photo 2I did it.  I bit the bullet, took the bull by the horns, hitched up my big girl pants,  and did it.  (Not a pretty image there, is it?)  I ordered a smaller kiln.  This is a big deal.  It’s not as if a kiln half as large as another of the same brand costs half as much.  Nope.  But it had become apparent to me that I needed to be able to turn work around more quickly.  The time it took to make enough work to fill my Big Boy kiln was draining the energy of the process of make, discover and make some more.  When I am working larger, making four larger pieces instead of sixty smaller ones to fill it, the big kiln will make more sense.

Much research and internal dialogue went along with the decision.  Skutt kilns are reasonable, easy to use and available from my local ceramic supplier, Portland Pottery.  I like the one I have but wondered if it made sense to look at another brand.  I did but decided to stay with Skutt, a known quantity.  Then I spent time on their website, looking at the seemingly endless sizes and configurations that they have.  Staying with the smallest sizes, I debated between two.

Now here is where the Universe, once again, came to my aid.  A week or so ago, I had emailed Bill Griffith, the education photo 3director at Arrowmont School of Crafts and a darn good potter, to ask about a small kiln that I had seen in his studio, to see if he liked it and could give some guidance.  As it happened, I ended up in his SPAM folder and he didn’t see my note until yesterday.  He responded and said that he liked his small kiln very much and would put me in contact with David Gamble, a representative for Skutt, to see what he could add.  David wrote within an hour or so to tell me of his experience with his KM-818 and how much he liked it and that, indeed, Bill’s small kiln was a KM-818.  Decision made.

I had decided to order the kiln today, Monday, and so was fretting a bit about which to choose.  Then, out of the SPAM folder, came a voice and then two voices to tell me what to do.  You’ve got to love it when that happens.

My dear husband encouraged me in this purchase (to be honest, he’ll be financing the purchase for awhile) because, as he said, “You’re getting to this clay thing pretty late, so you had better get going.  If you need this, let’s do it.”  While I don’t always appreciate the reference to age, he’s absolutely right.  But more than that, he understands the importance of process.  I realized that clay is a part of what I do in my artistic and professional life now.  The process of working with a new material has been a wonderful learning experience, but it is not a pastime or a hobby.  It is a part of my repertoire, if you will.  I need to honor it and feed it and work it for all it’s worth.

photo 2Game Changers.  Nifty name for an exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts.  www.FullerCraft.org  The original premise, as I understand it, was to catalogue, with one piece each, the artists working in fibers in the US since the 60s, who helped to shape the contemporary textiles field, those who “changed the game”.  For the most part, that is what the show accomplishes.  There are, of course, people left out and people who have not exactly changed the game yet.

I am pleased to be included.  Not only am I included but I share a corner with John Garrett and John photo 3McQueen!  Pretty cool.  There is work by Ed Rossbach, Jane Sauer, Kay Sekimachi, Olga DeAmaral, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Cynthia Schira, Diane Itter, Lia Cook, Randall Darwall, Gyongy Laky, and Warren Seelig…all names from the pantheon of the contemporary textile field.  Not all were represented by the best of their oeuvre, but that is to be expected.  This is a celebration of contemporary textile history, after all, not a historic reckoning.  The guest curators, Pat Warner and Katherine Glover, did a masterful job with little time and a modest budget.

photo 5At the reception on Sunday, I was speaking with Jonathan Fairbanks, the director of the Museum, and said something about how terrific it was that they were having a textiles show.  An elegant woman nearby said, in a gently corrective tone, “Don’t you mean a fiber show?”  I had to laugh (internally).  Forty years ago, having recently graduated with an MFA in Textile Design, as it was called, I was teaching at a small college in Pennsylvania.  The Art Department had one person to teach each of the material disciplines…clay, metals, painting, textiles, etc.  I was textiles.  But it was the early 70s and the word, fiber, was coming into vogue.  I met with the college curriculum committee to defend a change of name from textiles to fiber.  The basis for the argument was the parallel alignment of the materials of craft.  Clay, metals, wood were all materials.  Textiles referred to structure, really.  OK, they said, from now on we have a Fiber Department.

Forty years later, imagine my surprise when talking to…ahem…younger artists that they had taken the word, textiles, to be the preferred designation.  I’m photo 4not sure on what basis they made that choice but I have a feeling that it is the generational change thing at work.  We want to claim what we are doing as something new and different. We look to words to stake a claim.  Craftsman.  Craftsperson.  Artist.  Fiber artist.  Textile artist.  None of them really expresses the breadth of what has been done and continues to be done in the field but we continually struggle with sounding new and different.  Maybe the show should have been called Name Changers.

