Saturday, December 31, 2011

Behold 2012: A New Year Begins!

I recently finished this low-relief "model" - which turned out to have a completely different feel from the original sketch. I am still working out the kinks for an upcoming exhibit.

Chris has been hard at work in the pottery cave adding insulation to the ceiling. My studio is in complete disarray - but soon - I will be potting and sculpting in a much warmer space! This should make our energy usage much more efficient too - which is a definite positive!!!! The studio is getting a thorough cleaning as well - which my lungs will very much appreciate. I'm focusing on a healthy work environment for 2012.

New Years Eve I began a new tapestry. I haven't done any weaving since last May when I finished my "Grass for Sarah" piece. This tapestry will have a similar feel but on a much smaller scale. Ideas have been on hold for so long. It feels good to be weaving again!

I didn't manage to stay awake long enough to see the New Year begin. When younger, I would have stayed up well past midnight with loads of energy to boot. Chris and I have traditionally enjoyed a quiet evening at home, but this year we had made plans for a guest. Her long drive was deterred by messy early-day weather and as it turned out, Chris and I celebrated alone in our own unique way. It was an opportunity for some "free" time that we had not planned on. We had been working steadily the past few days on house projects and business tax prep. Sure, there are always lots of things that need to be done, but we saw last night as a window to do something "off-list." What did we do? Chris wrote and I began a tapestry. We were so into our projects that the pre-planned salmon dinner was sidelined for a quick take-out pizza. I wove for a good six hours straight before my eyes began to get droopy. It was evident by 10:00 p.m. that I would not see the New Year in, but it was a wonderful end to 2011 - to be entranced by the magic of colorful fine spun wools. The evening was peaceful and perfectly simple.

Looking back over the past year there were many accomplishments and high points. There were challenges as well, but they, fortunately, seem a bit more blurred at this point. In 2011, I was blessed....blessed to be an artist, to study for my MFA with an incredible pod and mentors, and to work on community art. I had the fate of 25,000 honey bees in my hands, was published in a major magazine, found my protester voice again, and learned that (contrary to past belief) that I love the rituals associated with production pottery. In 2011, Bouli joined our family and brought with her a lot of love and laughter, and our extended human family grew as well. The garden was better than last year, and the ones I love are all in relatively good health. Chris has had multiple successes with his writing and has found his groove within the academic world of online ethics. Our partnership is strong, supportive, spiritual, and creatively rich. The year ended on a good note, and we have much to look forward to in 2012.

The world itself has seen major upheaval and destruction in the past months, from nuclear disaster, to corrupt politics, to the oppression of many and the earth we share. As we move forward and celebrate all that is good, it is important that we keep compassion at the forefront of decisions. Chris and I will do our part to move toward justice and healing through our art and writing, but will also savor all the gifts and blessings that we have been fortunate enough to be granted. We are sincerely grateful to all who have helped us along our path. We know that our personal happiness and success has been greatly enhanced by the kindness and generosity of others.

I have goals for 2012, but I don't make an official "resolutions" list. Most of the resolutions that people make are probably things that they would or should normally be doing on a day to day basis anyway. The passion to follow-through ebbs and flows day to day but the drive to do better, or to be a better person, are qualities that should know no calendar boundaries. This first day of 2012 will be much like any other day of my life: a few chores, time for art, good food and company. Counting my blessings.

Happy New Year to all! I hope that today is a peaceful and content segue into the next chapter of your lives, and that you embrace hope and promise for a healthy and pleasurable existence, steeped in kindness, compassion, equality, and joyfulness.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sliding in the Holidays

Interior support structure for "American Dream" sculpture.

My messy studio with a nest of tables for various projects that were in progress.

Chris at the International Gingerbread Competition....appearing very serious with his judge's clipboard.

It's a lazy Sunday morning for me. A strange feeling indeed. I have been working nonstop for the past few months whilst juggling teaching, pottery production, and MFA work. I now have a small (very small!) window of time for holiday prep and festivical (yes, I made that word up) enjoyment. MFA presentations occurred last weekend, Christmas break is upon us, and pottery production just ended for 2011 as of Friday evening. This morning I did not hurry to rise from bed and am taking refuge in a small toasty warm room, still garmented in PJ's, to write my long overdue blog posting.

The past few weeks were the big push to finish up three sculptural projects. I finally finished them last week only to realize that none of them are 100% done. Maybe it's like this most artists? Even when nearing the finish line, I think of things that I would have done differently, or an addendum that could enhance the meaning of the piece. Conceptually, these projects were forming long ago, months in advance. The hands are usually happy to take over and start forming what is only a vision in mind's eye. This was perhaps the most challenging MFA semester for me so far in that my visual kept changing throughout the project. I would feel certain at one point about a specific color or composition, only to find my hands defying the mind when picking up a brush or tool. I literally changed direction several times without consciously planning to do so. Parr for the course I suppose. But it is wild that in a course of a few minutes, despite a months'-long plan to do something a certain way, changes in a flash without preconceived notion. And, more amazingly, I felt at peace with the final result despite the lack of brooding of commitment to a decision.

So, I have three unfinished "finished" sculptures in my studio waiting for the next steps. For now though, a couple weeks of resting the mind so that I can focus on time with family and friends.

Chris and I have been enjoying holiday celebrations and traditions. We had a blast as judges for the International Gingerbread Competition. (sounds hoity toity, doesn't it?!) The annual newsletter has been typed and is making its way into cards long overdue in mailing. Friday night we watched with joy the students at school perform in "Midsummer Nights' Dream", and before I left school on Thursday afternoon, I set-up the art room for this coming Monday's Craft Day where kids will make candy cane reindeer and greeting cards. Today I continue with greeting cards (much later than usual!!!) and loading the kiln for the final pottery production of 2011. The house has been cleaned a bit deeper than usual, and soon traditional confections will be baked. A trip to the market is planned in the next couple days to purchase items for the German dish Rouladen, a most delicious recipe that I stole from childhood dinners with the Raymond family.

All is well at the Wheelock/Crittenden homestead. We are hoping for some snow but won't hold our breath. Enjoying the darkness but looking forward to Solstice with the returning light.

It is time for me to formally "wake-up", shower, open the shop, and get on with holiday prep.

I am signing off for the remainder of 2011 with a wish for everyone to enjoy a safe and joyous holiday season (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Christmas, New Year!!!!).

