Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolution

Sculptures completed over the past three months by Shanna Wheelock....

U.S. Totem Pole
approx. 22" tall
Wheelthrown and slab construction
Stoneware, acrylic paint

Approx. 26" tall
Slab and wheelthrown construction
Stoneware, acrylic paint, wood, metal
with interior light source

Pomegrenade, sequential series
Total 6' wide. Individual sculptures approx. 8"x8"
Slab and press mold construction, fuze toppers each individually carved
Earthenware with acrylic paint and encaustic medium, metal, wood

Well, the New Year is upon us. Folks all around the world are making their ritual New Year's resolutions: Lose weight, exercise, get to work on time, spend more time with family, pay off debt....The list goes on and on. Some people will accomplish what they set out to do, but most will probably fail miserably. Sure, we all get off to a good start. It's the New Year afterall. We certaily have gorged ourselves so much over Christmas and other celebrations this past month that we think we might vomit if someone so much as mentions another glass of eggnog or piece of cake.

Add me to the list of those who have failed miserably in the past. I can't count the times I have made the same resolution over and over year after year. I finally gave up on making resolutions. Still, people ask, what New Year's resolution have you made this year? I have come to the conclusion, after years of failed attempts, that if you think you should do something for your overall betterment, then why wait another month, week, or five days to begin?

So, I planned to begin 2011 with no resolutions.

But, I have been pondering this thought....

What if....

We were all (yes, the entire world, every last one of us, child or adult, no different what country we are from, the color of our skin, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, etc. etc.) were to.... make the exact same resolution?

What if....

We all proclaimed enthusiastically to ourselves that we would make 2011 the year that we...

Make a vow for Peace.

Yes, I really do think it is that simple.

If every person in the world would vow to not say or do another hurtful thing to another being.


Just like other resolutions - it may take while to catch-on. But eventually, with enough people on board, vowing year after year to be kind, empathetic, forgiving beings ...change is destined to come about.

Power in numbers.

Why wait until January 1?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spreading the Holiday Spirit to Those Less Fortunate

"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...? Who-ville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!
-Dr. Seuss "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"

I just returned from my end-of-semester presentation at Heartwood College of Art and am now full swing into holiday mode. I love this time of year: time with family and friends, a few days of "down-time", and spreading a bit of goodwill. It is late and I still have lots to do before I turn-in for the night, so thought that I would re-post part of last year's Yule entry. It is equally relevant today as it was last year.

Blessings to all for a magical Yule and a peace-filled New Year!

Blog post from December 2009:

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 Christmas 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.

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 neighbor's 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.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sounds of Silence

Day after the first real snowstorm of the season. Yep! It warranted a snow day!

Sometimes you just have to take a hammer to a piece and start all over.

Bello has been feeling neglected lately. He made his way onto my lap despite my continuing to weave.

Last time I blogged I was crossing my fingers for a snow day. I sent out an all points request (begging) to the Weather Gods to please, please, please, give me a free day to get some work done (ironic, isn't it? a "free day" to do work).

Well, I guess the Weather Gods heard me, because next morning at 5:30 a.m. I the phone rang. School canceled. And it should have been, too. It was a nasty frozen mess out there with a mix of sleet and snow. Definitely not good conditions for anyone to be driving in. I was ecstatic. I laid my head back down on the pillow and snoozed another 45 minutes. When I woke, thinking of all the things I could get done that day, I noticed an unusual stillness. There were no sounds of heaters, no hum of appliances: just the sound of distant blowing wind.


The Weather Gods giveth. The Weather Gods taketh.

My hopes and plans fizzled as I realized that the power was out. How would I get my 10 million things on the to-do list done without power? I needed heat to be comfy. I needed light to do the finer, more detailed work. No electric toys to help dry paint?

Not knowing how long we would be without power, my first instinct was to shower before the hot water cooled. Once that was accomplished I clothed in the warmest wools and layers I could get my hands on. I turned on the Jotul stove, pulled up a rocking chair, placed a camp lamp beside me, and began to weave. I sat toasty by the stove, creating, while watching snow fall briskly outside.