Photos were taken with an iPhone by my husband.  The work is by John Garrett, John McQueen, Lissa Hunter, Carol Eckert and Jane Sauer.

b-bannerJust a quick note to let you know that there is an interview posted on Angela Adams’ website about her take on what I do.  My studio is in the same building as her design offices and shop and is a respite for tired eyes and the crankiness that comes from working alone.  You’ll enjoy the rest of her website, too.  It’s full of articles about lifestyle, design, food, nature and Portland, Maine.  Take a look!  www.angelaadams.com/blog/interview-lissa-hunter/

IMG_4426If you are reading this, and you obviously are reading this, you have found the new website.  There is still much to do, deliberately, over time, but the  organization is there and a fair amount of new content is there, as well.  Please do let me know if there are hitches or glitches that we can fix, typos or spellcheck replacements that don’t make sense, or anything that you would like to see more of.  I’m not sure we can comply but we can try.

Here are two tumblers that will be at Angela Adams store, along with others, beginning next week.  www.angelaadams.com.  Angela is a friend and talented designer whose store, design and marketing departments are in the building in downtown Portland where my studio is located.  In fact, they are everything in this rather large building that I am not.  I’m the outlier. It’s wonderful to find delightful people and an eye-refreshing array of goods just downstairs when I need a break.  There will be an article about my work in her blog in the next week or two.  You can find it at www.angelaadams.com/blog/.  Not sure of the publication date but it is totally worth a visit whether I am there or not!

 

 

 

photoYou have absolutely no reason to believe me but, yes, the website is coming…soon.  It has been more difficult than I had imagined but wanting it to be perfect has its costs.  I’m not saying that it is perfect but it is a work in progress and, at this moment, I like where it is.

It’s a funny process, thinking about what you want to say about yourself.  For those of us who think of ourselves as somewhat modest, it is bewildering.  The guiding lights were these.  What would I want to know about another artist?  What do we already have (images and writing) that tells the story?  What form will this information take that is in keeping with the artwork?

The designers, Margo Halverson and Charles Melcher, otherwise known as Alice Design (www.alicedesign.com), have been an integral part of the process.  Our sensibilities connected immediately and they could lead me by the hand to clarify what we wanted this website to be.  We had terrific conversations about all sorts of things in the process of hashing it out.  Their overall design concept and experience were invaluable.  Crack technician, Jeff Langlais , is putting it into correct digital form so that all will work together in a format that flows and becomes secondary to the content, no small accomplishment.

I’ll certainly let you know when we “go live”, probably this week.  This blog will probably have a new but familiar face, as well, with tags that will allow browsing and connections to the content in the website.  There will be more to come, as not all elements that we want to include are ready and new ideas come along all the time.  But we have to start sometime, right?

 

 

photo 4CRAFT Gallery in Rockland, Maine is a wonderful, small gem of a gallery, formed by the vision and care of Barbara Michelena.  She is one of those rare gallerists who encourages her artists to expand and change and recognizes the value in work made by hand.  She even visits artists’ studios.  To her, the work she shows is the natural outcome of the efforts and inspiration of artists, not product to sell.

Jan Owen has been a friend and fellow Maine artist for 30-some years.  Her book- and calligraphy-based art has intrigued, charmed and moved me over the years.  And she is a swell person, one of my favorites.

The opportunity to show work with Jan at Barbara’s gallery…well, what could be better?  I would love for you to join us for the opening on Friday evening, July 4, from 5 to 8 or to visit the gallery in July.  It is right next to the Farnsworth Museum and is one among many galleries in Rockland.  Well worth the trip.

This is the press release that went out announcing the show.

CRAFT Gallery opens its July exhibition on Friday, July 4th, with drawings and pottery by Lissa Hunter and letter arts by Jan Owen. They share a depth of thought, quality and skill of craftsmanship to create objects of beauty and sensitivity. Both are established artists, teachers and writers. Their work is sought after by serious collectors. They have each taught at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and are from Maine, Hunter from Portland and Owen from Belfast

Jan Owen is inspired by Medieval and Asian arts and calligraphy, music and literature. She creates books, hanging panels and scrolls made of handmade and pastepaper or hollytex. Her art is applied with metal pens and fine brushes dipped in sumi ink and acrylics. She has played string bass with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and her love and knowledge of music spills over into her art. Her work is in the collections of the Library of Congress, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and University Special Collections.

Lissa Hunter has gained recognition as a contemporary basketmaker with an educational background in painting and textiles. Working in two and three dimensions has allowed her to explore many materials and techniques and enabled her to make the transition from basketry to pottery. Her experience in printing has led to drawing and engraving on the  porcelain pieces shown at CRAFT. Some clay pieces are utilitarian and stand on their own, while others are incorporated into a collection of pieces with visual context that recall Hunter’s basketry. Her work is in the collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as well as other museums and private collections.

