Sunday, December 29, 2013

Elusive Creativity

 Draggers in Johnson Bay, Lubec. 
Pope's Folly in the background.

 Fourth drawing in this series.
WATER, WIND, and TIME: Exposed #4

Detail drawings from the "Water, Wind, and Time" series.

 View from the drawing table on a snowy day.

More columns.

In the thick of it.

Christmas day turkey, post ice storm 2013.

Bouli always does her best to help out with whatever the task is at hand.

"Sometimes creativity disappears completely or wanders around the back alleys for weeks at a time. She has a strong need to be occasionally anonymous. If you run into her at the post office line during one of these periods, you will probably not recognize her. She is in a different place. It is almost as if her blood has slowed down. When the blank period is over, Creativity brings her free self home with her. Her skin is new. She is ready to work. More than anyone else, Creativity understands the secret meanings of the months when nothing seems to get done."
from The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

Creativity has its own way of doing things and for artists we know that it can be fickle.When the semester began in September I was excited to begin a new body of work in the factory series. I was soon sidetracked by the demands of running a business and found only small pockets of time for artwork. I looked forward to December to be able to delve into the creative process fully, but the universe had a different plan and decided to present little obstacles at each turn. The time for full immersion finally arrived today and much to my chagrin, creativity decided to take a vacation. That's my perception anyway. 

The creative process can be grueling. Emotions were flying around the studio, as well as paper, scissors, wax, wood, and clay. No, it was not safe. Chris knew to stay away. Even Bello. Bouli, well, she was her same old diva self and in the end, I was grateful for her unconditional companionship. It's amazing how soothing a few kitty belly rubs and chin scratches can be.

It did feel good to spend an entire day in the studio with music and the smell of beeswax. I just wish that I could appreciate the results of my labor a bit more. Sometimes what we imagine in our minds to be a good idea turns out to be the the opposite in reality. There is a battle, as well, between what I am expected to produce (again, my perception) and what I feel drawn to do. At the moment, my desire to draw is greater than that for clay or wax. Still, I feel I need to see my original goal through, if only in part.

Tomorrow morning I will enter the studio fresh from a (hopefully) good sleep. Sometimes ideas and new avenues present themselves overnight, as I have been blessed with that sort of inspiration in the past. The frenetic intensity of the past few weeks is still with me. It may take a while to center myself again but I know I will get there. Eventually.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Switching Gears

 Morning ritual. 
Waiting for the sunrise.

 Bouli continues to model for product shots. 
Yes, this bowl did sell. She's good.

Work has begun on another Factory C drawing. The start is grueling, mapping out the rebar. This kind of work gets me blurry-eyed, but I enjoy the meditative qualities. I just wish I wouldn't keep counting all the lines as I lay them down. Strange me. (The three parallel, diagonal rebar pieces...that alone is over 450 short curved lines!)

I just finished up the last craft fair venue for 2013. Boxes and pots have been packed and unpacked too many times to count this past year. Exhale.....

 Sitting in my nook on rainy days, looking out window, thinking about the things that are most important to me.

 Porcupine shows up most nights around dusk. 
She blends in perfectly with the pre-winter landscape.

Birch-lined drive on a foggy morning.

For the past few months my main thought had been how to survive November. Well, I did it. Three pottery events three weekends in a row, packing of boxes, and unpacking over and over, loading the car, sleeping in other beds, missing the cats and the usual comforts. I'm a homebody by nature, perhaps part astrology (I am a cancer crab after all!) and part obsessed artist wanting to be in the studio. I am finally breathing a bit more easily, finishing up the final holiday orders soon to be shipped, and heading full speed into MFA work. 

While others are baking reindeer shaped cookies and merrily singing carols at yankee swaps, I will be doing what I love most: total immersion in the creative process. Studio spaces are brimming with unfinished paper and boards waiting for lines and color, while clay slabs are imprinted and taking shape. While I begin work most days before the sun rises and end long after sunset, there is a calmness in the end-of-semester frenzy. My hands dabble in the varied mediums, self moving from space to space as each next step must be met when the medium deems it time. Clay is the most persnickety so ink and wax dance around its schedule. The nook is a refuge where I read and research, sketch ideas which come to me in quick image blips but so far none have claimed my commitment. I am trying to learn to trust the intuitive process.

