Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beautiful Chaos

Peter Cowin, "The Bee Whisperer" checks the ceiling with a stethoscope.
Got bees?
Peter's contact info:
(207) 862-2080
cell (207) 299-6948

I asked for the suit in a light blue or sage, but apparently it only comes in white.

Peter prepares a bucket for the soon-to-be-sucked-up bees

It was a massive buzzing hive of honey bees in my studio ceiling!
Peter estimates 25,000.

I guess bees are not claustrophobic.

Once the ceiling was cracked open, some bees moved to the light.
Most bees, however, stuck close to home.

I even got to suck a few up myself!

Me! Holding a bunch of bees! Who'da thunk it!
And to think I panicked over three bees on Monday night.
I sure have come a long way.

A beautiful natural work of art!
This honeycomb was built in only four days.
Can you imagine if the bees had another week to work on it?

A sculpture I completed on Wednesday, which just happens to be painted with beeswax!
"Worlds: Seen and Foreseen"
Downtown Skowhegan
(Exhibit of globes in various building and business windows, organized by Abby Shahn)

The best way I can describe my life is "beautiful chaos". Something always happens that pops up last minute with an immediate and crucial deadline that throws all other schedules and plans out the window. Some things are seemingly unsettling but in the end, all seems okay and part of "the path". The past few months have been like this and just when I think there is a moment around the corner where I will be able catch my breath, something else deems my attention. I am juggling with the best of clowns and somehow hold my own. This morning feels peaceful at the moment and I plan to write this blog, work in the garden, then do some schoolwork, but I won't get too comfortable or attached to the outcome since it can all change in a flash.

This past week was one of those weeks where I had every minute mapped out from waking until sleep. My mom had been visiting from central Maine and after she left on Monday morning, my calender was filled with two medical appointments, completion of a sculpture/delivery to a show in Skowhegan, cookout with family in West Gardiner, and visitors to Lubec from southern Maine. All this was to take course over a period of six days. My biggest worry one week ago was how to get that globe sculpture done in time for installation.

Monday night it all changed (though I didn't know it at the time!) I had said goodbye to mom, hustled off to Machias to get a paint fleck out of my eye, and returned to Lubec to work madly on the globe sculpture. All seemed to be going well. I was in and out of the house, up and down the stairs to the basement grabbing tools. About 6:30 p.m. I opened the cellar door to find buzzing critters circling a light bulb. My long time phobia of things that sting kicked into high gear. I sent out a panicked email to friends asking what to do. I needed access to that basement but there was no way I could get down the stairs. I assumed wasps - they looked HUGE...MASSIVE...and they were aggressive and surely would chase and sting me. I kept walking to the door listening for the buzz. I taped the bottom of the door so that they cold not crawl out and come after me. Finally, I got a return email from a brave friend, Jerry, who offered to come over the next afternoon and figure out how the "wasps or bees" were getting into the house, and to plug things up. I felt relief knowing that soon help was on the way.

The next morning I woke to hear no buzzing noise. I cautiously opened the door and saw three small bees resting on the wall. I bravely (don't laugh....this was brave for me!) scooped one bee into a jar and went to an insect guide book. She appeared to be a honey bee.

Okay, so I have three honey bees in the house. Jerry will be over in the afternoon and this will all be taken care of.

Well, come noon time, I was sitting in the living room when I heard a banging at the window. I looked up to see 100-200 bees buzzing about! They were entering an opening where a board was not tightly sealed. Panic set in, more emails to friends, facebook posts. Someone knew of a beekeeper here in Lubec so I gave her a call. In the meantime I left a message with the Department of Agriculture. The beekeeper and her husband came over and confirmed honey bees. Shortly after they left, Dept. of Agriculture returned my call. It was laid out for me that time was of the essence in getting a hive out of the house since a population of bees can grow quickly and honey can cause major damage. While on the phone, and looking out the window at the 100-200 bees, the intensity and numbers of the bees increased to thousands. At the same time, Jerry (with a plan to help me with three bees, who is also allergic to bees) was driving up the driveway and witnessing the full view of the swarm that was moving in (described as looking like fireflies over my roof). The best way I can describe the swarm was that it was like a scene from a horror movie. There was a massive amount of buzzing insects circling and flying, peppering the board outside my window, crawling on top of one another, for about twenty minutes. Jerry hopped out the truck and quickly ran into the house. We watched out the window in disbelief, all the while the man from Department of Agriculture was listening me to swear profusely. I was informed that I had approximately 15-30,000 bees at this point and that I needed to do something about it immediately. The Queen lays anywhere from 1200-3000 eggs a day and soon the hive could be 80,000 strong. I was given names of beekeepers and a list of best pesticides.

