Sunday, November 30, 2008

Moon Tree Series

I thought I better post some pottery pics before people start referring to me instead as the "Easternmost Weaver in the United States."

This piece is an example from my Moon Tree series, handcarved stoneware pottery that features a simple moon and tree branches with roots. Well, I say simple, but the carving process itself is quite time consuming. I have two other tall chalice type pieces as this one in the studio. In one, (see photo right) I glazed the tree roots a dark temmoku brown. I also have a piece ready for raku once I get the kiln set-up. I can;t wait to see that one complete, as it has decorative leaf impressions inside.

I have been using the tree theme in my work for many years. Perhaps I have some past-life Druid connection. Perhaps I am merely inspired by the woods and their natural beauty that surrounds me. Either way, I think trees are powerful for most people. They possess an awesome strength - enduring years of rain, wind, ice. I love to watch a tree sway in a summer thunderstorm.

Have you hugged your tree today?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zati Maskmaking

Last year I was blessed to receive a Maine Arts Teachers Fellowship from the Maine Alliance for Arts Education. With this grant, I was able to work under the mentorship of weaver Susan Barrett Merrill. I first met Susan in a workshop about five years ago, and had wanted to work with her again ever since. My summer of fellowship was amazing! Susan led me through the seven keyforms in her book Zati: The Art of Weaving a Life. I was most excited to learn sculptural weaving techniques - especially to make masks. I had been making masks for several years, but always with clay. It felt awesome to blend my masking background with my new love for weaving.

The process of creating a Zati Mask is soul-opening, and time consuming. You begin with a visualization and an intention for what you want your mask to represent. I most times try to connect with animal spirits, although the mask above is my Hecate mask. My interest in mythology came through clearly, and a darker, more introspective part of myself.

The physical process of creating the mask involves the initial weaving of the face shape, then a warp-weft pulling of strings to create a three-dimensional look. The mask is felted onto a hood shape and embellished as desired. The entire process for me can take anywhere from 20-40 hours. I expect the next mask I make to take longer if I am able to complete my vision. It truly is deep-level soul work.

During my fellowship, I also built a cedar log Earth loom, a beaver stick Story Loom, and wove one of my favorite tapestries to date: Journey. Check out the photos to the right on my blog site. To visit Susan's website, click on "Weaving a Life", listed under my Website Links.

If you are an art teacher in Maine (visual, dance, music, theater, etc.), you should consider applying for the Maine Arts Teachers Fellowship. It is a great program that grants money ($5000!) to develop your own work as an artist. Click on Maine Alliance for Arts Education, listed under my Website Links.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chris Crittenden: Poet, Philosopher, Eco-Feminist, Ethicist

Yes, I will shamelessly promote my husband's writing. He is a genius when it comes to words, and his writing is one of the things that attracted me to him about ten years ago. He has had hundreds of poems and articles published internationally and I am proud of his accomplishments. He keeps quite a rigorous writing schedule between working on his novel, his poetry, and editorials. It's more of a process than most would realize. He spends a lot of time holed-up in his office in the house, but when weather is a bit warmer, he writes in the meditation hut on the hill behind our house (see photo left). I asked him for a website link with some of his writings - and he suggested the Bolts of Silk blog site. You'll find it listed under my Website Links on the right of the website. Also, Chris' blog, Ghost Owl, is listed under my blog sites.

Now that we've established that I am a Potter....

I thought that I would change hats and show you the WEAVER me. I am fairly new to weaving. My first experience was on a tiny 4 stick frame with large-headed nails - made by my dad. I learned basics of warping and weaving (and I mean BASICS!) while a student teacher in Brunswick. I loved the meditative quality. A Type-A, work-a-holic person like me can always use something to bring the stress level down a notch!

The image above is fairly accurate to my current style. I begin with a small square tapestry, add a long, lush tail, then embellish with local natural items or other little baubles that I find in my travels. The piece above is titled Autumn Landscape. I used alder from our front yard and the ancient shell centerpiece was dug from the clay at Mowry Beach.

I'll write more later about my weaving and a recent fellowship that I received to advance my techniques. If you are interested in seeing more of my weaving (or pottery for that matter) visit the Website Link (to the right of this page) called "Shanna's Webshots."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To Be or Not To Be.....That is the Question

I had a great conversation the other night with my artist friend Becky Wheeler. We talked about how she is throwing a zillion mugs for an upcoming craft fair. This made me think how much I despise making mugs. Well, not the cup form, but the attached handles. So I decided a few years ago that I would not make mugs, rather, my work would focus on soul satisfaction. Time is limited and I need to create only what I truly love to do.

As visitors to my studio keep asking me, "do you have any mugs?" I time and time again respond with the stock line "I am not a production potter."

