbed to pure restful sleep. 

I was jolted out of hibernation with a buzz of human activity, time spent with friends communing and feasting. I returned with a greater sense of me, understanding of my path, and appreciation for all the beautiful, courageous and healing people in my life. I am learning to discriminate, but in the best of ways, and learning what it is that makes my heart sing, my spirit fly, and my soul heal. 

I am reminded daily of how important it is for women to surround and support one another, and I am finding myself constantly in awe of their courage and ability to, even in the presence of the unknown and their own darkness, to nurture and care for others. This truly is an amazing journey and I am happy to share.

Coming out of hibernation the past few days I am taking time to get things in order for upcoming months. It is easy for my mind to overload with the thought of juggling so many commitments. I am trying to pace myself as much as possible and to remember that play time is important to my need for balance. I plan to vend three out-of-town craft fairs and the usual Saturday Lubec markets, as well as marathon expo. Visitors to the shop are juggled with production time in the cave and commissioned works are always in progress. June through December there are four art exhibits on the docket as well as two shows in early 2015 to prepare for, all the while I have just entered into my fifth and final year of the MFA program which involves the commencement of thesis work. 

My mind gets a bit boggled thinking of it all. I do believe that I will find myself unplugging that phone a bit more often and,much to others' possible disappointment, I will be having to say "No" on a more regular basis to keep peace of mind. 

I think everyone in this house, two and four legged, will be happier for that.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Heading into Hibernation on the Exhale

 Withered Sun.

Hamilton Cove, Lubec, Maine.
Post polar vortex coolness and 2013 Ice Storm, we enjoyed a couple days of springlike warmth downeast..

 Eric Van Bok of "Resounding Rhythms" in Bath, Maine, assesses my djembe for repair. The head split a few years ago and I have missed playing. Soon my favorite drum will be back in my hands, tuned and outfitted with a new piece of goatskin!

 LOTS of drums at Resounding Rhythms! I love the energy of this space which is set in an old church. Reverence is sensed as soon as you walk through the door.

I love walking down the halls at Heartwood College of Art. There is a bounce to these big metal floor sheets that gives way under foot every so often. It reminds me of riding in an elevator, that moment between floors where it feels like your stomach has not quite caught up with the vertical shift.

The semester came to a close two weeks ago with a new body of work and much self-revelation. This time next year I will be holding that MFA certificate in hand. If looking for a low residency Master of Fine Arts program, check out Heartwood. it's not your typical "run of the mill" program. (ha!) Committing to this program has been one of the best decisions of my life thus far!!!  Life changing, to say the least.

Click here for more info on the low rez MFA program at Heartwood College of Art.

Assembled construction, "Factory C"
Ceramic and encaustic on birch panel.
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

 I look forward each winter to visiting my longtime artist friend Diane Langley at her Westport Island home and studio. Diane never ceases to amaze me. She lives the handmade life 24/7 and has not only been a wonderful friend and confidante, but a mentor as well. During the "show and tell" portion of our visit, I was privy to Diane's latest large scale shibori stitch work, all hand dyed with natural materials. Diane's work is, simply, breathtaking.

Diane's work will be on display at the  Maine Crafts Association's Inspired Hand show which opes this weekend.
Click here for more details on Inspired Hand.

Detail of Diane Langley's Shibori stitch technique.

It seems that the last few years I wrote blogs in late fall and early winter about needing to catch my breath. Then, like clockwork, January arrived and I found my moment to "exhale." January is my hibernation time and each year I eagerly look forward to a month of realigning myself with solitude and introspection. Granted, the docket seems to fill a little more each year and the down time is harder and harder to get my hands on, but mentally, it is the respite that I need. There is a sprinkling of family and friends and still work to be done, but overall, I listen more closely to my body's rhythms, and like the bear, seek out a space for stillness. I am less likely to bound off to large social functions at every turn and instead delve into books, silence, art, and healthy habits while reassessing  where I am and where I need to be. It's sort of like a homegrown retreat minus the expense of some far-off exotic stay with hundreds of others deep breathing in unison and contorting themselves into pretzel-like figures while fasting and finding God, or Buddha, or the Goddess dujour. I much prefer my solo journey in the comforts of home with cats by my side.

