Only a Metaphorical Storm

Friday of the first week at Haystack, as I’m sure I’ve said before, is an odd day.  Generally there is a sense of transition, from the experimentation and learning phase to the more individually directed project phase.  I like this part because there is more of the real person and artist involved.  The students are bringing their own ideas and practice into play.  Some will work over the weekend, some will do some sightseeing, some will have guests, some will…well, I don’t know.  There are no classes, no scheduled events.

Today we had two bywords.  From the radio weather report this morning came, “The sunnier it is today, the stormier it will be later on. ”  It seems quite often to be an apt metaphor for the process of making.  You start out with big ideas and grand plans, full of “Oh, I’ve got this. ”  And then the storm clouds pile in with doubts and misery.  “Why did I think that this was such a good idea? ” The intrepid will persevere through the storm.  The rest will go to plan B.

Plan B popped up later in the afternoon as someone mentioned that she had heard it several times today, probably in response to the changing of sunshine to storm.  “Sometimes you just have to walk away. ”  It may be a permanent departure.  Or it may be just a time for clearing the head, the metaphorical equivalent of going inside, out of the storm, for a hot toddy.

Tonight, there are no presentations, just a rousing volleyball game, conversations on the rocks and the quiet work of fighting through the metaphorical storm in the studios.

Good Stuff

How do you understand a man who speaks only Chinese?  You look at his work.  Bai Ming, a master Chinese ceramist and painter, is teaching the ceramics class this session.  He made a presentation this evening in Gateway.  His daughter, Jessica, translated for him as he spoke of his home and his influences and then there was a video which had subtitles.  It was in looking at his work that you could get to know him.  He is of a generation that bridges the enormous past of Chinese art and the emerging contemporary scene.  I especially respond to his paintings.  It’s not often that you are in a place where you can chat with a modern master.

The day flew by.  The class has covered many techniques and experimented with many materials.  Of course, there are many more that we could cover if we had the time and inventory.  Beginning today, we are approaching the design of an object from the point of view of an idea, of influences and content.  After this week of quick and sketchy assignments, each person will come up with a direction that she wishes to pursue.  That’s when the good stuff begins.

The byword for today was, “All art is learning.”  It started as “All my art is learning”, which a student expressed when she was talking about an assignment, but it seemed that it could be simplified to include all art.  The artist is learning through her pursuit of her practice and with any luck the viewer of the art is learning something about him or herself and the world.  Lofty ideals but worth pursuing.

Asked and Answered

A beautiful summer day here.  Sun and a light breeze made everyone smile and sent many jumping into the ocean for a cooling dip.

Aimee Lee and Damon Thompson presented their work this evening in Gateway.  Both are artists, certainly, but are also, and perhaps more importantly at this point, educators.  Aimee has written a book, Hangi Unfurled:  One Journey Into Korean Papermaking.  She documents the history of a papermaking tradition that goes back centuries and is seemingly dying out in Korea.  She is articulate and passionate about her mission.  It was a joy to hear her speak so beautifully about a seemingly arcane subject.

Damon teaches jewelry at Towson University and showed his work, which is exquisitely crafted and engagingly designed, but also showed his students and the kinds of projects they do with the public.  He is the kind of teacher who can make any subject come alive.  He is also passionate about the intersection of the digital world and craft.  He uses digital technology in his own work and includes it in his teaching in a meaningful and expansive way.

Our byword for the day was “Ask”.  So often we are afraid to ask the question that might clarify where to go next or that might help avoid making trouble for ourselves.  An short assignment this afternoon included instructions to consult with a buddy. The ten students broke into five pairs and became advisors and guides for each other.  I loved listening in on the conversations, so kind and helpful and spot on.  I could have left for the afternoon and they would have done just fine!  They asked each other about possible ideas and strategies and regrouped again and again as questions came up.  Tomorrow we will talk about the outcomes of the assignment.

There’s Always Tomorrow

Tonight I gave a presentation in Gateway along with Cassandra Straubing, a sculptor who works in glass.  (Cassandra doesn’t have a website but you can see her work if you Google her.)  It’s always a pleasure to share the ideas behind work and the events that shape a career with an interested audience.  A long day in the studio with a fabulous class and an evening of “song and dance” has left me pretty tired.  Please forgive me for begging off writing a post tonight.  We’ll catch up tomorrow.

It’s Not a Competition

IMG_1965First morning in a class is always high-energy, getting to know expectations and experience levels, learning names, trying to understand the dynamics presented by these particular ten people.  Within the first five minutes someone said, “It’s not a competition,” in a funny exchange.  It became the byword for the day.  It’s a good thing to remember in a class.  It’s a good thing to remember in life, actually.

Tonight were presentations by Mo Kelman, a sculptor working with textiles and Elizabeth Spiers, poet and visiting writer.  It is always inspiring to see how other artists work with materials, either tangible or abstract, to respond to the world.  Another good byword comes to mind.  “Don’t compare.  Relate.”  Our work is so different on first glance that it would be difficult to compare.  On the other hand, our interest in materials, the limitations we put on ourselves, the physicality and scale of our work and the interest in words and ideas are evident in both.  Though different, our work is related in many ways.

And now, in a dark landscape, with the lights of the studio shining through, I walk back to my cabin.

The Map of Somewhere

Think of rain on the roof.  The smell of spruce and wet leaves.  The intensity of the colors of wet lichen, moss and tree trunks.  Think of silence giving way to footsteps on boardwalks and then the increasing occurrence of voices and laughter.  All seemed an unfolding, a slow approach to the beginning of the session.  Finally, ninety people gathered in Gateway this evening, the largest meeting space at Haystack, used for presentations and orientations for the welcome.

