Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blessed Solstice, Yuletide Greetings, and Happy New Year!

Holiday Greetings to everyone out there!

I hope you are all enjoying the festivities that accompany this time of year. Things have gotten quite hectic, but wonderful, on this end, and I plan to take a teeny hiatus from blogging until the start of the New Year. While I am away from blogging, I will be shoveling snow, preparing for guests, spreading cheer, and partaking of all kinds of delicious confections and gut-busting fare. Once those next three days are out of the way - It is on to other events!

I begin an MFA program in January, so will spend time finishing up the studio organization and ordering of supplies. We are also in the process of moving my husband into his new writing study. We'll be catching-up with friends from near and far, and hopefully spending a few work days with my father adding more trim work in the new addition. School break is short, and once I return to work, I'll be hanging the student art show at the downtown library followed by a public artist reception. The student artwork is amazing this year!.

I should be back to blogging in about two and a half weeks, with copious updates on my progression in the MFA program.

I wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First Full Day in the New Studio

Worked in the new studio all day planning for a five month long sculptural project

Today I write from the new studio space. I admit that it has been a slow process moving myself in here, not only physically, but psychologically. The space is wide open, scarce in decoration, and so pristine. What if I don't create a masterpiece? What if I mess up this gorgeous new bamboo floor? What if...what if...what if....

I came in here about 10:00 a.m this morning, lugging from storage my old drafting table that has not been used in well over a dozen years. I spent the first two hours cleaning dirt and clay from the legging, then sweeping the floor, and washing windows. Methodically, I was preparing myself for the work ahead. In my mind whirled possible ideas for my first MFA class proposal.

Now that six hours has passed, I don't want to leave. The ambiance is extremely conducive to creativity. The drafting table is placed in front of an eight foot wide sliding glass door, from which I watched two eagles and a hawk soar overhead today. I spent time (nearly nodding off!) reclining on the futon in the little nook, wrapped in a comforter, smelling the candle scents of warm apple pie and sugar cookies, and listening to the "spa" channel on satellite radio. I time thumbed through art books and sketched possible ideas for a five month-long concentration in a series of my choosing.

I am excited to begin working on my Master of Fine Arts. I was accepted into the new low residency program at Heartwood College of Art, in Kennebunk, Maine. It is the first program of its kind in the state (and only one of two MFA programs for visual arts in Maine) that will allow me to keep my full time teaching schedule as well as be a student.

It's interesting to be a student again. I finished my fine arts degree in 1993, then my teaching program in 1999. Now I am back at it, thrilled with the possibilities. However, I was less than thrilled when I received my first assignment. I reacted EXACTLY the way some of my own students react when I assign them a project. I thought "twenty six sculptures in five months? I am trying to get away from mass production!"

I am the type of person who translates things literally in my mind, and often, I get a visual and get fixated on that one idea. I doubt that makes much sense to anyone but me, but there it is. I became a complainy whiny student. I found immense humor in this, and a better understanding of my own students. Then I thought, what lesson would there be in this for me, and what would I expect of my own students?

So, I let my mind open and wander and think of the positives. It is a meditative process to concentrate so intently on one object. Also, it teaches me to focus, and if you know me personally, you know that I can become quite scattered with a million things going on at once, multi-tasking, hopping from idea to idea, medium to medium.

I also needed to remind myself that I am artist, and interpretation is quite individual. So, how I approach my one subject twenty-six times may not be the literal translation that another might have. The final topic I decided upon and the final presentation of it is not at all what I was expecting of myself. It is a completely different path than I expected to take when I first started planning three or more weeks ago. And already, I am sensing the possibilities for growth in my own work. Perhaps the bulk of that growth has already occurred, just in my being able to apporach the project from a different perspective and to find its inherent value.

I won't share all the details just yet. First the proposal needs to be accepted, then I need to get into the studio and feel my way around it. There may lie still a learning curve or two for me. But expect an update in May when the project is complete...or perhaps...transitioning to a new phase.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Downeast Winter Wonderland

our yard, first snow of the season: a magical fieldscape

dad's productive visit:the picture window in new studio trimmed

I had been been waiting with great anticipation the first snow of the season. Sometimes I see it in October, though it doesn't stick around long, usually just a dusting to incite all the excitement that goes along with thoughts of a snow day from school, holidays, and cozy creative hibernation. This season however, Mother Nature made me wait extra long. We are one week into December, admittedly still autumn according to calendar, but it seems kinda late. I must say, though, that I am not at all disappointed with the result. The storm was forecasted "a mini nor'easter", and yahoo weather flashed a bright red "WINTER STORM WARNING" that just made the excitement of first snow all the more thrilling.

It's not like I am an avid outdoor winter sports enthusiast. I did cross country ski when younger, and have thought of picking it up once again, but I am one who complains about shoveling, and no matter how many layers of wool I am buried 'neath, there is always some part of me that seems to be cold. Still, winter is a magical time and a season that I look forward to.

I like the darkness. Others complain when the clocks are turned back and suddenly it is pitch black at 4:30 p.m. Not me. I welcome it. And I love the mornings as well. There is no stillness as deep as the early morning dark hours of winter, when the moonlight is cast over a freshly blanketed field, shadows of animal tracks visible, and the heat of a lit fire feels so comforting knowing it is well below freezing on the other side of that pane of glass.

We were all a scurry Saturday in prep for the big storm. The barn needed to be cleared enough for the car to park under cover, and deck furniture needed to be sheltered or tipped on its side. The wreaths were finally hung then Yule tree bought, delivered, and decorated. While Chris and I went about completing these tasks, my father from central Maine was hammering away in the new studio space, trimming out windows.

The only thing that would have made the first storm more perfect would be if I was in the new studio working away on my art. Winter time is the best time for creative reflection. I have an idea, though, that I will have plenty of opportunity for that in the coming months.

Afterall, the weatherman already said that it looks like snow again on Wednesday.... "a real coastal hugger."

Forget the sugar plums....I have visions of a snow day dancing in my head!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Tis the Season

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!" And what happened then...? Well...in Who-ville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!
-Dr. Suess "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"

Thanksgiving has come and gone. People sat around tables stuffing their faces with all kinds of epicurean delights, sharing stories, giving the occasional thanks for blessings in their lives. Eventually some members of the gathering made their way to the couch for a snooze or to watch a few plays of football. As soon as night passed, it was on to the next holiday and hordes of cell-phone-carrying crazed bargain hunters flooding the streets and stores to find the best deal on this year's hottest toys and gadgets.

Yes indeed, I was part of that mix. Not so much to find the latest deal, but living in a remote area I grab at the opportunity when in "the city" to seek what items we need "back at the ranch" that just aren't available locally. I had been dreading this day, knowing that I would have to skirt around crazily-driven cars at backed-up intersections only to find myself standing in line for what would seem an eternity for one or two items in my hand while others in front of me flaunt their overflowing carts while listening to "The Little Drummer Boy" play over the speaker system for a fourth time that morning.

Okay, maybe I am sounding a bit like the Grinch now.

But in reality, I am not Grinch-like. I love this season. I love (almost) everything about it. Christmas time conjures up all kinds of nostalgia for me. To this day, our family, friends, and neighbors still gather at Mom and Dad's for the Christmas Eve buffet: an enormous spread of food and cheer, gift-exchanging, music, and festive decorations. As a young child, my sister, brother, and I would perform little skits for everyone, or play music or sing. I can still recite the corresponding organ key numbers for "Dreaming of a White Christmas" and "Auld Lange Syne". We don't perform anymore, but the younger of the clan like to belt out a few holiday tunes on the paino or guitar, and the occasional AC/DC song.

In my youth, the butterflies would work overtime in my stomach on Christmas eve. I knew that the sooner I went to sleep the sooner I would wake to find all kinds of toys that Santa had tucked under the tree. There were plenty of chimneys for him to use, and my letters had been mailed to the North Pole ensuring that he would be well-prepared. I was certain I could hear the sleigh bells tinkling as he and his trusty crew of reindeer flew over, Rudolph at the helm of course.