That evening another beekeeper came over to take a look at the situation, and I had made calls to two extermination companies. One company flat-out refused because they said that the bees are on an endangered list. Another company said they'd do it, but for a high price. Meanwhile, a facebook friend knew of a "swarmer" in Hampden named Peter Cowin who is an expert at removing swarms of bees. I would rather see 30,000 beings live if possible, but would do what needed to be done. I called Peter right away looking for advice. Hampden is almost a three hour drive so I didn't expect him to actually come to Lubec, but he sensed the panic in my voice and the fear that Chris, who had been out of town and is allergic to bees, would be returning to a house full of them. We made arrangements for Peter to come to Lubec on Saturday. Needless to say, I had to cancel out my friend Becky's visit with her 3rd grade daughter Alice. It could be a potentially dangerous situation.

So, a plan was made, the globe got finished and delivered to Skowhegan, I got to see my niece Christine and new baby Caden, made it to another doctor appointment and returned to Lubec late Friday night to clear out the studio space and prep for the "Bee Whisperer." I had been color-coding areas of the wall and ceiling where I heard the most activity, but by Friday night, it had concentrated to just one area in the ceiling.

Saturday morning Peter arrived with bee suits and buckets. Drew, a building contractor, was on board to open up the ceiling and patch things up when done. Peter listened to the walls and ceiling with a stethoscope....and...there was zero noise! Not a bit of buzzing! Oh my. Suddenly it looked as though I had a very active imagination. To boot, it was raining outside and not a single bee was seen. Peter said that it was possible the bees had starved to death after the couple days of rain, or that perhaps they were just dormant due to lack of food. Talk about uneventful! After all the hype and hours I spent dealing with the situation, and for Drew to put aside his scheduled work to show up for the hive removal...I was feeling quite guilty. I saw the bees, I had a witness, I heard them buzzing all week....and come Saturday morning...not one bit of evidence!

Peter made a best guess where the hive would be based on entrance, where I had heard most buzzing, and the interior skeletal structure of the room. Drew cut open an 18"x24" chunk of sheetrook from the ceiling and there revealed a huge mass of buzzing bees. I had never seen a hive up close before. Anyway, why would I want to do that?!

I was suited up, determined to face my phobia head on. My heart began to race a bit as some bees began to swoop down from the hive and into the sectioned-off space of the room. But all in all, I felt okay. I had been reassured over and over that I would not be stung. I trusted Peter's confidence.

All in all, the whole operation took under three hours, and the bees have now been relocated to Peter's bee farm where I understand that they are very happy! I developed a new respect and fascination for the bees. The honeycomb, which I will save for a sculpture, is a beautiful artwork in and of itself. I am in awe of how efficiently and precisely the bees work as a community to build and maintain a hive. Their ability to work together toward a goal is a good lesson for humans.

That being said, I am glad that the hive was removed before honey production started and there was minimal structural damage. Drew was wonderful about doing his part, Peter was amazing, and it is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I am honored to have been a part of. It could have turned out much worse, and for that it didn't I am grateful.

Chris returns safely to a bee-free house and I am getting back to routine in a panic-free state of mind. I hope to reschedule my visitors for later in the summer, and plan to tackle that weeding in the garden a bit today, and re-open the shop which as been closed since Tuesday. Ahhhh....all so seemingly "normal."

I'm waiting for the next whirlwind of "beautiful chaos".

(I think it just occurred - no power in the shop!!! Could that be from the lightning storm yesterday???)

Monday, June 20, 2011

As the World Turns

Adding first layer of color to the Globe

Adding the camouflage pattern to the "globe"

Size does...and doesn't....matter

It is difficult to type with a kitten laying on the keyboard; she seems to think that anything that moves (including a virtual mouse cursor) is fair game. Bouli mania has taken over in our house. She is adjusting to her new role here very well and it becomes more clear with each passing day that she will be the feline in charge. Bello is a bit disgruntled but he is starting to come around. The hissing and growling is lessening. Last night, Bello returned to the bed and even purred a bit. It isn't so much that he suddenly likes the new tiny critter on four furry, and very fast, paws, but more so that he is realizing that she is here to stay. I fell bad for Bello. I really do. Bouli has endless amounts of energy and chases Bello, pouncing at him, almost constantly. She wants a playmate and he wants to be left alone. He has already entered his senior years at ten, and his fifteen pound body isn't quite as agile as Bouli's less than two pound frame. I think that eventually the two of them will be fine together. It's the transition time that is a bit trying.

