Sunday, March 29, 2009

Five Months is too long...

Five months is too long to go without my clay "fix." Since last November, after my annual holiday sale, the studio has been closed-down for the winter. (In Maine, that includes a little bit of fall and spring as well.) Once the nights fall below freezing temps, and the snow starts to fly, it is just too cold to work out there in the barn. Even if my body can take the torture of a cold floor and walks to the house in wind and snow for bathroom or food breaks, the clay simply won't put up with it.

Once frost hits, hundreds of pounds of clay needs to be lugged out of the barn and into the house cellar for winter storage. The unused clay will be fine if it freezes, but the extra wedging necessary afterwards is just too much on my shoulders. The work I have sculpted or thrown, however, cannot be left outside in the barn on those cold nights. I learned the hard way. After a productive day of potting, I went into the studio the next day to see that my pots had froze, and in the thawing, cracked horribly. Lesson learned. Now, it is a ritual, in late fall and early spring, to produce, lug all work into house and store it on floor and tables, then lug it back out to the barn next day for trimming, then back to house for drying. After all work is dry, we once again carry it out to the barn for firing. Not exactly efficient, but it has to be done.

Eventually, all production comes to a halt when the the small propane heater just won't suffice, and the walks between house and barn are just too icy and treacherous with arm-loads of pots on wood trays. It is always a saddening event when I close-down the studio, and on an equal level, frustrating in the spring when I want so badly to begin working again, but the studio is not ready for me.

I usually get back to the barn studio in late April or early May, but this year, I just couldn't hold off any longer. Yesterday, I spent the entire day sorting through boxed-up supplies and stored equipment from barn-side". I got the finished pottery piled into condensed areas, and organized my glazes. By the time I finished, my hands were frozen, but my heart was happy knowing that soon I would begin.

My plan is to jump back into wheel throwing next weekend. I am not sure how comfortable it will be out there since March days can still feel like winter in Maine, even when the calendar tells us otherwise. I will begin with "warm-up" production type projects like mini pots and rice bowls. I like to begin with items that I know I need to stock for summer sales, then I feel mentally freed to begin the scultpural pieces that come from a deeper space in my soul.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nature's Gifts

"It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know wonder and humility."
-Rachel Carson

Now that warmer days are approaching, I am back to my outdoor ritual of three mile walks down North Lubec and Maple Tree. I love this stretch of road because it is fairly unpopulated by vehicles, and quiet enough to hear the birds and other sounds of nature.

Last Tuesday I arrived home from school eager to "suit-up" and begin my jaunt. I had gifted Chris an MP3 player last solstice, and thought I would give it a try. I knew I would be drowning out the sounds of nature, but I do so love music as well, and maybe this would give a little more bounce to my step.

"Suited-up", headset on, I opened the front door. What?! Where did this chill come from? Just thirty minutes ago it was a warm, sunny, spring-like day. I turned back into the house exclaiming "it's too cold!" Chris, my exercise motivator, sternly said "Alright, looks like the treadmill today." The thought of another boring treadmill session was enough to re-motivate back out the door I went.

The 100 yard walk down the driveway was treacherous. I had to take baby steps to make it safely across the ice to the end. And even at the end of the driveway, cold cold cold. I thought, maybe once I am in the sun, I will warm up. So I turned a right out the drive and onto the pavement, and right into a strong northeast wind that pummeled my face. My ears were quickly numbing. I wanted to turn back, but Chris' words...."treadmill today....." echoed through my mind. I could see a patch of sun a bit up the road...if only I could withstand this cold long enough to make it to that warm spot.

Indeed the sun provided a bit more warmth, at least psychologically, but the wind was still fierce. I bargained with myself that I would do a half-walk, just as far as the market and back. I had Chris' MP3 player afterall, and the music selection was, well, interesting. A bit of Rolling Stones, some Michelle Shocked, Jules Graves, Dire Straits. Yep, I can handle that. But what is this "Rage Against Machine", "Ramones", and "Angry Samoans" stuff?

Well, I made it to McFadden's Market, and I just didn't want to turn around. Yes, I was chilled, but maybe....MAYBE...those trees up ahead on Maple Tree Road would provide some sort of protection from the wind. (I know what you are thinking, why didn't I just dress warmer? I don't know! Strangely, it just didn't occur to me). I kept walking.

Maple Tree Road is remote. I pass three homes at the beginning of the road, and the rest of my walk is tall spruce on either side, the old mines, and a stream. As I approached the far end of my walk, I was given the most amazing gift.

To my left, in a leave-less, dead birch tree, just beyond the stream, were three bald eagles. At the very tip top, a young eagle, a few feet below, another, and below that a mature bald eagle. I turned off the MP3, and stood in winter's last days' stillness, and experienced the awesome power and beauty of nature. These eagles were less than fifty feet from me, and I could see the detailing in their feathers, look them in their eyes. Within a couple minutes, I looked up overhead to see two eagles circling over, in a mating ritual, so close I could hear the flapping of their wings. The sounds were slow, loud, long, it felt like time was frozen around me except for these majestic beings flying over.

I stayed with the birds for what felt to be five minutes of more, until each eagle left the tree, one at a time. Each flight I heard the wings begin their movements as the birds jumped from a branch to take flight into the blue. They hovered my area for a bit, then drifted off.

I didn't feel so cold anymore as I turned and began the return part of my walk, headed home, feeling humbled and reverent.