Drawing is the most meditative. Thousands of lines are etched in rhythmic patterns, as if hand is on auto-pilot. I love that feeling. As one who has always found it difficult to settle the mind enough to meditate in any traditional sort of way, the repetitive motion and counting of lines (crazy, I know!) quiets me enough to remain still. 

As I type, the cave is warming and soon slabs will be rolled, measured, cut, and assembled into the next series of factory columns. Wednesday's mugs have already been trimmed and handled and the last of the holiday orders have been thrown and are drying. The barn was cleared last night in what felt to be a final warm spell before the deep cold and snow. We found the tree stand and ornament boxes above in the loft. Every year I think we are too busy for a solstice tree, but as most years, nostalgia sets in, longing for the smell of balsam and the stories that accompany each ornament as hung on green branches. We just might need to make a trip to the Hayward's this weekend.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November Vending Madness

Upcoming Show Schedule:
Cobscook Pottery Holiday Open Studio Sale
November 15-17
Lubec, ME
November 29- December 1
Brewer Auditorium, Brewer, ME
Looking forward to this weekend's
Cobscook Pottery Holiday Open Studio Sale
November 15-17, 2013
Friday 3-7, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 11-4
North Lubec Rd., Lubec, ME
 A few bowls and mugs from last weekend's sale at the United Maine Craftsmen show at the Augusta Civic Center.
 While in central Maine I took a stroll around Hallowell where I lived and worked for many years. Being a holiday, the streets were very quiet.
 On his way back to California, Brad Trafton inspired a lot of smiles and singing voices at his Saturday night Water Street Tavern gigs here in Lubec. He will be missed!

Big old spruce was removed by Bear and Owl Tree Care.

Brannin sawing the lower quarter of the tree.

 Tossing a chunk of spruce to the ground.
Brannin Beuhner

And this is how the spruce ended up.

The seasonal frenzy has begun. I just returned to Lubec from two days of vending in Augusta at the United Maine Craftsmen Show where hordes of shoppers bounced from aisle to aisle humming Frosty the Snowman and checking names off their lists. I enjoy vending in Augusta because I get to see lots of people that I know from my days of living in the area. This past weekend's show was no exception. Family and friends filtered into my booth throughout the two days and lots of smiles and hugs were exchanged. More than once I was happily surprised and touched by unexpected visitors. This put the Augusta show at the top of my 2013 vending highlights list.

Prep for the Augusta show was a bit thrown off with a kiln error and need for a replacement part. Something to disrupt the normal schedule seems to be par for the course at this point. Luckily it was a simple fix which was tended to today and as I type, an empty kiln is firing to make sure that all is working properly. Tomorrow is the return of the glaze fire in prep for this coming weekend's open studio sale here in Lubec. I had never replaced a thermocouple before but it turned out to be quite simple. A big sigh of relief spilled out me as the glaring red FAIL error disappeared. For now, wires seem fine, and since electronics is not my forte, I am quite pleased! Next week the elements will be replaced, a task that perhaps should have been done a couple months ago. Luckily I ordered the replacements a while back just in case they would be needed. The kiln should be in fine working order as we head into 2014.

Now I am preparing for this weekends sale here in Lubec. Somewhere in my growing pile of papers is a mailing  list. Somewhere is the key word here. If you didn't receive your usual postcard invite from me, this is why; the list somehow grew its own set of little list feet and took off on adventure nowhere to be found. I did my best to remember who has been here in the past and used online whitepages and the local phonebook to recreate as best I could. This was a task not enjoyed! But I did get the postcards out and look forward to seeing folks this weekend. If you did not get a card in the mail, do still stop by! Yes, there will be some of that holiday music (you know, my favorite holiday blues CD), a gift certificate raffle, cheer,  and treats.