Now that I am older, I still look forward to Christmas (and Solstice!) with great anticipation and excitement. As you age, you appreciate the holidays for different reasons than you did as a child. Now, I find more joy in giving and knowing that I will be spending time with those I love most dearly.

My mom wrote me an email yesterday reminiscing about Christmas past. Like many families, there were financial struggles, but, I never knew it as a kid. The Christmas tree was always overflowing and my sister, brother, and I didn't want for much. It always seemed we had everything we needed. Mom tells of the hours she spent making us handmade clothes and toys because times were so lean, and with tight budgeting she could supplement the handmade items with a couple of material-world toys that we had requested from Santa. I can think back and remember some of the gifts. There were certainly lots of dolls - one that peed and pooped when I fed her, one whose hair could "grow", the beauty-school head that I could I could glam-up, Little Red Riding Hood, and too many Barbies to count, all with high-end runway-type outfits. But what Mom would probably be amazed about is that the items I hold most dear from Christmas' past are the little beanie baby doll she made and the big stuffed pink turtle. I remember toting those two items to school a number of times.

I have lived a truly blessed life. I always had a roof over my head, warm clothes, food, family that loved me, beautiful holiday memories, and material items that I know many in this world don't or won't ever have an opportunity to experience.

I teach in a public school, in a remote, rural area where there are more of those who "need" than those who "have". I know my students, and I know which ones haven't been blessed as I was, or as I am. I know that children, regardless of income class, believe in Santa and expect that he will travel from the North Pole on Chritmas to deliver them their dreams. And I know that some students will be more silent than others as kids return from holiday break to show-off their new toys and talk about what goodies Santa delivered to them.

I imagine that most people who read my blog are kind, nurturing souls who are already helping-out others. Given the economy of late, I know it can be a lot to ask. Some folks may not be able to extend themselves financially, but are able to help out with time and volunteering. If you are able to help out, with a toy or in some other financial capacity, a great place to start is a school. Teachers know of lots of little boys and girls who could benefit from the generosity of another. Give your local school a call and ask if there is an item(s) that you can pick-up that will make a child's Christmas morning a little bit brighter. If not a school, there are plenty of children's homes/residential facilities that could use some goodwill as well.

It is a heart-opening experience to help another family who is less-fortunate then yourself. Even though the post-Thanksgiving crowd wanted to flare my Grinch side, my heart, like the Grinch's heart, grew and grew while I picked out toys and art supplies for the little boy who I know would have nothing under the tree (and probably not even a tree) except for what I will provide.

My parents are hosting the annual "cousins" Christmas party in a couple weeks. They usually have a "Yankee Swap" and we all know what kinds of gifts show up in those gift-giving games! This year, though, at my sister's suggestion, party-goers will be asked to draw names, then buy a toy that they feel represents that person. The toys will then be donated to a charity or school. Fabulous!

There are lots of ways to "give" this holiday season (and any season!). If you haven't already made your plan to help-out another, make it a goal to begin now. Whether it is a donation of time, money, or gifts, "tis the season". Perhaps you will help at a local shelter or food bank, be a secret-santa for a school-aged child, pay an out-0f-work neightbors electric bill, or volunteer at the local hospital's children's ward. It's all beautiful - and it feels great!

Start the giving now and feel your heart grow...and grow...and GROW.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Annual Holiday Open Studio Sale

The new studio space - still in progress

Displaying my sister Kristin's Jewelry: The Indigo Iris

A shelf with the Barley glaze: yunomi cups, rice bowls, and spiral bowls

Display with Earth and Sky glaze, sake set, and the new Mead mugs

Corner display with spiral bowls and some of the Machine series pieces

The upstairs relaxation space

I started blogging just about a year ago, and one of the initial entries was about my annual holiday open studio sale. It seems unreal that a year has passed already. This past weekend was the 2009 sale at our shop "Cobscook Pottery". It was certainly a success, on many levels, but most amazing was the realization of how much has happened in the past year since the 2008 open house. Between the shop space in the barn changing, the new studio addition on the house, new series of work, and my own personal physical transformation, it was as if the returning customers were visiting for the first time!

Days before the sale, Chris and I lugged equipment and furniture out of the space. Shelves were cleared of all production supplies and most of the clay and glaze messes were mopped-up. Pottery studios aren't by nature clean or neat. I do what I can, but when in the middle of a production frenzy, there just isn't extra time or energy to clean-up.

The glaze firing for the sale was a bit of a stress. An Err1 (undetermined error of some sort) switched the kiln off 42 degrees short of maturity. Given the schedule with the contractor and his energy-hog equipment/compressors etc., I knew that I wouldn't have a day to safely fire again before the sale, and in this kiln load was better than 60 hours of work. But by some miracle, when we checked the kiln load the next day, the glazes were spot-on.

As with all holiday sales, my sister Kristin and her partner Neal spent the weekend with us. Neal usually hikes and paints, Chris follows his regular writing routine, and Kristin and I stay pretty busy greeting folks, answering questions, and packaging gift items. This year we added on tours of the new studio space. We ended the day with a delicious home cooked meal and lively conversation.

The time leading up to the sale weekend is non-stop busy. Night before opening, I felt the most exhausted I think I have ever felt in my life. My mind and body were both shutting down, having pushed myself too hard the days before. We had Veteran's Day off from school, and I did a 16-hour marathon session of baking, weaving, cleaning, organizing, moving, soapmaking, and printing tags and cards.

Somehow it all pulled together as it usually does. It was the most heavily attended sale we have ever had here in Lubec, with lots of first-time folks stopping by. Sunday afternoon, which is usually quiet on sale weekend, kept me so busy that I didn't even get breakfast until 2:00 in the afternoon. The last customer left 45 minutes after closing time.

Monday, even though I was back at school teaching, felt like a break for me. I now feel a mental relief knowing that I have a small window to time to catch my breath, and enjoy the approaching holidays. It's cookie-making, gift-wrapping, tree-decorating, yankee-swap, cozy-winter-approaching time. The next month will be steeped in the usual traditions, as well as the excitment of moving fully into the new studio space.

January will be here before I know it, and that begins a whole new chapter in my life as I begin an MFA program. But until then, I will revel in the scents of christmas cookies and the joy of children who are excitedly awaiting the return of the red-suited jolly bearded-man and all his brightly wrapped presents.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Headline: Highly Contagious Flu impacts Billions

It seems fitting, now that I think of it, that the first artwork to grace the walls of my new studio space is a drawing of a skeleton.

Symbolically, it represents the basic structure. The foundation has been poured, the walls raised, the floor laid. And now, though it is sturdy, a hollow feeling remains, awaiting all the necessary components to make it a complete living organism: furniture (vital organs), window and floor trim (muscle), and a working artist (lifeblood).

The new addition is sort of like having a third arm added to my body. I have always made do with two but could certainly put a third to use. It feels a bit strange and I am not quite acclimated to it yet. Having our house nearly double over the course of the last few months has been overwhelming at times, but also exciting. The new studio will allow me to work with clay year-round, no more below-freezing barn temps to deal with, lugging buckets of water back and forth, and hungry nesting critters who find my fiber creations tempting and cozy.

Fifteen years ago I had a vision. No, it wasn't a mystical white light pouring over me with the voice of God speaking profoundly about my soul's purpose. It was more of an an epiphany. In one moment of clarity I felt I knew my life's purpose and could "see" the physical environment in which I would work and what I would be doing, and how I would be contributing to the healing of this Earth. I just didn't know how I would get there.

At the time, I was not a teacher, at least not in the public school classroom sense. My life was a blank slate and anything was possible. Back then, I wouldn't have understood how even the smallest change or experience would influence my journey and bring me to this moment, which is still not the end, but very much the beginning.

So, I had this vision: a space for people to create, and in the process, heal. Over the years, The "retreat" has morphed in the physical sense, being tweaked in my mind to what is adequate to meet my goals, but also manageable. Instead of a massive arts-compound with cabins and hordes of people shuffling through and the stress of running a major business, I decided to focus on a more intimate, personal approach: a healing space for my husband and me where we invite others, in a more laid back sort of way, to create and heal with us.