I am fortunate that I kept walking that day, despite the chilling temps and ice.

It was my best walk ever.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Entering the World of Etsy

I've done it...I have finally, as my cousin put it, "succumbed to the world of Etsy". My friend Becky Wheeler has been selling her work on Etsy for over a year now and it has been a very positive experience for her. Thankfully she was willing to guide me through the process of setting up my own site. There is a lot to it to get started, and I still have so much to learn, but the ball is rolling.

Almost immediately after posting my items, the hits started to roll-in. I had no idea it would happen so quickly! I was even more excited to receive my first "convo" (a.k.a. email from a viewer) which later resulted in my first sale. It took less than 24 hours! To add to my already steep learning curve, the first buyer lived in United Kingdom. I tried to figure out the postage info online, but seemed confusing. It was a bit of an ordeal to get it down this first time, but now that I have done it once, I think it will be much easier in the future.

That's the hope anyway!

Paypal has been another learning experience for me. Still working on that one.

Nonethelss, this Etsy adventure has consumed much of my time the last few days. I will tweak it as I go along - but for now - I really REALLY need to get back to work on "Arting-Up Downeast Maine: UMVA and Lubec Community Art Project." (something like that!)

About 14 weeks left of school...time will pass quickly with a zillion projects to complete, art shows to put up, field trips to go on, grades to pass in, murals to paint, etc.

Summer is already looking to be equally as busy.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Peacock Mask in Progress

Well, I started the day out fairly frustrated. It began with an online purchase gone bad. After that little fiasco, I was unable to order felting supplies due to an outdated catalog, discontinued items, and back-ordered warps and fibers. Looking out the window, I saw my studio door still unapproachable because of a five or six foot high snow mound. The longing for clay is intense, having been away from it for the past few months, and the walk to the barn studio is dangerous, across a thickly-iced yard. I sense a horrible case of Spring Fever coming on and even though I am one who feels most at ease with a dark rainy day - I want that warmth and green here...NOW! Chris, who sensed my foul mood, sanded the yard and spent a large chunk of his morning "carving" a path through the ice-mound snow to the studio door. My goal is to be in there by the beginning of April, to begin my summer production work.

Eventually, my mood lifted a bit after a talk with my sister and a clear plan for the afternoon. I began a mask last fall and had not been able to get back to it, other than some simple doings on last Monday's snow day. Today, I sorted through the pile of merino felting wools and chose some colors to begin the hood. I have had this idea for a peacock mask in the back of my head for sometime now and and am pleased that it is finally moving forward.

In the photos, you can see part of the felting process. The mask and fibers are placed snugly into a pair of old pantyhose, and then smothered in eco-friendly detergent. Hot water and friction causes the fibers to bond. About thirty minutes of sweaty labor-intensive pushing and rubbing does the trick.

Voila...A mask is born.

Still growing though....I hope to finish it sometime in April. All depends on when supplies are back in stock and when I begin clay work. As I said in an earlier post - the entire process for this mask could take 30-40 hours, especially if I am able to complete my original vision.

Back to work.....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A very relaxing weekend....

Since 1982, My family has vacationed at the Samoset Resort on the coast in Rockland, Maine. It was always fun as a child to be taken out of school for a week, in the middle of winter, to spend time with friends, swim, play, go out to "fancy" restaurants. I always felt like a rich privileged kid for this one week, even though in reality that wasn't the case. As circumstances would have it, my parents were able to buy a tiny one bedroom timeshare unit. Who would have thought that we would still be coming here, as a family, 27 years later.

I am only able to steal away from life's responsibilities for a weekend now, and this year, the trip was cut one day short by Maine's unpredictable winter weather. Nonetheless, we had a great time. Friday night, my sister Kristin cooked us up a beautiful and tasty dinner. After, we staked our claims on living room sleeping space (i.e. who gets the fold-out couch, the cushions, or the LL Bean air mattress...Mom of course gets the bedroom). A DVD movie sent us off to sleep.

Saturday was low-key (par for the course). Kristin and I headed out to shop for mom's birthday gift and rambled upon a small but interesting indoor farmer's market in Camden. We found beautiful handmade cards, jarred preserves, fiddleheads, relishes, organic free-range meats, and spiced goats' cheeses. The "Oyster Creek Mushroom" booth was by far the most interesting. We learned about various wild mushrooms, yummy recipes, and medicinal qualities.

Saturday afternoon the women in our clan indulged in the steam room, swimming pool and hot tub; a very relaxing prelude to our evening out. We ate dinner at Amalfi's, on the waterfront in Rockland. The food was delicious and beautifully presented, and the decor quite appealing from an artist's perspective. We had a great time laughing and celebrating mom's birthday.

Sunday Chris and I decided that it was in our best interest to drive back to Lubec since the weather forecast was calling for sleet, snow, and freezing rain over much of Maine from Sunday evening into Monday night. After a lunch with mom and sis at Cappy's Chowder House in Camden, we hit the road. The drive turned out to be quite messy and slow-going. We arrived home at 8:00 p.m. to a silty snow-covered ice rink of a driveway. Chris managed to get to his spiked-snowshoes to help me to the house. He eventually, after much sanding, was able to get the car to the barn for overnight. Our driveway is always an adventure!

School was canceled today, and I find myself enjoying the slow, lazy pace of sleeping in, blogging, and breakfast, and looking forward to an afternoon of weaving.