Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Post

Gorgeous full moon rising over over Johnson Bay

Projects in progress: sculpture and a new tapestry.

Yes, these are indeed snow pants. I have the unfortunate fate of being assigned outdoor recess duty this entire school year. In the spring and fall, it is glorious to get that few minutes a day in the beautiful outdoors: fresh air, laughing children, birds chirping. But when downeast winter winds are whipping and the snow starts to fly, it can be, frankly, miserable. I haven;t had to purchase a pair of snow pants since I was a youngster. This ensemble is complete with incredibly over-priced goosedown/waterproof mittens, guaranteed to keep my digits warm, Bean boots, and a black half-face mask which gives me a bit of a scary presence on the playground, though the kids are getting used to my pseudo-ninja fashion statement.

I'm blogging bit early this week, and it will be brief. We just arrived home after two days of visiting with family. I am proud to announce that as contenders lined-up for the post-turkey coma nap, I found a spot on the couch. Chris thought he would have it all to himself, but I wiggled my way in and though I didn't snooze, I did get to lay mellow for a few minutes while the turkey and carbs wreaked havoc on my energy level. It was a wonderful day with loved ones, and a nice respite from the insanely hectic days preceding.

The week ahead is nuts. Really. After teaching all day, I will stay late to complete trimester grades. Once that is out of the way, I will bring work home to do hours-on-end of budget work. I was grateful to sneak a few hours in on my weaving this morning. Those supplies travel well and I can work on a tapestry pretty much anywhere. Once the car was unloaded upon our return to Lubec, I sorted through new materials and got things set to begin work as soon as I rise on Sunday. It will be a mixed-bag of projects with some throwing, some painting, and lots of weaving. I need to fit in what I can tomorrow because my after work-hours this coming week will be consumed by school work. Chris has offered to assume the nightly supper duties so I can put in my 13-15 hour days. I am getting sleepy just thinking about it!

Literally. My eyes are heavy. So, I suppose I best find something for a quick supper and get a good night's rest under the belt in order to be prepared for my big creative fest tomorrow! I do look forward to that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Encaustics are coming along. I still need to add the acrylic paint, do a few touch-ups, and attach the tops of each of the individual pieces. I'm anxious to see the sculpture complete!

A new tapestry in progress. Right now it sort of looks like a tornado ascending from a 70's shag carpet.

I'm looking at the calendar and wondering how it is already the "holiday season" and where did time go? It is true what they say - that as you get older, time passes by quickly. It's a hard concept to grasp, that time itself is a fixed thing, when some days feel so long and others just whiz by. I noted to Chris that yesterday was a two year anniversary of an important event in my life - we were both surprised that two years had already come and gone. Looking back over those two years, It is amazing to think of all the profound events that have occurred.

In a few days most folks will be sitting around a table gobbling turkey and pie with loved ones. Putting aside the historical context and the thoughts of tragedy endured by Native Americans, that day as it stands now is a tradition in our family associated with warmth, blessings, and strong relationship bonds. We will, like most U.S. families, gather, prepare, eat, laugh, and fight for the couch which is the best place to recover from an L-trytophan induced coma.

I am running down the list in my head of what I am thankful for, and how fortunate I truly am. I won't force you to read them ALL here, but will note a few highlights.

Of course, health and love come first. I am grateful for my own health and the health of my loved ones. There have been some wobbly moments and all have, thankfully, pulled through with grace. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by people who love deeply and watch-out for one another, and because of this I know that no matter what twists and turns life takes, I will be okay.

I am grateful for friends, old and new, with whom I laugh and share anything from the deepest secrets to the the trivial everyday.

I am grateful for the beauty of nature and that I have the privilege to enjoy it each day, from sunrise to sunset: the ocean, the trees, the flowers, the butterflies, the mountains, the birds, the bears, the snow and rain, and the wind.

I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to be educated, to be an artist, and to have a beautiful space in which to create.

I am grateful that I do not go to bed hungry, that I have shelter and warm clothes, and a job that is meaningful.

I am grateful for things great and small, from the wonder of a caterpillar nesting on a bean pole to the intensity of first love.

The poet standing by "Owl Medicine" painting.