If ever this time was more needed I cannot think of one. November and December blew in like a tornado catching everything in its path and turning things on end. Just when it seemed a lull in the storm, another cyclone would come along to jostle things a bit. Life has begun to settle once again and for that I am thankful. I think my exhale began at the close of semester nearly two weeks ago and hibernation began its inward track three days ago as I found myself slowing in the morning hours. I still wake early but the rush to hop out of bed directly to work has mellowed. Of course, this could in part be influenced by the slow heating of the cold pottery cave in the most frigid of winter months. Nonetheless, the new pace feels good.

While taking things slow I will still be working on pottery orders throughout the winter. I have accumulated quite a few herring projects and am about to begin the next handcarved Collectors Series which will debut in June at the Bay of Fundy International Marathon here in Lubec. Again this year, I have the honor of creating the awards for the event. The next in the pottery series is the North Atlantic Right Whale. This particular creature was chosen because of its endangered status and the steadfast preservation efforts by New England Aquarium researchers who have each summer since the mid 1980's taken residence in our rural fishing village while studying the whale in our east coast waters.

There are a few more projects on tap.  Ideas will ruminate from the comforts of my den. Dare I say, I look forward to the next snowfall that makes way for the coziness of hearth flame and steam from a homemade pot of soup. On such days, both stomach and soul are fed.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Elusive Creativity

 Draggers in Johnson Bay, Lubec. 
Pope's Folly in the background.

 Fourth drawing in this series.
WATER, WIND, and TIME: Exposed #4

Detail drawings from the "Water, Wind, and Time" series.

 View from the drawing table on a snowy day.

More columns.

In the thick of it.

Christmas day turkey, post ice storm 2013.

Bouli always does her best to help out with whatever the task is at hand.

"Sometimes creativity disappears completely or wanders around the back alleys for weeks at a time. She has a strong need to be occasionally anonymous. If you run into her at the post office line during one of these periods, you will probably not recognize her. She is in a different place. It is almost as if her blood has slowed down. When the blank period is over, Creativity brings her free self home with her. Her skin is new. She is ready to work. More than anyone else, Creativity understands the secret meanings of the months when nothing seems to get done."
from The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

Creativity has its own way of doing things and for artists we know that it can be fickle.When the semester began in September I was excited to begin a new body of work in the factory series. I was soon sidetracked by the demands of running a business and found only small pockets of time for artwork. I looked forward to December to be able to delve into the creative process fully, but the universe had a different plan and decided to present little obstacles at each turn. The time for full immersion finally arrived today and much to my chagrin, creativity decided to take a vacation. That's my perception anyway. 

The creative process can be grueling. Emotions were flying around the studio, as well as paper, scissors, wax, wood, and clay. No, it was not safe. Chris knew to stay away. Even Bello. Bouli, well, she was her same old diva self and in the end, I was grateful for her unconditional companionship. It's amazing how soothing a few kitty belly rubs and chin scratches can be.

It did feel good to spend an entire day in the studio with music and the smell of beeswax. I just wish that I could appreciate the results of my labor a bit more. Sometimes what we imagine in our minds to be a good idea turns out to be the the opposite in reality. There is a battle, as well, between what I am expected to produce (again, my perception) and what I feel drawn to do. At the moment, my desire to draw is greater than that for clay or wax. Still, I feel I need to see my original goal through, if only in part.

Tomorrow morning I will enter the studio fresh from a (hopefully) good sleep. Sometimes ideas and new avenues present themselves overnight, as I have been blessed with that sort of inspiration in the past. The frenetic intensity of the past few weeks is still with me. It may take a while to center myself again but I know I will get there. Eventually.