IMG_1160Humblebrag again.  You know, the idea of saying something in a self-deprecating way that actually is tooting your own horn.  Well, I’m tooting.  There is a very nice article about my work in the April/May issue of American Craft magazine.  Since the days when it was Craft Horizons, this publication of the American Crafts Council has been the premier craft magazine in America, highlighting what is going on in the field and the people who are doing it.

IMG_1161Over a period of months, we chatted about books and family and art and chocolate.  She and her husband own Dean’s Sweets, a chocolate shop in Portland, Maine.  Anyway, we became friends.  She told me of a friend of hers who lived in North Carolina who wrote for magazines and newspapers and that she had mentioned my name to her friend, who said that she knew my work and liked it.  Time passed.  Diane Daniel, the friend in North Carolina, was coming to visit Kristin and asked to stop at the studio to see what I was doing.  And voilà.  She interviewed me, pitched the story to AC and several months and a photographer’s visit later, the story is out.

IMG_1162What I’m especially pleased about is that the article is about the transition from basketry to clay.  Diane managed to catch what I was saying in a fragmented way and put it together so that it makes sense.  The images chosen by the magazine are expressive and hold together to tell the story visually. IMG_1163

IMG_1164Many thanks to Kristin, Diane, photographers Irvin Serrano and Abby Johnston and the folks at the magazine who checked and re-checked to make sure that all was clear and accurate.  I have always said, “If you do something adequately for long enough, someone will notice.”  I’m so pleased you noticed.

 

 

 

IMG_1137Sunday morning, we are preparing to leave Florida.  The sun is shining, there is a slight breeze and the temperature is somewhere in the 60s.  What I’ll remember most about our time in Seaside, other than time with friends, is the air.  It smells truly sweet and light and unlike the air in Maine at any time of year.

The Big Unknown, of course, is the weather in New England.  It has snowed every other day since we have been gone and a blizzard is the latest forecast.  Looking at various sites, we see everything from “don’t fly anywhere in the northeast today” to “two inches of snow” to “clear by noon”.  I’m not sure why we would want to know what we are getting into or, more specifically, what we would do in response.  We just begin.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Ah, Leonardo, right again.  These are words to take home with me.  We set out on the unknown, assuming that Delta Airlines will keep us safe.  And after arriving home again, into the studio with the same attitude.  We must do.

thThe snow continues in the northeast.  Barely a few days pass without a storm of some sort.  As of today we are 29″ beyond the normal snowfall.  I feel a little deceitful in telling you this.  While what I have said is true, I am not there to experience it firsthand.  My husband and I are in Florida, enjoying some sunshine and respite from winter, thanks to good friends who have rented a house in Seaside in the panhandle.  “Why don’t you come down for a few days?,”  they asked.  And so we have.

It was a good idea.IMG_1080

A change of scene does so much for one’s point of view.  I know that I have written about this before but it’s still true.  Not shoveling snow, not slipping and sliding around, not being sure that there is milk in the refrigerator because there will be no grocery runs for forty-eight hours, not putting on another layer of clothes because it feels cold all of the time.  These are all good things.

But more than that, a change of venue means that one looks at things differently.  Light. IMG_1102 Foliage.  Architecture.  It’s all different here.  Not better, to be sure, but different.  The experience of seeing the differences is a reminder of the value of looking at what is around us.  Not just looking, but looking.  It’s important for a visual artist to feed the beast inside with choices and possibilities.

We go home on Sunday in the middle of the next predicted blizzard.  I’m envisioning a night in the Atlanta airport, unable to get to Portland.  But inside of me I will carry the warmth of the Florida sun, the colors of leaves and grasses holding on until the spring, and the laughter and love of friends.  I think that I can make it through the rest of the winter.

A bit of housekeeping…if you are interested in receiving a quarterly newsletter from the studio, please go to the website, lissahunter.com, and sign up.  It’s easy and I promise not to bother you too much.

IMG_1068January is the month when time slows down.  Today is the big blizzard, Snowmageddon, they are calling it, and while it hasn’t quite reached Biblical proportions, it has reminded us that the weather is in charge.  Typically in January, there are stretches of hours and even days when there is nothing on the calendar.  No meetings, classes, parties, deadlines, appointments or trips.  I’m speaking about January in Maine here.  It might be quite different in Florida or California or certainly in Australia, but here in Maine where the days are  short, the nights long and the temperatures low, time congeals.  It’s not a bad thing.  Here is a list of why it’s OK.

