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!

 

photo 5Did you know that there are 152,000,000 blogs on the Internet?  Now, I read that in a blog, so I’m not sure the number is truly reliable but I read some similar number in an article in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal and we know that we can trust everything we read in the newspaper, right?  Riiiiiight.  Among those one hundred and fifty-two million blogs, some are like magazines.  Some are rants and vents.  Some are advertisements in disguise.  I guess I think of this blog as a chat with you.  Each of you.  And, frankly, I haven’t had much to say, my friend.  The last few weeks have gone by with little to report and you have already heard my rants and complaints and I don’t want to repeat, although, I might throw in another complaint about the endless snow and cold in Maine this year.

I do want to stay in touch, so here I am.photo 1_3  The first bisque firing in my new home kiln went well.  It’s a funny thing.  You put the work in the kiln.  You wait for two days while it fires and then cools off.  You open the kiln and the work looks the same as it did when you put it in, only a bit smaller.  The bisque firing is not dramatic.  But I was pleased that I managed to do the technological part of this craft, even though the technology is totally computerized on this particular kiln, thank goodness.

photoI have since worked on the surfaces with underglaze and made some patterns by washing off the glaze in areas to reveal the white porcelain beneath.  Another bisque firing to set the underglaze and then a coat of clear glaze and into the final firing.  Wanting a project for this process, I made a coffee set:  a milk pitcher, canister, mugs, plates, cream and sugar, and jam pots.  More learning.  I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.  Honest.  I really will.

 

 

 

photoA few days ago, I received an email from Kristin Thalheimer, a friend, fitness instructor, life coach and chocolatier.   Now there’s a combo.  (www.start-time.com)  She sends these occasional emails with short essays about various small ways to navigate life and work, helpful hints and ways of thinking that can clarify a dilemma you didn’t even know you had.  This time it was about being kind to yourself by not saying the kinds of things we would never say to someone else.  “When was the last time you told yourself you were an idiot?…Maybe it was this morning when you burned your toast…”  It was a voice I needed to hear because, well, I had burned my toast and I wasn’t too nice about it.  I felt as if she were speaking to me.

I thought of a time quite a few years ago when I was debating the value of what I was doing as an artist.  It was a period of parental illness and death and other events that seemed out of control, the kind of time that has you assessing everything around you.  One night, an old friend came to me in a dream.  Her name was Diane Itter and she was a very fine artist in textiles, a fellow graduate student at Indiana University in the early 70s and someone whom I admired.  She was elegant, funny and generous.  We had not stayed in touch on a personal level but had seen each other occasionally over the years until her death in 1989.  I don’t remember what she said in the dream but she was emphatic, saying that I needed to continue to make art, that that was why I was here.  I woke up with the assurance that I should go on.

Now I don’t really believe that Diane came to me in any spiritual form, but I do believe that I needed an photoauthority to tell me what I already knew.  Sometimes hearing voices can be a good thing.  The dream was a little more dramatic than the email but that’s OK.  I’ll take my truth wherever I can find it.

The images are of fire and ice.  The first is the new kiln in the garage.  I did a test firing on Saturday and all went well.  It’s ready for the first batch of pots that are not quite ready yet.  And outside the garage, we had the beginnings of another snowfall.

IMG_0008The big project is moving forward.  And what is the big project, you say?  A new website.  As I mentioned in August, I have been working with a couple of designers, a couple in the married sense, and are now making some headway.  A series of events postponed our work for three months but we are now back on track.  The extra time allowed me to gather images and do a little more homework.  Once again, I am reminded that the process of doing anything is compelling, energizing and full of clues as to what’s next.  I had thought that I knew what this website should be in what I see now was a very vague fashion.  In going through nearly four decades of images, sketchbooks, essays, reviews, emails, letters and files, a somewhat different and more complete idea has emerged.  Conversations with the designers have helped immeasurably in the process.  We are by no means near completion, but we’re moving along.

IMG_0015Somehow it seems appropriate to be summing up and moving forward at this time of year.  Looking back a little, looking forward a lot.  I’m glad that I have a process to carry me forward into the new year.  The website project is a bridge, in a way.  It’s what comes after it that worries me a little.  I am by nature an optimistic person and have been rewarded in my life for being so, and so I don’t fear what comes next.  I just don’t know what it is.  Being comfortable with unease has never been my strong point.

Here’s where we come back to the value of process.  If I want to draw more, I can set up an area in the studio ready for drawing that is there all the time and draw every day.  On the calendar…DRAW.  If I want to travel, buy the tickets.  If I want to have a show, make some contacts and make a plan.  Begin.

Ah, but you say, that’s the easy part.  What about the discipline?  All the plans in the world will not accomplish anything without action.  Right you are.  A lesson learned from the website project–enlist someone(s) else in the project to whom you are responsible.  Having to fulfill my part of the website development process has gotten me moving and kept me going.  Maybe I should set up a drawing group that meets consistently.  Maybe I should talk to my friend, Jo, about actually taking that trip to France that we talked about three years ago.  Maybe I should look into that folder on my desk that says “Work Ideas”, commit to an idea that still intrigues me and find a place to show the work.

IMG_0005These are all doable things if I start the process and enlist the help of the people who will be a part of that process.  You have just been enlisted.  I have said all of this out loud to you and must follow through.  Here we begin.  What’s on your list and whom will you enlist to hold you accountable?  Who will be able to help you meet your goals?

I wish you joy and energy and a wee bit of luck in 2014.  It’s not just another year.  This could be a fabulous year if we make it so!