In between the Lubec sale and the upcoming sale in Brewer that follows Thanksgiving, I will be throwing, carving, shipping, glazing, and working on a few commissioned projects and proposals. The MFA work will soon take precedence, something that I am looking forward to. I will not be bored these last few weeks of 2013, that is for certain.

Other than show prep, I enjoyed the late days of fall with a few hikes, time with friends, and evenings out with Chris to listen to live music. The air has turned quite chilly. I am starting to feel the urge to hibernate and looking forward to when that will be possible. It's been a bit of a whirlwind lately.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mapping Life and Editing Along the Way

 WATER, WIND, and TIME: Exposed #3 (Factory C)
Shanna Wheelock, 2013
Heartwood College of Art in their new digs at the North Dam Mill in Biddeford.
It's an amazing space!!!!
Contact HCA for more info on their low rez MFA program.
 The most fabulous beautifully-spirited women I could ever hope for in joining me on this journey.... sharing, growing, laughing, learning, creating, crying, (eating copious amounts of chocolate), and supporting one another.
Photo by Bonnie Faulkner
 My handmade book.
The Saturday MFA residency workshop was led by Bonnie Faulkner...pod-mate, artist, and teacher extraordinaire!
Bonnie also hosted us for a fabulous meal at her restaurant White Cap Grille in Portland. Amazing!!! I highly recommend!!!!
Making the prints.
My favorite color....grey! With just a tad of blue....
 A few of these prints made it to the finished book.
 Printmaking in the round at Heartwood College of Art.
Friday night critique.
Editing is key.
"I would like to tell you how to get there so that you may see this all for yourself. But first a warning: you may have already come across a set of detailed instructions, a map with every bush and stone clearly marked, the meandering courses of dry rivers and other geographical features noted, with dotted lines put down to represent the very faintest of trails. Perhaps there were also warnings printed in tiny red letters along the margins, about the lack of water, the strength of the wind and the swiftness of the rattlesnakes. Your confidence in these finely etched maps is understandable, for at first glance they seem excellent, the best a man is capable of; but your confidence is misplaced. Throw them out. They are the wrong sort of map. They are too thin. They are not the sort of map that can be followed by a man who knows what he is doing. The coyote, even the crow, would regard them suspicious."
"Desert Notes", Barry Lopez, 1976, excerpt from the essay titled "Directions" (page.55)
I found myself lost Friday night. Residency at Heartwood had wrapped up around 9:00 pm and I hopped in my car to make the short trek back to the hotel room. Earlier that afternoon I had been given directions by the hotel manager how to find my way to the new campus space. He said it was easy and wrote three "simple" turns that would be clearly marked. It turned out that the directions given were inaccurate from my point of departure and my arrival was not exactly what one would consider "fashionably late". It was more of an annoyance. Despite minor missteps, I felt confident that the return to the hotel room would be simple. I even saw a road sign on the main street that would clearly point me back to my room, a mere two miles away at most. After our MFA session ended for the evening, I confidently turned my car out of the campus lot, tired from a long day of travel, and set to return for a good night's sleep.
I don't know why I felt so confident that I could easily find my way back to the room. It was a new town, it was dark, and I had never even thought to write down the address of the destination. Not the best of planning on my end. I can get myself around Portland and Boston just fine, but for some reason, this little city threw off my internal GPS. I stopped to ask for directions, and again, a clear map was drawn for me by two very helpful mini mart workers. With a smile I was told that it was a simple drive and that I was literally three quick turns from the hotel.
An hour later, I stopped and asked for directions again. I was given visual markers and assured that it would be simple,  three turns including the one I would take out of the parking lot.
I did eventually make it back to the hotel, a five minute drive turned into nearly ninety minutes. A little worse for wear, perhaps a bit grouchy, but happy to be back to a familiar place.
The next morning I was again lost but this time only briefly. The return ride to the hotel later in the afternoon turned out to be simple (as I had been told many times!) and this time someone rode with me who had a GPS app, but even that turned out to provide inaccurate information.  Luckily my lessons from being  lost three times along this same path taught me which signs to look for. We made it easily back to the hotel and just as we were stepping onto the elevator, my phone rang. On the other end was a frantic pod-mate who, despite having her own GPS tracker, was lost and driving in circles. After a bit of deep breathing, she found the three simple turns to safely make her way back.
This is sort of how life has been presented. We map our days and years with a planned destination. Sometimes we know where we need to be, but the roads we take have far more twists and turns than we think. We need to allow for the unexpected. And once we find our way, help others as best we can through their own darkness.
This past week leading up to Heartwood residency was intense. I decided to throw away my map and put it out there for the universe to choose my course. I know that it will anyway, but the facade of thinking that we have more control than we do can be comforting. A walk and a conversation that I might be ready for the next part of my journey put my words and intention out there. At the time, it was more of a "thinking out loud" sort of thing, but little did I know that the energies were set in motion and now it feels like all has been kicked into an intense emotional high gear toward my purpose.
Of course, that is assuming that I have an inkling of what that might be.
I joined the Heartwood College MFA program four years ago, a member of the "pioneer pod".  At the time I had no idea how my path would unfold. It started with a postcard that showed up in my mailbox and I jumped in with a "what-the-hell-might-as-well-do-it" attitude. A lot of changes have come down the pike in these past four years, unexpected, and now here I am preparing to begin my thesis work. It has been a journey of self discovery and most recently re-awakening. Connections between my art and my self are being realized. Looking at my work and being able to finally acknowledge it as an extension of me at my deepest "kore",  (my experiences, fears, pains, hopes and joys) has been a profound experience.
I feel truly blessed to be on this path alongside others that I find inspiring. We have been each other's sounding boards and confidantes for four years. I always take from residency weekend a feeling that I have found that place where I am free to be my most quirky esoteric self and it is just understood as the norm.
I have returned to a microscopic corner of the world on this little peninsula ready to move forward. Open heart and ready (I hope) for the lessons that universe presents.