The silence is not something I am used to, but that morning, it felt incredibly comfortable. I worked for about three hours in that spot, thinking how this was the norm for so many not so long ago. This silence. With only my thoughts to entertain. I felt peaceful. Focused.

Chris eventually sauntered down the stairs. His camping skills came in handy as he pulled out a tiny single-burner stove and prepared us scrambled eggs and hot water for coffee and cocoa. I'm sure that our ancestors long ago didn't have it quite this easy without power, but it did make me wonder what it would be like to take ourselves "off the grid".

I'm not sure I could do it long term. I have become accustomed to modern ways and modern toys. I would miss listening to music, the convenience of a quick warm meal, or hot water for a shower. Oh yes - how could I live without hot water?

Still, the thought intrigues me.

The power returned a bit over three hours later. I missed the silence. I missed the peacefulness. Even if you turn off the music, TV, and furnace, there is still the hum of the refrigerator and other electrical devices. Even if you turn off all the lights and heaters, you can still sense the electrical flow.

I finally found my groove again and got in a long day's work. One week ago I didn't think I would be able to accomplish all that I have, but I sit here tonight in awe of the amazing amount of artwork that has been completed over the past week. I finished three tapestries and am almost done with a third sculpture. The pieces have been in progress for almost 15 weeks and it feels good to see them coming to some sort of conclusion. Right now I am listening to the hum of a fan, blowing on a wooden pedestal that I just painted with acrylic paint. I am waiting for the paint to dry so that I can move on to the next step. It feels good to look around the studio and see all that has been accomplished in such a short time.

On another note, the North Pole called today. I normally wouldn't answer the phone on a Sunday morning when in the middle of work, but when Santa phones around the time of holidays, I think it best to Pick-up. It was his top elf calling with a message from the big guy. Apparently Santa was watching us in his big snow globe (yep, checking us out in Lubec, Maine) when he saw Chris, in an ecstatic frenzy, grab a gift from his Christmas stocking and tear apart the paper while dancing frantically around the room and gloating that he opened a gift and I couldn't do a single thing about it.

Well, I don't need to do anything. Seems Santa has taken care of things and Chris is on the probationary Naughty list. If I was in charge of all things festive, I think I would have just slid him right on over to the Naughty list with no chance of gift-receiving parole. But the big guy in the red suit has the final say.

It will be interesting come Solstice and Christmas, this year, won't it Chris?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Glue and Snow

Pomegrenade: one component of a current sculpture that is almost complete.
Ceramic with encaustic, acrylic paint, and iron oxide stain.

Another sculpture in progress - hoping to finish this one up later this morning.

That's Chris in the photo on the left, cooking dinner, yet again. It's been a week like that, with him doing dinner duty several nights. The work hours that I have been keeping are insane and if it weren't for Chris cooking, I'd probably be on a steady diet of Chobani and hot cocoa. The veggie tacos and a half hour walk in the damp moonless night were a much needed break from studio tasks. A good night's sleep was welcomed as well and now I find myself taking time for a quick blog entry before hitting the studio again this morning.

This past week was a convergence of deadlines. Grades were due, budgets as well, and projects for my two MFA classes need to be presented in less than two weeks. Most people I know are well on their way to preparing for the holidays: mailing out cards, trimming the tree, wrapping gifts, and shipping goodies to far off friends and relatives. My only saving grace on that front is that my shopping is all done. Albeit, the gifts are sitting in a bag without the attention of colorful papers and bows to transform them into gift-like delights. I will get to that, eventually. First, I have three sculptures and two or three tapestries to finish by the 18th. I look forward to hopping into holiday mode on the 19th.

Yesterday was a fully productive day in the studio. I have been looking at six separate pieces of work, each unfinished. The past fourteen weeks have been devoted to these specific pieces but it is difficult to get my head around the finished concept when they are in pieces rather than whole and complete. The steps for each piece have to be done in a specific order, no jumping ahead. As usual, things don't go as planned. After painting the acrylic onto the pomegrenade sculpture, I needed to attach the tops to the bodies. In the past I used "ducocement" and this time around, tried a superglue gel. Well, superglue is not so super, and the ducocement back-up did not cement the pieces even after an hour and a half of attempts. The toppers are just too heavy and awkwardly imbalanced.