Blessings for Peace.
A short song to inspire people of all backgrounds to find common ground this holiday season.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Homage to Ai Weiwei

"I realized that being an artist is more about a lifestyle and attitude than producing some product."
Ai Weiwei (Ai Weiwei Speaks, 2011, pg. 87)

PBS Documentary
"Ai Weiwei: Without Fear or Favor"

As I type this, Occupy protesters all over the U.S. are facing eviction from parks where they have set-up camp. I listen to voices on both sides of the debate about whether or not what they are doing is futile or even justified. From my own personal perspective, I am proud of the commitment that they have exhibited and the inspiration and voice that they have provided for others. Whether or not someone agrees with what the Occupy protesters are fighting for, I think that most of us can agree on one thing: that freedom of expression is critical to our survival as a society.

Imagine if you will the opposite. Rather than being able to voice discontent, that our words and ideas were squashed, and even more frightening, that we were punished, sometimes to the point of death, for speaking out against what we feel must change.

Artists and writers have for centuries taken on the role of the dissident. It isn't an easy road for these philosophical warriors. They are often scorned for their honesty and outcasted from their communities. But without these movements, change and progress does not occur for the betterment of the whole.

Where would women be today if the suffrage movement was not successful? What if the Civil Rights Movement had not occurred? What conditions would workers be exposed to without the Labor Movement? Certainly, rational, caring beings would not condone such inhumane injustices and inequalities. Born in the latter part of the 20th century, the fights that others have fought is just a story in a history book. Without living through the situation, it is sometimes difficult to empathize or fathom a time when certain rights for people did not exist.

That I am able (or allowed) to write this blog is a right that I or many others take for granted. Other than a bit of self-censorship in the name of sensitivity, I know that I may freely voice my concerns and opinions without fear of major retribution. I know that I can make a statement about the shortcomings of our government or those in power and that other than a few disgruntled readers there will be no major backlash. At this point in my life, in this country, within this venue, I feel fairly confident that no one will force me to stop speaking my view.

This was not the case for Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. A child born shortly before China's Cultural Revolution, he grew up surrounded by censorship. His father, famous poet Ai Qing, was exiled to the far reaches of the remote Gobi Desert when Weiwei was only one year old. For sixteen years, Weiwei's studies consisted only of Chairman Mao propaganda and the occasional but hidden references to art and poetry. He was discouraged to learn to read, and books were nearly non-existent after they were all burned. To be a well-read, well-informed intellectual was to put the self at risk for imprisonment or worse. To us, this is a contradictory life - to be born to an artist and an intellectual - but to not be exposed to those riches of the mind.

Weiwei left China in 1981 and moved to New York City, a place he considered to be the center of the contemporary art movement. He had already begun schooling in Bejing, but did not complete his studies. In NYC, he studied art at Parsons School of Design, originally was a painter and drawer, but soon took to sculpture and photography. He was also a master Blackjack player frequenting the casinos of Atlantic City, and surrounded himself with poets and intellectuals. In the PBS video posted above, Weiwei speaks of the 1988 riots in Tompkins Square where liberals, artists, poets, musicians, homeless, and poor people congregated. Upon trying to impose a curfew for the park, a movement against government and police brutality commenced. Weiwei documented the event through photography and found inspiration in the uprising of the people, perhaps offering a glimmer of hope for his own oppressed home country.

Weiwei returned to Bejing in 1993. From 1994-1997, he worked on a series of three books called The Black Book, The White Book, and The Gray Book. The Black Book was purely written words by artists. He was concerned with ideas and concepts more so than actual visual images. The following books included images that were provocative in post-Cultural Revolution China. The books were picked up by a publisher in Hong Kong and considered to be illegal and "underground". This was perhaps the beginning of Weiwei discovering the power of his own voice within the oppression of his home country. Although China proclaimed to be a different place than it was in years previous, freedom of expression still did not, in Weiwei's eyes, exist.

In 2006, Weiwei was pretty much forced to begin a blog as China worked to improve its reputation, to prove that it was a more open and free society. Weiwei was nervous at first being that he did not consider himself a good writer. But soon he found this venue as his greatest form of self-expression. He wrote freely about government, culture, politics, art, and the human and social condition.

"The techniques of the Internet have become a major way of liberating humans from old values and systems, something that has never been possible until today"
Ai Weiwei (Ai Weiwei Speaks, 2011, pg. 6)

This new found freedom was of utmost importance and provided immense satisfaction. Weiwei contemplated whether or not he would someday be able to give up everything else and only write blogs. He posted sometimes as many as 100 photos a day, and when his blog was shut-down by the government in 2009, he had written over 200 entries and accrued millions of readers.

The entries preceding the shut-down of his blog pertained to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake where several school buildings had collapsed killing thousands of students. Ironically, many of the surrounding buildings remained standing, eluding to shoddy construction of the educational structures. Weiwei accused that the government was shirking its responsibility and his political blog entries roused feathers of government officials. They did their best to silence him.

His sculptural and architectural works are steeped in political innuendo - an outcry against injustice. Influenced by the artist Marcel Duchamp and compared to German artist Joseph Beuys, Weiwei uses everyday objects that already carry with them personal familiarity to a wide population, and reconfigures or destroys them to make his statement. For instance, In reference to the Sichuan earthquake, Weiwei collected nine thousand children's backpacks to create an installation that spelled out the words of a grieving mother "She lived happily in this world for seven years." In other artworks, "Dropping the Urn" and "Colored Vases", Weiwei drops or dips in paint historical ceramic artifacts. To many, the act is a jaw-dropper, witnessing the destruction of something that is to the greater population considered highly valuable. Weiwei challenges our perception of value and how and why we make such judgments.

Weiwei's artistic popularity and esteem has earned him several awards and placement in various countries' biennials. Within his own home country of China, he was solicited to design the 2008 Summer Olympic stadium known as the "Bird's Nest". Later, Weiwei spoke out against the Olympic event and stated that the Chinese government used the event as propaganda to try to be seen in a positive light to the rest of the world, when in fact, it is a highly oppressive country where freedom of speech still does not exist. He refused to have photos of himself taken with the stadium.

The stadium is only one of many architectural projects by Ai Weiwei. His first inspiration was a book that he found in New York bookstore about a house that the philosopher Wittgenstein had built for his sister. He was taken with the intricate details of the structure and returned home determined to build a studio home for himself.

Weiwei discovered eventually that his artistic projects would require the hands of many. He had concepts but not enough time to see the ideas to fruition by himself. He once organized 100 architects to collaborate. Another time, for the Kassel, Germany biennial Documenta 12, he conceived and facilitated 1,001 Chinese tourists to visit the exhibit, providing them clothing, lodging, housing, and sightseeing opportunities in what he calls "Fairytale."

Perhaps one of his most widely recognized and recent works was at Tate Modern in London in 2010, titled "Sunflower Seeds."