And, I am deeply grateful to the fates for bringing into my life my partner/husband/best friend/fellow artist/supporter/and comedian, Chris. He has supported me in all my creative endeavors. It isn't easy, I will admit, to be married to an artist. But somehow, he manages. We have a unique partnership in that we work as a team, inspiring and learning from one another. He puts into words what I put into pictures and vice versa. He has been patient enough to allow me to keep insane hours in the name of art, and is always there to lend a hand when needed. Unconditionally, he is present.

So - especially for my Poet-C,
here is a little video for you to watch....

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Sale

Shelves full of newly-fired pottery ready for opening day of the sale.
Cobscook Pottery & Fiber Arts
Annual Holiday Sale
November 12-14, 2010

Small bowls that cradle nicely in the hand.

Mead Mug
(Works well for hot cocoa or coffee too!)

Sake Set

Lidded Jar

Large pasta bowl.

Yes. It is that time of year again. The turkey hasn't even made it out of the oven but we are already thinking jingle bells and decorated trees. This weekend is the annual Holiday Sale at Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts, and even though it has been warm, clear skies and not a stitch of snow, the sounds of Ella singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" can be heard from the shop.

It's always an enjoyable weekend for me. I get to visit with lots of local friends and show off the season's new wares. It is also tradition for my sister, who is the designer of the fabulous "Indigo Iris" jewelry, to visit for the weekend. In between customers, we've been able to hang out and do "catch-up" on our lives. I have also been able to fit in a bit of encaustic painting here and there. That's definitely a bonus!

Last night we celebrated work-done-well with an evening out at the Water Street Tavern and Inn. It felt good to just relax and breathe a bit, and prepare for the final day of sale, which is today. We'll still be open by chance or appointment until December 23rd, but if you are able to catch the sale in-person today, you'll get to partake of the tasty homemade cookies and cocoa! Not to mention, we are raffling off two $25 gift certificates! One was drawn last night and the happy winner is returning today for some shopping fun "on-the-house".

I need to prep, so this is a quick blog entry. I do have a poem to share, though. It was an honor to receive this worded gift by email from phenomenal writer and amazing woman Pam Brown, who is currently in California compliments of a fellowship to work on a new book. It is such an honor to make an appearance in one of her poems, especially alongside pomegranates. Thanks, Pam!


for Shanna

Under the glamorous San Gabriels

rosy with randy sun,

this parking lot is lousy with pomegranates.

They look at me with Alhambra in their hearts –

I wish I could give Shanna a ticket to Spain.

I can't steal one, there are too many --

like this one, small though perfect

or that one, split, past its prime

or those gnawed-out black mouths

such mocking fruit

bobbing in the hot wind looking like

hand grenades something red

hot blood straining to split

the world

eros tyrannos you come

on all four legs (Sappho said)

to eat greedily and with

tearful thighs . . .

ignore them get in the Subaru

swan up the foothills

in the sheer joy of wasteful



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rhythm and Repetition

Set-up and ready to start encaustics on the sequential pom/grenade sculpture series

Fusing the first layer of green encaustic medium onto the ceramic form.

Not quite done, but has three layers of green applied.

successful glaze firing unloaded today.

I've been thinking about some of the common themes that link all my work as an artist together. There are overlaps in concept that show up time and time again: mythology, war, feminism, spirituality, culture. I have also been thinking of the more concrete connections in my process and technical aspects of my work.

It seems that repetition is a common theme. I don't know how many times I have said to folks "I am not a production potter." It is true, I don't consider myself the typical potter who spends several hours a day cranking out fifty mugs for mass sale. However, I do work at the wheel and have been known to repeat the same form over and over again. It isn't so much that I have to do that, but I am finding that the process of repeating an action over and over is meditative for me.

I have been to plenty of retreats and workshops where I am told to "clear my mind and focus..." Oh, how I try. As well, there have been several attempts in my own private space. I have used 33 RPM records with speakers "guiding me" into that far-off space, or I have tried deep breathing methods, looking at the same spot for....hours? No, probably minutes. Okay, maybe seconds. But my mind always wanders. Ten minutes a day of meditation is supposed to be fabulous for the blood pressure. Why can't I do it?