When Chris returned from his Saturday morning vigil at Flatiron Corner, he offered to go to the hardware store to purchase some epoxy for me. I had already been there earlier in the morning buying all sorts of strange items which set me behind in the studio over an hour. He returned with 30 minute epoxy but mentioned that there was a 15 minute epoxy. Seeing how it is dreadfully painful for me to sit still 30 minutes while holding two ceramic pieces in the exact same position (times four!), I cried out for the quicker dry time. Back to the hardware store he went.

I had used epoxy in the past but was avoiding it. I am a messy worker and mixing the two ingredients is not the most graceful task. Extra glue spills out of the tubes, I get it on my fingers, it stinks, and on and on. But you know what - it worked perfectly. I had four tops to attach to the base sculptures. I mixed the glue, set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes, applied the glue, attached the pieces, and held them exactly 15 minutes each. Simple. Now why didn't I just do that in the first place? It was all over in a little over an hour and I was then onto the next step. Phew.

My Saturday was divided by work on three sculptures. Due to some structural issues my original plans needed to be changed. Clay is a tough medium in that you can spend hours sculpting a piece or wheelthrow your best-ever pot only to remove it from the kiln to discover a nasty huge crack. And that is what happened with each of these three sculptures, on some level. I have had issues with this particular clay, but, I like the texture and how well it takes glazes. On the sequential sculpture one component was damaged enough to have to re-sculpt. It was minor though, time wise (perhaps another three or so hours), but on the larger pieces, I needed to find a way to work with the cracks. The cracks aren't big enough to cause worries of the piece falling apart, but it did make me have to rethink the next part of the process, which originally was to glaze and fire to full temp. Ultimately, I decided that one piece would do well with paint rather than glaze and re-fire. Why risk it when I can get a similar effect with paint and a filler to disguise the small crack, which seemed inconsequential overall as far as durability. But who knows what would have happened with higher kiln temps and further shrinkage. The larger sculpture I just couldn't imagine any other way than fired to temp. I ultimately decided that it was worth the risk. Will I be happy in the end with my decision? Time will tell.

Folks who work with clay will most likely understand my dilemma. It is tough to put so much energy into a piece not knowing for sure if there will be disappointment or joy when opening the kiln lid. The anticipation is a real booger.

Enough said. I am going to shower and get rolling here.

Oh - snow coming in for tomorrow. According to the weather forecast, anyway. it's one of those quirky-type storms where the bad weather rolled off to the east only to be pushed back at us where it will swirl a bit around our downeast region before pushing its way back out. Severe weather warnings are up. Could it mean, possibly, a snow day? The first of the year? I am kinda, sorta, (alright, jump-up-and-down do a snow-dance kinda hoping) hoping that it is. I would love the extra day to be in my studio. The trade off is to make up the day at the end of the school year - a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day spent in the classroom beyond originally contracted days. But - the trade off is worth it for one or two days a year; to nab that extra hour of sleep after the phone rings, watch the wind knock around the flakes, listen to it whistle, and to be inside toasty warm, in slippers and PJ's, by the fire, drinking cocoa.

Of course, the actual version would be me in messy work clothes flitting around like a worker bee to get some work done, then outside every so often sweating it out while shoveling snow and trying to free the car for next day's travel. But I prefer to imagine the above, more romantically-stated version!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Post

Gorgeous full moon rising over over Johnson Bay

Projects in progress: sculpture and a new tapestry.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The poet standing by "Owl Medicine" painting.

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Sale

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

Small bowls that cradle nicely in the hand.

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

Sake Set

Lidded Jar

Large pasta bowl.

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

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

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

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


for Shanna

Under the glamorous San Gabriels

rosy with randy sun,

this parking lot is lousy with pomegranates.