So my question to myself is - am I even what someone would consider a potter? (Note: the title of my Blog is "The Easternmost Potter in the United States")

My major in college was ceramics, but we focused more on sculpture rather than the thrown form. I have steered away from the title of potter since I also consider myself an artist and when I think about my long term arts career, I see myself more as a gallery artist rather than toiling over making buckets of glaze, producing 100 mugs a day, having to eventually hire an apprentice so I can fill orders.

All being said, I found myself mass producing items this summer. And it wasn't because I had an order to fill, but rather, I fell in love with the new forms that I was working with. I love to make bowls. The bowl that feels perfect in the hand. The bowl that makes eating feel sacred. Then I have the mini pots...I have made thousands of them over the past twenty years. I don't feel them redundant, rather, I view them as my warm-up/centering exercise when I begin my morning at the wheel.

So I have come to think of myself, (I think!) as a potter, just this past summer. It isn't about trying to mass produce items that will sell. Instead, it is about the joy of potting as a meditation. Bowls that take me an hour and a half to create (rather than a thirty-hour sculpture) can be more financially accessible to those who want to own my work, but cannot afford the pricier "fine art pieces." I love the idea that folks all over the world this morning are sipping from one of my Yunomi cups, or eating their cereal from a spiral bowl that I made, and that their experience is all the more sacred or enjoyable because my hands were able to form that bowl or cup for them.

And who knows, maybe I will find myself making a few handles next summer....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


This is one of my favorite items that I have been throwing this past fall. Originally I called it the "healing cup" as it feels so soothing to sip a warm liquid from it. When Chris and I used the new cups for the first time, we had just hand-pressed cider at Jean and Dick's house. To drink warm, organic cider from our own trees, pressed by ourselves, in cups I made, felt sacred and healing and celebratory as well, for the Samhain season.

I have an interest in Japanese pottery and have been making the sweetest little rice bowls for a few years now. I just learned that Yunomi is translated "cup for hot liquid" So, these cups have come to be called Yunomi in my studio.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Photos of My Artwork...

Good morning from Lubec - where it is a chilly grey day (again) with the wind wildly sounding out. We are expecting some snow and rain - my favorite kind of day, perfect for sitting by the fire with a hot cup of tea.

This is just a quick post to let folks know that if you are interested in looking at some of my artwork, I have three albums created on a site called Webshots. Just follow the link below.

Pardon the lack of quality in the photos. A little Elf told me that Santa is bringing me a professional light set and cube for Solstice so that I can do a much better job with my photography in the future.

The photo above is called "Missile" from the "Machine Series". The pieces in that series were created as my response to the media coverage of war these past few years.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

This is a "Healing Quilt" made by my artist friend Diane Langley. Hand-sewn and steeped in healing herbs. She has an amazing sense of color, and a genuine healing spirit. You can check out some of her works at her website and blog:

Thanks, Diane! The magic is working!

Art Production Slowing Down - post holiday sale

This time of year, the art production slows down for me. Working in a barn is difficult when the temps in Maine begin to fall below freezing. My last firing was about two weeks ago, followed by my annual holiday open studio. I enjoy the day so much because I get to spend time chit chatting with folks and just having a good time in general - away from my usual hectic schedule. I am grateful for all the support that I've had - from folks helping to advance my career in the arts.

In the photo above I've displayed some pottery works in the new "Barley" glaze (named after my siamese cat) and my most popular item, spiral bowls in rutile blue. I also sell my sister's Indigo Iris jewlery in the barn studio. She has quite a following down here in Lubec! You can also see a few of my mom's little hand-painted rocks. Yep. The art gene seems to run in the family.

I will spend the next few weeks preparing for holidays, and when the new year rings in, I will go into "hibernation mode". I love the early dark days - which feel so cozy and relaxed. I will use that time primarily for fiber work, relishing the lush warm textures of angora, alpaca, and wool. My goal this winter is to learn to warp the floor loom. I also hope to finish the peacock-themed mask that I began last summer. (Masks can take from 20-40 hours or more to complete, so it is hard to find time to squeeze them in.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gray and windy day downeast

My first blog entry, new to the blogging world! I am an artist living in the easternmost town of the United States, in the small fishing village of Lubec, Maine, with my poet/philospher husband Chris Crittenden, and our two felines Bello and Barley. We are surrounded by unfettered natural beauty - spruce, birch, and cedar forest bordered by various Cobscook Bays. Any given day we might find a bear, deer, pileated woodpecker, or porcupine in our backyard. The stars and northern lights are amazing to witness in a sky illuminated only by the moon.

I'll try to keep up with this blog once a week, posting my current works in clay and fiber or other artistic endeavors that are associated with my barn studio "Cobscook Pottery."