Video of Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seed project

In Sunflower Seeds, Weiwei solicited the help of 1,600 Jingdezhen residents to cast and paint 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds. Jingdezhen was once a bustling porcelain factory town but no longer exists as such with many out of work. Over the course of two years, the sunflower seeds were created and then installed at Tate Modern. The symbolism of the sunflower seeds is directly related to the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao, who saw himself as the sun and his followers as the sunflowers. But there is also a dual meaning. For Weiwei, sunflower seeds were shared and eaten amongst people - a symbol of nourishment, friendship and nostalgia.

The sunflower project is particularly interesting to me. On one level, I connect with it because I am a potter. I know the process and I can easily imagine the painstaking work involved to make so many intricate items. Interest was also piqued because of the number 1,600. Here in Lubec, that is our approximate summer population. I imagined the whole of our town being involved with one single project, one single goal. That led me to thoughts about the once thriving canning factory industry that employed so many people here, and the huge negative economic impact it had on the families when the factories closed. I understand that it was not just a loss of money, but also a loss of personal identity.

Weiwei's work moves me. Critics lean mostly in favor of his work, commending him for not only exquisite details and craftsmanship, but also for his social/political statements. These commendations come, perhaps, more so from critics outside China. Within China, there seems to be those who disdain his vocalizations and consider him more of a showman, or in some cases, a threat. I view it as an artist using his gifts to grab the attention of viewers so that he may educate and inspire. Would I ever go to such lengths? My own artwork is often political, but I have not given in, not yet anyway, to the idea of spending time in jail or putting my life on the line for my values. That's not to say that I have not contemplated civil disobedience, but for now, I prefer to do my work from outside a jail cell. I do, however, have the utmost respect and admiration for Weiwei's perseverance and passion. Having thought about my own role as an artist, the following quote resonated with me:

"If artists betray the social conscience and the basic principles of being human, where does art stand then?
Ai Weiwei (Ai Weiwei Speaks, 2011, pg. 27)

Weiwei's discontent with the Chinese government has landed him in a quite precarious position. He has been beaten by police to the point of suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. His studio in Bejing was demolished by the government citing that he did not have proper permission to build. He was recently (April 2011) detained by authorities and held for two months without an official charge. When later released, it was announced that he owes nearly two million dollars in back taxes and fines, all of which Weiwei denies.

What draws me most to Weiwei is his smile. I think of all these obstacles that he faced and still faces, obstacles which would kill the spirit of most human beings, offering nothing more than a sense of defeat. Yet, I see interviews and photos of him...smiling.

There is a flood of articles and videos out there. He is an addictive sort to study, myself spending many hours perusing the Internet for anything Weiwei. I recommend starting with a google image search. Begin with the powerful images then move onto the reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the quick read "Ai Weiwei Speaks: with Hans Ulrich Obrist" (Penguin Books, 2011). The book was captivating for me because it was in Weiwei's own voice. Next on my list, the translated blogs. The PBS video "Ai Weiwei: Without Fear or Favor" is definitely worth a watch.

I leave you with one last quote - and perhaps a hope that you will think about the Occupy Movement here in our own country - not merely as a group of people whining about their conditions, but as a movement that by the very nature of being vocal is helping to protect all our rights and freedoms associated with personal expression.

"A nation that will not search for its own past and not be critical of it is a shameless nation."
Ai Weiwei (Ai Weiwei Speaks, 2011, pg. 14)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pottery, Poetry, and Amazing Feats in the Realm of packing

Cobscook Pottery & Fiber Arts
Annual Holiday Sale
November 18-20, 2011
Friday 3-7PM, Saturday 10AM-5PM, Sunday Noon-4PM
North Lubec Road, Lubec, ME
Pottery, Weaving, Fine Art, and Jewelry

My Cobscook Pottery wares on display at the United Maine Craftsmen showing at the Augusta Civic Center last weekend.

Honda should hire me for a product testimonial. This was the first loading before I cut the boards for better mirror visibility. You should have seen the car AFTER I loaded ALL the boxes and my luggage!!!! Seriously, you sure can fit an awful lot into a teeny little Honda Fit!

Bouli...unknowingly sporting cream on her nose after sneaking into my plate on the counter and assuming I wouldn't find out!

Congratulations to my husband, Chris, on his recent poetry chapbook release!
Click link below to order "Rebellion"

I returned last night from four days in central Maine. I just gave my hand at vending the United Maine Craftsmen show at the Augusta Civic Center. This past summer at the Blueberry Festival and this past weekend in Augusta marked my return to vending after nearly ten years. Those who peddle their wares at festivals and other venues know what I mean when I say that it is hard work! Not only did massive quantities of hours go in to creating the work, but the packing, driving, setting-up, and breaking-down consumed enormous amounts of energy and time as well. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Vending in Augusta returned me to my old stomping grounds and I was able to reconnect with folks that I had not seen in quite some time. Friends from near and far visited me at my booth and family sauntered in and out throughout the weekend. I was grateful for my sister's help with set-up on Friday night and during the first day of vending. Mom stopped by to watch the booth so I could have breaks, and my dad (poor guy!) agreed to help me load the display unit in the car on Sunday night...only to discover that he had been wrangled into carrying numerous heavy boxes and objects out to the vehicles.

Spending time with other potters while at the show was wonderful. I love how eagerly everyone shares their knowledge and expertise. Potters tend to have a peaceful and caring aura (at least the ones I know!) and I feel so honored to be part of their "circle". I do hope that our paths continue to cross over the years.

I returned last night good season and Chris unpacked the boxes into the shop. Bouli poked around the barn a bit while I rearranged the displays and began preparation for this coming weekend's annual holiday sale. The rest of this week (when not teaching) I will be consumed with preparations but do so happily. I always enjoy this weekend when many of my Lubec friends stop by. The spirits are joyful.

After this weekend's sale, I will disperse wares to a couple shops then perhaps load a few items onto Etsy. I hope to have an official website in the not too distant future, but for now, while I am running ragged while juggling a myriad of commitments, I will make do with the resources at hand.

This is a short blog this week as the hours are few and the to-do list is long. I need a good night's sleep to recoup my energy for the days ahead. Meanwhile, enjoying this beautiful unseasonably warm weather and sharing in Chris' celebration of his recent poetry release. Congrats Chris!!! You've worked hard and deserve it! Order his recent release at:

And....if you're in Lubec this coming weekend - be sure to stop by for our annual holiday sale! Hope to see you!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friends, Celebrations, and Pottery Galore!