1.  Time to clean.  I mean, really clean.  Here you see before and after pictures of a studio clean-up.  Actually they are more of a during and after studio IMG_1057clean-up but the change was just as dramatic.

 

2.  Time to meet friends for coffee during the day.

3.  Time to cook and explore new recipes and ingredients.  We joined a mushroom CSA and I’m reading all I can about what the heck to do with these gorgeous things called Grey Dove and Snow Oysters.

4.  Another chance to honor all of those resolutions, the things you know you should be doing.  Somehow a resolution in July doesn’t have the same force.  Going to the gym in January takes serious commitment while walking on the beach in July does not.  One can feel more virtuous while exercising in January.

IMG_10615.  Time in the studio.  When all of the other aspects of life shrink away, there is time to do what we should be doing all along.

I’m afraid that this post has a bit of the “what I had for breakfast” quality about it and I apologize for that.  But the January slowdown has affected pretty much everything, including the part of the brain that reaches outward in communication.

There is now a way to sign up for notification of these postings.  With any luck, you should be able to click on the title of the post and arrive at a comment section where you can check the notification box, send me your email address and hereafter you will be notified of upcoming posts as they appear.  And if you really want more, you can sign up for a quarterly newsletter at my website, www.LissaHunter.com.  It will have announcements of what is happening or upcoming as well as a few things to see and do.  All of this social media stuff can sure interfere with studio time!

IMG_2361Every year at this time, we make our lists, the best experiences of the previous year and our hopes for the future year.  Add to those lists, the ones that are published that tell us the top ten books, movies, sports moments, songs, fashion trends, dog breeds and cities that are good for retirees and one might imagine that life could be neatly navigated by choosing all of the number ones.  We know that that isn’t true because the number ones change every year at this time.  Big surprise when you have tossed all of your tight jeans, retired to Evansville, Indiana and waited six months for a pure-bred Labradoodle.

The one subject that I do consider each year, just short of making a list, is the practice of art, mine and the state of what’s goingIMG_2243 on in the larger field of art.   For many years, I thought mostly about my own practice, what I was doing and what I needed to do to continue.  Occasionally I would think about the value of art in our lives and try to relate my own work to that perceived value.  More recently I have thought about the state of art, about what it means to be an artist in a broader context and have tried to make sense of it.  This year I think I’ll just have another martini.

I read the following quote a few days ago and I think that it will allow me to forgo the introspection this year and to just keep going.

In those moments when you feel discouraged or lost in the studio, or when you experience rejection, rest completely assured that what you don’t know about something is also a form of knowledge, though much harder to understand. In many ways, making art is like blindly trying to see the shape of what you don’t yet know. Whenever you catch a little a glimpse of that blind spot, of your ignorance, of your vulnerability, of that unknown, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stare at it. Instead, try to relish in its profound mystery. Art is about taking the risk of engaging in something somewhat ridiculous and irrational simply because you need to get a closer look at it, you simply need to break it open to see what’s inside.

-Teresita Fernández, Blind Landscape

Ridiculous and irrational.  I often feel that way in the studio and I have always known that it was important in some vague way.  Now I feel reassured.  (It is also how I feel after the second martini, but that’s another issue altogether and it is not very productive.)

I wish you the very best for 2015.  I’m sure that you can make your own list of what is best for you.

Stu-juggling You have probably heard by now that Stu Kestenbaum, the director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, is leaving the position in May. After twenty-seven years, if all goes according to plan, Haystack will have a new director in the fall. For those of us who know and love Haystack, it is difficult to think of the place, the experience of being there, without simultaneously thinking of Stu. Of course, those of us who knew Fran Merritt, the founding director, still see his influence there, as well.

Change isn’t always welcome. For some of us, we will go out of our way to avoid it. But when change is inevitable, we hope to see it as an opportunity. This is definitely an opportunity. No one will “replace” Stu. He is one of a kind. He has been the best of the best during his directorship. Now we need to look for someone who will become the next best of the best. (I know that the word, best, is a superlative and that therefore there can only be one, but I’m taking poetic license here.)

IMG_1751What qualities do you look for in a potential director of a major non-academic art education and research institution? This is where it gets sticky. There really are few predictors for success in the traditional sense. No degrees, experiences or previous posts can really predict what will happen at a unique situation such as living and working on Deer Isle, Maine, at a world class school based on both tradition and the future of the work of the hand, where the faculty is all invited and the students are from 18 to 90-something years of age, coming from every state in the country and dozens of foreign countries. So what do we look for?

