Friday, March 30, 2012

Fresh from the Fire

Coming Soon...
The official Cobscook Pottery Website!
Complete with online ordering - check back for details!

Items just unloaded from the Kiln...
A preview of what to expect this summer at

Big-bellied Mug
Northern Lights and Barley glaze motifs shown above.
Also available in Mossy Forest and Seafoam.

Dessert Plate
7" Diameter, Forest and Sky glaze motif

Berry Mug with Saucer
A mug-sized colander perfect for washing and eating a single serving of favorite berries.
(available without the saucer for $28)

Sake Set
Shown in Forest and Sky glaze motif.
Also available in Barley, Northern Lights, Mossy Forest, and Seafoam

Serving Platter
Available in a variety of sizes and glaze motifs.
Prices Vary

French Butter Crock
Keep butter fresh in this counter-top crock.
Fill lid with butter and insert into base with water. The water creates a seal to keep in freshness. Shown in Forest and Sky glaze motif. Also available in Seafoam and Barley glazes.

Sponge Holder
Shown in Forest and Sky. Also available in Northern Lights, Barley, and Seafoam.

Honey Pot w/wooden dipper
Shown in Barley glaze motif. Also available in Northern Lights, Seafoam, and Mossy Forest.

Domed Cheese Platter
Shown in Northern Lights glaze motif. Also available in Barley, Forest and Sky, and Seafoam.

Noodle Bowl with Chopsticks
Shown in Mossy Forest. Also available in Northern Lights and Barley glaze motifs.

Tea and Rice Bowl
Shown in Barley.
Also available in
Northern Lights, Forest and Sky, Mossy Forest, and Seafoam glaze motifs.

Mini Vase
Assorted glaze motifs.

Before this last batch of snow blew through, we had a near week of gorgeous spring weather with temps in the 70's. The warmth on the face offered optimistic rejuvenation and elevated energy for long walks. Despite the unseasonable temps, I was sequestered to the cave for long stretches of throwing and glazing. It felt great, though, to be able to open the doors wide for a bit to let the sunshine in. The past few weeks have been intense with production as I try out new items for summer sales. Last week I fired three bisque and two glaze loads, and there is plenty of ware waiting for the next round of firing. For the most part, I am incredibly pleased with the results. The colors were exceptional. There were some minor disappointments but that offers opportunity to go "back to the drawing board" to problem-solve and tweak. The functional wares have been a fun focus and helps to balance out the intense philosophical components of the sculptural work.

My docket is full of deadlines and appointments and I am reminding myself to just breathe through it, take one step at a time, prioritize, and know that I can rest a bit more easily once summer arrives. Maine tourist season soon begins and I have added new shops to my venue list. I need to provide pottery to each of those spaces by their opening dates and then I will focus on stocking my own shop here in Lubec. Meanwhile, the big student art show is in less than two weeks and Chris' poetry schedule is picking up. Paperwork needs tending and the website is in progress. I have much to get in order before the designer can do her part. This past week I spent a lot of hours with a photo shoot, business forms, and writing. Somehow we managed to sneak in some play time with my artist friend Becky and her beau from Portland. Lots of laughter and decadent food was a welcome break from the glazing.

Last Sunday the Lubec Arts Alive film aired on TV. A bunch of us gathered at Uncle Kippy's Restaurant to watch it on the big screen. The filmmaker, Jon Wing Lum, was able to join us, as well as his musician friend Nan Bennett who provided the beautiful soundtrack for the film. Every time I watch it, I get a bit choked-up. Such great memories from that summer and our first ever Lubec Arts Alive. I had no idea when the project first began in 2009 that we would still be continuing with it in 2012. Just never know where life will lead, I guess.

This weekend I work on the base support structure for the installation sculpture that will show at Lubec Landmarks in June. I'm always a bit nervous about how a piece will turn out - and it takes months to get a vision into the final stages. I just keep plugging along. There's a whole lot of finger-crossing and deity-pleading going on here!

Last week we snuck out to Machias for an evening in the UMM art gallery where students and faculty recited their creative works. Chris read a couple of poems. I was impressed with the young talent. Who knows...perhaps there were some future best-selling authors in the bunch!

Chris' poetry schedule is pretty full for this month. Next week he will be reading (alongside three other poets) at the Occupy Art opening at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell. This past winter his poetry was published in Liberty's Vigil: The Occupy Anthology. At the Harlow, he will share his work from that publication as well as his recent chapbook Rebellion, published as result of his winning a competition through Medulla Review. ( all should order a copy - not only does it have incredible poetry by a phenomenal poet...but it has my artwork on the cover!)

All is status quo at the homefront with our two furry companions. Bouli's 1st birthday is coming up (though she is about 15 in cat years!!! And acting every bit a rebellious teen!). What kind of cake should we make for her? Salmon or Crab?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Early Spring has Arrived!