School let out for summer as of last Friday and it seems my inner solstice clock has already kicked-in. I woke this morning at 3:00 a.m. to see the light serenely emerge over the bay. On a school night, this gets me a bit worried and wearied, but in summer I take advantage of early wakes and get to work. It's perfect for things like blogging and sketching ideas.

My mother has been visiting for the past few days and has been wonderful with entertaining Bouli while I attempt to complete a sculpture. I am working on a "globe" for the Skowhegan show "Worlds: Seen and Foreseen" and need to finish that up within a couple days. I am applying encaustic paints and so far am liking it. I really liked the globe appearance when it was just a simple blue and white, but as the image develops with varied layers, I am liking that as well. The artistic process is interesting in that an artist can choose to stop at any point in a piece and call it done. The "viewer" would not know the difference. I was tempted to stop at the blue and white version, however, ultimately decided to not give in to early-onset infatuation and began applying the next layer of color. It is a battle of aesthetic choice versus conceptual vision. If you are in the Skowhegan area in July, check out the display by varied artists in downtown business windows.

The new summer schedule is no less hectic than any other time of the year, but it does offer up some variety in the usual routine. Friday night mom and I ventured over Eastport way to Leslie Bowman's opening at Cat Bird Seat Gallery. After, we headed back to Lubec for dinner. It is wonderful to have lived in Lubec long enough now to see the renaissance that is taking place - with new restaurants, shops, and galleries. Ten years ago when Chris and I arrived, it felt like a sleepy little town. The past two summers there has been an explosion of things creative, from live music to arts events. Lubec Arts Alive (July 5-8) is now in it's third season as Lubec prepares a huge celebration in honor of it's bicentennial. When here, folks stay at one of the many historical B&B's, eat delicious concoctions from one of the restaurants (from "breakfast all day" diners to upscale gourmet establishments), shop for unique items made locally and regionally, and gorge on the most delicious Peruvian chocolates you'll ever devour. And, kudos to Debra Ayala-Kasunic, owner of Northern Tides Art and Gift Gallery, Lubec, Maine, who won the Maine 2011 Downtown Achievement, Community Spirit – Individual of the Year Award for her extraordinary contributions to Lubec and the downtown community! (see excerpt from press release below).

If you venture just slightly out of Lubec up route 1 you'll find the amazing Tide Mill Organic Farm or venture across the bridge in Lubec to visit Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt's summer home on Campobello Island. Don't forget your passport! Remember, Lubec is right on the border of New Brunswick, Canada. Have you ever been on a ferry? They make for a beautiful and relaxing summer's day excursion and you may even spot a whale or two. Or, you could just hang out dowtown Lubec and watch the whales from one of the restaurants on-the-water decks or hike the cliffs at the famous red and white West Quoddy lighthouse and possibly spot a whale or two our there. If you are an avid birder, Lubec is home to some of the most rare and unique birds, not to mention it is a mecca for eagles.

If you haven't already made plans to visit Lubec this summer - what are you waiting for?! And make sure you stop by my place, Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts, when you are here! When you're done, book a massage or crystal bowl session at Twilight Therapeutics with the most excellent and healing microbiotic-goddess massage therapist you'll ever meet!

I really do love living in this community. It is, as Chris's grandfather often said to us "the perfect place for an artist and a writer." There is inspiration around every corner and tucked in every nook and cranny.

Press Release:
Owner of Northern Tides Art and Gift Gallery Wins Maine 2011 Downtown Achievement, Community Spirit Award

Skowhegan, M.E. – June 10th, 2011: Roxanne Eflin, Senior Program Director of the Maine Downtown Center/Maine Development Foundation, announced today that Debra Ayala-Kasunic, owner of Northern Tides Art and Gift Gallery, Lubec, Maine, won the Maine 2011 Downtown Achievement, Community Spirit – Individual of the Year Award for her extraordinary contributions to Lubec and the downtown community.

In the Strand Theater in downtown Skowhegan, community leaders, Maine Downtown Center/Maine Development Foundation staff and volunteers, and other business owners gathered after a two day conference devoted to historical preservation and revitalization of our downtown business centers, came to cheer for their hometown nominees for the Maine Downtown Achievement Awards. Debra Ayala-Kasunic of Northern Tides Art and Gift Gallery received the only Maine Downtown Achievement award within the coastal counties of Washington and Hancock for her promotion of the Town of Lubec.