It never fails, I hear that little creak in the floor in the other room, then my mind starts to wander. Next thing I know my quite un-focused mind is planning out a sculpture or thinking about what to make for dinner.

But there are times when my mind feels completely focused and balanced, when minutes turn into hours and time passes without me being aware. It's when I am working at the wheel, forming a sculpture, drawing, or weaving. These tasks, which all involve some sort of repetition, consume me and transport me to what feels another plane.

The latest fascination in my artwork is with industrial and military images. When thinking about this today, I remembered seeing a movie a few years ago with Bjork as the lead called "Dancer in the Dark, a Dutch musical about a factory worker who is going blind (set in 1960's Washington state). She is saving money for her son to have an operation to prevent the same hereditary disease. Bjork's character, Selma, goes into a trance or dream-like state where she fantasizes being in musical skits.

I thought I would share the video of one particular scene that has stuck with me - emphasizing the rhythm of the machines as she and others dance through the factory.

And while you are grooving to the industrial sounds of factory machines, I am off to grab dinner and sleep, and hope that I can adjust to the new time change with some degree of ease.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend Seminar at Heartwood College of Art

Encaustics and brushes warming on the aluminum hot plate

Artist Kim Bernard facilitated the Saturday encaustics workshop.

Three pomegranates: the actual fruit, clay with acrylic paint, and clay with encaustics.

Wendy Burton created a gorgeous cool-blues and greens Monet-ish encaustic painting.

The Kennebunk Inn on Main Street was all decked-out for Halloween.
Considered one of the most haunted inns in Maine!!! (I had my own very strange experiences while staying there last I am inclined to agree with this assessment!)

The old Fort Knox bridge, engulfed in pea-soup thick fog.

I just returned from my fall weekend seminar at Heartwood College of Art. The part-time, low-residency MFA program is an excellent choice for teachers because it works around the teaching schedule with weekend meetings, snail-mail, phone and web communication, and a studio component which is primarily done in your own studio. This semester I am in close-contact with two mentors and an advisor and so far the feedback has been phenomenal, keeping me on my toes, on track, and in critical thinking mode probably far more hours than previously-thought sanely possible.

Our "pod" meets once a semester for a three day seminar that is jam-packed with conversations, presentations, critiques, and my favorite, a hands-on workshop where we experiment with a new art medium. I look forward to the weekend seminar for many reasons, one of which is to reconnect with the other students. We have the perfect pod with excellent chemistry. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are all art teachers who are also serious about our own work as artists. This passion for both teaching and creating filters down to our "back-home" school students, and that same openness and nurturing is shared amongst our own peers in the Heartwood program.

Every part of the finely structured three-day seminar is meaningful, but the encaustics workshop really had my heart this time around.

A lot of my friends have learned encaustics from Kim Bernard. I was ecstatic to learn that I too would have an opportunity. The one day workshop only touched on the very beginning of what is possible with encaustics, but it was enough to get us rolling. Kim is an accomplished artist as well as a fabulous teacher who exudes immense confidence in her medium as well as a love for the history and technique. It was interesting to learn that mummy tombs were painted with encaustic techniques, and that today, those artworks still exist in good condition.

Encaustics is an art medium that consists of beeswax, dammar resin, and natural pigments. The technique involves melting the ingredients and then applying them to a porous surface with a brush. Each layer that is applied is fused either to the support or the previous layer by way of a heat gun or torch. The relatively simple technique does take time to prefect. My own work most times looked like a massive glob of melted wax with inconsistently-placed lumps and a hodge podge of color. Somehow, when Kim does a demo, the wax is smooth and the colored layers interact harmoniously with one another. Granted, I am new at this. Nonetheless, I am the first to admit that my shortcomings are plentiful with this technique!

I tried the encaustics on a bisque-fired pomegranate sculpture that I had made. It was an experiment of sorts as I have been trying to decide how to finish the surface of a recent ceramic sculpture. I thought I might use acrylic paint, or maybe shoe polish, but wanted to give encaustics a fair shake. As it turned out, I fell head-over-heels in love with the texture and process of encaustics. I filled up a bag with goodies from the Heartwood art supply store and returned home late last night, eager to finish the sculpture.