The Gahnadi Quote comes to mind "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

And certainly, much change is needed. My approach is to strive for a life of balance, creativity, empathy, knowledge, kindness, truth, love, and sharing. That's a tall order, but a satisfying one. Just imagine, what if that were to become the latest pandemic? The headlines would read.....

Harmony Flu Sweeps Across the Globe: CDC Warns World Peace Inevitable.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Low-Rez MFA Program at Heartwood College of Art

There is a new low residency MFA program starting January 2010. Heartwood College of Art is a non-profit private school in Kennebunk, Maine. The "Low-Rez MFA program runs on a slower track than most other MFA programs I have found. Two classes a semester allows a person the flexibility to keep their regular job while moving forward with their education. The slower pace also makes paying for the program more feasible. Like many other low rez MFA programs, students are grouped in "pods", work one-on-one with mentor artists and advisors, have a considerable amount of freedom with their curriculum, and spend the majority of their time working independently in their own studios. As far as being on campus, students spend one "weekend-intensive" on site each semester, and one or two other shorter visits for advisor meetings.

Check out their website. I believe that they are still accepting applications until the end of November for the "pioneer pod". I met with the dean and president last summer and was impressed with their progressive vision for this program.

If you live in the New England area, have a BFA and have been thinking about pursuing your MFA, and if you are self-motivated and thrive on small group instruction, check this program out.

Here is a link to info on the Heartwood MFA program:
Heartwood MFA program

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marriage equality for All: No on 1

I am not usually political in my blog, but today I am stepping out a bit.

It's voting day in Maine. There are a few issues on the ballot that I feel passionate about, but none more this time around than the marriage equality vote. Last spring, Maine's chosen political representatives heard several hours of heartfelt testimony from Mainers about why it is time for Maine to do what is morally right: to extend equal civil marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Rightly, the initiative passed. Soon after, there was a petition to repeal the new law, and now the issue is facing the people's vote. I urge all who are voting today to do what is right: to open your heart and mind. Bias against another because of their sexual orientation is simply wrong, sends a negative message to our children, friends and relatives. I strive to live in a world that is tolerant, loving, healing. Let it begin today.

I will be voting this afternoon. No on 1 to support marriage equality.

Here is a copy of a Bangor Daily News op-ed that my husband wrote a few months ago.

The following editorial was originally published in the Bangor Daily News on May 15, 2009. You can also access it here: http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/106045.html

Equality is Ageless
Chris Crittenden

IPods that store whole music collections. Hand size computers networked across the planet. Miraculous as these would seem to our ancestors, there is an ethical achievement even more stunning: the joyful spread of equality.

Equality is old news, you say? Not for women, not for blacks, not for Native Americans, and not for gays and lesbians. Even the first glimmer of equal treatment, which applied only to landed male gentry, emerged about a century before the Declaration of Independence and its famous self-evident truth: “All men are created equal.” Given that humanity has passed the ripe old age of a hundred thousand years, this proclamation is the clarion call of a brash young heretic.

We live in the era of a mind-blowing fact: Over generations, in halting increments, civilization can wind a path of reason, even if that means deviating from barnacled social norms. Old habits die hard, but they do indeed marry the dust, even those stubbornly justified by appeals to “human nature” or sacrosanct tradition. Whatever happens next on our shared cosmic journey, we have shown that standards of justice can rise above privilege, bureaucracy, and selfishness, evolving in wonderful ways as unknown to the past as antibiotics and heart transplants.

And this is a good thing. We need flexible thinkers to deal with the implications of a headlong lunge into a future as daunting as science fiction. We need to be open-minded to merge the wisdom of the past with the liberations of discovery. Backsliding is not an option. Neither is mediocre performance . If we are to survive this Buckaroo Banzai ride into the Space Age, a place fraught with speck-sized computers and genetic re-scripting, we need to live not in the past, the present, or the future, but rather in a clear-headed mentality joining all three.

Tradition is indeed essential and liberals often fail to realize this. It provides a brake on reckless change, galvanizing debate and impelling a cautious pace. The Bible will never be obsolete; and yet its omnium-gatherum of parables and strictures, as has been the case since inception, is amenable to new insights.

Consistent application of the principle of equality, not blind faith, should be our guide. It will not do to restrict gays based on Biblical passages while ignoring similar passages that curtail women, ethnics, and pagans. Before the Civil War, the Bible was used to justify slavery, but we moved beyond that. Reason took another step. A fairness-based interpretation of Scripture brought us to celebrate one of our greatest accomplishments: Emancipation.

The fight over gay marriage is just the latest in a series of bouts with prejudice. The basic weapons have been the same for centuries: fear, outrage, misery, and hope. Both sides lay claim to all these, and in the end we must turn not only to consistency and fairness, but also to the proven point that humanity can rise above fear using the ladder of reason. In this task, our surest rung is that self-evident concept which distinguishes enlightened progress from the medieval lethargy of hierarchs and despots: Equality.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I have been unable to blog the past two weeks! I am beginning to move into my new studio space - still lots of staining and painting to do, moving of furniture and equipment and supplies....on top of full time teaching and other commitments. But...I do plan to return to blogging next weekend! So please do check back then!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


The studio floor is in! I hope to officially move-in over the next two to three weeks.

I woke thinking how so many things occur in my life in a short blip of time. I have not posted in two weeks and thought "how can I possibly narrow my next blog entry?" It is true what they say, when you get older, life just seems to pass by so quickly.

As a youngster, time didn't move fast enough. I wanted the weekend to arrive so I could go to the movies or watch Saturday morning cartoons. I wanted to be old enough to get my license to drive a car. I couldn't wait to graduate high school to move onto college, stay out late with no curfew restrictions. Then I wanted college to end so I could get a job and have a rent (what was I thinking on that one?)

Now, I hope for the weekend to move at a turtle's pace so I can spend more time in my studio. I want the years to slow so I can enjoy time with my family and being who I am, liking who I am. I want the tired aches of old age to never greet me, and I want the peaceful, creative moments to move in slow motion; hang on to them as long as I am able.

And this morning, as I often do, I find my mind spinning as I think about how much has happened in two weeks time. Was I, when in the midst of the chaos, able to fully experience each moment?

If I were Buddhist, as many of my friends are, perhaps I would take lesson from this. But no. Instead, I was cursed with the dreaded "type A" personality. I was given the nickname bumble bee as a toddler because of always "buzzing around", and developed a somewhat workaholic attitude as I grew older. I am one of those people who tends to multi-task; it is difficult for me to sit still. (Thus, several unsuccessful attempts at beginning a meditation regime.) I am likely to be found doing two or three things at once: working on a tapestry, checking email every so often, pen and paper nearby to make a list of things that come to mind that must be done "when I am done", while some culinary creation is baking in the oven. The OPEN sign is probably up and I will have to occasionally go out to the barn to greet visitors, and will tend to Portobello's meowing and need for affection and food on a fairly regualr basis.

Life is seldom still.

In the past two weeks, I worked full-time days at my teaching job. Weekends and afterschool I threw and trimmed pottery. When pottery was at a break point, the tapestry work began. Lubec Arts Alive committee met here at our house, and the mural dedication celebration occurred yesterday at the historical society. I spent three or more hours preparing a speech, experimented with baking whole wheat sugar free peanut butter cookies, and had an intersting conversation with a local flower shop owner while picking up balloons. The bamboo floor was laid in the new studio (see photo above!) and I went to the lumber yard to check out grades of wood and then to the heating business to try to figure out the best way to heat our new space (not simple as it would seem since we can have no blowers around clay dust). Chris and I spent part of an afternoon looking for whales at East Quoddy off Campobelo Island, and we had a delicious brunch at an artist friend's house, complete with deep, throught-provoking conversations about corporate corruption and other societal mishaps. I have begun staining trim board, which is not a fun chore for me, and cleaned up the barn studio for the switchover to brown clay. This morning, mead mug production begins in order to fill a holiday order, and there are three workers here banging and sawing to do some of the detail work on the new space. Later today, I deliver the LAA portraits to the frame shop for matting.

