Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Opening for the Season

Newly painted sign will be posted at end of drive

We will be OPEN this Memorial weekend!
Saturday 12-5
Sunday 11-5
Monday 10-5

Interior of the shop showing one of my tapestries and some pottery, my sister's jewelry (The Indigo Iris), and landscapes by my brother-in law Neal McPartlin.

Fresh out of the kiln!

Long overdue....I repainted the floor!

My sister's jewelry and my little oil paintings and a tapestry. Love this birch stand made by Alan Mead (his work is at Orange River Arts and Laughing Raven Gift Shop downtown.)

I'm a bit late to blogging and this will be brief. It's memorial Weekend coming up and that means it's time to get Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts open for the season. It's been a flurry of activity between painting, making a new sign, throwing pots, ordering supplies and getting the paperwork in order.

I'm excited about this season - my fourth summer of being open. Lubec has become quite the tourist destination (seemingly overnight!) and new small businesses are opening, the restaurants are packed, and I love seeing the energy all around. It's been super rainy this spring; perhaps that means that this summer will be just as sunny, warm, and gorgeous as last summer. Though, warm is all relative I guess. I grew up in central Maine and we would migrate to the coast for respite on those scorching days. The summer months here feel....perfect. Just the right amount of heat with the added benefit of the beautiful ocean.

I hear that the B&B's, cottages, and motels are booking up quick (if not already). It's best to get your reservations made soon. And don;t forget to stop and say hi to me when you are in town!

Other than prep for opening weekend, I will report that the student art show last week was fabulous. One of our 7th grade students played piano (beautiful performance!) and the 3rd and 4th graders were on stage with a percussion ensemble with the doumbek, a gathering drum, and all kinds of fun instruments like shakers, the triangle, and rainstick. The performance was preceded by a 4th grader playing the congas. He definitely has a future as a professional drummer. I'm so proud of my students! I've been teaching music this year (a first for me!) and even though it was a daunting challenge at first, I must say, that it grew on me. The drumming has been particularly fun.

Chris has been turning the earth for the garden that we hope to begin planting this coming weekend. I have been preparing seedlings and planning the plots. It won;t be too big and we will plant what we knew to grow last year. A co-worker is providing us with some horse manure which will make the soil much richer than last year. Chris has been gathering gardening tips fomr our friend Dick who seems to be quite successful in primarily raised beds. He has great mulching and planting tips.

The rest of the yard is in need of TLC and there is always a list of things to get done. It's nearing the end of the school year so the classroom requires lots of attention. Student artwork goes to the lighthouse gallery over the summer and grades will need to be presented. We will be participating in a schoolwide theater project the next to last week of school that ends with a community performance. I'm really looking forward to that!

Busy end to the week with appointments and a Lubec Arts Alive meeting. John McMurray emailed last night that the welding on the herring sculpture is complete and the steel fish will be delivered this weekend! Our committee still has a lot of prep work to do before the big event.

Scheduling everything (teaching, Lubec Arts Alive, Cobscook Pottery, garden....) it's like a well-choreographed dance!

Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts will be open this holiday weekend:
Saturday: 12-5, Sunday: 11-5, and Monday 10-5.

Other than that, it is by chance or appointment. Look for the open sign or give us a call. Look up Cobscook Pottery on facebook and
like" us - I'll try to keep current with posting weekly hours at that site.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fish and Power Tools

Herring sculpture for Lubec Arts Alive 2011 in the beginning stages with templates

Jean Bookman using the Jigsaw to cut fish from the large board
(photo by John McMurray)

Sheryl Denbo beginning stage 1 of the fine-tuning with a Bandsaw

Shanna Wheelock using a Scroll Saw for the precision work

Shanna cleaning up the edges of the fish with a power sander
(photo by John McMurray)

Jean Bookman drilling holes through the fish

John McMurray, Sheryl Denbo, and Jean Bookman working on placement of the "school of fish" within the larger steel structure.

John and Jean consult about whether or not to "rough-up" the steel herring frame, or polish it to a shimmer.

One of John McMurrary's many sculptures at his home in Addison.

Men have traditionally had the market on jobs with power tools. We are inundated with Home Depot and Sears commercials at Christmas-time showing the male species making their wish list for Santa: bandsaws and drills, shop vacs, routers, planers, and tool kits. Surely machinery that whirs and sputters and makes such loud noises, that is perched on grandiose pedestals of steel and sports masculine streamline designs in red, orange, and black is untouchable by the dainty hand of a lady. We revere the carpenter "knight-in-shining-armor" who saunters into our space and with a push of a red "ON" button slices through wood like butter to create beautiful and functional cabinetry and walls.

Women just don't know what they're missing.

Yesterday I, along with two other Lubec Arts Alive committee members, traveled down the coast to Addison, Maine where we worked alongside sculptor John McMurray to prep for this summers Lubec Arts Alive event.

John graciously welcomed us into his studio where he taught us how to properly use the power tools to cut and refine the smaller components of a large kinetic sculpture. Brave man!

The project, a 10' wide steel herring with an interior kinetic school of fish, was designed on paper by Jean Bookman for this year's Lubec Arts Alive event (July 5-8). The LAA committee consulted with longtime accomplished kinetic artist John McMurray who is versed in working with metals. John hails from an interesting and impressive background, having spent much of his youth in Africa then adulthood as an arts and physics instructor for a private school.

Prior to our Addisson adventure yesterday, John fabricated the steel fish frame and "attempted to neaten" his overflowing studio space in the barn for his mentoring duties. Walking into his work space is like a tour through a tornado-struck eclectic museum of tools and whirly-gigs. Around every tiny bend of the slender floor path there are delights of flying machines, antique tools, and remnants of sculptures that never made it onto the wooded art-walk. Classical music fills the space, as well as copious amounts of floating dust, walls of photos, and piles of metal and wood scraps. To an assemblage artist such as John, all junk and scrap is sacred and brimming with potential.