According to the nomination application, Debra Ayala-Kasunic, an active member of the Lubec Comprehensive Planning Committee (appointed position), Cobscook Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Lion’s Club member, Board of Trustees for Lubec Memorial Library, and APPLE, visualized Northern Tides Art and Gift Gallery when she purchased a 100 year old, distressed building and began the first Lubec Downtown retail building renovation project in June of 2006. New to retail sales, the area, and using her own funds, Debra developed and implemented Northern Tides’ various micro-business plans: to represent local artists, to manage renovation and restoration, and to develop an art and environment community analysis of Lubec, dedicated to ensure that tourists, visitors, and local residents might be offered a true Down East, Lubec, one-of-kind experience.

After one full year of restorations to the first floor, operating under the goal of maintaining the historic integrity of the building, Debra opened Northern Tides’ door June 1st, 2007 with approximately 25 artists representing 125 products. Building restorations included, but were not limited to: the original tin ceilings, foundation, original store front display windows, walls, and kitchen and bath area, all completed employing a symphony of graceful New England colors in an effort to help restore the Lubec waterfront to its original beauty.

When asked about her award, Debra says: “The award came as a complete shock to me. I had no idea that I had even been nominated for a State award. I am still amazed, but tremendously grateful.” Debra comments on her restoration project, “I never could have completed this project without the expertise of the local carpenters, electricians, roofers, and especially the guys from the Lubec Hardware Store. Most importantly, my husband Jerry invested countless hours of personal time and resources to support what at times seemed like a crazy endeavor. But, since I undertook this project in 2006, it has been gratifying to see the gradual development of a revitalized business community: the opening of several new restaurants, inns, gift shops, an active Community Garden Club, and, I believe, an increased sense of pride of place.”

Celebrating its 5th year in business, Northern Tides now represents over 80 Maine and Canadian Maritime artist, artisans, and authors, ensuring a renewed experience for frequent visitors to both the Gallery and online. But with each year, Debra looks to the future revitalization of Lubec and the continued growth of her own micro-business.

In announcing the awards, Roxanne Eflin, Maine Downtown Center/Maine Development Foundation, thanked each nominee and award winner for their outstanding achievements and encouraged everyone to continue their vital work to increase visibility, enhance cultural and eco-tourism, expand employment opportunities, and to make each town and city their own unique, beautiful environment for all to enjoy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bouli Mania

Tabouli Sage

Photographer Leslie Bowman shooting my sculpture "Pomegrenade"

I have become a crazy cat momma: kitty pics and baby talk, squeaky toys, blanket covered basket, and incessant worrying about health. One week ago Chris and I adopted the cutest little kitten we call "Bouli". She is only 9 weeks old and doesn't weigh much more than a pound and a half, but she is one huge ball of feisty energy, and as her name "Tabouli" translates, she is "little spicy." She has turned the house upside down and usual routines are no longer routines. Almost everything revolves around ensuring her a healthy and safe start to life.

Our ten-year-old cat Bello is not as thrilled as Chris and me with Bouli's arrival. In fact, he is being a downright stinker about it all. A week has passed and the hissing and growling has not yet subsided. He has taken a couple swings at her and it is not becoming of him at all. Hopefully in time he will come around. He was fine when Barley was here, the elder siamese, but two years as the only feline on the premises has become quite comfortable for him.

All the while adjusting to this needy little beauty, there has been lots of other activity. Our school just finished a week of theater residency with "Children's Stage Adventures" out of New Hampshire. It was amazing! Rob and Lorrie Gray began last Monday with auditions for "The Fisherman and His Wife" and after only two hours, every student had been cast in a part of the production, except for the four who were recruited as directors' assistants. The entire week students studied lines, worked lights, practiced dance routines and songs. Students' nerves were at an all time high as they dressed in costume and make-up for the two Friday performances. The evening performance packed the house. I worked backstage corralling the "starfish", but from behind the curtain, I heard new-found confidence in our young actors, and the pleasure of the audience as they clapped, cheered and laughed. This was a top-notch residency with the Grays. Phenomenal! I look forward to the outfit's return next December as they work with students on "Midsummer Night's Dream."

This weekend was no respite. I woke Saturday morning to see that Bouli's eyes were red and closing-up. She had been battling the eye goop all week and repeated applications of tea seemed to help. But two days after stopping that regimen, the irritation returned, as well as sneezing and other unpleasant things. So it was off to the vets for eye ointment and meds. She is doing very well today and still seems to love me even after I force-feed her syringes of deworming meds and slather her little blue eyes in ointment. Somehow, I managed to work a few hours in the studio on a sculpture for the Skowhegan show later this month. Bouli rested on my foot while I applied encaustics to my Grenade Globe.