I am thankful to have an extended weekend so that I can be in my creative element a bit longer before returning to the usual routine of classes and students. And maybe, in the studio, sitting at the wheel, I can enjoy my peaceful moments that are, for me, the closest to meditation that a non-meditator can get.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Addiction

Not to make light of those who face addictions of any sort, but I have often likened my obsession with creating to a drug addiction. If you are an artist, you will fully understand this. If you are not, you may find this statement strange.

I just went back into the studio after nearly four months of no artwork activity.We have been building a new studio and for the past few months my supplies have been in boxes and equipment not accessible because of having to use the barn for building supplies. On top of that, I have simply had no time. Managing a building project has been more of a handful than I ever expected!

As I said, four months no artwork. I had mentally prepared myself for not doing any artwork over the summer. I gave myself permission to focus on other things with the knowing that I would, come the end of August, be moving into a new, better studio space that I could use in the winter months as well. Not a bad trade-off. I could handle the short term.

But two months turned into three and a half months and counting. When away from the clay too long, I get agitated. Little things bother me. I begin to obsess on what I am not getting done in the studio. I get cranky, maybe even slightly depressed. the demands of a full-time teaching job add to the stress and give even more reason why I need my "fix".

I couldn't take it any longer - no more waiting. I told Chris that no matter what, I was going to begin clay work with or without the new studio.

So this past weekend I heated up the barn and foraged through boxes looking for tools that had been put away awaiting their new home. I found enough to get me rolling. Filled a bucket with warm water and wedged about 30 balls of clay. I went to the hardware store and bought plastic tarp to line the barn walls and floor, and with my not-too-strong arms managed to shift the heavy potter's wheel into place. I started with my ritual throwing of mini pots, then working my way up to the larger bowls.

I instantly felt the most relaxed I have in months. All the worries about not having the new space ready, or the follow-up LAA work, or prep for school....just started to dissipate. I was centered, calm, complete. It felt so good, and long overdue. Hours passed in a flash.

As with any addiction, once you start in again with your substance of choice, you want more and more. Suddenly I am again ignoring the basic things that need to be taken care of. All I can think about is getting back into the studio, my hands in the mud. I lay awake in the middle of night thinking about I will make next. I hope for morning to come soon so I can get up and bring my ideas into some sort of visual reality. I remind myself to set limits as to how many hours I am allowed to be in the studio, lest I ignore too many other important things (and Chris lets me know when this is happening!) But eventually, the planned six hour sessions turn into 12 here and there. It is a cycle that is hard to break out of.

On the whole scale of things, an addiction to art is not so bad. I have, however, found myself saying more than once, that it is not an easy life being an artist. It dictates the space you live in, gives you sleepless nights when the mind won't stop inventing, and costs loads of money in supplies with little financial return.

It doesn't feel a choice to be an artist; you are just are. That desire to create is strong, and it has a tight hold on my soul.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Life Speeding Along

Shanna warping the Earth Loom in saturday's gusty downeast wind, preparing to weave in honor of Mabon with plants harvested from our land.

Last night I dreamt of a white horse running through a field. Every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of it's mane which looked like a Pegasus wing. The horse eventually came to me and I was able to pat it.

When I dream of animals, I refer to the book "Animal Speak" by Ted Andrews, to gain some insight into the dream's meaning. The horse represents freedom and journey, and judging by how fast this horse was running, I sense that some parts of my life might be moving very fast for me, faster than I might normally expect.

It is an odd juxtaposition, to on one level sense this speed, but on another level there are moments that feel so still and slow.

This past summer had me busy between building the new studio and organizing for Lubec Arts Alive. From these projects (which are both still in progress though transitioning toward an "end") I went back to my teaching job at school. At the same time, I have new projects forming in my mind and ideas about moving the arts forward for both our community and in my own personal studio and work as an artist. My mind never seems to rest.

Yet, in this one time-warp type moment yesterday, all things slowed to a perfect moment of stillness.

I had hustled around the house all morning in preparation for the Two Countries One Bay Artist Studio Tour. The final preparation was to warp the Earth Loom so that visitors could join me in weaving. At first, I was a bit discouraged. The air felt bitterly cold, and the wind was whipping wild. My hands were approaching numb and I still had many strings to measure, cut, and tie.

In this moment, listening to the rustle of tree limbs sway, leaves twirling and falling to the ground, I was in a meditative space with the rhythm of repetitive cutting and tying. I looked out over the field and toward the water, then the sky, watching the trees sway and grey clouds move quickly by with peeks of blue coming through. Instead of being the one always moving fast, I felt still and centered while nature moved fiercely around me.

Then, like a slow-motion movie scene, an osprey flew toward me, swooping down to perhaps only thirty feet from ground, then back up and over the barn, between an opening of trees, and off over the field.

It was a magical moment.

A freelance writer from a Canadian arts magazine interviewed me on Friday (I was one of many artists interviewed) and she asked a question about how the land inspires my work. Words can't fully express an entire philosophy and reverence for nature that I feel. But if I could have relayed to her that moment with the osprey, if she could have stepped inside my soul and felt that perfectly still yet whirling moment, I think she would have understood.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hip Hip Hooray!

Shanna giving a cheer at Crow Town Gallery on opening night of Lubec Arts Alive 2009
Photo by Goodman/Van Riper Photography

Chris is off to Calais today to run errands and I thought I would snag a few minutes of the day to finally post a blog entry. The photo above says it all...relief to see things in action that I have been working on this past summer. Lubec Arts Alive was a huge success and just today I got the 200 photos titled and uploaded to a Flicker site. The work for LAA2009 continues, but I am closing in on finishing up the 2009 responsibilities. Of course, there is always LAA2010 to contend with...but we'll deal with that "little" project as it approaches.

For now, I am content to be sitting in my comfy big chair and breathing easy that one more task is complete. Still, the list is long, but I am feeling like routine is back to some sort of normalcy. School started a couple weeks ago and I am pleased that so far, knock on wood, all things are good on that helm. I am enjoying the classes and looking forward to seeing what masterpieces the students create this year. Even though teaching can be overwhelming at times, it can also be inspiring and rewarding. I would like to see the latter increase over the challenges long term!

The studio addition project continues. We are closing in on the final details. Soon the floor will be laid, stairs finished, and equipment moved in. We are still dealing with some leaking into the new basement, and until that is fixed, the kiln and wheel will not be moved. I am finding myself antsy, and wanting to create. This cold weather moving in has me moving toward hibernation mode and all I can think about (when not thinking about teaching or Lubec Arts Alive) is being in my own sacred creative space. I had hoped to be fully in there by next weekend since I am on the Two Countries One Bay Art Studio Tour, but it looks more like I will be in the process of moving furniture and supplies while visitors stop by! Close enough!

During Lubec Arts Alive, Chris gave a poetry reading in the new studio. It was amazing! even without the floor installed or the window trim in place, the ambiance was perfect. I keep dreaming of what other wonderful events we will be hosting in the future. The new space is a dream come true. I feel so incredibly fortunate and grateful to all who have had a hand in helping us achieve this goal.

If I want to see that new space ready for the loom and wheel, I suppose I should get back to staining boards and painting walls.

Check out the Lubec Arts Alive Sites:
Lubec Arts Alive Blog
Lubec Arts Alive Photos on Flicker

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hiatus from Blogging

With the start of school last week, Lubec Arts Alive post-project details, and working on the new studio at the same time - I am a bit behind with my blogging. I plan to make a new entry this weekend coming...so please check back later! I will hopefully be posting new pics of the studio progress, as well as a link to see a ton of photos from the Lubec Arts Alive event. Check out the other blog (which needs to be updated too!) to see the incredible mural that is now housed at the Lubec Historical Society. Natasha Mayers led the project and she was amazing!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

What a week!