I don’t know if it’s because I have done this fairly often or because Haystack presents a sense of community that is immediate and strong, but as I looked around the room, I felt as if these people had been together in this place for days already.  About half of this group has been here before, the other half first-timers.  And yet all seemed comfortable and at home.

We were given the rules of citizenship…no alcohol in the studios, watch what you flush down the toilets, the location of the library, etc….and then were sent on to the studios to meet each other for the first time as groups.  I am once again pleased and a little humbled by the people in my class, all interesting, lively, curious women from 20-something to 70-something in age.

I told them about a man I met yesterday morning as he was preparing to leave Haystack.  He was sitting in his car, diligently looking at a map, moving his finger along a proposed path.  I laughed and said that it seemed an old-fashioned thing to be doing.  He laughed as well, picked up his iPhone and said that he was using GPS to get to his destination, but that he wanted to know where it was.  I thought that it was an apt metaphor for what we are doing.  I will be the GPS for a while in class, the woman’s voice that tells you where to turn and how far to go.  But they will be looking at their own maps, determining where they are and coming up with their own destinations.  Each will have a map of a different somewhere and a different landing place.


\Another trip to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, this time to teach a two-week session in basketry.  Not basketry per se, but more the idea of working with what comprises a basket:  multiple elements, mechanically connected, to create (traditionally) a vessel.  That leaves a lot of latitude for interpretation, and that’s the whole point.

Here is the description of the workshop as it appears in the summer 2016 Haystack catalogue:

Baskets are traditionally made with natural materials, using mechanical connections, creating vessel forms. We will extend the tradition by using unusual materials and non-traditional connections to make expressive vessel forms. After exploring the possibilities of many materials and ways of connecting them we will spend some time generating ideas and creating strategies for putting it all together to come up with individual work, which may be connected to your current work or completely new. Be ready to rip, stitch, twine, staple, rivet, fold, notch, paint, draw, laugh, think, succeed, fail and tune your own voice. All levels welcome

I’ll be writing each day to take you along on our journey in exploration. This is my favorite way to teach, being in a room of talented, eager people who are willing to take chances and to commit to their own inner visions.  It’s not always easy but can be so rewarding.

Upcoming Exhibition

BowlsandCrow1 - Version 2It’s not often that one is called a master.  My theory of the value of doing something adequately well for a long time holds true once again.  An exhibition called Two Women Masters opens on July 1 at CRAFT Gallery in Rockland, Maine.  I share the spotlight with longtime friend and wonderful artist, Jan Owen.  Here is the news release from the gallery.

Two Women Masters: The work of Lissa Hunter and Jan Owen

CRAFT Gallery dedicates its new show, opening on July 1st, to two women masters of fine art and craft, Jan Owen and Lissa Hunter, and to their achievements and contributions to fine art and craft.

Both Maine artists pay special attention to detail, depth of thought, storytelling and metaphor. Each uses composition, design and craftsmanship to create works that honor their craft methods. Their work is recognized and collected by major art institutions as valued works of art. Among them are The National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Museum of Arts and Design in New York, The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution and The Library of Congress.

Calligraphic artist Jan Owen draws upon the art and methods of early medieval scribes and her love of color, music and poetry. Every stroke of the pen and brush on handmade paper and hollytex requires meditative deliberation and concentration. Her panels, scrolls and books use the power and beauty of words to take on a contemporary form.

Artist Lissa Hunter uses basketry, porcelain and drawing to tell stories, express emotions and ideas, often in metaphor and often incorporating all three disciplines in a single work. This show includes her charcoal drawings. porcelain vessels and wall mounted assemblages with niches holding coiled basketry. All are examples of Hunter’s dedication to exploring materials and forms.

With no gender bias intended, there are many other Maine women craft artists who deserve recognition and show their work at CRAFT: Autumn Cipala, Sara Hotchkiss, Hanako Nakazato, Christine Peters, Nisa Smiley, Amy Smith and Fiona Washburn.

Two Women Masters opens on July 1st during the Rockland First Friday Art Walk. There will be live music and refreshments in the courtyard during the evening. The show will continue ?until August 3rd. CRAFT Gallery is in the courtyard at ?12 Elm Street in Rockland, Maine. FMI call ?207 594 0167 and visit

It would certainly be a pleasure to see you there.

Enough, Already

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.

What’s New?

Downstairs in the studio

What’s new?  New year.  New blog format.  New studio.

Taking them in order, let’s consider the new year.  I must say that I am a sucker for it.  Not the wild party, stay up until midnight, watch the ball drop kind.  And I don’t make resolutions anymore because I am forced  to look at my shortcomings and then to feel worse because I can’t stick to the resolutions to remedy them.  But there is a time of reflection and anticipation in early January that is a good calibration point.  Obviously we could decide to lose weight, put more money aside for retirement, join a drawing group, and all of the other things that we should do, at any time.  There is nothing magical about January 1.  But most days fly by without the time or inclination to assess and resolve.  Gratitude seems to have been the consistent theme in the ruminations this year.

New blog format.  As with most things internet related, I don’t really know quite what I’m doing with WordPress.  It is a very powerful tool for creating attractive online content and I enjoy using it but I can only do a few things.  Every once in a while I try something new and it either works or it doesn’t.  In the spirit of the new year (see paragraph 1), I assessed my blog and thought it to be OK but resolved to try something different.  After noodling around a bit among the many templates they provide, I clicked on one and managed to “publish” it without actually previewing it.  It seems to be OK so we’ll stick with it for awhile.

And…drumroll, please…new studio.  It is now functional.  There is much to move back in, after having provided places for storage and access but what I need right now is here.  From now on, no more complaints, announcements or updates about the studio.  Now that’s a resolution that you can count on.