I woke this morning to be greeted by beautiful floating puffs and blue sky.
Snow last week, early spring this week.
Hoping the latter is here to stay.

The spot where I spent my entire day yesterday...and some of the night!
I'm a very messy potter, as you can see.

Pieces trimmed and drying while first load is in the kiln, firing as I type.

Cat Labor
Bouli does her best earn her keep...though she seems to be taking a lot of naps while on the job.

Yes, I do think spring has arrived a bit early. We were walloped with a late season snow last week (enough to delay school two hours) then two days later the weather gods decided to tease us with sunny, warm days. It felt great to take a St. Patty's Day walk in the fresh air without having to "gear up" in mittens and hat. This morning I woke to a gorgeous blue-clouded sky and am in the mindset that I best get my studio work done early so that I may enjoy a mid afternoon jaunt.

The past week was full between meetings, teaching, and studio work. I got my grades for school done a few days earlier than normal and am glad to have that project marked off the list. Lubec Arts Alive committee met last week, too, and it is exciting to think about possible projects and the hum of summer activity. Lubec can be a "sleepy" sort of town in the winter, but like spring, is coming to life a bit earlier than normal. Already, cars from out-of-state are passing through our streets and that means that I should be thinking about opening the shop soon. There is lots to be done in prep for that but I am hopeful for a mid to late May opening, though may sneak in a few open hours here and there before that. I won't keep regular hours, though, until June. In the meantime, I am busy making wares for other venues.

I am super excited about my upcoming show in June. I am anxious to see the main installation piece come together but realize that this won't happen until May. Today, after about an hour of finishing up some pot trimming, I will do an extensive stretch of clay shingle production. I am also working out ideas in my mind for a series of work for the show - "collector's pieces" if you will, that somehow tie in with the main installation sculpture, but will be far more affordable and less time consuming than the 9 foot/200+ hour installation piece.

I will cut this blog short today- for the simple fact that I am itching to get into the studio and tackle the to-do list. It's a busy week ahead with four kiln firings, glazing marathons, teaching, visitors, and MFA work.

If in downeast Maine, don't forget to tune into ABC/WVII TV (channel 8 Warner Bros. / channel 7 Dish Satellite) on Sunday, March 25th, 3:00 p.m. The 2009 Lubec Arts Alive film, by Jon Wing Lum, will be airing. The film documents an amazing week of art-making here in Lubec when our town joined forces with the Union of Maine Visual Artists. The film includes interviews with Natasha Mayers, Robert Shetterly, Kenny Cole, Rose Marasco, Brown Lethem (to name a few!!!). And if here in Lubec (or nearby) Uncle Kippy's Restaurant will show the film on the big screen as it airs on TV, open to the public. (I am a narrator of sorts for the film.) If you are in the viewing area (Rockport to E. Millinocket /Oakland to Lubec) check it out! The film is about 36 minutes long, but will air in the 3:00-4:00 p.m. hour long slot.

For more info on the Lubec Arts Alive film, visit the Lubec Arts Alive blog site.

Into my cave I go....

Keep this date open
Saturday, June 2
My art opening at Lubec Landmarks. More info to follow.

Chris' Poetry
Student and Faculty Poetry Reading
UMM / Tuesday, March 20th / Power's Hall Art Gallery / 7:00 p.m.
Chris will be reading some of his works at this event.

Occupy Art / Art Opening and Poetry at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine
Harlow Gallery, Hallowell, Maine
April 6th, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Poetry reading by Chris Crittenden, Lee Sharkey, Henry Braun, Mark Melnicove

Calias Bookstore Poetry Reading: Chris Crittenden
Tentatively set for Monday, April 16th. I'll keep you informed!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Defunct and Demolished

Support foundation under old factory
Lubec, Maine
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Factory left to deteriorate
Lubec, Maine
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Interior of abandoned factory
Lubec, Maine
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Sculpture in progress
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Restoring the old McCurdy Smokehouses is a goal of Lubec Landmarks.
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Lubec Landmarks, downtown Lubec.
This building was once Mullholland Market (a meat market?)
My show opens here June 2, 2012- Mark your calendar!
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Greenware stacking up

Lubec is a different place than it was a hundred years ago, or even twelve years ago, for that matter. Places and people change, that's a given. But I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around just how much things have changed here.

Chris and I moved to Lubec in 2001 less than two weeks before the September 11 attacks. We arrived to what appeared to be a ghost town. There were "tales" of a once bustling hub. One of the last factories was closing and an overwhelming sense of defeat rolled in like an early morning fog.

At one time or another, approximately thirty factories were in operation in this town, along with a deluxe resort and lead and copper mines. There are a few remnants left of the old canning, cat food, and smokehouse factories, but for the most part, the buildings were razed, succumbed to fire, or disappeared into the ocean. Occasionally, a building is bought and remodeled for a new purpose.

