Thursday was the last full day. Friday morning, shop all departed, reluctant to leave, eager to get home, including me. I’m sitting in the studio, having unpacked materials, books and clothes. Back to normal. But not quite. Two weeks at Haystack changes you, almost always for the better. Natural beauty, collegial support, good food and time are a potent mix, a tonic for well-being. I want to thank the beautiful women in the class for their intelligence, kindness and humor. Haystack, and in particular the merry band of basketmakers this session, are a model for how life might be. It is an antidote as well as a tonic. Thanks to Carol Rissman, Fran Dorsey, Kindle Loomis, Ellen Schiffman, Joan Freedman, Sharon Cheeseman, Cindy Simonds, Ashley Chen, Anne-Claude Cotty and Pi Benio.
We ended up with a list of bywords, nine in all. It was gratifying to see how they helped to shape our inquiries, each person responding to different ones at different times. And when folks from town came to the studio on Thursday night for the walk-through, with all the work on display, many stopped to read the list on a blackboard and to snap a picture to remember them. I know that I plan to pin them up in my studio. Here’s the list.
- It’s not a competition.
- Don’t compare. Relate.
- All art is learning.
- Sometimes you just have to walk away.
- What if…?
- Trust the process.
- Be kind.
Byword for Monday: “What if…? ” What if I make this larger? What if I use seaweed instead of raffia? What if I made this structure as if it had been made by zombies? It’s a wonderful way to look at one’s work and life in general, don’t you think? Here is where I am and, by considering what if, this is where I might go. What if necessitates a beginner mind, as they say in meditation, allowing each moment to be inhabited as if it were the first time you have encountered the particular situation you’re in. (Of course, this is impossible…except for the times you go into another room to get something and forget why you’re there. Come on, you know you’ve done it.) But being open to possibilities as if you were a beginner is a great strategy for being “present “, for being ready to encounter experiences with all of the possibilities intact.
But beyond being present and being ready, asking what if gives form to the inquiry. In our class, we have been talking about using materials, techniques and ideas to form our objects. Last week, many materials and techniques were covered in various combinations and with varying results. Today each student started thinking what if in order to carry those experiments in a more personal and expressive direction. Now if we only had two more weeks…
First 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.
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.