They look at me with Alhambra in their hearts –

I wish I could give Shanna a ticket to Spain.

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

like this one, small though perfect

or that one, split, past its prime

or those gnawed-out black mouths

such mocking fruit

bobbing in the hot wind looking like

hand grenades something red

hot blood straining to split

the world

eros tyrannos you come

on all four legs (Sappho said)

to eat greedily and with

tearful thighs . . .

ignore them get in the Subaru

swan up the foothills

in the sheer joy of wasteful



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rhythm and Repetition

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

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

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

successful glaze firing unloaded today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend Seminar at Heartwood College of Art

Encaustics and brushes warming on the aluminum hot plate

Artist Kim Bernard facilitated the Saturday encaustics workshop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week Off from Blog World

The commitments have stacked-up and there are more than I can accomplish in one week, so I need to begin culling things from the list. Unfortunately, this means no blog. Please check back next week for updates on my art adventures.

In the meantime, have a safe, magical, and fun-filled Halloween.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Super-Feel-Good Week Adjusting to New Roles

Incendiary Grenade Sculpture

Small bowls waiting to be trimmed

Spinning coming along

Final bounty of the season

I had a great week. I confess that some (many) days the past couple months have been utlra-challenging. I've tried to focus on the positive and keep moving forward. So, in comparison, this past week felt like things were really starting to flow and make sense again. I am beginning adjust to my new routines and assignments; for a while there, it felt like total upheaval. So, this week I celebrate!

I have, in the past, been someone who would take a project and focus on it for hours on end. I like that intensity. But now, the shake-ups in my life have me moving in several different directions on any one given day, both at work and home. Yesterday I tried the new "way of doing things" in my studio - and to my surprise- it worked!

I began the day with a three-hour wheel-throwing session. Afterward, I spent four hours on a project for a client, then two hours on a tapestry, one hour spinning fibers, and an hour reading a book for a class assignment. I feel like I got quite a bit done and will try that same sort of routine today after I blog.

Other interesting highlights this past week included a technology workshop. My former profession before switching careers to art education was technology-based (both design and a quick stint teaching at college level before moving back to Maine) and I had thought that that part of my life was behind me. But it is funny how those things come back around. I am excited about the possibilities for our local students with the interactive equipment that will allow them to take their education beyond the walls of our school, to far-off places like the Smithsonian or even classrooms in other countries.

Another role that I play at school this year is that I am filling-in for the music position until a permanent teacher is hired. I never thought that I would be teaching music, but here I am. Who'da thunk it. Now that I am moving beyond the stress of being a "first year teacher" again, I am really enjoying it. It might just be hard to give up that position when the time comes!!! My history with music does go way back, from watching my mom's balalaika orchestra performances to my college job in a music store where I was exposed to all types of music and met many performers, to my time playing and performing with an awesome African drum ensemble when I was in my late twenties. This week, supply orders finally arrived at school. It felt like Christmas opening all those boxes. I think my favorite item that arrived was a Steel Drum. The kids love it too. I can imagine a steel drum band starting at our school. We'll see.

Spinning fibers is not as easy as it looks, but I think I just might be starting to get the hang of it. This week I will ply my first batch of yarn. Hopefully it will be usable for a tapestry, albeit a bit unruly, funky, and inconsistent. I have been working on two different tapestry projects; one for a client and one for a class assignment. I have come up with a an idea for a tapestry series and can't wait to see it unfold. It has sculptural elements and is definitely in the beginning experimental stage. I think that if I can structurally make it work, that this will only be the beginning of what is possible with that medium for me. I worked out the structural element while on a walk last summer. Crossing my fingers it all comes together!!!

Another awesome event this past week is that I finally finished the wet work for the "incendiary grenade". It is part of a clay sculpture series that I am working on and it draws in elements of both new work and a series that I began in 2007. Right now the sculpture is in two pieces but will eventually be permanently attached. I enjoyed the process with this piece, working large scale, combining wheel and slab work, and making those little faux bolts. Ultimately, the piece will incorporate light.