The Hunter / Owen show will continue through July. CRAFT Gallery is dedicated to showing photothe handcrafted object as a work of art  and making contemporary craft accessible and relevant to everyday life. The gallery is located in the brick courtyard at 12 Elm Street in Rockland. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 to 5 and Sunday 1 to 4. FMI call 207 594 0167 and visit online at www. craftonelm.com

 

photo 4One would think, after many years, that one would get used to the changing rhythms of the year.  The long pull of dark winter, the briskness of spring’s lengthening days, the languor of summer heat and the bittersweet abruptness of fall.  But I am surprised again and again by the disruption of the changes.  Maybe it is because we have such distinct changes of season in Maine.  (Actually, as I have mentioned before, we have five seasons, if you include the time between winter and spring that lasts for about six months and is wet, possibly snowy and downright mean.)

The obvious adjustments to these changes include wardrobe (more layers, fewer layers), food (well-traveled produce from another hemisphere, just-picked local asparagus), electricity bills (seventeen-hour nights, seven-hour nights), social events (rare and by a fireplace, frequent and most likely outdoors) and perhaps most of all, attitude (cranky, ebullient.)  We are approaching ebullience, but today a heavy downpour and grey skies are tempering the transition.  Maine is a very moralistic place.  Don’t get too pleased with yourself, it seems to say.

The website project continues.  I had fully intended that it be up and running long before now but such is not to be.  The hope, of course, is that it photo 3-1will be worth the wait.  It’s a peculiar process, sorting through thirty-some years of work and images and words, trying to decide what might be of interest to others.  The experience has assured me that autobiographies are pure bunk.  Or more precisely, they are fictions created by the subject in the guise of truth.  Even when you think you are telling the truth, you are making it up.  But at least I hope that it will be attractive and informative.

Although Julia Child said, “Never apologize for the food,” I am apologizing for being among the missing for the last few weeks.  Maybe it’s because I have been cranky or because I have been on the road a bit or because my efforts have been going toward the aforementioned website.  Whatever the reason, I have not written but I have been thinking.  More about that in the future.  We have every right to believe that we are really into spring and ebullience is just around the corner.  New beginnings, new commitments.  It happens every year around this time, surprisingly enough.

photo 2It’s easy to work in the studio, filling each day with making, cleaning, dithering, an occasional nap, forgetting that the world outside is going on its merry way without you.  I like that.  I can read the latest news about corruption in government, spying on a massive scale and gross greediness in business without feeling a part of it.  Silly me.

It isn’t often that I feel touched by the potentially criminal or evidently unethical.  This past week, I had brushes with two such instances.  The first was at one degree of separation.  A friend emailed to ask about a situation in which she found herself, not sure how to think about it.  She had donated a piece of her work to a local arts organization for a silent auction.  There was a bid on the object, made by a gallery owner who intended to sell the piece in his gallery.  She, of course, would receive no remuneration for her work and the gallery was getting a deal, in that the auction price was below the wholesale value of the piece.

On the one hand, one could say that it was nice that the gallery liked the work enough to buy it and that the artist would get exposure.  On the other hand, does the gallery “owe” the artist something, not necessarily 50% of what they sell it for, but at least some communication and appreciation?  The gallery sees the object as product, I imagine, and if we sell through galleries, that is what we provide–product to be sold.  But it is the other side of what we do that is offended.  We make objects for expression, communication, pleasure, utility, ego, any number of categories that have nothing to do with profit.  We don’t like losing control of the transaction because of how we feel about those elements of our work.  I’m not saying that the gallery is acting unethically, but it feels a little off and I understand my friend’s feeling of being “bummed”.

The other occurrence was an internet communication.  I received an email from a gentleman in Hawaii who wanted to buy a photo 1-1particular piece that he had seen online.  The email was poorly written with a few odd grammatical constructions, but the name given led me to believe that English was a second language and so I didn’t give it much weight.  A couple of emails back and forth, explaining that there were issues with the piece that he needed to understand and each time he wrote back saying yes, yes, he wanted the piece.

And then I got the email that sounded like the Nigerian Letter Scam.  I wasn’t sure, really, but it asked me to be involved in an odd arrangement regarding money and his shipper.  Not much money, you understand, not the millions that you read about in the true scam emails. “Now I’m concluding you are a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement,” he said.  Up front, it just sounded odd, not criminal, and as I said we’re not talking about much money and I couldn’t quite figure out how he would profit.