From kiln to shelf, pottery is piling up....back-to-back glaze firings are in progress in prep for next weekend's United Maine Craftsmen show at the Augusta Civic Center
Nov. 12-13 (Saturday 9-5, Sunday 10-4)
Hope to see you there!

Current sculpture in progress.
This is the interior support structure which is so beautiful on its own....It was hard to cover up all that detailed architectural work that will never even be seen on the finished piece!!!!

Reunited with my friend Donna after not seeing her for over twenty years!
Can you tell that it was VERY COLD outside? This photo was taken in Portland just a few hours before last weekend's snowy October nor'easter hit.

United Maine Craftsmen Show
Augusta Civic Center
Augusta, Maine
November 12-13
(Saturday 9:00-5:00, and Sunday 10:00-4:00)
Admission $2 at the door.
Look for my Cobscook Pottery booth!
Honey Pots, Tankards, Tumblers & Mugs, Pasta & Boulibase Bowls, Rice and Tea Bowls, Noodle Bowls, Sake Sets, Vases, and more!

I am enjoying this moment of peace. It seems somewhat indulgent to sit still for a bit to upload photos and blog. As I type, the kiln is firing its fourth load of pottery in less than two weeks. That schedule seems a bit relaxed compared to what is upcoming; six more attempted glaze firings in the next week and a half. A cycle from firing to cooling and cracking the lid is about thirty hours and rest-assured (or rather, UN-rest-assured) there will be more late nights and 3:00 a.m. kiln duties. Two nights ago Chris jumped-in and took over the firing duties come 12:30 a.m. He suggested I try to sleep (it was well past my bedtime) and he in turn watched for the cone to drop. It finally did, but not to well near 3:00 a.m. Work days have been extreme with the typical being twelve to fourteen hours of near nonstop work. On the days I go to school to teach, I return home to change into my messy work duds and head into the pottery cave. I work until usually 8:00 or 9:00 at night, then grab a quick dinner and go to bed, only to wake the next day and do it all again. it's a good thing that I love what I do!!!

This insane schedule is not totally un-typical, but even for me, it has been a long and extreme schedule. I am trying my hand at vending the Augusta Civic Center united Maine Craftsmen show (coming up next weekend!) and then the next weekend is my annual holiday sale here at Cobscook Pottery in Lubec. Two back-to-back events has me stocking more work than usual in a small time frame. Most everything else has been put on hold, especially the past two weeks, while I did that last burst of wheel work, then a mega-glazing marathon. I am so filled with glee that last night about 10:00 p.m. I put away the glazes and cleaned up the tables. For the next few days I will stay focused on loading and unloading, watching temps and cones, and prep for the Augusta excursion, which includes finalizing the display materials. Today is planned for all that busy-type work and tomorrow and Monday I resume work on a sculpture project that I began about ten days ago - even though I was in the midst of mega-vending- pottery production.

Actually, looking back over the past week and a half, I realize that I even slipped in time for some fun. Everything was on-the-fly but you know what they say "all work and no play.....". In fact, in the midst of this insane work schedule, we were treated to a beautiful dinner at the house of friends, traveled to central Maine to see my father for his birthday, hopped on down to Portland for about four hours to see a friend visiting from London, picked-up clay from Portland pottery while there, and even scooted on over to another friend's house to see her studio. Yesterday, I even took time off for a couple hours to visit with friends for tea.

Seeing Donna after over twenty years was fabulous! We first met in (I think!!!!) 1988 in an acting class at University of Southern Maine. Donna was an exchange student from Ireland and we became fast friends. Thanks to the wonderful information super highway (a.k.a. internet and more specifically facebook) we have been able to keep in touch in recent years. Donna returned to visit with her former host family and it just happened that I was going to be only an hour from Portland while visiting family in central Maine. We managed an overlap in schedules that allowed us to hang out for about three hours in the Old Port. After a lunch of Maine "chowdah" we sauntered into Heron Point Gallery on Market Street. What a gorgeous space and beautiful work!!!! One of my pod-mates from the MFA program at Heartwood owns the gallery. So, I even got to see Bonnie during this little excursion! After Donna hooked back up with her host family to prepare fro her flight back to Europe, I called my friend Becky and spur of the moment drove over to her home and got to see the gorgeous new pottery plates that she has been making in her studio. The visit was far too short, but so glad that I was able to do it. I got back to West Gardiner just in time for my dad's birthday supper - and only a few hours before the snowstorm began.

What's up with that anyway? Snow before Halloween? And I'm not talking a dusting: it really kicked up with wild winds and big flakes that blanketed the ground to the tune of about six inches by morning. Needless to say, this delayed our travel back to Lubec by a few hours. By noon, we hit the road and travel went smoothly, even with our kitten Bouli (a not-so-little 9-pounder!!!) who took turns at slumbering in our laps for the long return home. We had no snow in our yard in Lubec, but things sure looked dark when we pulled up the drive. Apparently power had been out for several hours. We spent the rest of our evening removing food from the fridge and placing it in a freezer and cooler with ice blocks. Ironically, we had just bought a week's worth of groceries on the way home. The house was extremely cold so we heated stones on the stove which were later placed in the bed for warmth. I slept well toasty warm.

This concludes my morning of blogging leisure. I am going to hit the shower, grab some breakfast, and begin the list of the things I must finish today in order to be ready for the Augusta show. I have a feeling the list is longer than the hours that I have allotted!!!!

It's turn back the clock time tonight - I think?! This means extremely early darkness (maybe 4:30 p.m.????) I LOVE it!

Cobscook Pottery & Fiber Arts
Annual Holiday Sale

Lubec, Maine
November 18-20, 2011
Friday 3:00-7:00, Saturday 10:00-5:00, Sunday Noon-4:00

Honey Pots (and Lubec Bee Honey!!!), Tankards, Tumblers & Mugs, Pasta & Boulibase Bowls, Rice and Tea Bowls, Noodle Bowls, Sake Sets, Vases, Soap, Weaving, and Jewelry by The Indigo Iris.
Beautiful packaging ready for gifting!

If more info is needed, email me at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Potting Frenzy for UMC prep

Come check out my latest pottery this November!

United Maine Craftsmen Show

at the Augusta Civic Center
November 12-13, 2011
(Link to show info)
click on the Augusta Show "details" for more info.

Cobscook Pottery & Fiber Arts Annual Holiday Sale
November 18-20, 2011
Lubec, Maine
pottery, sculpture, weaving, jewelry
(Fri. 3:00-7:00, Sat. 10:00-5:00, Sun. 12:00-4:00)
Refreshments, holiday cheer, raffle, ready-to-gift packaging!

Serving bowls, honey pots, and rice bowls waiting to be bisque fired.