Richard Brown Lethem paints Eugene, local lobsterman and chocolatier. Finished paintings in the background include me! I love Lethem's wild colors and quick expressionistic brush strokes. It was a real treat to observe him at work.

I guess I can say that Lubec Arts Alive 2009 is officially over. The last artist working, Natasha Mayers, swung by the house to pick up her books on her way out of town Saturday night at 6:30. It was a week to never forget - a bustling of activity from morning 'til late night. Lubec has never seen the likes of this - accomplished artists from Maine and beyond, thirteen of them, landing here for one week to "art-up" the town. The project definitely grew from its original conception of just bringing wild color and creativity - to something that documented a town's history and people while celebrating community. What is even more amazing is that these artists were originally expected to be paid, however, when the grant didn't come through, they all enthusiastically said "I'll be there anyway!" So, this definitely defined "Community" in the sense that everyone pitched in to help out. Individuals and local businesses provided housing, food, supply money and talent. Our sponsor list topped over fifty, and that doesn't even include the volunteers who provided muscle and equipment. Astounding!

We started the week with a wine and cheese at Crow Town Gallery. The committee had their first opportunity to meet the resident artists. Frank Van Riper and Judy Goodman were there from the beginning to photo document the event (they have since taken over 450 photos!), and Ruta of Tours of Lubec and Cobscook volunteered a local history tour of the town. Monday morning we started right in with the mural, portraits, and doorways. It was such an incredible experience to see all our planing come into action: folks from the community filtering in, feeling honored, creativity flaring, people laughing, curious, eager to do their part.

Throughout the week, we saw lots of faces, and honored many from the community. We feasted (many times!) The mural, which should be mounted soon, is amazing! I am so impressed with Natasha's ability to mobilize a crowd and get such an enormous and gorgeous artwork completed in one week. Hamilton Beach was filled with natural found object sculptures in the style of Goldsworthy, and Chris even gave a poetry reading here in our new studio space, which was followed by a fire circle complete with marshmallow toasting, banjo and accordion playing, and a sharing of poems. The portrait sessions were at times touching (especially the public viewing at the library of finished portraits) and the doorway installations downtown drew lots of attention from passers-by. The slide show (and moving shadow puppet show) showed the audience just how incredible, accomplished, dedicated, and talented this group of thirteen artists were, and how fortunate we were to have had this experience.

I was sad to see each artist leave, and the energy that they brought to our town and project. I hope we all have a chance to cross paths again.

I must also say - that I was overwhelmingly impressed with (and thankful for!) the committee here in Lubec! This group of five women worked their butts off! The two weeks prior to the event, and the week of, (and the months before!) left little time for anything other than organizational activities. This was the first time I was "at the helm" overseeing a major project, and as events unfolded, I could see even more clearly how talented this dedicated group of women was, and still is! I would without hesitation work with this same group again. It couldn't have been a more perfect combination with each person's talents complementing another's.

I need a little time to catch my breath and do some follow-up reporting and documenting for the event. Before long, we will update the Lubec Arts Alive blog with new pics, and perhaps build a website or flicker site to post all the incredible photos that were taken by various folks (including Judy Goodman and Frank Van Riper!). Wing Lum, filmaker, is also editing out the footage that he shot, and who knows where that will lead!

Thanks to all the incredible artists who came to our tiny little town to "art-it-up" (Natasha Mayers, Robert Shetterly, Richard Brown Lethem, Kenny Cole, Karen Adrienne, Rose Marasco, Barb Sullivan, Diane Dahlke, Alan Crichton, Harlan Crichton, Mary Bernstein, Siena Mayers, Jill Lavetsky!). Thanks to my fabulous hard-working, amazing, astounding, (and unbelievably gorgeous, if I may say) Lubec committee (Claudia Mahlman, Karen Burke, Jean Bookman Fincke, Jean Deveber, and Ann Rosebrooks). Thanks to our steadfast volunteers who were with us near every day (Roberta Cantlon, Judy Heyer, and that amazing family from New York!) and all the others who helped prime and cut wood, paint, clear out the grange, provided space for our events (Bonnie Beard and Ukey Santos, Suzanne Plaut, Denise Plouffe, Melissa Lee) and to all the businesses and people that provided food and sponsorship! What an amazing community!

I need to shift gears for a while. I begin teaching in less than a week and that will consume most of my time. All the while, we are still trying to get the studio done - which is coming along beautifully! I have missed my clay and weaving and hope to be back to that full swing within a month or two (my barn studio looks so bare to me!). And, "Two Countries One Bay Art Studio Tour" is coming up in September...so there is lots to be done!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lubec Arts Alive 2009 is Underway!

The volunteers were busy little bees at the Grange - priming boards for the "iconic signs"

Lubec Arts Alive 2009 has officially begun!

Well, sort of. The all-star cast of artists arrives later this afternoon, except for Natasha Mayers who rolled into town last Friday. I think I have met my match energy-wise. That woman works hours on end and does it with a smile.

Friday evening was a welcome break from the organizational work. Chris made his fresh basil and pine nut pesto (the best you will ever have!) and I threw together the pasta, shrimp, salad, and homemade gingerbread with blueberries we picked ourselves at the end of our drive. The country french loaf that Ed and Dane baked fresh yesterday in their wood fired oven was literally...a slice of heaven. Boy oh boy, did we feast! Nearly two years had passed since we last visited with Natasha. It was great t0 catch-up a bit, but mostly, I enjoyed her gentle words of wisdom dispersed throughout the conversation. She is an amazing and inspiring woman.

The prep work at the Grange began yesterday morning at 9:00 a.m. We are so fortunate that Due East Realty donated us the use of this amazing and huge space! This project really wouldn't have fit so perfectly anywhere else. The location is visible, the space is vast, there are lots of tables, and there is space outside to park or work. Perfect!

I arrived at the Grange about 9:20 a.m. - and walked into a busy hive of worker bees ready to do what needed to be done. Jean did an amazing job of organizing volunteers for various tasks. It was a bit overwhelming at first with ten different people asking ten different questions, all eager to do their part, but needing direction. Claudia had her list of what needed to be done and did her own direction - and I tended to the carpenters, cutting needs, and portrait area set-up. And I must note, what AMAZING carpenters! So helpful and generous with their time. Thankfully Chris came along to help out too. He provided some excellent muscle and worked with Natasha to get her mural area ready. I wouldn't have survived this project without Chris' help. (Are you reading this Chris? THANK YOU!)

The volunteers and Natasha are due at the Grange at 9:00 this morning to continue with priming, paint mixing, and mapping out the mural. I am going to stay here at home base for a few hours to get the welcome speech and handouts ready for the artists' arrival later this afternoon. We have a wine and cheese for them at Crow Town Gallery (thanks Bonnie and Ukey!!!) and a local tour planned with Tours of Lubec and Cobscook (thank you, Ruta!!!!).

This project has been an amazing community effort - and without everyone's help would not have been possible. I am so grateful.

I know that you all are reading this blog entry and want to be here with us! You can be! Follow this link to the Lubec Arts Alive 2009 blogsite for a schedule of events. Then come on down, pick up a brush (or random natural-found-object) and create! We would love to have you here!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The trail in our back woods

It's been one of those summers where it seems I can't find a moment to catch my breath. building the studio addition, on top of organizing for Lubec Arts Alive 2009, has been a full-time job and almost too much to handle at times. This past week had the added touches of losing my 16 year old siamese cat Barley, and the news of a childhood friend suddenly struggling for recovery in the hospital. But this morning, I woke to beautiful blue sky, warm breeze, and sounds of rustling leaves. Instead of writing my blog, instead of answering my emails, instead of making the calls that I need to make for the event next week, I decided to go for a hike.

My workaholic self finds it hard sometimes to tear away from the tasks at hand. But my soul needed a morning to forget about all the activity (and tragedy) around me. So Chris and I suited up (he in his straw brim hat, decked out with two shirts, long pants, binoculars, bug spray, and walking stick....me in shorts and shirt, carrying as little as possible) and headed out. Chris picked the trail.