And just when this week couldn't get any better....Northern Tides launched their new website! It's a beautiful, professional site and I am pleased to be a part of their list of artists. Check it out. Deb and Jerry have been instrumental in changing the face of Lubec - or maybe better stated - in the "facelift" of Lubec. The downtown is starting to perk-up and is looking great!

Let's see, have I left anything out? Yes, lots of things, but I will blog about those later on. Today I am itching to get back into the studio. On a final note, I will share with you a video clip of the song "Steal My Kisses from You" by Ben Harper. When I hear this song, I can't help but smile. The toes start tapping, then the legs moving, the volume knob gets just puts me in such a good mood. Enjoy!

source: youtube

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Life Without Art?

Tapestry in progress

Rack of greenware drying VERY slowly

Four bases of a sculpture that is in progress

I'm not huge Sci-fi fan by any stretch, nor am I a fan of action-packed cinema with gun-wielding outcasts and zooming car chases, but I did see such a movie a few years back that has had a long and lasting impression on me.

Equilibrium is a futuristic movie where a post third-world-war society has deemed that human emotions are the root cause of conflict and members of society are mandated to take an emotion-quelling drug. In the movie, art is viewed as dangerous and as a result is banned in all forms: poetry, music, painting, etc. The protagonist is a cleric and government official who misses his daily injection and begins to experience emotion and question his own morality. He eventually partners with the underground to overthrow his own government.

(see Trailer for this movie)

What struck me most about this movie was the cold feeling of a society without art. People all looked the same, acted the same, hum drum, emotionless, monotone. Imagination and color, joy, and individuality were completely stripped.

Is this how life would look without art?

I start to go through the things in my mind that are influenced by artists. The list is long. Imagine if you will, everything we experience in our daily routines that had the touch of a creative person, and then take those things away from existence.

- The clock, lamp, small table beside my bed that holds the alarm clock, and my favorite chair (furniture designer)
-The clothes we wear, wedding dress, work uniform (fashion designer)
-The house we live in, buildings we work in, skyscrapers in cities (architects)
- Music (musicians, singers, sound engineers, instrument designers)
- The automobile that gets me to work (automotive designer)
-Television, cinema, live theater (performing artists (actresses/actors), screenwriters, camera technicians, directors, set designers, commercial writers)
- Food (packaging designer)
-Billboards, calendars, posters, wedding photos, advertisement (photographers)
-Museums, galleries (artists of all types)
-Toys (designers)
-Computer games (artists, musicians)
-Restaurants (culinary arts)
-Dance shows, ballet, the macarena, music videos etc. (choreographers, dancers, musicians)

The list goes on and on. I look all around me and it is near impossible to identify anything that is not influenced by an artist or creative person of some sort. Even nature, with her own beauty and design is often landscaped by a visionary.

Imagine, if you will, the above list of items removed from your life, and then you might have an idea of what life would look and feel like without the influence of artists.

I feel fortunate to be able to live in a world where color and imagination are part of our everyday existence. I love that I can visit a museum and see works of great artists who lived before my time, or that I can turn on the radio and listen to works by musicians that inspire me to create my own works in fiber and clay. I love that I can walk into a store and feel the texture of different fabrics and pick out clothing ensembles that fit my personality. I love that I can attend live theater and watch a story unfold with incredible choreography, moving music, and a fantastic light show.

And most importantly, I love that I have the freedom to be an artist.

I am grateful that everyday of my existence is somehow influenced by the arts and creativity, whether I am reading my husband's poetry, teaching, creating my own work, or viewing/listening to the work of another artist. I am grateful that I am surrounded by people who appreciate the arts, who understand their importance in our lives, and who have consistently and enthusiastically supported the endeavors of myself and my husband as we live lives as artists.

Art brings a deeper meaning and purpose to all of our lives. It helps us to design our own individuality with the choices that we make in the music we listen to, the paintings we hang on our walls, the furniture we pick for our home, the clothes we wear to various functions, and the way we plate our edibles when hosting guests for dinner.