Monday, October 14, 2013

Artist Way and Mushroom Hunting

What an amazing past couple weeks it has been  - between travel, studio time, vending, foraging and socializing. I am reminded again and again why it is that I love it here and how blessed I am to be able to be an artist in this little corner of the world.
Before moving here, Chris' grandfather enticed us with the line that "Lubec is a great place for an artist and a writer". We were given a key and a photo and told that North Lubec Road is known as "Artists Way". I have never found anyone else to corroborate that, but twelve years later, I see that Artist Way is indeed "becoming". We enjoyed a potluck with a few neighbors a couple Friday's back and as I looked around the room I noted that every person present was either an artist, musician, or writer.
That seems to be the trend here. Artists continue to move to this little bit of (increasingly more rare) ecological paradise. It was, as I often say, a tough transition the first few years and now I can't imagine leaving. There is a supportive artistic community but also opportunity for solitude which fuels the creative soul. Living here has its challenges and is not for the faint of heart, but if you can find a way to make it work, it is a powerful existence.
There are a lot of pics in this week's blog, so I will lighten the text and let the images and blurbs speak for themselves. So full of joy and gratitude right now and looking forward to the next adventure - in the studio or otherwise.
Mini Vacation to Swans Island with mom.
My mom spent many summers on Swans Island with her Aunt Aggie (Nana's sister) and Uncle Carlyle. I have fond memories of my few times there and hadn't visited in twenty nine years. Last week Mom and I headed out for a two night stay.
Half hour ferry ride to the island out of Bass Harbor. This is actually the return trip - too turbulent to get out of car on the ride over and wasworried that the Dramamine might not have yet kicked in!
Me on the ferry feeling quite mellow and looking forward to my two nights on the island. Ride over was chilly and turbulent so we stayed in vehicles, but the return was gorgeous blue skies and calmer seas and I was able to wander around the boat a bit.
The quarry on Swans Island. Peaceful spot.
Blue Buoys at Trafton's Wharf on Minturn Loop. The elusive Tim Trafton (whom we were told to search out) was never to be found. In fact, there were few human sightings the entire three days! People on the island kind of do things in their own time.
Formerly Uncle Carlyle's lobster shed and dock in the harbor.
 Lobsterman just in with his day's catch.
Carrying Place Market. tiny, and very few items. This was the only market that we found. Well stocked with bananas!
Closing Day of the 2013 Lubec Open Air Market
Thank you to "Transtitions Lubec" for continuing support of the Lubec Market.  Looking forward to the 2104 season!!!
Heidi with her dried herbs and teas. She is the Lubec  Market Master  - and has done such a spectacular job keeping us all organized and informed. Check out her Plant Pep!!! Even the White House uses her organic fertilizer!!!

