Just out of the kiln, column vessels inspired by Lubec factory remnants.
Shanna Wheelock, 2012
Chris and I were judges once again for the Annual International Gingerbread House Contest that was held at Lubec Memorial Library. There were lots of great entries from all ages and the sweet confections provided a festive, sugary smell throughout the room.
Shanna with librarian John Leavitt and President Bill Cassidy of Washington County Community College
We enjoyed the reception for my Woven Works exhibit at WCCC. Thanks to John, James, and Lauren for doing a fabulous job hanging the show, and thank you to President Cassidy for recognizing the value of the arts in our lives.
It was a super busy week with two pottery vending engagements. Both venues offered up phenomenal music which is always a plus. Friday night I set up shop in Machias at the First Friday Art Walk, and on Saturday, I traveled to Eastport for the Winter Holiday Market at the Eastport Arts Center. Amy Zipperer did a fantastic job organizing. Thanks, Amy!
These fellas (above) performed upstairs at the gorgeous Machias Grange. That's Duane Ingalls on the far right (former Lubec music teacher) but I don't know the other guys. I think they were playing "Grateful Dead" here. Much appreciated!
The Beehive Design Collective premiered their latest project, "Mesoamerica Resiste", which has been nine years in the making. I had the opportunity to speak with worker bee Kehben about her amazing experiences while being with the project since its earliest beginnings. Her story really touched me. She, and all involved, should be so proud of their accomplishment. The city of Machias certainly is all the better for the presence of the Beehive in their community. Be sure to check out the article from the Bangor Daily News, which includes a short video of the two-piece mural.
Like most people, I am in shock and deeply saddened, frustrated, fearful, and angry over last Friday's elementary school massacre in Connecticut. Every mass killing pulls at my soul, be it war-related, genocide, or tragedy at the hands of a single person, but for some reason, this most recent rampage has gone more fully to my core. When I first heard the news, I wept. Each time I think of of the children and the families, I weep again. I think of my former students and fellow co-teachers and wonder how they are coping. I think of the parents whose lives will never be the same, or the community that will forever be known as "that town where..."
Even with joyous events all around us as we prepare for the upcoming holiday, the horror flashes through my mind and won't let me free.
And it shouldn't.
None of us should be able to ever think that we can go back to "normal" (whatever that is) and forget or think that this was an anomaly, that something like this will never happen again. Or, that it can't happen in our own town. We have been watching events like this unfold with what seems like greater and greater frequency.
I had just began my first teaching job in central Maine when the Columbine shooting occurred. I remember it as being surreal. I was young and innocent, and things like this just didn't happen...except in the movies. Right? I remember being prepped on how to handle it in the classroom should students bring it up. I recall only one comment being made by a student, and clearly this particular second grader was impressed, smiling ear to ear as he raised his hand and recited details of the event in front of his classmates as if he were explaining his Saturday morning cartoon.
We read the news or watch it on TV and we blame this one particular person for carrying out the event, but the truth of it is, we are all responsible.
As a society, we have allowed this to happen. We live steeped in a culture where violence is glorified, from the movies that we pay big bucks to see to the news programming that feeds us the dirty laundry we so badly crave. We kill hundreds of thousands in the name of "freedom", buy our children violent video games, and turn a blind eye to those in need.
Intense sorrow emanates from Newtown, Connecticut and it is reaching across the lands, across the oceans. We are collectively feeling that sorrow. This is as it should be. As human beings, we have the capacity to be empathic, and when we are not, that is a greater tragedy. And it would be an even greater tragedy if we were to not demand that this never happen again.
Realistically, can such violent rampages be stopped?
Maybe there is no one cure-all answer, but there is some logic that perhaps can be applied. I wonder, what would it take to change our course from one that is violent and destructive to a society that is peaceful and healthy?
So, here are a few ideas, many of which you have probably already heard.
Disclaimer: I am pissed. These views are very much mine, I'm being honest, and I am not holding back. So, yes, some may be offended. No apologies this time.
Compassion over Competition
It starts at birth. Every child needs, and deserves, to feel loved, safe, and taken care-of. This means responsible, mature parenting. Why are there no mandatory classes in how to parent? Every child should have adequate food, shelter, and healthcare. That means that the adult needs the same as well. The attitude of "every man for himself" is bullshit. That attitude sets us up on a competitive stage rather than one of compassion. We need to learn the skill of listening to one another and we need to create an environment where compassionate nurturing is the most valuable trait. The saying "it takes a whole village to raise a child" is true. It does. Consequently, when that village is unhealthy and violent, we are still all raising that child. The children are our mirror of who we are. Think about the best "village" scenario and create it.