A hodge podge of bisqueware awaiting glaze.
(sake bottles, rice bowls, tea bowls, tumblers)

Bello, our beautiful 14-pound feline elder.

We long for these moments...sweet, soft, purring, napping Bouli. This is NOT how we usually see her, though!!!! Quiet moments are rare. She is usually 100% feisty-ness..... tearing up the house, breaking things, and tormenting Bello!

No Bouli, you are not being knighted by King Bello.
He is merely reminding you who is really in charge in this house.

Furry pantaloon-clad Bouli chases-down Bello and presents to him her best sumo-wrestling moves.

Bouli walking across greenware platters, moving toward the newly thrown fragile wet vases.....
Nothing is safe in the pottery cave when she is around!

It has been about five weeks of potting frenzy in prep for the United Maine Craftsmen show. Lest a few mug handles and trimming of three vases/lids, I have completed the heavy-duty chore of hours-on-end of wet work. Against all seasoned-potter advice, I worked at the wheel for ten hour stretches to meet goal. My list of "to-do" was much longer but yesterday I finally had to throw in the towel and tell myself that I need to step back from the production work and move the focus more fully into my sculpture. The next three weeks will still be full of mega amounts of glazing and a firing schedule like no other in the past with three more bisque loads and up to eight glaze fires. The glazing, though tedious, is not as physical as the potting and is less brain-work. I will be able to walk away from the glazing table for long stretches and not worry about losing a piece. When creating the wet work, I need to adhere to the clay's drying schedule: add a handle or trim at just-the-right-time. The forming part of the process is picky and certain steps must be completed at precise moments or else the piece is lost.

All this pottery is not only for the United Maine Craftsmen show in Augusta, but also for my annual open-studio holiday sale here in Lubec. I normally hold that sale the weekend of veteran's day, but due to the UMC show in Augusta, I bumped it back a week to November 18-20. That's two major back-to-back selling events that I need adequate inventory for.

Between teaching, my MFA work, and the pottery production, I have not had spare time. The work schedule begins upon waking and ends when supper and bedtime are near. When I get home from my teaching job at school, I change into pottery duds and head into the "cave".

Pottery is one of those jobs that does not fall within an eight hour day or 5-day a week work schedule. When relied upon as an income, it's serious business. The schedule ebbs and flows with the seasons. Spring is for summer prep, then summer is extremely hectic with tourist season, and autumn is busy with holiday sales prep. The "down-time", if such a thing exists, is January and February.

I sometimes think people have a hard time understanding that pottery is work, and rather, think of what I do as more of a hobby. There is this stereotype romantic version of potters who are back-to-the-earth hippies playing with mud in a very relaxed nonchalant sort of manner. My studio time is not that image. It is a job for me, and though I love that I am able to work with my hands with a material that I connect so fully with, there are parts of the process that I wouldn't mind skipping. I don't like reclaiming clay and wedging, nor do I enjoy glazing, cleaning the studio, or making mug handles. I DO LOVE throwing at the wheel, handbuilding, carving, and trimming. But add to my "dislike list" dealing with taxes, insurance, supply orders, and anything related to paperwork. I am a one-woman-business playing all the roles: designer, fabricator, marketer, bookkeeper, delivery person, maintenance, inventory, and janitorial specialist.

All said and done, I am so grateful that pottery is a skill that I have. I am able to do something that is such a part of my heart and soul and share it with others. I can think of no better job than one that is built around my passion and slightly neurotic obsession with clay.

I think back often to when I first started blogging. I made the statement that I would never be a production potter. Such irony that I am now doing that on a small-scale level. I didn't think that I would enjoy production work, but I am discovering that I really do enjoy it. There is this satisfaction that I feel when I see multiples of an item lining the shelves. I watched a squirrel storing nuts a while back and thought that I am like that squirrel. I feel a sense of safety, and accomplishment, when I see that there are plenty of bowls or mini vases. I am like the bear, too, preparing in advance for my winter hibernation. There is lots to be done before the snow flies!

There is not much else to report. I have been nose to the grindstone with deadlines all around me and it is crucial, for the moment, that I remain focused. I am still feeling my way around being a part-time teacher and relying more heavily on my job as a potter. MFA semester is in full swing and I need to be ready for end-of-semester presentations in December and must also keep focused on that. Everything that I am doing now lays the groundwork for where I will be down the road on this incredible life journey. It is a head-spinning time with all the multi-tasking, but it is all meaningful.

On the homefront, it is cat-mania. Bello had a rough spell a while back. He seemed to be severely depressed, losing weight, showing some physical symptoms of unhealthiness. He was hissing and growling at me and seeming despondent. Bouli's presence has turned his world upside down. Until her arrival, he had all of my attention. I have started spending special alone-time with him most nights in his "safe-space" out of Bouli's reach. Bello is starting to return to his old self again and is starting to stand up for himself more. Bouli likes to chase him and tries to play, but he usually wants nothing to do with her. He is starting to jump in my lap again, cow Bouli down off the bed once in a while, and in general is trying to reclaim his time as King Kitty. Until recently, he would run away from Bouli growling and begging to be let outside. The past couple weeks, though, he stands his ground, growls at her, and she most times will walk away after a few attempts to pounce at him. I am still holding out for them to be best pals at some point.

Sunny Sunday - and I am heading down into the dark cave. I have eight tankard handles to attach, and three vases to trim with adorned lids. After that- I switch into cognitive mode and work up sketches for a new sculpture. I have been seeing images in minds-eye that intrigue me though I haven't been able to put concept with them beyond the form that is calling to me. Will see what happenes. Sometimes I just need to jump in and create....and do the figuring-out later on.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Art-filled weekend in Kennebunk

Painter Richard Brown Lethem in his studio.

Richard Brown Lethem painting a portrait of Roberta Cantlon during Lubec Arts Alive, 2009

Bruce Iverson demonstrates painting an "Enso" during our
weekend seminar at Heartwood College of Art
Hmmmm...It looked so easy when he did it!

I practiced and practiced the "Enso"....
never thought I would have such a difficult time trying to paint a circle!!!!

When the workshop ended, I had a whole pile of attempted sumi painting.

Heartwood College of Art's (Amazing!) MFA Pioneer pod.
Megan, Shanna, Stephanie, Carol, Sherry, and Bonnie
Photo by Stephanie Lind

I just returned from a few days out of town that were filled with amazing people and art. I am now into my fourth semester of the part-time, low rez MFA program at Heartwood College of Art and this past weekend was our seminar. We only get on campus as a whole "pod" once a semester. That time, though short, is brimming with philosophical conversation, constructive critiques, book discussions, and concentrated immersion in an art form. The days are long but always meaningful.