Since I can remember, I have had an empathy for buildings. Maybe it is in part because I am an artist and architecture is one component, but it seems more than that. Buildings have personalities, and maybe in some sense, take on the energy of those who designed and built them. The wood or other material dredged or cut from the earth has its own energy as well, and the inhabitants all leave their mark at one time or another. I feel a sadness for a building that has been left to fend off the elements with no regard to its well being, to just deteriorate under the weight of snow or drift off with the currents without so much as an apology or memorial.

I still remember the sadness I felt coming home from school one day to see the old barn where I once lived being torn down. There were so many memories in that barn - jumping from the loft into a pile of hay, riding my bike back and forth across the boards, waiting for the batch of root beer to age, being bucked out of the truck by the goat, or playing with our rabbits Ketchup and Margaret who lived in the first stall. It was huge old barn with lots of lower level exploring where some transient had made a home; pots and pans strewn about a fire pit, a single mattress and blanket, dirt-infused pile of clothing.

Buildings house years of memories and people. The old factories, employing up to four hundred people at one time in just one facility, were deemed no longer profitable or safe thus demolished. I look at old photos of the enormous entities and still have a hard time believing that they existed. Once-powerful, sturdy, lucrative structures succumbing to wrecking balls, tides, and flames.

My current sculptural focus is inspired by the old factories of this town. I look back over the last couple years of my art practice and see how the creative road has led to this point. With a background in pottery and weaving which is a steady in repetition and multiples, I gravitated toward the idea of machines (in their many interpretations) with rows of grenades, to floors of hand-sculpted sewing machines. The difference now is that I am narrowing in on the emotions and connections with something that is a bit "closer to home".

I feel sort of like a sculptural Warhol of modern times.

I have been thinking about this project since last October. When I was asked to do a show at Lubec Landmarks for June 2012, I thought what a perfect opportunity to showcase a piece about the local history. Landmarks' main mission is to preserve Lubec's history through restoration of the old McCurdy Smokehouse, a cluster of cedar-shingled buildings outcropping the narrows. So far, one of the buildings has been restored and houses a museum. Sales from the Landmarks art exhibits help to fund the restoration.

The sculpture that I have in mind is a daunting task, but a challenge always seems to make things a bit more interesting. I have spent months researching, honing in on the main ideas, and sketching. Lots of folks have offered up bits of interesting facts.

There are still many unanswered "how-to's" as far as the physical part goes. I finally jumped in yesterday with the clay construction. I will figure out the rest of the details as the piece progresses. I have approximately 240 clay shingles to construct. Yikes. I am currently accepting applications for muscle-bound toters and installers!

I estimate that the finished (and might I add, fragile) sculpture will weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-150 lbs when done. I hope that I am overestimating: I fear not.

All the while, tings are humming along in the pottery cave. Production is in full force and it seems that there is never enough time to accomplish all the tasks on my list. Lubec Arts Alive is meeting this week to plan for the summer event, and school teaching will be a bit more busy with grades closing on Friday.

Chris is finding that his calendar is getting quite full as well. He has three poetry-reading engagements for April. We are both now keeping matching calendars close at hand to be sure to not double book ourselves or the one car that we share.

Clocks have sprung forward this weekend. Looking at the time gets me a bit anxious thinking that I have lost an hour of work already today. I never fully understand why we have to do this whole clock change thing. Why not just go with our usual earth/body rhythms and just let things be as they are? The full moon this past week was enough to throw off the physiological sleep pattern - now the change in alarm setting for earlier than usual work prep. I think it might be a walking-zombie kind of existence for a few days after today. I hope you all fare better than I expect to through the change.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

On the Road Again

Claudette Gamache, pastel painter, shares some her techniques with us during the MFA Weekend Seminar at Heartwood College of Art.
Photo by Bonnie Faulkner

It's amazing to see a pastel painting from the beginning (note red/orange base layer in previous photo) to the near finished creation. What a transformation!
Above: Pastel Landscape by Claudette Gamache.
Back in Lubec in my own studio, I have begun encaustic painting on the surface of my "chakra pods". This six-part sculpture is far from done....Check back later on for the finished work!

While packing sake sets for a gallery, Bouli thought it might good idea to pack herself in a box.

New gallery, IRONBOUND, located at 37 Bayview Street, Camden, will be carrying my pottery work. It's an amazing two-floor space and I am excited to be on board! (due to open Spring 2012)

IRONBOUND owner, Joy Armbrust, shows off her enthusiasm for power tools and the remodeling process in her new Camden gallery. I think you can tell from this picture that she exudes much optimism, gratitude and "joy" for this new adventure.