Last October, Canadian writer Janet Wallace visited my studio to gather information for an article about my work. In March, I learned that American Craft magazine picked it up, slated to be run in the August 2011 issue. (Someone should do an article on Janet! She's a talented artist and overall interesting person!) The magazine requested pics of my political work and transformation tapestries. I am by no means a skilled photographer and was directed toward the talents of photographer/painter Leslie Bowman. I was thrilled that Leslie agreed to do the shoot here in my own studio since traveling my work in quantity is not feasible.

Leslie returned today for an 8 hours session. Most people don't realize how much work goes into getting one good picture with proper lighting and composition. My sculptures come with a handful of complications that make it difficult to capture the full story without several points of view. The studio was a tangled mess of cords and lights as Leslie moved from tripod to floor to approach the works from new perspectives. Several hundred pictures were snapped in hopes of finding twenty or thirty solid pics that the magazine will choose to use. The next step is the editing which Leslie is no doubt doing now as I type. I can't wait to see the results. It was such a pleasure to work with her!

My eyelids are heavy so I best wind this down and get some shut eye. This is the last week of school and will be a hectic one, more so than usual. I am already thinking that it will be nice to try to catch up on sleep next weekend!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Frenzied and Frazzled

Base structure for current sculpture, heading to Skowhegan show later this month "Worlds: Seen and Unseen"

Working on the armature for the top part of my "globe".

An idea of how it will fit together when done.

Chris rototilling the garden plot

Yes, frenzied and frazzled would be an accurate description of how things are going right now. The next three or four weeks are utterly overwhelming to think about. There are so many excellent events occurring, but it is hard to keep track of everything or to try to figure out how to fit all that needs to be done into the schedule. Here it is 9:30 at night when I am normally prepping for slumber, but instead I am trying to squeeze-in a blog entry since I haven't posted in a couple weeks and this weekend is packed solid.

Last weekend was the seasonal opening day for Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts. It was non-stop activity from the time of waking until sleep. We started off with visitors, moved onto the Tide Mill Organic Farm seedling sale (where we saw all kinds of friends and acquaintances), then customers, an appointment with a photographer, more visitors, and studio time. People have definitely come out of their winter hibernation.

Over that long holiday weekend, we found ourselves at a co-worker's farm shoveling two truckloads of manure for the garden. The next day we gave our hand at rototilling and boy did that work well! In the past Chris would use just a shovel and a hoe to break up the earth. I had no idea how much easier it would be to use this powerful equipment. I must say - there is some sort of residual past-life farmer in me....I really enjoyed climbing on top of that horse manure pile, digging in with a pitch fork, then working it into the garden! After I snapped Chris' pic with the rototiller he handed that task over to me. Fun! The garden is almost all planted and we are hoping for a better harvest than last summer. The soil is more rich this go-around and we have been receiving advice from garden-enthusiasts.

I am spending as much time as possible in the studio, both pottery for the shop and on a sculpture for a "globe" show in Skowhegan that artist Abby Shahn is organizing. I'll post pics of that piece when done. I am working outside my usual medium of clay and opted for plaster, acrylics, and encaustics. The deadline is too soon for me to chance it with clay. So far so good. I have been busy ordering supplies and working out the details.

I also need to work n a piece for the bicentennial lighthouse benefit art auction coming up over the 4th of July week. Two separate political pieces will be off to shows in August, and I am excited about an article in a magazine that is also slated for that month. It is looking to be an excellent summer in respect to art.

Lubec Arts Alive supplies need to be ordered and there is still more prep work to be done before the big event July 5-8. I have yet to design posters for that and will work with other committee members to finish "edging" the components of the sculpture.

I am still teaching full time days and even though we think of the school year as "winding down", this year we are "winding up full speed ahead!" All next week is a very exciting theater residency and our roles will change and flow according to the needs. I will keep in the back of my mind that all grades must be calculated and submitted, artwork returned to students, student work prepped for summer lighthouse gallery sales, and room cleaned and neatened.

Tonight we attended the art opening at UMM of our friend Jean Bookman. It was a wonderful evening with great art, food, friends. Kudos to Jean for such an accomplishment. Her assemblage and sculpture work are bizarrely interesting and it's a show not to miss. Bernie Vinzani did a great job "hanging" the show.

As I re-read what I have written - I am thinking how blessed I am to have so many wonderful experiences in my life! And such wonderful family, husband, and friends. Wow- it really is a good life.

There is much more activity swirling all around me but too much to post tonight. It's an exciting week ahead and I look forward to writing all about it when I can get back to the blog.