The drive to Kennebunk is a good six hours from Lubec. I try to make the most of my time by squeezing in quick visits with family and there is usually a long list of errands to run as well for items that are not normally attainable in our neck of the woods. With my new teaching schedule this year, I was able to take a more leisurely pace, which meant that I could to slip-in a one hour (not long enough!) visit to Richard Brown Lethem's studio before the commencement of residency on Friday.

Brown lives less than a half hour from campus, so the logistics were perfect. I had never been to his studio before but had been wanting to for the past three years. I first Met him when he came to Lubec in 2009 as a representative UMVA artist who took residence here for our first ever Lubec Arts Alive event. I had seen what Brown could do in the way of portraiture and had peered at his work online, but I had no idea how prolific an artist he is until I saw his studio firsthand. He toured me through a large barn with rooms divided throughout. Each room was stacked with more than fifty years of paintings catalogued by date. The size of each canvas was not diminished by the vast space of the two-floor building. Instead, they fit just perfectly on the large open walls in the main bay. The side areas, perhaps once stalls, were walled-off for stacked painting storage and a smaller gallery-type room. A second, smaller barn houses Lethem's carpentry workshop where he makes his own frames and an upstairs large and brightly colored painting studio. It was an honor to see his recent work in progress, and to hear first-hand telling that he is focused primarily on beginning with a color field then superimposing the images that reveal the stories. Lethem's hues are bold and the strokes highly expressionistic. Faces are distorted and animals show up in dream-like scenes. It's sort of like Chagall meets Dali meets De Kooning, but with lots of layers and texture.

I hope that over the course of my life as an artist that I will be so blessed to be at least half as productive and passionate as Lethem. It was a real privilege for me to be able to view his work in his personal studio with him as the tour guide. Thanks, Brown!

Arrival at Heartwood began with laughter and potluck as our pod reunited for the first time since last March. We have a new pod-mate who is just starting her first semester and happily she is a perfect fit. Friday night is when we begin the critiques of current projects. Our pod is diverse in a few ways but that diversity brings richness to our experiences. Our ages span many years and we travel from Maine, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Our specialty areas vary from graphic arts/printmaking, to glasswork, ceramics, metals, and fiber arts. We are teachers, travelers, gallery owners, and museum workers. We have lived interesting lives with interesting stories and each individual person in our group brings something unique to the whole.

Saturday was an intense, full day of immersion in Chinese calligraphy and sumi brush painting. our instructor made it look so simple, but as soon as I made my first mark I realized the high degree of technical ability and centering required to make something appear so simple and elegant when in truth it is very difficult to achieve that appearance. In Chinese calligraphy and sumi brush painting, there are many "rules" such as the direction a line takes, the amount of pressure the brush meets the paper with, and even the way a brush is to be held in the hand. I think the awkward positioning of the brush really threw me off. After eight hours of making symbols, circles (enso) and bamboo, I was fairly certain that I would not be adding "sumi" to my list of artistic conquerings. I will leave that to the masters. However, I will admit, that the next day the paintings started to look better to me. But any sumi expert would clearly notice that my "deer horns" need much work, and the bamboo stalks and leaves for that matter, too. Bruce was a wonderful teacher and exuded much patience. Our group can be a wee bit feisty at times, but he managed us just fine.

Sunday is the last day of residency and is notorious for the super-duper thinking round table: hours of mind-expanding criticism and discussion. It's the "heaviest" part of the weekend and often stirs emotions as we discuss topics relevant to the art world and make the connections that we as artists have. I always leave those discussion with a full mind and the drive back to Lubec gives me time to filter through it all.

I am so glad that I chose the Heartwood program for my MFA. It is a great fit for my personality and work ethic and because it is part-time I am able to continue my work as a teacher. Because the program is low-residency, I am able to do my studies while living six hours from campus. I may only be in my fourth semester, but have already felt how I have grown as an artist and human being. I have been blessed with excellent mentors in the program and the teaching style is very much in line with my own teaching philosophy and personal ethics. Thanks, Berri and Susan, for creating such an amazing program! I know that the new "Surface Design" program beginning next fall will be amazing too - wish that I could go back and do undergrad studies again just to experience that!

Sunday night I was able to stay in central Maine with my parents and spent some time catching-up. It had been almost two months since I saw my family, far too long, and we were able to spend an evening talking over dinner. Next morning I was up at 4:15 a.m. with my mind already in full tilt about what projects I would like to do when returning back to the studio. I hit the road early and made it home to Lubec before dark, where I found two very bent-out-of-shape cats because I had been away so long. Chris seemed chipper and fine, but Bouli and Bello sure let me know about their disgruntlement.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do Artists Always Wear Black?

Shanna Wheelock, 2011
Ceramic, light, metal
Photo by Leslie Bowman

Hammond Hall, Schoodic Arts For All
Winter Harbor, Maine

Abby Shahn's "Save the World" globe.
Thanks, Abby! You did a great job organizing the "Worlds Seen and Foreseen" show in downtown Skowhegan!!!

Portrait of me.... Photo by Leslie Bowman

Do artists always wear black? I guess that's a silly question. But as I was preparing yesterday morning to head out, sporting black shoes and a long-sleeved (very cool, I might add, Liberty Graphics) black Tee, I "asked" Chris, should I wear my black or purple polartec? I was already slipping the black one over my arms when Chris responded "artists always wear black." He said that when he taught at University of Tennessee that the art department was a sea of black fabric. I remember back to my own undergrad days as a fine arts student at USM. Indeed, my closet was filled with the color void. But for every black item, I owned an opposite, brightly-colored garment. Maybe tie-dyed, maybe bright orange, some sort of funky wild concoction of hues and patterns always took residence on a neighboring hanger.

It is a stereotype that artists are brooding, dark souls who walk around in goth fashion. So yes, yesterday I wore a lot of black, but, black goes with anything! Yesterday it just happened to match perfectly the dark, rainy morning, and yes, I had been in a quieter, more introspective mood this past week while trying to overcome rather than succumb to that change-of-season chest cold. I just happened to need a long-sleeved, relatively warm shirt to wear with jeans. It did have a moon on the design which seemed fitting since I was delivering a sculpture for an exhibit about light. But my interior mood was anything but brooding. If anything, the rainy day lifted my spirits. I love the rain. A mellow ambiance makes perfect for working in the studio.