Peace as a Goal
When did "Peace" become a dirty word? It is beyond me that anyone would fight the concept of living in a peaceful society. The argument that one does not think it is possible is not enough. Whether or not you feel it is possible, why would you not want to work toward it? Start today with acknowledging that war is not the appropriate response to any situation. Nor is hitting a child, supporting sports that are violent in nature, or condoning the death penalty. It is never okay to justify violence such as rape or domestic abuse or to not fully prosecute those who are guilty of it. Actions speak louder than words. If you think it is wrong to kill or injure, then put your money where your mouth is.
End the Desensitization
We are inundated with images of violence from a young age. Sure, those video games, music, and movies come with a stated restricted age, but we all know that doesn't really deter a young person's access, it only makes the product more appealing. The movie industry knows this. They want that R rating. The video games know it too. The more realistic the bloodshed, the more titillating the game. Young minds are not yet developed enough to understand the consequences of such real life situations. Violence is not, and should not, be a game. Parents who watch these movies or play these games should be responsible in their use and keep it from their young child's sight.
Restore Social Services
Some people have responded to this most recent tragedy as a result of a "Godless Society". This sure flares me. Do you know what else is missing from society? Necessary social services. Has anyone stopped to think that perhaps this increase in desperate violent acts is the result of years of cutting humanitarian services like mental health and human resources, education, and welfare? Again, this "each for their own" thinking is not working. And if anything is an indication of a "Godless Society" it is this: taking away from those in need. People who covet their extreme wealth at the expense of others' well being should be ashamed of themselves. I know so many who have so little and still go above and beyond to help others, and THAT is the authentic way of living within the principles of a meaningful and spiritual life.
Study and Understand
For every mass murder that is taking place, there are other such plots being made. There are are at least two stories in this past week's U.S. news that were of foiled plans to kill mass numbers of school children and a carried-out mass victim knife attack in China. The culprits should be studied and understood. Know every detail of their life and what led them to such extreme behaviors. Knowing what prompts someone to do such things could be helpful in recognizing what we as a society need to change, whether that be access to weapons, healthcare, different home environemnts, etc. I think there is no one thing that makes such a person, but it would be immoral to not take steps toward change to improve our chances of this not happening again.
When the second amendment was written, there did not exist automatic weapons that kill dozens of children in a matter of seconds. What need is there for a gun that does such a thing other than to kill mass numbers of innocents? I know many people with guns, most of them used for hunting, some for a sense of self-protection. And of those people who own these guns, most have no intention or desire to kill other human beings. We can go back and forth on this, the right to bear arms, and what it means. For me, an ideal society would have zero guns. Zero guns in the entire world. Yes, I like the sound of that. And while we're at it, zero weapons that are made with the intention of harming another being.
That being said, I know that this realistically will not fly given the current gun-toting culture. However, something does need to change. It needs to happen immediately and it needs to be enforced. Automatic weapons should not be in the hands of the lay person. As well, it should be more difficult to attain any kind of gun. We don't allow a person to just jump in a car and start driving without taking an exam. Nor should anyone who has a history of violence or extreme mental issues be allowed to purchase a gun. Guns in the household where someone is suicidal or delusional is not prudent. People need to be honest with themselves. There are too many tragedies. We need to change course and do not what we greedily want to do, but what we feel to be in the best interest of the whole.
Click the link below to watch a Youtube video of Cheryl Wheeler's song "If It Were Up To Me". Powerful. Something to think about.
"Craftspeople, artists, farmers, and purveyors of other delights will offer shoppers the opportunity to treat their loved ones to the finest handmade gifts including stained glass, ornaments, honey, artisan cheeses, jewelry, pottery, mobiles, banners, bags, childrens' toys, herbal balms, hand spun fiber garments, and more! Cookies and hot cider to bring cheer, and local musicians will keep your stockings rocking while you shop. Support your community, enjoy a friendly shopping experience, and buy locally this holiday season." excerpt from the website.
Last year we didn't have a yule tree. Bouli was too young and feisty so we forewent the traditon imagining the worst: a kitten sprinting up the shaft bringing down balsam scented fir with a crashing and clinking of long-adored ornaments. Never mind the possible tinsel fiasco.