Here’s my short list, which is totally personal and not to be taken as official in any way.

1. Vision. A slippery word, I know. The vision thing. But it is important in an institution that essentially shuts down each winter, comes alive in the summer, changes along with the fields of craft, art and design, values communication with the other arts and serves a huge and disparate community. If there is no clear and over-arching vision, it would be easy for things to go astray or to become small and repetitive.

2. Organizational skills. As much as Haystack seems to happen as if by magic, it takes an enormous amount of work and coordination to make it seem so effortless. The staff we have now is remarkable and the new director will need to live up to that standard and be able to meet the demands of every aspect of the running of the school.

3. Authenticity. That word is way overused these days, but I guess I mean that the director will have to be comfortable in his or her own skin and comfortable with this odd entity called Haystack. Because it exists essentially because of the people who drive down that long road to be there for two weeks or four days or a weekend, it changes with every arrival. The director has to feel comfortable with the constant change.

And then we have intelligence, a sense of humor, the ability to talk to people, the ability to listen to people, kindness, a passion for making, on and on. The process of searching for this person will require exactly the same qualities, now that I think of it.  Wish us luck.  Haystack is a very big idea with a big history.  We’re at a juncture of past and future right now and we want to make sure that its success continues to enrich the lives of the people who go there and the people they touch for many many years to come.

This was actually written on October 23 and I didn’t get it posted.  Silly me.  But since I still think that it has something to say, I’m posting it today.

Tom Hall-Whitehead Passage 1, 7.5x9, 2013Home again after three weeks of excitement, foreignness and the acute awareness of differences.  I can now say that there is a lot to be said for boredom, sameness and daily habits. Not that my life at home and in the studio is boring or bland, but being able to perform the everyday tasks of life without having to translate, anticipate or navigate allows for a more calm and considered life.  I like being home.

My painter friend, Tom Hall, and I had coffee this morning.  Coffee with Tom is definitely a habit that I have come to Tom Hall-Toward Canada, 24x40, 2014enjoy and it always gives me something to think about.  His show at June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland is up for the month of October.  I wrote about his show a few weeks ago.  I asked him if he had a “favorite” piece in this show, not knowing what I really meant by that question.  He said that there are almost always a few pieces in a body of work that tell him something that he didn’t know before, that lead him into a new way of working.  I dare say that the “new way of working” might not be perceived by the viewer, but for him, there is something new to explore and to expand upon.

Tom Hall-Nocturne- Sebago Lake 2, 28x30, 2014I know what he means.  It only happens by working, by producing a group of pieces that seem to come from the same source.  There will be one that winks at you and says, “I’m different.”  Not, “I’m better.”  Just, “I’m different.”  There is a different sense of light or a new combination of colors or an accident of materials that was not intended.   From here you begin again with a slight change of direction.  You begin to count on this phenomenon and if it doesn’t happen, it’s time to change it up.  It’s time to change the materials you are using, the imagery, the scale, something…not much…to allow for the surprise that leads you to the next path.

The images are from Tom’s show which is now down.  More can be seen at the facebook page of June Fitzpatrick Gallery.  They are beautiful but, of course, these small imitations of the originals cannot do them justice.

 

 

photo 1Everything you think you know about Tuscany is pretty much true.  It’s beautiful and old and there are olives and cheese and wine.  And sheep and cows and pigs.  And stone walls.  And twisty, narrow roads.  It’s beautiful and odd.  The buildings, from stables and pig wallows to castles and churches are “protected” from any external alteration.  Evidently, one can do anything on the inside but not on the outside, other than maintenance and upkeep.  This means that there is a frozen-in-time quality which, while beautiful, is not exactly dynamic.  It’s dreamlike, wonderful for a vacation but I wonder what it is like to live in a place where the 16th century is still the prevailing architectural influence.  What happens when a culture looks back for its sense of value instead of to the future?  It’s the same question that Maine and other places of historic importance or natural beauty have to ask and answer.  I never really thought about it before but as there is more and more to preserve (buildings, cars, books, art…), how do we choose what to keep and what to let go to make way for the future?