We are each like a palette with several colors of paint waiting to be created into our own unique artwork based on how much we use of each color, the type of brush stroke, and where it is applied on the canvas.

We all begin with the same ingredients, but each possess a different way of expressing and that is what makes us interesting, passionate, unique individuals creating our own life masterpiece.

Praise to ART!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Arts Hone Creative Problem-Solving Skills

Friend Barbara Fox so kindly figured out those complex technical directions to get the spinning wheel up and running, and I received my first spinning lesson!

The tapestry on the right, "Jade Moon Night Swim", is now hanging in a fiber arts show at the Lubec Memorial Library. The show is up for two months.

Interior view of current sculpture base, prior to adding supports.

Supports have been added.

The top form for the sculpture in progress, supported by two gigantic cans of olive oil, which just happened to be on sale at the IGA this week for only $9.99 a can (phenomenal deal!) Limit two cans per customer, which is exactly what I needed to support the clay form! (Coincidence? Or divine intervention?)

Adding interior supports for the form.

The top form shape is complete except for carving the final design.

Turkey crossing temporarily held up traffic on route 1.

Its been a long but productive week between teaching days and managing classwork, the business, appointments, lessons and other artistic projects on nights and weekends. Monday and Tuesday evenings I divided my time between the pottery cave and the main studio futon. I spent a bulk of time trimming pots from the previous weekend, did a bit of time on a sculpture, and also reworked my short artist bio for a fiber arts show that just opened this weekend. It took me a while to decide which piece I was willing to let go of for two months, but finally the decision was made and Chris delivered the piece to the library on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening our friend Barbara came over to help get the spinning wheel in working condition. I looked at those technical directions, and well, it was all just a jumble of confusing pictures and words to me. She instantly knew what to do, which part went where, and just how much to tighten this or that. Soon I was sitting at the wheel making a mess of the wool fibers, but oh what a fun mess it was! It is going to take some time, lots of practice, to get anything decent spun. I imagine it is like when I began to throw on the wheel, or ride a bike for that matter. It's awkward at first, but once you feel the "rightness" you don't easily forget.

Thursday Chris went for an overnight hike and camp which left the house to myself. I had a meeting afterschool which took a bit longer than expected, and once that was done, I was back into the cave for more trimming and signing. I finally finished the pots on Friday night so that the weekend would be free and clear for new projects. I went to the wheel at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday expecting to throw for only a couple hours, but I got into a groove and kept it up until well after noon time. I eventually took a late shower and opened the shop, then switched gears into weaving. I have a new series that I am starting and have been anxious to begin.

Today was a real workout for the noggin. The current sculpture has structural complexities that are not at first evident to the viewer, or may never be evident for that matter. Even when not directly working on the piece, my mind has been thinking about the next step and how to create supports, or build a 3-D form from slabs with varied angles. Today, I was not only an artist, but a mathematician and an engineer.

The base shape was formed around builder's tubing. (I posted pics of that part of the process last week.) Clay shrinks as it dries, and as I suspected, the form became too tight around the tube for easy removal. Chris and I worked together trying to coax the tube out of the malleable clay shape. No luck. Plus, we looked pretty silly jumping up and down with a five foot high tube with a heavy chunk of clay attached at the bottom while the other person sat on the floor, arms wrapped around the earthy mud shape, pulling, grunting, and tugging. Then we grabbed a hand saw. No dice. Out came the Leatherman tool and its various contraptions that sawed and cut. Still no progress. We even tried tearing the tube inward at an angle. Finally, I gave-in and cut a deep, long vertical line down the outside edge of the sculpture, releasing it from the tube.

Today the base form seemed hardened enough to add the top slab. Again, it was a comedy routine as Chris and I together turned the heavy sculpture upside-down so that I could add interior supports to prevent collapse. That part was, though awkward, relatively easy in comparison to the next part. Creating the top form for the sculpture involved many angles and supports that will never be seen by the viewer, but that are crucial to the structure, providing strength and hopefully prevention of major warping. I expect some to occur, but hopefully I have done enough to end up with a decent piece that will endure the firing process.