Rather than brooding souls, artists should be known to be deep and introspective. Most people have a range of emotions that run the gamut from "skippy-dippy gleefully happy" to the "best-not-to-talk-to-me-now-funk". Artists are amongst the most intelligent and caring beings that I have ever met and rather than seeing the world as a depressing pit of near non-existence, they see truth, which sometimes is ugly, and because of that channel a sense of hope to create a better reality. Sometimes the world we live in sparks pain, but art is cathartic and artists have at their disposal great means to work through the pain. I sort of see me as an example of that. For those who know me personally, they know that I am a generally optimistic person who wears a smile. Yet, my sculptural images are sometimes pain and despair-filled. I have come to the conclusion that it is because I am a person that believes we can AND SHOULD work toward a peaceful existence - one that is gentle, caring, loving - that my work exemplifies a more painful and destructive force that I feel needs to be recognized and abolished.

So yesterday, I did wear black, and yesterday, I was in an upbeat optimistic mood: the best I had experienced all week. Chris and I started our day early for a two-hour drive to Winter Harbor. We were delivering my Incendiary sculpture to Hammond Hall, a performing arts center under the direction of Schoodic Arts for All. The show features illuminated artworks that will adorn the space with light as days grow darker heading toward winter. It was a joyful morning visiting with other artists. John McMurray was there, the artist who worked with us this past summer on the Lubec Arts Alive kinetic herring. I also got to meet Mary and Jane who were overseeing the delivery of work. I loved their energy! After the delivery, Chris and I stopped off in Machias for a quick lunch, then it was on to a hardware store for me to pick out some lumber for the sculpture that I am currently working on. I will reveal details of this new piece later on, once it is nearer to completion. Right now it is a hodge-podge of components that make little sense and even to me are mind-boggling. I am looking forward to creating the base structure this weekend so that I can begin to make sense of it all.

I haven't blogged in two weeks. I have been trying to keep up with the demands of a heavily-divided life. I thought that teaching half-time this year would open up all sorts of extra time, which I guess essentially it did, but that time has been quickly filled with more work. I am busy with pottery production for upcoming fall and holiday sales and continue my work in the MFA program at Heartwood College of Art. Slip in a bit of salsa-making, veterinary appointments, pottery deliveries, broken kitchen appliances, everyday household duties, jury duty letters and a "quick" fourteen-hour run to Skowhegan (where artists who were protesting war were very brightly dressed!). All this was on top of a week of Chris being sick then me unfortunately following right behind him. There hasn't been a whole lot of down time. I even somehow fit in the role of interviewee on Geno's Washington County TV, discussing the arts scene in Lubec, which was an interesting event for sure! (Sorry, I forgot to ask when it will air. When I know, I will let you know.)

Chris has been super busy as well, teaching women's studies this semester for UMM and dividing his writing time between the novel and his poetry. Whale Sound (see link below) just posted his poem "Gods Reflect on Creation." It is an audio file read by Nic Sebastian. She does a great job with it! Check it out!

Gods Reflect on Creation, audio file (click here)

Without further adieu, I think I will mosey on downstairs, greet Bello and Bouli, shower, trim pots, then continue work on the sculpture. An hour ago when I looked out the window, day breaking, it appeared to be a bit overcast. I am hoping for another long day of dark and stormy to keep me in this awesome, focused non-brooding mood.

and...keeping with the theme of wearing is some music to help start your day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Glaze Tests, Studio Tours, and Phishing

New set of short Tumblers in a Mossy Forest glaze.

Bouli-quake strikes Lubec....
I rarely am able to set-up the factory piece in my studio since Bouli assumes that everything in her sight is a toy for her. I only left the sculpture unattended for less than a minute - returned to find the paper dolls all a muss.

Chris spooning blanched green beans into pint-size canning jars.

Green beans placed in the canning pot.

What a week. First off, according to a phishing scam email, I was stranded in Spain after having my purse stolen and needed friends to send me money. My email address contact list was hacked-into and "stolen" rendering me unable to email everyone to let them know that this just was not so. I am hoping that everyone who received the email knows that such letters written in a stilted voice asking for money to be wired to far off places is bogus. Chris and I fielded well over a hundred emails and more than a dozen phone calls from friends and family. We appreciated the concern and hope that it never happens again. This is a lesson that even those who think they are wise to such schemes that it can happen to anyone. The internet opens doors for all kinds of trickery.

The Spain scam was a blip in an otherwise tightly orchestrated schedule. In preparation for this past weekend's art studio tour, several kiln firings were planned, as well as cleaning, arranging, tagging and deliveries. The Two Countries One Bay Art Studio Tour is always a joy for me. More-than-usual folks saunter through my space. On a typical day when the shop is open, visitors rarely get to peek at my private studio space. On tour day, however, sculptures are set-out and the space is a bit more "organized". This was an especially fun tour year, having met some incredibly unique and fun people: hippie potters, Harley bikers, cat enthusiasts, cross-country travelers, and weavers. Perhaps the most interesting "act" was the young couple who are circus performers. It isn't often that you ask someone about their job and they reply "trapeze artist". Anyway - I appreciate all the people who took the time to visit my little space in this far-off nook at the edge of the country. It truly was a joy!

I felt like a milestone had been reached this past week, too. After a couple months of kiln woes, two glaze test fires were completed and all seems to be back on the right track again. (knock on wood!) Colors are more gorgeous than ever and hopefully consistency will be the norm. I tried out new glaze motifs and after a bit of experimentation I found some keepers. The shop has been re-stocked and now the pottery goal has been set to prepare for the next event which is vending a big craft show November 11-12 at the Augusta Civic Center, followed the next weekend by my annual holiday pottery sale here in Lubec. I am really looking forward to the Augusta showing and seeing some familiar faces from my old stomping grounds. There is lots of work to be done before then and it is crucial that I keep focused on the goals since I am juggling not only my newly enhanced role as potter but also my teaching and my MFA coursework.

With the start of the new semester in the Heartwood College of Art MFA program, I began a new sculpture last week, and after this blog post, will return to working on it. The idea is full of complexities and I keep reminding myself to narrow down the visuals to only what is essential. The thinking time on this piece has far outweighed the physical work thus far, but it seems now that the "goal" is more solid that the actual studio time will be more efficient. This piece has become additionally interesting for me since I made the realization that the symbolisms I chose are a reflection of something much more personal and close-to-home than the original surface idea. The creative process is an interesting one - especially when the subconscious or intuitive self starts to take over. I will post pics of the piece on this blog as the work progresses and expect completion of this first phase of the project to be in December.