Maybe the prospect of making a sale, modest though it was, had blinded me to clues earlier in the correspondence?  He did, after all know my work and ask for a particular piece that was indeed online.  Maybe it really was on the up and up?  Well, no, it wasn’t.  Fortunately, my clever husband suggested that I take the correspondence to the bank on which the check sent without my OK had been drawn.  As it happens, they keep very good records on these guys and added my experience to the pile.  The scam comes in sending a portion of the check on to someone else and then finding that the check is no good.  Your own funds end up being gone.

photo 4No matter how insulated we feel in our studios, doing our work, we are citizens of this big, messy world.  People and money are a potent combination, no news flash there.  But it’s the combination of people, money and our artwork that feels so personal, for good or for ill.

Images are of bisque fired pieces still warm from the kiln.  Still more to be done but I like them in this raw state.

Wordplay was a big deal in our house as I was growing up.  My father had an unending capacity for puns and shaggy dog stories that always ended with horrible plays on words.  One of my favorite punch lines was, “Pardon me, Roy, is that the cat that ate your new shoes?”, a play on the song title, “Pardon Me, Boy, Is That the Chattanooga Choo Choo?”, an old Glen Miller tune.  I don’t remember the story that preceded the line and it really doesn’t matter.  It’s all for the punch line.

We made up punnish names that we would insert into stories and conversation.  Pete Moss.  Al Timeter.  Bill Fold.  Oliver Sudden.  Granted, Oliver Sudden (all-of-a sudden) was a stretch, but it made us laugh.

All of this is a lead in to the fact that, Oliver Sudden, after a seemingly inactive winter, there are several events coming up in the near future in which I will have work.  Here are three.

photo 1The Portland Show, Greenhut Gallery, Portland, Maine.  This is an invitational exhibition, held every two years, in which all the work is to be made especially for the show and is to reference specifically the city of Portland.  The invited artists include some of the best contemporary artists in the state of Maine and I am honored to be a part.  I will have three small drawings in the show, all of the Back Cove, a large inlet in the middle of Portland, at the end of my street.  April 3 to 26, 2014.  www.greenhutgalleries.com

The Kylix Show, Peters Valley School of Craft, Layton, New Jersey.  Another invitational show, the workphoto 4 for which is to be an interpretation of the kylix form of ancient Greece.  For this, I made a coiled piece.  I was invited to participate by Lindsay Ketterer Gates, an exquisite basketmaker and longtime colleague.  Somehow my kylix became a nest, complete with eggs. April 12 to May 18, 2014.  www.lindsaykgates.com, www.petersvalley.org

Fade to BlackThe Smithsonian Craft Show Online Auction, www.smithsonianauctions.org.  I have two pieces in this online auction, both pieces I like very much, both are basketry pieces, Fade to Black and Pastimes:  Gardening.  April 7 to April 22, 2014.  www.smithsonianauctions.org

And there are several opportunities on the horizon for showing clay work.  The shaggy dog story continues.  No punch line yet.

photo 2Dropped my husband at the airport this morning and on the way home, the Rolling Stones came on the radio.  “Brown Sugar”.  Suddenly I was dancing in my seat, feeling a whole lot younger, and singing along like a backup singer.  Now, I love the Beatles.  I think that they were true artists, having created new forms of music that spoke eloquently of the times they inhabited.  But I crave the Stones.

What is it about pieces of music or dance or visual art that grab us in different ways?  How does a personal response relate to a more general aesthetic judgment?  Is it enough to say, “I like it?”  Yes, it is enough if you’re bopping away in the front seat of your car, carrying along all the personal memories and experiences associated with the song.  But no, it is not enough if you are trying to place the song in the history of music or even in the history of rock and roll.  After all, my experiences are different from yours, therefore my personal criteria are different from yours.

My aforementioned husband wisely said to me many years ago, “Don’t try to be your own historian.”  I try not to think about where my work fits in but I do try to figure out why I like some songs, paintings, plays and poems more than others.  I’m starting a list.

1.  Quality counts.  It has to be well-crafted, using good materials (words are materials).

2.  Skill counts.  The skill of making (writing, composing, singing…) should look effortless, as if it were the most natural thing in the world that this piece is the way it is.  It should seem inevitable but not predictable.

3.  Accessibility counts.  The piece must stand on its own.  Even though the experience might be enriched by knowing more about it, there should be a lure, a hook, a pull that engages.  When it works well, the song or painting or poem should land somewhere between where I am and where I would like to be.  I should see something familiar and unknown and be encouraged to follow it where it leads me.

4.  Magic counts.  If I could really understand and explain why a piece of Art works for me…well, it wouldn’t be Art.  It would just be something that could be explained in an algorithm available to everyone in an app.  There is something unexplainable and unknowable in the real thing that is thrilling and important.  That’s why we keep trying to capture it.

I’m not saying that “Brown Sugar” is Art but there is something magical or alchemical about the combination of sounds produced by Mick and the boys.  Maybe it is Art?photo 3

Images are hopeful tulips and their shadows and the products of the first glaze firing in my kiln!