Lubec Arts Alive
A short film by noted filmmaker Jon Wing Lum
depicting a community-inspired week of art

Mural painted during Lubec Arts Alive 2009 under the direction of Natasha Mayers, located at the Lubec Historical Society. Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Arts Commission. Photo by Goodman/Van Riper Photography.

Union of Maine Visual Artists and the People of Lubec

Tune in to watch it on ABC TV
Sunday, March 25th, 3:00 PM
Airing on WVII out of Bangor
Warner Brothers Channel 8, Dish or Satellite Channel 7
Viewing area Rockport to E. Millinocket / Oakland to Machias

This 36 minute film documents the one week residency of thirteen artists in Lubec, Maine to "art-up" the town. Artists including Robert Shetterly, Natasha Mayers, and Kenny Cole, Rose Marasco, and Richard Brown Lethem joined Lubec community members to create a history mural and installation art for businesses. Over thirty portraits of local personalities were created and oral histories documented.

"Lum's film is a poignant portrayal of artists, art making, and sense of place in a small town during the summer of 2009."

I missed a week of blogging and am now "on the road again" trying to sneak in an hour or so to get my thoughts down on paper. Well, not paper. Keyboard and screen more like it. The past two weeks have flown by with lots of excitement but at the same time, have offered me some peaceful and relaxing moments. I am attempting to bring more non-work time into my life. It is a challenge, but am learning that pacing the self will work best in the end. The rabbit and the hare, right?

This weekend I am enjoying two nights at the Samoset Resort in Rockland. Things are hopping here with the annual Fisherman's Forum. I am not here for the forum, but the lively energy is all around us. Last night Chris and I peeked our heads into the ballroom where an auction was in progress. Not the typical auction, mind you. Rain gear and lobster traps were the coveted items, complete with an auctioneer who boasted a thick downeast Maine accent!

This morning I delivered work to a new gallery that is opening later this spring. IRONBOUND, housed in a gorgeous brick building in downtown Camden, will be a primarily sculpture space. The owner, Joy Armbrust, is a real pleasure to work with. It is evident that she is passionate about art and her journey has been an interesting one for sure. I look forward to this new adventure and partnership.

Last weekend I was in Kennebunk for our MFA weekend seminar at Heartwood College of Art. These weekend residencies fill the soul. I am fortunate to move along in a pod with a group of other women artists/teachers who are passionate about art and the art process. The roundtable conversations are deep and inspiring, the food filling, and the hands-on workshops offer up lots of great techniques that can be transferred to both the studio and the classroom. I feel so incredibly honored to be in the midst of such strong and focused women.

This semester we had the privilege of learning under pastel painter Claudette Gamache. Her talent with pastels and her patient, nurturing, and intuitive teaching style made for a wonderful first-pastel experience for me. I love to draw and am quite comfortable with oil pastel, charcoal, pencil, and conte, but the color and soft powdery, lush, sticks of pigment were a new experience and I feel a bit more comfortable with the material than I did before the workshop. There is much more to the process than one would expect - but those steps that I had never seen demonstrated before made handling of the material a much more confident experience.

The next three months will go by quickly as I juggle a myriad of projects. I am in production for the spring season and preparing to have my pottery at three or four new venues this summer. Teaching at school gets wild in the spring, too. Projects' Night is just over two months away and there is lots to be accomplished in the classroom before the big student art show goes up. A new website is in the works, too, and requires a hefty amount of rewriting and photo shoots.

I am in the process of researching the factory industry in Lubec and find myself enthralled by all the old photos and the images of huge buildings and a bustling downtown. These factories, for the most part, do not exist anymore. Barely any evidence other than remnant foundations or photos. I am creating an installation sculpture based on the factories, planned to show in June 2012. It will be months of work for about three weeks of display, but I am excited since this will be my first installation-type piece. I have been thinking about it for the past few months and the physical part of the project is just beginning. I have easily a couple hundred hours of work ahead of me and know the clock is ticking. I still am trying to get my head around the "how-to". There is some compromise between what I would like to do and what is feasible. But, this is a beginning, and in every new process, I learn a bit more to take to the next project. I have always had some sort of connection to buildings and feel incredibly sad when I see a building heading toward its demise. I am in a way sensing the pain and loss of our community for these buildings that once existed. Not only was a means of employment and stability lost, but also a sense of identity. My installation sculpture will touch on just one tiny detail in a two-hundred year history.

Tonight we wine and dine Mom amidst birthday cheer. I am not even sure how old she is. We kind of lose track of the numbers as we get older. I am expecting lots of laughter tonight and some majorly satisfied salivary glands. Soon Chris and I trek back to Lubec to sequester ourselves into our respective creative spaces. The cats will no doubt be bent out of shape over our two night disappearance. Hopefully some tuna and catnip will remedy the situation in a timely manner.