One thing we love about this area is that there are so many gorgeous and interesting hiking spots. Morong trail is part of Cobscook trails, and is about 5 miles from our house, just off Crow's Neck Road. It isn't oceanside, but does have it's own unique character.

We parked our car a bit from the trail head since the road looked a bit sketchy. The walk in was through long grass and wildly buzzing horse flies. Luckily, the spray kept us relatively protected. We crossed a small wooden bridge with marsh on either side. The birds were singing happily, so many of them. We could hear a pileated woodpecker not too deep in the woods. The mucky spots from recent rains left many tracks for us to try to identify: Raccoon, dog, deer and bear we assumed. Berry-filled scat corroborated that fact. We picked and ate our first wild apples of the season, and devoured a few ripe, plump raspberries. We imagined the animals foraging for these delectable finds. It was a paradise feeding ground for all the critters.

One of the most fascinating finds on this hike was an old dwelling. At first we didn't realize it. We were standing on a huge boulder looking out over a field with a scattering of apple trees. We thought that this must have been a good spot for some old farmer to stand with his gun, watch for coyotes or predators of some kind that could serve a threat to his cattle or garden. Then, as we walked down around the trees, we noticed that the dip was a mass of huge rocks. Further speculation led us to the discovery of what must have been an old foundation made of huge flat rocks. At one corner, it appeared as though the rocks were laid to form some sort of steps into the basement. The dwelling was well disguised by the outcropping of trees from its center. Just passing by, without investigation, one wouldn't even think that this grouping of trees was anything other than just that, a grouping of trees.

I am not sure if I would call today a beautiful end to a rough week, or if I should view it as a beautiful beginning to a new week. Either way, it was a gift.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Twenty Hours Later....

I freely admit, I loathe painting. This sounds somewhat strange to me, being an artist. Why wouldn't I love to pick up a brush and watch a wall transform before my eyes? Well, I guess I don't have a problem with the transformation part. I do like that. I just don't like that I am the one having to do the painting. I am extremely messy. I leave big globs of sticky paint goo dripping under the windows and in the corners. Warning: don't ever hire me to paint your walls!

My sister and her partner had planned to visit this past weekend. Little did my sister know that her visit would fall at the exact time I would need to paint the walls of the new studio space. I could say that I feel extremely sorry for her, and guilty for my forcing a roller in hands, but (now this I find odd), she actually ENJOYS painting walls! She is one of those people who changes her wall colors every couple years. And she has a knack for picking the perfect color. I, on the other hand, am always disappointed once the color is on the wall, stating that it NEVER looks like the sample card.

Go neutral. That's what the contractor told me to do. He must have thought I needed this advice, having seen the rest of our house: orange kitchen, pink living room, green den, teal bedroom. You get the picture. So, I picked out what appeared to be a very neutral creamy color. I was a bit freaked out first night of painting when I did a sample patch on the wall (mind you, already purchased three gallons of the mixed color). Rice cake looked more like daffodil. I am happy to say, though, that after primer was applied and two coats of paint, the color did mellow and I really do like it now. It has warmth and I think will look very nice next to the light floor and woodwork.

In our two and a half day, twenty-hour, whirlwind painting marathon (5 gallons primer, 2 gallons ceiling paint, and three gallons wall color) many a bug have met any early and unfortunate death by speedy goopy roller. So other than those little bumpy buggers (buried 'neath rice cake), I would say the painting job was a success. Kudos to my sis.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


In a former life I must have been a musician. The passion that I feel for music is incredibly strong. But despite a brief stint at piano lessons in my early teens, in this lifetime, I never quite got my fingers to coordinate well enough to pull anything off more complex than Auld Lang Syne with one finger on the organ. I can't imagine trying to pick up a guitar and make sense of it, and my voice, well, sounds sweet enough....but I just can't hold a tune. Luckily, I have a good sense of rhythm and when I discovered drumming I discovered where I fit in musically.

My love of music comes from my mother. Since a young child, I was exposed to all the arts: visual, music, theatre, dance. I took ballet and jazz lessons as a young child. I saw plays at Lakewood, Maine State Music Theatre, University of Maine, Wang and off-broadway, and my mother's painting group would work outside at our house. Probably the greatest memory I have of my mother growing up was her love of music. She could pick up just about any instrument and play. She didn't read music, but could figure out most any tune if given time. She has come to collect quite a few instruments over the years: hammered dulcimer, fiddle, harmonica, piano, ukulele, guitar. The most interesting by far is the balalaika, a triangular-shaped three-stringed Russian instrument. When I was about ten years old, my mom played with the Berioska Balalaika Orchestra. I have memories of watching her concerts at different venues all decked out in her hand-sewn Russian folk costume.

My own love of music led me to attend more concerts than I can even count. I started out as what we would have called, back in the 80's, a metal-head. My first concert was Blue Oyster Cult when I was in the 7th grade. (Okay, you caught me....my first concert was actually Leif Garret a couple years previous...but shhhhh...don't tell anyone!). I then graduated to the likes of Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, The Cult, Twisted Sister, Ted Nugent, Ratt, Scorpions, Quiet Riot. You get the picture. In college, I was fortunate to snag a job in a music store and that led to backstage passes, free concert tickets, and in-store autograph sessions where I met (or at least stood in the same room with!) rockers such as Gene Simmons, Melissa Etheridge, Megadeth, Slaughter, and Jeffrey Gaines. I even met one of the New Kids on the Block. That would have been a highlight if I had actually been a fan like one of my friends who would scream and cry everytime she saw one of their videos.

My taste in music was broadened by working in the music store. How many twenty year olds do you know that would actually pay $70 for a 4-CD box set of Frank Sinatra music? Concert highlights went on to include Grateful Dead in Boston, Phish on a mountain in Vermont, The Newport Jazz Fest, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. My favorite venues are small, like when my sis and I saw Irma Thomas at the Lion's Den, a real dive, in New Orleans (we were served Irma's homemade beans and rice while watching the show), or the Subdudes at a club in Portland. And just last summer, I saw one of my all-time favorite songwriters John Hiatt at the free outdoor LLBean concert series.

In Lubec one of the things I miss most about being part of "the rest of the world" is great radio stations. I especially miss WCLZ. Here, the options are limited to top 40 and country. Ick and double ick. I have listened mainly to NPR the past nine years, but even that station doesn't come in all the time. WERU doesn't have reception at our house either. But.....I have recently discovered Sirius radio! My family chipped-in for my birthday. I am once again musically-fed with great tunes! Out here in little ol' Lubec!

Praise the music Gods and Goddesses!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arts Growing in Passamaquoddy Region

Chris weaving at our Earth Loom

I was speaking with Jude Valentine the other day about a project that she has been working on. Jude is an artist who is also the editor of a weekly online arts publication called “Culture Pass”, a project of the Tides Institute and Museum of Art. I mentioned to Jude how it was such a struggle for me, as an artist, to move to Lubec, a remote area, and not be fully immersed in the arts. Lubec, at the time, felt like a sleepy little town with very few cultural opportunities. I suppose, to someone living in New York, L.A., or even Portland, Maine, that would still feel the case today. And relatively speaking, it is.

However, the past maybe three or four years, I have felt as though there is a real renaissance taking place in our area. Admittedly, it has taken me time to get to know the people, the culture, and the ins and outs of how people entertain themselves. But it really does feel like there is a shift occurring; A shift that is bringing the artists and local talents into the spotlight.

I don’t think the artists just showed up overnight. I attribute my new awareness to Jude’s work with “Culture Pass.” A few years ago, a survey was distributed in the towns around Passamaquoddy Bay, including both sides of the U.S. and Canadian Border. Artists began to register themselves and a list grew. I bet it was a shock for Jude at first to see just how many artists were eager to let themselves be known. Soon a database was created and later a weekly listserve that subscribers receive every Sunday. Thanks to this listserve, we now see the richness of this area, the traditional folks arts of the natives who have lived here thousands of years and the merging of the newer blood and a more modern approach to art. There are music and art festivals, theatrical performances, contradances, art workshops, lectures, concerts, and gallery openings. And it isn’t a rare thing. These types of events are occurring every week, all year long, throughout our area.