We have been enjoying the garden's bounty. It is an unruly patch of vegetation but seems to be producing some things in quantity enough to elicit canning. Last weekend we canned fresh pasta sauce, and yesterday we canned the green beans. Today I hope to find time to begin a batch of salsa, and late this week Chris will make the last huge batch of pesto for freezing. Apple sauce prep begins next week, too. With recent frost warnings, I have plucked as many goodies as possible from the garden. I think here on the coast we have skirted what other parts of Maine have endured in the way of extreme cold night temps. With only a couple days until Mabon, summer is saying her goodbyes. I am still hoping for gorgeous warm days as we head toward Autumn, but secretly (or not so anymore!) look forward to the first snow and early dark.

It is time to tend to the cats' morning feed and to get the studio prepped for a day's work. I will open the shop soon but expect much less fanfare than the last two days previous. The quiet will be good for thinking time.

I hope everyone enjoys a beautiful first-days-of-autumn week!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two Countries One Bay Art Studio Tour
September 17-18
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Seafoam Tumblers
$15 each
Available at Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts

Lubec, Maine

It's tour weekend again! I hope to see some familiar and some new faces this year. If you have never been on the tour - now is the time!

Don't miss this chance to catch a glimpse of working artist studios from St. Andrews, Canada down through Campobello Island and Deer Island, Canada, including the towns along Passaquamoddy Bay: St. Stephen, Calais, Robinston, Eastport, Whiting, Trescott, and Lubec.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I am NOT in Spain....

Though I imagine it would be a fabulous trip! If you received an email from me saying that I am in Spain and need money - know that it is a SPAM/Scam email.

I am still in Lubec - happily hrowing pots, firing the kiln, and working on a new sculpture.

Thanks for the concern.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


Pots glazed and ready for firing.

Half ton of clay delivered on Friday.

Preparing to make sundried tomatoes with garden fresh sun golds and sweet selects.

Cherry tomatoes heading into the dehydrator.

Rolling out the pizza dough.
Only in an artist's kitchen would an LLBean thermos be used in place of a rolling pin...because the rolling pin is in the studio to be used on clay!

Last night's pizza LOOKED fabulous with whole grain crust, fresh-from-garden basil pesto, chanterelle mushrooms. and our own sundried tomatoes....too bad the oven decided to stop working! photogenic.

Early morning walks in Lubec remind me of the 1990's TV program Northern Exposure. Do you remember the opening of that show, where a moose ambles through downtown? Luckily, I haven't come face-to-face with such an enormous creature in the prime of rutting season, but the critters are definitely making their presence known. The walk is a fairly basic route, past houses, fields, and down a quiet tree-groved side road. Two morning walks in a row I have seen a doe and her fawns. They notice me, give a slight flicker of the while tail, and then continue to go about their grazing. Canadian Geese rest in a field, preparing for their southward travel, and crows caw and cackle loudly in trees while eagles soar overhead. There are remnants of coyote scat all along the road, signaling a busy night and reason why we are so diligent about making sure the cats are in and undercover before nightfall. Perhaps the most recent amusing morning-walk spectacle was the flying spruce cones. First I heard this crackling and knocking sound like small branches breaking free and tumbling downward, then I noticed that these little cones were flying right out of the tree, raining down to the ground. The massive amount of shedding had me think that I had perhaps come upon the precise, magical, moment when a tree decided to shed its heavy-weighted cones, but upon further inspection I eyed a little squirrel near the tip of the spruce. She was shaking, knocking, and tossing cones to the ground in frenzied preparation of colder temps to come. We locked gazes briefly then she quickly returned to the task at hand.

Chris and I have been a bit like that little squirrel lately. The colder temps and winds that signal autumn combined with the shade-changing and tumbling-down of leaves has us scurrying to put food away for winter. Harvested basil prompted pesto-production, tomato bounty elicited sundrying (via dehydrator) as well as a big batch of spaghetti sauce which will be cooked and canned later today. The pole beans have been prolific so those will also be canned this week, and apples are being scouted for apple sauce. The garden produced much better results than last year, although, we fully acknowledge that we have much to learn about farming our tiny plot. It continues to be a work in progress.

Last night's gourmet pizza with fresh pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and wild-harvested chanterelle mushroom had our mouths watering. It had been a long day of work for the two of us and this late-night dinner was sure to hit the spot. To our extreme disappointment, we discovered that the oven had kicked-out on us, heating after over an hour to only 325 degrees. Apparently that was the only temp I had been cooking at lately and hadn't noticed any problems. Who knows how long the lack of heat has been an issue. Needless to say - the pizza looked far better than it tasted. Attempts to cook the bottom of the crust in a fry pan were not hugely successful. Let's just say, I woke at 4:00 a.m. a bit hungry from lack of adequate supper. Deja vu struck...wasn't it only three weeks ago that the pottery kiln wouldn't reach full temp? What is it with me and these ovens?

Happily, the elements are back to working order in the kiln. There are still issues though, noticing that the thermocouple is not reading the temps accurately. I have ditched all expectations of reliability and have resorted to firing with old-fashioned cone pacs. To regain some consistency, I decided to retest all my glazes at both cone 5 and cone 6. Yesterday the cone 5 test fire ran and I will unload and check those little wobbly lopsided mini pots later this morning. Once unloaded, I will reload for the cone 6 test firing and let that run while I am working on my fall semester projects for the Heartwood College of Art MFA program. As usual, I am multitasking and wearing several hats at once. With the change of my teaching job to half time, one would think I would have gained extra "free" time, but that would have been an unrealistic expectation I suppose. I am busier than ever juggling teaching, pottery, running the shop, MFA classes, and now we can add the proverbial winter nut-storing to the list. Note that photo above of the 1/2 ton clay shipment. Food isn't the only thing being stored for winter around here!

Next weekend is the Two Countries One Bay Artist Studio Tour. I look forward to that event each year and meeting new and interesting folks who are scurrying from studio to studio to catch the rare glimpse inside over fifty working-artist spaces. I have lots of prep to do before the event begins. I spent the past two days glazing work not only for the test fires but for the tour, too. I have been blessed with excellent sales this summer, and now the shelves are looking a wee bit bare to me. I look forward to restocking them for the weekend and for other upcoming events this fall.

The only other news to report (which isn't really "news) since the last time I blogged is that we survived Hurricane Irene in good order. Luckily for us downeast it wasn't so bad - a bit of heavy rain and wind but no damage that I heard of. News forecasts showed that others did not fare so well in the more northern parts and up through Vermont. We definitely skirted the worst of what could have been and for that I am thankful.

The cats continue to coexist as best they can. A bit of hissing and growling still ensues and Bello tries to stake his claim on certain areas while Bouli continues to dance on the edge of boundaries. If people could get along at least half as well as these two have after being thrust into each others' personal spaces, then we could say that we have come a long way.