A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few hours with twelve middle school students at Woolwich Central School in Woolwich, Maine. They are art students who are often found in the classroom of Laura Devin, the Maine Art Educator of the Year for 2017.
This all came about by my wanting to do something to address a sense of helplessness that seems to prevail in the world today. Often I find myself saying, “If each person did just one thing that made the world better, we’d be doing just fine”. (Actually, I sound like my grandmother who was always doing “good works” until she died at the age of 92.) I mentioned this to my friend, Courtney, a third grade teacher at the Woolwich School and she immediately said that she had an idea. She talked to Laura and Laura contacted me and…voilà…we were set.
More than the usual keep-them-busy approach to teaching that is often followed with four hundred kindergarten through eighth grade students a week, Laura actually teaches concepts and skills. And the more advanced students can reach as far as they want with her full support. I showed them my way of drawing with charcoal on gessoed paper and also the sgraffito method of drawing on leather hard porcelain. They immediately set to work, choosing subjects from the objects that Laura has in abundance on the still life table, where she was working, or using an object of their own.
What struck me about the drawings, nine of which are shown here, is the individuality shown by each person and also the willingness to get in there and wipe and smudge and spray the surface of their drawings. I would love to check in with these twelve- and thirteen-year-olds in five years and see what they are doing. They have the skill and drive at this point to be doing great things.
Have you ever planned a big trip? I mean, A Really Big Trip? Let’s say, to Ghana or Nepal or Australia You spend months reading articles, asking friends what they know about traveling in the country you’re visiting, checking on weather conditions for the time you will be there, buying clothes, getting your passport updated, learning how to say please and thank you in a different language. Your energy and attention are focused on The Really Big Trip. But then, one day, you get on the airplane and after the passing of a relatively short period of time, you are there. Your attention shifts from getting there to being there.
The studio project has been like that but I had not gotten on the plane. There has been no division between getting there and being there. Once I realized that, I said, “Enough, already. Get on with it.” So now I am beginning to create new work patterns and to settle in. I hereby promise not to talk of The Studio, as if it were the only thing in my creative life. I’m moving on to other things. It’s time to use the beautiful space that has been created by Lynn Merrifield, the fantastic builder who made it happen. Seatback in the upright position, tray table up, ready for takeoff.
Humblebrag 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.
Over 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.
What 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.
Many 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.