Jean, Sheryl, and I were a bit hesitant at first to pick up the first tool and begin the cutting. But once we got started, we were ripping through the board at a good pace and each of us found our groove shortly after lunch. No fingers were lost and the sculpture is looking incredible!

We ended our day with a walk on the grounds: a beautiful seaside outdoor gallery filled with the aesthetic delights of nature and sculpture.

If you are looking for something fun to do this summer, definitely consider visiting Lubec Maine during our bicentennial celebration. Festivities begin a few days before July 4th, and Lubec Arts Alive will occur between July 5-8. The first two days of the LAA event we invite all to join us in painting the small fish that will reside inside the large steel herring sculpture. The fish will be mounted inside the steel frame and will twirl and flutter in the wind. The sculpture will be permanently housed downtown, outdoors at Lubec landmarks near the skinning shed museum.

I'll be updating the Lubec Arts Alive website soon - so be sure to check back there for event info.

And other info if visiting Lubec this summer...

The pottery cave is heating up as I type. My Cobscook Pottery shop will open for the season on memorial weekend - and there is lots to be done! I haven't thrown in months and am looking forward to my time at the wheel.

In the meantime, I have left a tool catalog for Santa. I know it is a bit premature, but you know, the holidays do sneak upon us. That scroll saw and band saw sure would look mighty nice in my studio!

THANK YOU to this year's main sponsors of Lubec Arts Alive: Bar Harbor Bank and Trust and the Regional Medical Center at Lubec. We are fortunate, also, to have on board photographers Judith Goodman and Frank van Riper, who will photograph the event as they have so beautifully done each year past. Without community support, these projects would not be possible! Our sponsorship campaign just kicked-off. Thank you in advance to all the wonderful financial donors and volunteers! We couldn't do it without you!

To donate, send checks made out to Lubec Arts Alive at:
Lubec Arts Alive
c/o Jean Bookman
473 South Lubec Rd.
Lubec, ME 04652

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Grass for Sarah

Grass for Sarah
Woven copper and wool, copper tubing, linen warp
by Shanna Wheelock, 2011

The last few weeks have rolled by quickly with a multitude of deadlines and long drives, thus my absence from blog world. Time is always shorter than the list of things to get done, it seems. I am breathing a bit easier now, though, since my MFA semester work has been passed-in. The long drive back from Kennebunk last weekend offered hours of reflection on accomplishments, gratitude, and goals.

While on the road I was able to visit family and spend a day in Portland enjoying art and some slow-paced browsing. If you are in that neck of the woods definitely check out the biennial show at the Portland Museum of Art. I thought it was one of the best that I had seen.

Over the next couple weeks or so I will post two new sculptures, but for now, will begin with a woven work that has had me on a journey of discovering information about one of my ancestors: my great-grandmother Sarah. The last blog entry that I wrote three weeks ago outlined some of my experiences during this quest.

The discovery that Sarah was a weaver who had a deep reverence for nature inspired the piece pictured above. From the tidbits of information that I found in the New York Times, she was working with grass on crash fiber. It was considered a new and interesting material choice for her. I decided, for my own piece, to focus on the word "grass" and to weave with a new material that I had not used before: copper wire. I am not certain what "crash" is, but from the definition that I found, it sounded similar to linen warp string.

Throughout the whole process, I felt my great-grandmother's presence. I imagined what colors she would have chosen, or how she would have ordered the 25 individual panels that were eventually pieced together. I wondered if copper ever had significance for her being a jeweler. She lived on a plantation with sheep. Did she use wool from those in her own weaving work? Did she help her husband Henry sheer the sheep? And did she then card and spin that wool? Were her hands as sore as mine after a day of weaving?

Each day I would finish a component of the work but each day I still did not know how the tapestry would end up in its final concoction. The mystery unfolded only after moving through numerous transformations. Eventually the panels formed long strips of green and copper that flowed from a frame of copper tubing.

"Grass for Sarah" became more than just woven panels spliced together. Emotions were intense and in talking about the process and why certain decisions were made, Chris said to me that they way I described the piece sounded like a "Transformation Tapestry."

I started making "Transformation Tapestries" in 2007 after my Nana died. The tapestry, made with her clothing, was a venue for grief resolution as well as a commemoration and celebration of her life. Since then, I have made others, not only to represent the deceased, but other life transitions as well.

I felt that "Grass for Sarah" was guided by Sarah's spirit, through my hands, as a Transformation Tapestry in honor of her daughter Amy, who drowned only a few months before Sarah herself died. I thought of how Sarah was an incredibly strong woman, having lost two children but still managing to raise two others and still continue to progress as an artist. She must have spent many of her days with a deep sadness, and at the time of Amy's death, I thought that perhaps she had not yet fully processed that loss when her own death occurred.

Finishing "Grass for Sarah" was one of those big exhale moments. The process had consumed my thoughts since the morning of April 1st, and the physical labor demanded over one hundred twenty hours, the bulk of which was input during April vacation. There were lots of cuts and scrapes and sore fingers and moments of "starting over". There are at least 11 panels that did not make it onto the final piece and the frame was built three times. But all was a necessary part of the process and nuggets of ideas have been sparked for future pieces.

The song by John Hiatt, "Through Your Hands" makes me think of my journey with "Grass for Sarah", and also of all the other incredible things that come from our hands - from a child's art, to penning a poem, playing a musical instrument, building a house, healing, loving, baking, planting.......

powerful to think how our hands are conduits for the creative thoughts and ideas that come from our souls....