Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fiddleheads, Friends, and Film

Dandelion Greens and Fiddleheads: fresh picked and prepared for lunch.

Natasha Mayers with some of her recent paintings.

Mary K. and Jeff Spencer in their pottery studio, 
surrounded by their creations!

I just dropped off a pottery order at the Center for Maine Craft, 
located inside the West Gardiner Service Plaza off I95.
A gorgeous gallery!
(if in the area and looking for my work...they have my sake sets, 
mugs, tea bowls, berry mugs, mini vases, and a few other items)

April has been an on-the-go kinda month. As it comes to a close, I am breathing a a sigh of relief that we can park the car for a few days and get some things done here in the Lubec studio. That being said, what an amazing month it has been! There have been all kinds of art and poetry happenings and lots of laughter and camaraderie. Given the distance we have to drive when going to central Maine, I tend to pack a lot in to make the travel expense efficient. And of course, as always happens, unexpected things pop up that knock us a bit off the intended course. We ended up staying an extra night, and as it turned out, was well worth it!

Last Thursday afternoon we hit the road for Hallowell where we planned to show the Lubec Arts Alive film at the Harlow Gallery. We made it to town with only minutes to spare before the event and luckily all went off without a hitch. Nancy, who oversees programming at the gallery, had already set-up the seating and projector. I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing the film and it always gets me a bit teary-eyed at the end.

Friday I rose early and headed to Portland Pottery to grab 300 lbs. of clay and some other supplies. I scooted right back to West Gardiner where I dropped off a pottery order at the Center for Maine Craft. If you are traveling the interstate or turnpike through Maine - this place is definitely worth a stop. It is your basic visitor center/rest stop as far as the eateries, bathrooms, and gas, but, it has this one super cool component that no other rest stop in Maine has: a gorgeous huge gallery of Maine made high-end fine crafts. The pottery selection is phenomenal and I am so pleased to be on board  with them.

I got back to my parents' house with a few coveted minutes for rest before heading over to visit Mary K. Spencer, a potter whose studio I had been wanting to tour for quite some time. I was blown away by all the production work she had, every piece made with love of course! She has been incredibly helpful and encouraging, and for that I am very grateful. She is a huge inspiration!

That same evening my family gathered at Lucky Gardens for the best Chinese food in central Maine. It was my sister's birthday celebration and when my family gets together there always seems to be a lot of laughter. I got my fix of my favorite shrimp dish and then we continued the celebration at Kristin's house with mom's homemade chocolate cake.

We had planned to return to Lubec on Saturday, but we ran into a friend at the film viewing who convinced us to stay an extra day. I hemmed and hawed a bit about the orders I needed to fill and all my other tasks that needed to be done....but gave in and am so glad that things turned out as they did. We spent the first part of Saturday at our friend Natasha Mayers house. She is a real mover and shaker in community arts and activism and is always interesting to spend time with. It's hard to get me to take extra down-time when there are things that need to be done in the studio, but when she suggested that we pick fiddleheads along the Sheepscot River, well, that got me. I remembered Nana always talking about picking fiddleheads while growing up in Bingham. So, for the first time ever, I got to try my hand at it. What fun! Digging in the earth, I felt right at home. It was a super relaxing time, listening to the wind in the trees and the river flowing swift.

Heading back up the trail to Natasha's house, we picked dandelion greens. Back at home base, she cooked the gathered items in olive oil and garlic and along with her homemade soup from mostly last season's harvest, we had a feast, followed by a viewing of Natasha's latest paintings. What an an amazing and prolific artist she is.

In the afternoon I spent more time with my sister and mom exploring Hallowell and the evening was filled with mom's good cooking. We headed to bed early and left in the morning for one more adventure. Natasha had asked Chris to read some of his poetry for possible voice-overs in a film that is being made about the Occupy movement here in Maine. After, we were on the road with a pottery drop-off for Ironbound Gallery in Camden (they plan to open mid May!) and some grocery shopping.

And now, here we are, home sweet home. The cats happy for our return and normal work schedules resuming. Tomorrow I hit the studio early to work on orders and load the kiln. A rigorous firing schedule begins and pottery will be packed to head to three more shops early May. MFA end-of-semester work is in the final push. School is in high gear as I try to get student art ready for a couple different venues and think about what the final art projects will be for the year. It's all exciting!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Poetry, Carved Pottery Mugs, and Kids' Art

Carved Mugs and Sake Bottles (greenware).
I've been working on some smaller, limited edition pieces for the Lubec Landmarks exhibit upcoming in June. I've been having fun with all kinds of texture and images. The weir carving is my personal fave.

Chris reading poetry at Calais Bookshop.
It was a great venue with a wonderful host, Carol, the bookshop owner.
Chris' red squirrel imitation was priceless. Wish I had a video of it!