This year we have thrown caution to the wind. Despite the chilling temps, Chris and I ventured over to the the Hayward's and picked out a modest seven foot beauty. Every year there is a bit of distress knowing that our ancient tree base is a real hassle to get aligned just perfectly with the trunk. Somehow this year, however, it went smooth as butter. The tree was up in no time, the tip reaching ceiling with a half inch to spare. Bouli was curious but not destructive, and to our surprise, the tree stands straight. Certainly, we were through the worst of it and all we had left to do now was add the lights and ornaments.
So down I plunked myself onto the floor with five or six severely tangled strands of colored and white LED Christmas lights. Again, I surprised myself at the smoothness of it all. Yes, tangled, but somehow I managed to detangle in good fashion. I excitedly climbed upon a stool and began to string the colorful little bulbs top to bottom. As Chris walked in the room, I noticed that he was clearly impressed by my efficiency. In the past, this task was such a a long, drawn out chore. But then it occurred to me....
Shouldn't I have plugged the lights in before hanging to be sure that they worked?
Wait. Don't answer that. We all know the answer. I know the answer. Still, I didn't do the workability test.
So, I reached down to plug the two strands in to the outlet and....one strand was out. Oh poop.
No worries. We had backup strands of clear. So, I untangled more lights and tested them. Thumbs up. Here we go. Lights strung on tree. Looking good. Then.... I got this idea to plug the one strand of color lights to the clear and add a bit of pizazz. As soon as I did, the top strand of clear went out. And so it went, each variation producing yet another disappointment.
The lights were old. Many years old. They have been in a box in the top of the barn unused for two seasons and had graced our trees many seasons previous, perhaps even as far back as our time in Tennessee.
Fortunately, the market down the road had lights in stock. We cleaned them out of all five sets and returned home. Chris was waning by this point, but I assured him that fresh out of the box they would not be tangled thus all would go smooth and quick. I tested each set before joining strands then strung the tree with amazing speed. Phew! Now, all we had to do was plug them in.
That would have been simple if I had strung the lights so that the plug was at the bottom of the tree near the outlet. But no. I had strung them, essentially, upside down. Yes, it can be done. And it was. All the lights were, once more, removed from the tree.
I'm happy to report that as I sit here writing this blog entry that I am enjoying the sweet colorful glow of multicolored lights on a beautiful tree. Albeit, no decorations. After all the drama of trying to get the tree lit, we were both a little too frustrated to finish the task. Instead, we each went to our respective spaces to do a little writing.
The tree was a nice break from the past week of intense studio time. I have been working on more column vessels inspired by the long gone Lubec factories. I am playing with multitudes of textures and thinking about possibilities once the works are fired. In all I have created nineteen new columns. I have my favorites and am anxious for them to dry so that they may be fired and finished. This grouping of work is inspired by the brick remnants from the original American Can factory in North Lubec. I have enjoyed my time with one of the town's elders who is filling me in on some local history and appreciate that the new land owners of the former factory site have graciously allowed me to forage for factory remnants, all in the name of art. How cool!
It was wonderful to have a week with only three short appointments so that I could focus on my own projects. This coming week will be a busy one with a reception at WCCC where my fiber works are hanging, and two art/craft events that I will be vending. I've posted the info for those three engagements at the top of this post. I am looking forward to spending time with other artists. I especially enjoy vending where there is live music. The First Friday Art Walk in Machias will be extra meaningful since we will all be privileged to view the newest artwork by Beehive Collective, on display for this one night only before heading off to print and tour. So, if you are in Machias on the 7th, be sure to check this out - it's an amazing opportunity. And, if in the Eastport area on the 8th, stop by the arts center and enjoy some treats, art, and live music!
I cleaned my "cave" this morning. It was a task that involved both Chris and I, face masks, and a wheelbarrow. It was not a pretty sight as my clay studio can get quite messy. I finished off with a floor mop to get the mounds of dust cleared out. It won't last long, but it sure feels nice to have a clean space for a spell. Tomorrow I glaze all day to get a firing through on Monday. I'm hoping for new work to take to the two fairs next weekend and the extra heat from the kiln will help to push along the drying of the new column vessels.
Things seem to be moving along smoothly.
Love this time of year and feel so very blessed and grateful.
Shanna Wheelock lives and Creates in downeast Maine, gathering inspiration from the rugged coastline and culture of the area in the easternmost town of United States, Lubec, Maine, bordering canada. When not sculpting, potting, painting, or running the gallery, Shanna participates in artist residencies, both local and international. She received her MFA fom Heartwood College of Art and spent several years teaching art in both public school and at university. She sees art as a way of healing and enjoys sharing her passion for all things creative.
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