We stayed for four days just south of Siena at a place called Spannocchia, an organic farm and agritourismo in a sixteenth photo 2century castle.  When we arrived around 5 in the afternoon, we were told that there was an art exhibition in the small building, which was probably a stable at some point, right next to the building in which we were staying.  We stopped by to see what was going on and began talking to an American woman who, as it turned out, was the instructor for a week-long watercolor class that was ending with this exhibition.  In chatting, we discovered that she lived on the same road in West Bath, Maine that is home to my best friend from the age of three years old.  We were in Italy, in a 16th century building, talking to a woman who lives a quarter mile from someone I have known for more than 65 years.  Time and space collapsed at that moment.  www.spannocchia.com

photo 1Leaving home is a good thing.  It allows us to see the most common of aspects of life…eating, landscape, architecture, weather, foliage, driving, music, art…in a new way.  But returning home is a good thing, too.  Not everything has to be considered.  In our own homes, we know where the glasses are.  We know how to flush the toilets and the roadsigns are recognizable and legible.  It’s just easier.  But I wouldn’t give up those interludes of strangeness for anything.  Time in another space is invaluable.

photo 1 The internet, like fresh air, is wonderful when you have it and noticeably frustrating when you don’t.  If you stay in one place, you figure it out but when on the move, it is difficult to anticipate when you might be able to find wifi for writing anything more than a text or short email.  But in a way, that’s just fine.  It allows for a more seamless experience of being there without having to stop the real life experience for the literary experience.

We left France on Saturday, flying on EasyJet to Rome.  Rented a car and drove to Orvieto, about an photo 1hour and a half out of the city.  We chose Orvieto as our goal for the night because Diego, the young Italian man who rented us the car, said that it was a nice place to spend some time.  Obviously we didn’t do a lot of research for this part of the trip.  Orvieto is a lovely old, walled city, full of history and tourists.  As we were struggling to figure out how to pay for parking in a town lot, a woman approached, asking if she could help.  Alicia, a Spaniard by birth and a resident of the area, showed us the ropes and then suggested two agriturismos when we asked about lodging for the night.

photo 2Agriturismos are small farms with accommodations including food and are very popular in Italy, as we were to learn.  Using our iPhones, we contacted the two she had suggested and found that they were full but on our third try, we made reservations.  Driving into the hills in the dark, using the GPS in the car, we found this beautiful place, Agriturismo il Poggio di Orvieto, and joined an extended Italian family of thirty to forty folks in a birthday party for a ten-year old boy.  Quite an event!  Delicious food and after, a really good night’s sleep.  This was the view from our bedroom when we awoke in the morning.  What a surprise!  www.poggiodiorvieto.it

photo 3Everywhere you see craftsmanship in daily life.  One of the scenic lookouts was being renovated and, since it was photo 4Sunday, no one was working.  But the tools and processes were apparent, just as they must have been thousands of years ago.  On Sunday we drove to Spannocchia, where we are meeting friends for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  More on that later.  For now, a few pictures and a lot of encouragement to come to Umbria and Tuscany.  It is Art History 101 come alive!

photo 3Let me see…how do I sum up the past few days?  Food, food, wonderful friends, food, wine, food, jet lag, food.  That pretty well covers it.  They say that Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France.  I’m not arguing.  When you can have a memorable meal at noon in what we might call a diner or a greasy spoon, then you know that you are someplace special.  The Comptoir du Vin is someplace special.

Part of what makes it special is the since of neighborhood that it enhances.  The people who eat their, for the photo 4most part, know the owners and probably each other.  This fellow is the cook and he is charming and talented and fell in love with New York.  Or he fell in love in New York.  I’m not sure which but whatever it was, it made this American tourist a long-lost friend.  He is standing in the kitchen of the restaurant which is about a big as a toll booth.  Amazing.

photo 1And of course we stopped at one of the many fish shops and farmers’ markets to order sea bass for tomorrow and to buy olives for tapenade for tonight.  Everything is about food and wine.  Well, there is some art and education and music and theater and opera and high tech business and local fashion and shoes thrown in as well.  It is a vibrant city with two rivers, an ancient city includingphoto 2 Roman ruins, universities and motor scooters, all in a humanscale.  I like it.  Can you tell?  Did I mention the olives?  There are so many kinds, some different cultivars, some spiced in different ways, all delicious.  When you experience this with a friend who happens to be a patient and smart and funny French woman, c’est super!  And I have the luck of being with Françoise LeRoux, my former French teacher and friend of longstanding.  Doesn’t get much better!