Student Art Show was last week. We usually have the art show in the cafeteria but this year lined the hallway. The kids did a great job picking out their favorite pieces. Thirty pieces were juried for a summer exhibit at the library. A selection of works will also go on display at the Quik Shop and lighthouses will soon head off to the West Quoddy Lighthouse Visitor Center gallery for summer sales. The last few weeks of the school year are going to be hectic!

Bouli guarding the beautiful blooming plant.
We inherited this plant from a friend two years ago. She had asked us to watch over her plants while she spent the winter on the west coast. Nearly all her plants died in our care, except for this one, which she decided to leave with us permanently. It bloomed this same week last year. That week brought a big change in my life and now I am waiting, anticipating, the next big change.

It's the last day school vacation week and I sure have enjoyed the leisurely awakenings each morning. Of course, on today which is my last day of sleeping-in, I woke at 3:15 a.m.  At 4:00 a.m. I sauntered out of bed down to the cave to check on yesterday's studio work, worried that the slabs that I spent several hours rolling in my final push to get done the "the next step" might be drying too fast. All is well. I have my hot cocoa bedside, the cats are fed, and I am, at least for the moment, wide awake after only four hours sleep.

The blog has been neglected the past couple weeks. The work docket is full with a multitude of projects and I have been trying to peck away at each day. I don't like having so many unfinished things to do but all deadlines seem to be coming at me at the same time fast and furious. Today I have an ambitious schedule planned and in some crazy way am glad that I woke so early.

We have two new additions to our family...well, sort of. Two snowshoe hares have taken residence in our yard. They seem quite comfortable and unaffected by our our presence, or the cats for that matter. We have affectionately named them "White Foot" and "Sir Fluffy Foo Foo". They have taunted us by sitting in the middle of the garden plot that is soon to be planted. When Chris drove the car up the driveway two days ago, Sir Fluffy Foo Foo took a while to budge while Chris sat mid-drive, engine running, waiting for the right-of-way. The cats sit outdoors about fifteen feet from the rabbits, curious, as the bunnies munch on the fresh new greens emerging from the preciously barren earth. Yes, spring has sprung. The warm weather this past week has brought the critters out in mass. Moose tracks along the road, coyote evidence, eagles, vultures and hawks, and an eerie screaming fox.

The past week in the pottery cave has been a good run. I am working my way through several orders and preparing to stock a few different shops which all seem to have seasonal openings at the same time. I was pleased to learn this past week that my pottery was accepted by the Center for Maine Craft. About three weeks ago I attended a jury session with some of my functional wares. The short jury session involved much prep and a long drive, but am pleased to be making a presence at such a wonderful location. The gallery itself is a real feast for the eyes if you enjoy fine craft and the location is awesome with high tourist traffic, located at a visitor center off I95.

The prep for my solo at Lubec Landmarks has kicked into super high-overdrive-gear. I continue work on the ceramic installation sculpture which is the major piece for the show, but I also am working on a smaller limited series of functional pottery. I always enjoy carving in clay and this show is giving me an opportunity to play around with some fun textures and Lubec motifs.

The morning seems to be going by quickly depite my early rise. I need to get images onto a disk and fit in one more photo shoot for the new website in progress.  I've spent far too much time this past week editing text and will be glad to have the first portion of the site behind me. Lots of other behind-the-scenes business stuff to do (it isn't all clay and fun!!!!). Running a business, even a micro one, has lots of tasks that eat up time that would preferably be spent in creation mode. 

I am hoping that within three or four hours I can get back into my cave and do step two of yesterday's slab tasks. Thankfully my aching body has recovered somewhat from yesterday's muscle-intensive studio session. (Chris will be glad to see this next phase done, too I think, since the slabs have taken over his normally-coveted area of the basement).

As I sign off, a few announcements:

Lubec Arts Alive 

 A documentary by noted filmmaker Jon Wing Lum

Screening at Harlow Art Gallery
Hallowell, Maine
Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
If you are in central or southern Maine, this is your chance to check out the film.

A solo exhibition by Shanna Wheelock featuring 
a sculptural installation that commemorates the lost factory industry of Lubec

showing at
Lubec Landmarks
50 Water Street, Lubec, ME
June 1-19, 2012

Opening Reception
Saturday, June 2, 2012
2:00 p.m.

A list of shops/galleries that will be carrying my functional pottery this summer:

Ironbound Gallery
37 Bayview Street, Camden, ME

Center for Maine Craft
Travel Plaza, located off I95 West Gardiner
288 Lewiston Rd., West Gardiner, ME

Cobscook Pottery and Fiber Arts
162 N. Lubec Rd., Lubec, ME

Northen Tides Gallery and Gift Shop
24 Water Street, Lubec, ME

The Commons
51 Water Street, Eastport, ME

The Red Sleigh
Rte. 1, North Perry, ME

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Link to: Cobscook Pottery's Facebook page.

Entrance to the Harlow Gallery, Hallowell, Maine

Occupy Art!
Current exhibit at the Harlow Gallery

Occupy Art!
Harlow Gallery wall plastered with artwork from various UMVA Draw-A-Thons over the past couple years.