The task of creating the top structure took nearly seven hours, leaving me quite exhausted, but feeling like I accomplished what needed to be done. As I worked through various solutions on the sculpture I thought of my students and how important the arts are to their education. One of the Maine State Learning Results' Guiding Principles is to be a "creative and practical problem solver". The arts are a perfect venue for building those skills, and those skills can be applied in all parts of life and work. In fact, I recently read that the number one characteristic that employers desire in an employee is the ability to think creatively.

Maybe next time someone suggests that the arts are not important in school, that just the basics such as reading, writing and math are necessary, I think I will refer them this blog entry.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Immersed in Art

The beginning stage of a sculpture currently in progress

A new sculpture that I began this past weekend, again, in the beginning stage

This little vase is from the last firing, and is one that I particularly like. It sold yesterday and is on its way to Texas.

An intense sunrise mid week.

I didn't think I would be able to blog this week because I am packed-solid with commitments and deadlines. But seeing how I woke about 3:00 this morning and there was no chance of me falling back to sleep, I thought I might be able to slip in a little blog time before the official alarm sounds at 5:15 a.m.

The Two Countries One Bay Artist Studio Tour was a success. I loved meeting folks from near and far. In past years, Sunday would present a succession of lulls, but not this year. I barely had five minutes to myself. I managed to spend a little time throughout the day on a tapestry project and some sculpture time at the end of the day, but other than that, it was all about the meet and greet.

Early in the week I attended our monthly "Lubec Arts Alive" meeting and was re-invigorated by two new members who joined us with fresh ideas and a bounty of enthusiasm. It's exciting to think about how the arts can, and will, grow in our little nook of downeast. I look back over the past nine years here in Lubec, and feel honored to be part of this transition that is happening, from sleepy little town to colorful artist community. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

After the LAA meeting, I hurried home to enjoy a lovely homemade pesto pasta meal (compliments of Chris' fine culinary skills) with our Brooklyn friend Pam who is in Lubec on a writing fellowship. The literary conversation was a bit beyond my realm of expertise, but nonetheless incredibly interesting. Two Shakespeare enthusiasts sharing bread made for a perfect end to the day.

I have had a list of art-related to-do's that needed attention - so spent a night with those things: lightbox photos, bios, phone calls, bookkeeping, etc. I knocked a few of those items off the list and headed into the weekend full-speed ahead with the internal GPS set for the studio. I got in two excellent, full, eleven and twelve hour days consecutively. I worked on two different sculptures and seem to have one piece complete, as far as the wet work goes. Ideas are flowing right now faster than I can produce, so I am jotting down words and sketches to return to at a later date. I have an idea for a sculpture that I think is pretty good, but I won't have enough time to do it justice until the turn of the new year.

I loo forward to this new week. I am of course busy with teaching during the day, and the afternoons and evenings are slotted full as well. I hope to squeeze in some studio time in-between guests and appointments. I am most excited for our friend Barbara's visit. She is a fellow weaver with years of experience and load of talent who will teach me how to use that fancy new spinning wheel that Judy gifted me this past summer. I can't wait!

I will deliver a fiber piece to a local fiber show mid week. I need to come up with some sort of semi-eloquent bio. I have written a ton of these in the past, but need to rewrite to fit the venue and selected piece. And that reminds me, I also need to provide another bio to Northern Tides, a very cool gift shop here in Lubec, which is going online soon. That bio will be different and require a bit of thinking as well.

Before I sign off, I will mention that I feel honored to have gotten a little blurb about my artwork in the current edition of "Saltscapes", a Canadian arts and culture magazine. I am humbled to make a presence alongside some area artists whose work I admire. If you get a chance, you can check out the article online. It showcases some of the area talents that participated in the Two Countries One Bay Artist Studio Tour a couple years back. The writer, Janet Wallace, did a phenomenal job, I thought, capturing the essence of this area and how our surroundings inspire us. The article is titled "Art Off the Grid" (pg. 44-47). Thanks, Janet!