I urge folks who live in this area or who are thinking of visiting or moving here, to subscribe to the Culture Pass listserve. It’s easy. Follow the link and click on “subscribe.” You’ll be amazed at the offerings. If you don’t want to subscribe, but are curious, you can go to the site and just browse, either artists, events, or organizations.

Culture Pass

I thought I might just toss out a sample list of the things I know are coming up in August or early September:

A Listing of Upcoming Arts Events on Culture Pass
A comprehensive list of upcoming events in the arts.

Lubec Arts Alive
A Downeast Community Art Event, August 17-22
This is my pet-project this summer. A bunch of super neat artists form all over Maine will come to Lubec for a week as Artists-in-residence, and work with local community to create murals, sculptures, installations, and a portrait project. Be sure to check out my other blog specifically for that event.

Summer Keys Concerts and Summer Brushes Art Workshops
Classical Concerts every Wednesday night in the summer at the Congregational Church in Lubec, renown adult music camp, and art workshops

Jazz Week Lubec
Greg Abate performances in early August to benefit the Lubec Memorial Library. This is wild, fun, upbeat, toe-tapping music!

Tides Institute Museum
Local art and history museum/collection located in Eastport, Maine

Parrish Map Project
Sue Clifford of Common ground (England) brings the community map program to our area. Lubec: Sunday, Aug. 9, 2:00 pm at Lubec Memorial Library

Two Countries One Bay Artist Studio Tour
A weekend open-studio tour (in September) of Passamaquoddy Bay area artists, including those living in New Brunswick, Canada (Deer Island, Campobello Island, St. Stephen, St. Andrews), and Maine (Calais, Eastport, Pembroke, Edmunds, Robbinston, Whiting, Trescott, Eastport, and Lubec). Yep, I (Cobscook Pottery) am part of the tour!
This awesome art studio tour is the result of the cooperative partnership of The Tides Institute and Museum of Art, Culture Pass, Bertha Day Fine Art Gallery and Michael Chesley Johnson.

Fundy Art
A guide to artists in the Bay of Fundy area.

Cobscook Community Learning Center
An organization that offers workshops in the arts and music (including traditional folk arts/music) and environmental education experiences.

Eastport Arts Center
Celebrates the local arts with theater, music, and arts workshops. I have loved watching this organization grow over the last few years.

These are just a few of what I consider key events that I am either attending or participating in. Check out Culture Pass to see a more comprehensive listing. Beyond this, there are numerous galleries, art openings, workshops, outdoor recreational opportunities, the best and most beautiful hiking trails, and incredible hospitality at the local inns. The wildlife is stunning: eagles, whales, moose and bear. All these arts in a true downeast locale, where the forests are unfettered, no traffic lights (at least for 50 miles from Lubec!), and each cultural finding is a treasure to be savored. Rugged coastline, foggy bays, lighthouses, and the true Maine accent that Stephen King movies have yet to get right!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Construction Moving Along

Top: The new studio space with packs of insulation ready for us to install
Below: Bello using a window as his personal scratching post

Construction continues to move along here. I am still overwhelmed at times that this is finally happening. I was clearing out papers from an overgrown pile in a drawer (yes, I am a major paper collector!) and found drawings for this addition that date back at least five years. It is almost humorous to see how the plans changed, how much bigger the space got, and the reasons why we felt we needed an enlarged home.

Hindsight, I am glad that this didn't happen five years ago. Now we have clear, precise reasons/uses for the new studio and had we built five years ago, it would not have been as well thought out.

That being said, the process has been interesting (stressful, joyful, shocking, exciting!). No blueprints, only my drawings. As the actual building occurred, the plans were re-written on a daily basis it seemed. A month before construction, the builder felt we needed to add 4 feet width in order to "not look strange" next to our house. Then, the addition needed to be shifted 2 feet not to affect our existing bulkhead. The stairway was completely rearranged (but I love it!) and the closet moved twice before going back to my original plan. Upstairs, chris' office shifted twice, windows moved to different walls, and two extra windows were ordered. A ceiling was completely restructured, and we added a railing instead of a half wall. Every decision seems to be on the fly, but somehow, it is working out. It looks nothing like I imagined, and each day is a new surprise. We can't wait to move-in and make use. Already, we have planned a gathering in August - so whether it is done or not - the space is being put to use.

Perhaps more happy than me (could this be possible?) is Bello. He thinks this new space is all for him. He has been playing in the huge piles of excavated dirt and running up and down the stairs, in the rafters, and through the framed walls. He scratches at the posts, hangs out in the windows, and stares at us from the existing windows (soon to be covered over with sheetrock). I was upstairs yesterday and could hear a ruckus "next door". I peeked through the curtain into the new space to see Bello running form corner to corner, as if chasing a mouse, but he was alone! He would stop at a post or corner, scratch, go to the window and peer out, then jump into a nook and crawl around. Pure delight. Barley on the other hand, seems unaffected, or at the least, annoyed that there are people and things invading his space. He chooses to sleep all day, as usual, on the futon in the green room.

No excitement today with the addition. Instead, I am going to tackle boxes full of art curriculum that I have been wanting to re-organize. This summer is about getting things in in order and organized. The organization bug has hit me bad! I want to be ready when school begins in the fall - for teaching, artwork, the "Two Countries One Bay Studio Tour", and fall open studio sale that I do with my sister here in Lubec. The next year ahead is expected to be busier than ever, so I am prepping in advance, as much as I can. A big change for a recovering procrastinator such as me!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Enjoying the Quiet

I know that some of you may not understand that. How can someone even find "the quiet" on a holiday weekend when there are fireworks sounding off , loud sirens in parades, hordes of people walking the street, stopping by to check out vendors' goods. But for me, it is a peaceful respite from the sounds of weekday construction: hammering, sawing, calling, dropping, tossing. My yard has been taken over by V-8 trucks, lumber, shingles, and equipment. Summer is usually my time to sit on the deck, immerse myself in art, enjoy the solitude and sounds of nature. It's difficult to rejuvenate myself after a hectic school year when my surroundings are in such disarray. But I know that the end result will be worth it.

My sister Kristin is visiting for the weekend. It's been a low-key relaxed-pace so far. Yesterday we spent a littler time walking around the village of Lubec then we drove over to Eastport, just across the bay, but 45 minutes by car! (I really must get the ferry schedule that runs in summer.) We enjoyed the steel band music and checking out the shops. I had heard about The Commons and finally got a chance to check it out. A gift shop with Maine-made items, cooperatively owned by a group of interesting women. It had a great feel.

We also ventured upon an eclectic, wildly-eccentric shop that I do not even know the name of, but it basically looked like an old diner space (still housing a booth and swivel seats at a counter) but was chock-full of artwork, handpainted clothing, ceramics, and scrimshaw. I thought it was some sort of bizarre artists collective, but turned out to be work all done by one man, Jim Levendosky, who was in the shop at the time of our arrival. I was of course most drawn to the ceramic work which was full of texture. I ended up buying a small, simply and beautifully carved vessel.

Kristin and I spent the this morning kayaking at Indian Lake in Whiting. Chris and I call it "Loon Lake" because we always see a loon out there on the water. Today was no exception. First kayak adventure of the season, the loon was there calling with her ghostly cry. The water always relaxes me, and being somewhat high-strung with all my projects, it has been a great addition to our lives. If Pam and Jonathan had not given us that otter kayak three summers ago, I don't know that we would have ever found out how much we would enjoy kayaking. We now have two kayaks and in the summer, get to the water as much as we can.

I will enjoy the rest of this day. The sun is starting to peek through after weeks of rain, and I have told myself no work! I do have the shop open in case a passerby wants to stop in, but it seems to me that the afternoon will remain somewhat quiet. Maybe some sitting time on the deck will do the soul good.