Support structure (top component) built for my upcoming Lubec Landmarks exhibit.
Thanks to my Dad, whose woodworking skills are quite honed!
During our "Father-Daughter Woodshop Day", I learned a lot about the importance of strong support. I loved having another person to problem-solve with during the actual hands-on part of the project - which allowed for some nifty impromptu decisions.
(I must note that he didn't reach a comfort level where he would allow me to operate the dangerous power tools even though I was itching to, but being an observant assistant/apprentice I absorbed much insight for future projects.)

Takeout Friday night from Lucky Garden in Hallowell.
Chris and I both got the same fortune in our cookies.
Looks like a good sign to me!

"Life is like licking honey off a thorn"
-something Berri's Nana used to say...

This past week has been punctuated by extreme highs and lows. The extreme low presented the most painful and emotionally challenging week ever in my thirteen years of teaching. At the other end of the extreme, bursts of hope, beauty, and unexpected treasures surfaced. I know that life is like this, the bitter and the sweet, but to have the two juxtaposed from one hour to the next seems an anomaly. In one moment grief seemed overwhelming, the next, an understanding that life moves forward. To deny celebration and beauty even in the midst of loss would be to deny nature its gifts and lessons. We can be stuck in the pain, or we can let it move through us. I am truly thankful that the universe has been diligent in reminding me of this.

My current sculpture project about the factories that once were is more and more seeming a metaphor for a general sense of loss. It feels to me that Lubec, as a community, experiences a consistent stream of loss at a tragic level far more than any other place that I have lived. Again though, these losses are punctuated by extremes. In the two hundred year history of this town, over thirty factories provided stability and identity for the townspeople. By fire or planned destruction, the factories are now nothing more than a memory or a few dilapidated remnants.

Keeping with this tradition of letting go, people are the same. They filter in and out, from migrant workers to families that move from far reaches of the country only to soon relocate once again. Two years ago, the high school was shut-down, a huge loss for the kids and general community. It seems, as well, that more lives are lost to tragic circumstances than humanly conceivable.

Lubec's tiny population in a remote poverty-stricken area of the nation, in my opinion, experiences loss far too often. It might be some sort of cosmic alignment at play, or it could simply be that loss is a natural expectation of a community that depends on the powerful forces of nature for its livelihood. There are no cushy Wall Street vocations and nature's elements, though powerful and beautiful, can be cruel. There has been a high number of teens who have died in the past year, which is especially painful for a community to come to grips with.

Looking at Lubec's history, such unjustifiable and unexpected death is not new. In 1936, twelve students drown in Gardner Lake. I cannot even imagine how a community begins to heal after such a tragedy. Still, it is the constitution of the people here to somehow pick up the pieces and move forward. They are strong, resilient, and know hardships of everyday living. It would be too easy to crumble in the face of such adversity, and easy is not what makes a person stronger.

The high points this past week included joining my husband and other great Maine artists and poets at the opening reception for Occupy Art! at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell. The exhibit was a culmination of the dedication and hard work of artist organizers Natasha Mayers, Robert Shetterly, Kenny Cole, Nora Tyron, Code Pink activist Lisa Savage, and several Maine artists who participated in the UMVA Draw-A-Thons over the past two years.

The Draw-A-Thons began as a grassroots "Bring our War Dollars Home" initiative and continued to gain momentum after the governor's removal of the Maine Labor Mural and now as the Occupy Movement continues. As we can see with the current Harlow Gallery exhibit, artists are an empowering and articulate voice for justice, equality, and hope.

My husband Chris was one of the four poets who read at the opening reception last Friday. It was an uplifting evening that was much appreciated after the two previous grief-filled days.

Another highlight this past week was our dinner guest Jon Wing Lum, the filmmaker who created the Lubec Arts Alive documentary. As one of the first Asian American filmmakers, he opened the door for other Asians in the industry. He was a proponent of "catalytic cinema", working on projects to promote social change. The conversations this evening were incredibly interesting, swinging from stories about working with artists in New York such as DeKooning and Jasper Johns to experiences in the south during the civil rights movement. What I love most about Wing is his gentle spirit and humble character despite such amazing accomplishments. He is one of Lubec's gems for sure.

There were other little unexpected twists and turns including our hotel room. For the poetry reading event, we arrived late to town Thursday night weary from grief and travel to be told at the front desk that we were given a "slight upgrade". Having sought out the cheapest of the clean accommodations in the area with wifi access so that Chris could continue his online teaching work while we were away, we didn't fully grasp "slight upgrade" until we opened the second floor room door.

Did you know that some hotel rooms come with telephones by the toilet?

For a couple nights we jokingly lived the 1% lifestyle (albeit with takeout food and a strict budget) while rallying for the 99%. All by accident. Back to Lubec now - where the phone rests on its charger in a room off the kitchen, out-of-reach from the toilet.