 Alex with yummy cheeses from Gardenside Dairy. She's a sweetie!!! I can't wait to see her handsewn creations at next season's market!

Thanks for the music at closing day, Curt! I still can't get "Grandma's Feather Bed" out of my head!!!
Thanks, Fred Pierce of Cobscook Bay Music for doing such a great job organizing tunes for the market! It's been such a treat to listen to live music every week!!!
 Critters are coming out of the woodwork this time of year....literally!
My new friend. I'm not the only one who likes cheese.
A few days off from pottery to focus on some sculptural pieces.
First grouping of factory columns this semester in their greenware stage. Not too exciting to look at right now but will transform over the next few weeks. Many more to go. I have some favorites of course.
I love it when chance meetings bring about new experiences.
 Maitake mushroom (Hen of the Woods) gifted to us during Saturday's farmer's market. Delicious! Met some new friends from the Maine Mycological Association and we enjoyed a walk in our back woods on Sunday to identify various edibles.
 Visitors from the Maine Mycological Association who led us on the tour of our back woods to identify fungi.
Ann Rugh, Ruthie Ristich, Michaeline Mulvey, Elizabeth Noyes, Mary Yurlina, Cheryl St. Pierre, and Cookie the dog.
So many gifts in nature.
A variety of mushrooms and chlorociboria.(and an apple core!)
 Michaeline Mulvey shows us how to identify edible Lions Mane.
 Chris, Michaeline, and Ruthie check out some fungi on an old branch. this was an exciting find! Unfortunately I do not recall the name. Looking through a tiny microscope - it was gorgeous!
 A cluster of edibles. Name? Honeys???
 Mary shows us a (I am told) quite yummy edible mushroom. Again, forgot the name!!!
Michaeline and Elizabeth with a cluster of Honey Mushrooms.
By the way, the wool for Michaeline's hat was dyed with a variety of mushroom! How cool is that!
Chris takes notes as Elizabeth cuts Phylotopsis Nidulans from a birch. Michaeline and Ruthie talk about Honey Mushrooms.
Witches Butter.
I believe it is edible, but more than anything, I just LOVE the name!
 A way-up edible find (Lion's Mane) on an old birch.
Later in the day....
In the afternoon, the foragers met for an ID workshop. I couldn't believe all the mushrooms that were found! Michaeline Mulvey led the informative discussion. I loved how animated she became when talking about the fungi.
Michaeline Mulvey explains how this shaggy mushroom provides a black dye that may be used by artists. Cool!

Chaga, known for its healing properties, is found on birch trees.
Wood stained with green elfcup, used for inlay.
Self-explanatory. Beautiful!!! This is the specimen that was cut from a birch in our back woods.
And after a long day of foraging....
An incredible feast hosted by Randy and Karen. Thank you!!!! And thank you to Ann Rugh for hosting the MMA group here in Lubec. I look forward to next year!!!
Randy Lisheness shows off some mean cooking skills while preparing artisan pizzas for the mushroom-loving crowd at a post fungi identification gathering. Thank you to Randy and his partner Karen Fry Primeau for hosting us at their cozy home.
Randy's feta, spinach, and maitake pie. Yum!