Thursday, January 16, 2014

Heading into Hibernation on the Exhale

 Withered Sun.

Hamilton Cove, Lubec, Maine.
Post polar vortex coolness and 2013 Ice Storm, we enjoyed a couple days of springlike warmth downeast..

 Eric Van Bok of "Resounding Rhythms" in Bath, Maine, assesses my djembe for repair. The head split a few years ago and I have missed playing. Soon my favorite drum will be back in my hands, tuned and outfitted with a new piece of goatskin!

 LOTS of drums at Resounding Rhythms! I love the energy of this space which is set in an old church. Reverence is sensed as soon as you walk through the door.

I love walking down the halls at Heartwood College of Art. There is a bounce to these big metal floor sheets that gives way under foot every so often. It reminds me of riding in an elevator, that moment between floors where it feels like your stomach has not quite caught up with the vertical shift.

The semester came to a close two weeks ago with a new body of work and much self-revelation. This time next year I will be holding that MFA certificate in hand. If looking for a low residency Master of Fine Arts program, check out Heartwood. it's not your typical "run of the mill" program. (ha!) Committing to this program has been one of the best decisions of my life thus far!!!  Life changing, to say the least.

Click here for more info on the low rez MFA program at Heartwood College of Art.

Assembled construction, "Factory C"
Ceramic and encaustic on birch panel.
Shanna Wheelock, 2014

 I look forward each winter to visiting my longtime artist friend Diane Langley at her Westport Island home and studio. Diane never ceases to amaze me. She lives the handmade life 24/7 and has not only been a wonderful friend and confidante, but a mentor as well. During the "show and tell" portion of our visit, I was privy to Diane's latest large scale shibori stitch work, all hand dyed with natural materials. Diane's work is, simply, breathtaking.

Diane's work will be on display at the  Maine Crafts Association's Inspired Hand show which opes this weekend.
Click here for more details on Inspired Hand.

Detail of Diane Langley's Shibori stitch technique.

It seems that the last few years I wrote blogs in late fall and early winter about needing to catch my breath. Then, like clockwork, January arrived and I found my moment to "exhale." January is my hibernation time and each year I eagerly look forward to a month of realigning myself with solitude and introspection. Granted, the docket seems to fill a little more each year and the down time is harder and harder to get my hands on, but mentally, it is the respite that I need. There is a sprinkling of family and friends and still work to be done, but overall, I listen more closely to my body's rhythms, and like the bear, seek out a space for stillness. I am less likely to bound off to large social functions at every turn and instead delve into books, silence, art, and healthy habits while reassessing  where I am and where I need to be. It's sort of like a homegrown retreat minus the expense of some far-off exotic stay with hundreds of others deep breathing in unison and contorting themselves into pretzel-like figures while fasting and finding God, or Buddha, or the Goddess dujour. I much prefer my solo journey in the comforts of home with cats by my side.

If ever this time was more needed I cannot think of one. November and December blew in like a tornado catching everything in its path and turning things on end. Just when it seemed a lull in the storm, another cyclone would come along to jostle things a bit. Life has begun to settle once again and for that I am thankful. I think my exhale began at the close of semester nearly two weeks ago and hibernation began its inward track three days ago as I found myself slowing in the morning hours. I still wake early but the rush to hop out of bed directly to work has mellowed. Of course, this could in part be influenced by the slow heating of the cold pottery cave in the most frigid of winter months. Nonetheless, the new pace feels good.

While taking things slow I will still be working on pottery orders throughout the winter. I have accumulated quite a few herring projects and am about to begin the next handcarved Collectors Series which will debut in June at the Bay of Fundy International Marathon here in Lubec. Again this year, I have the honor of creating the awards for the event. The next in the pottery series is the North Atlantic Right Whale. This particular creature was chosen because of its endangered status and the steadfast preservation efforts by New England Aquarium researchers who have each summer since the mid 1980's taken residence in our rural fishing village while studying the whale in our east coast waters.

There are a few more projects on tap.  Ideas will ruminate from the comforts of my den. Dare I say, I look forward to the next snowfall that makes way for the coziness of hearth flame and steam from a homemade pot of soup. On such days, both stomach and soul are fed.