I will relish the moment, because tomorrow the banging begins; roof shingling at 6:45 a.m.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Planning for Lubec Arts Alive 2009


My work as a volunteer began when I seventeen. I helped the local chapter of the U.S. Jaycees with our high school project graduation fundraiser: a Halloween haunted house. From there, I joined the Jaycees and worked on other charitable events. In 1989 I began a three year stint of organizing the Old Hallowell Days Parade, and a few years later took on publicity for the UMA Mile of Art event and did that for two years running. After becoming a teacher, my work became more focused on the school community and left little or no time for anything outside of that.

I have always enjoyed organizing and volunteering, and living in a small town such as Lubec, there are more committees and needs than there are people available to do the tasks. Overwhelmed with my full-time teaching job, running a business, being an artist, and keeping self, family connections, and relationships healthy, I have had to say "no" more times than I like.

In January, Maine artist Natasha Mayers sent me an email about the UMVA (Union of Maine Visual Artists) and the possibility of "arting-up" a town. My excitement at the thought of Lubec as a possibility for this project put me right back into full-swing organizer mode. Before I had a chance to think logically about how much work this would require, I was deep into planning and networking. So here we are, five months later, with an incredible event being planned. What is different for me this time, though, is that I am not in charge of only one aspect of a proeject, but I am involved with all aspects of this one. I am increibly excited about the event this summer, and have decided to put a lot of things on hold in my life for the next couple months so that the project will be a success.

The basic idea is that a bunch of accomplished Maine artists will visit our town as "artists-in residence" for one week in August. Along with local community, we will paint a mural, sculpt, create installations, paint iconic images on signs, share artwork, feast, and enjoy the energy of a group of of artistic visionaries working together for a common cause.

This is most exciting for me because I get to work with artists whose work I admire: Natasha Mayers, Robert Shetterly, Karen Adrienne, Rose Marasco, Kenny Cole, Diane Dahlke, Barbara Sullivan, Alan Crichton, Richard Brown Lethem. What is doubly amazing is that the grant that was applied for to do this project is unlikely to happen as expected, and, these artists are, in the true spirit of artistic community, still coming to our town! I am so heartened by this.

So, we have town support and a super duper committee in Lubec that is organizing housing and food for the artists, publicity, schedules, and fundraising. We need donors and volunteers and the search is on! I have begun a blog dedicated solely to the Lubec Arts Alive 2009 event and will start updating that with solid information: who, what, when, where, how, etc. as the planning develops. I expect to have that information posted within two weeks, or most of it anyway! There is also an email address for folks to use if they have questions or ideas. So, if you are reading this blog, be sure to check-in and follow the Lubec Arts Alive 2009 blogsite as well.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Favorite Writer

I woke this morning (after a beautiful restful eight entire hours of sleep!) to the sounds wind whipping the trees and rattling windows. The rain seems to have moved on, but the grey sky and breeze remain. It's one of those mornings where you just don't want to get out of bed. So, I didn't!

Well, I admit that I did go downstairs briefly to fix me up a cup of hot cocoa, but other than that, here I am, snug and warm, listening to the awesome sounds of nature. And Bello. That frisky cat is clawing at anything he can find, asking me to PLEASE let him out. But he will have to wait. For now, I am feeling in a...poetic mood. So, I thought that instead of my usual self-indulgent blog (okay, I admit, I did start out that way) I will share a few poems with you by my favorite writer, Chris Crittenden.

He has written, literally, thousands of poems since I have known him, and published hundreds. When we first met he was teaching ethics (feminist and environmental) and primarily writing articles for philosophical journals. That influence is evident in his poetry and novel writing. I will share three poems here, all of which are some of my all-time favorites. If you were to research his poetry, you would find that his work spans themes too many to mention. If I had to sum-up his work, though, I would see him as a writer of nature, politics, and the human condition. That covers a lot!

Chris can be reached at: ccritten@gwi.net

Exile of the Loons
night came
like a violin without a bow,
seeking my murmurs,
for silence had cursed its
ebony since the exile
of the loons. stars watched
with their trivial, infinite gaze
as my cheeks offered wet
glissandos, my lips wavered
between fever and howl, my
fingers scurried, plucking
strings of mist.

i waltzed with a willow
while moonbeams splashed her hair,
stomped silver trickles, accosted a
snoring crow, but still night
was not pleased

until i sobbed a strange rapture
over the lake where ghosts
once flew, skinny-dipped,
amphibious as a duck,
toward the liquid center.

there my throat learned
how to woo a marsh.
it memorized the vibration,
the heat, the solitude. finally
the night smiled, hearing
its cold stage haunted once again.

-from the chapbook Opals of the Opened Soul

The Gods Reflect on Creation
we gibbered and gabbled
in the null onyx,
afraid that heat might seethe.
one of us quacked too loud
and light erupted, birthing awe
alongside violence and waste.

after eons of reptiles
prayer wafted up. it was far better
than mindless solar pageantry.
our new toadies prattled
more efficiently than we,
collapsing truth
into a few apt equations.

soon they had a stash
of nuclear kicks,
enough to freckle plains
with poisonous craters.
it wasn’t enough for them
to gnaw the crust. life itself
made them salivate, the urge
to splice it into freaks,
to distill tints and recombine piths—

like evolution but more wanton,
even slutty; an orgy to harvest ambrosia,
so they could be immortal like us,
sit on pinnacles and shout in release—

to be as great
as the thrill that started it all—
that seminal yoctosecond
among the timeless idiocy
of our babbling.

-from the chapbook Gordian Butterflies

Song for a Forest
no one can tell me
the forest has no flesh.
my feet have tasted its roots,
licked across arteries
even as their spirals split
again and again
below a simmer of fallen leaves—
pumpkin, pale, russet—
and a dark brewing depth
of drunken earth.

why are leaves drumming
and oak limbs swaying to a beat
as ripe as a lover’s heart?
why are raindrops sad or joyous
on the eyelashes of pines?
ants are red cells in a greater blood,
sparrows breaths in a windy lung.
owls are nothing but the pupils of elves
half torn from fetal sleep,
deer nothing but caresses
of brown fingertip.

i kiss streams with my eyes
and they kiss back with pouts of sparkles;
or whisper into my ear, soft as sensual lips.
i follow them where they feed cushions of moss,
toes of alders, visions of blue pools sky-entranced.
i hear messages in warbles and whirs
that come together like bits of a thought.
i watch sunlight splinter into bright lines,
the outer edges of a smile.

-from the chapbook Opals of the Opened Soul

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is it really happening?

After five or more years of dreaming of a year-round space to create in, we are finally taking the plunge and diving head first into the world of home renovation. It's a project that is both stressful and exciting at the same time. Symbolically, it represents our commitment to settling-down in this area of the world. I will admit, it was touch and go for the first few years as to whether or not we would stay in Lubec. At first, we didn't think so, but about three or four years after living here, we started to become attached to the environment and to our new friends. It is only in the past couple years that I have grasped, on some level, what my role is in this community, and that has been a real turning-point for me.

About two weeks ago the big equipment made an appearance. Chris, in California visiting family and working on his class, is missing most of the excitement. Maybe that is a blessing in disguise, on some level anyway. But soon he will return to find that the earth has been turned inside out. In general, we try not to affect the landscape much beyond its own natural inclination, however, for me the artist, I need a space where I can do my clay work year-round. I couldn't imagine a lifetime of only creating six or seven months of the year. Artists know that it is a horrible feeling to have inspiration strike but to not be able to act. So, it is a joyous time indeed, knowing that this coming winter I will be sitting at the wheel, hands muddy, gazing out the window at drifting snow while feeling toasty and content. Chris is not left out of this either. He will be writing from a new space as well, with inspiring views and bookcase-lined walls, sitting at his great-grandfather's antique desk. Too long now, his books have been in storage - and finally, they will come out of the attic and into his hands once again.

We are fortunate, Chris and I, that we have so many generous and loving people around us, who believe in us, our vision, and support us as artists. We are truly blessed, and for that I am incredibly grateful, beyond what words can express. Without their help, none of this would be possible.