Category: events

the dam bursts and the water flows

For over a week, my body tackled my aspirations and strangled them in a choke-hold until we all lost consciousness.

sleeper-300x237For days and days on end, i could not manage to be a human being. i whined enough even my animals wanted me to quiet down. For two days, migraine aura messed up my eyes enough i couldn’t see, and the headache itself kept me from thinking clearly. Not one system in my body was behaving.  i was a lump of wretchedness, dissolving into sorrow.

And thus i was every moment when i wasn’t at galleries, and too many moments when i was sitting.  This was not my best week for engaging customer service.

But today, i can see! i can think! i can move! Last night, during those first hints that things were getting better, i was able to start getting my house in order, taking control of the kitchen for the first time in a long time.  Once more i reminded myself that if i can work, i do.

This is the closest i get to manic, i suppose. After so many days of being derailed, to be able to function is pure joy. i was singing this morning, because i had the energy to do it. Even if i fail today, even if i get nothing useful done, at the very least i have managed to exist with contentment and zeal.

i feel like the dam has burst.

i am trying to be fearless.  Mostly, i am failing.  i am having surgery on my shoulder next week, and i am terrified not of going under the knife, but of a long recovery at home alone.  i am dissolving in debt, still working with someone trying to desperately avoid bankruptcy, but each day that this financial dissolution couples with increasing physical disability leaves me shaking harder from fear.  To be honest, i have not discovered a mechanism for complete boldness.  Some gear or another in my bravery engine keeps getting stuck.  Instead of fluid courage, there is a lot of sputtering, stopping and starting, and uneven progress.

Actually, if you’re reading this blog, you already know that.

However, if i am totally honest, i can see other signs of improvement and change.  i got a nice rejection for a book i finished in July, which was evidence of courage because i actually sent in a submission. So, i can make the most of a wild spasm of hope. The strength of will it took to get here, today, to this gallery, despite the weariness and sorrow and illness of the past week proves that i have some steadfastness.  And, most importantly, i have finally managed to set up two events to start purging my belongings so i can move:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1709075902637790/

https://www.facebook.com/events/599245560214457/

They will be this weekend, concurrent with the Maine Craft Weekend.

This morning, i spent a long time awash in gratitude, simultaneously praying that this sense of joy and strength can maintain itself until surgery on the 7th.  i am getting everything lined up: laundry done, cooking done in advance, cleaning as much as i can, making sure my downstairs bathroom will be useful to the one-armed gimp that i will be.

i need strength and joy right now.  And, thankfully, today i have captured the delightful echoes of both.

pecha kucha redux

Well, if the weather is our friend, the Bucksport Pecha Kucha will be this coming Thursday (now nearly tomorrow) at the Alamo.

i should be practicing tonight, but a migraine laid me low for a few hours and still has not left me. (Why do they tend to come after an asthma attack?) When even the still, silent darkness got to be too painful, i decided to make myself useful since i was just as wretched resting. So, i have been doing a job that does not require much in the way of thought: putting more poems on the online store. The poems are already written and recorded – i just have to listen to them (my brain is not working well enough to remember what i wrote!), do the tags/keywords and create the product. Really, this is something half my brain can do, which is good because that’s about all that’s functioning right now.

Only, these poems have been soothing me. Mailboxes – written sometime in the past six years – could just as well have poured from my pen today. Losing cohesion reminds me that no matter how stressed and insecure this moment feels, i have fallen apart before and found a way to put myself back together. Love poem to sleep made the thought of rest and dreams, even while alone in my bed, titillate.

i am not quite halfway through this process and i have 160 poems already available. i can feel productive even while wondering if my brain will actually explode within my skull, or if it will take my skull with it into the room.

However, the real miracle is that these poems remind me who i am. In my pecha kucha presentation (titled Recreation) i will be talking about (SPOILER!) transformation on a personal and community level. This subject is immediate for me – and visceral.  The risk and change in my life over the past couple of months has been intense.

whispersThese poems have been reminding me who i am, down in my depths. When i work, the ego dissolves: i become nothing more than the words, the lines of the poem, the forms and stories. In those moments, the universe aligns and all is well. My burdens find me quickly enough when i step away from what i do – stress can overwhelm me when i cannot work. If i deviate from art long enough, i forget who i am. i become the stress, the vulnerability, the financial stupidity, the isolation. The fact that i live on a razor’s edge, like every other artist i know, because i have chosen to pursue these dreams, can feel like a condemnation of my being. Yet, when i pick up the pen, or like tonight, when i drench myself in what i have already done, i am soothed. Granted, there are things i would reword now. The chronic editor could always change something. But, they are proof of my passion.  This art pours out of me: thousands of poems, several novels, at least two dozen short stories, God knows how many pots – thousands  both large and small by now, hundreds of drawings and paintings.

i can forget that i have created much, and it has been wonderful. Tonight, i am using the realization that i am not as useless as this migraine makes me feel to inflate my heart. Let it fill me up.  Let it give me courage and hope!

the universe provides

By DG Arts

Last year, I started a group with a few other artists.  I feel like this is still a project in its infancy, even though we might be toddling about by now.  Regardless of its age, Maine Artists Group represents something very important to me.

My work most often means being alone.  Even when I share space with other artists here at the Studio + Showroom, we are all working on our own projects, dwelling half in reality and half inside our imaginations.  As much jovial conversation as we have burble forth, there are equally long stretches of silence while we all focus on what we are doing and tune out the rest of the world.  It can create isolation if not loneliness.

by John Wombacher of Sundial Photography
by John Wombacher of Sundial Photography

Also, being an artist implies a certain level of vulnerability and instability.  My last blog entry talked about the boundless gratitude I feel for my customers and patrons.  Part of that comes from the unavoidable fact that they are not mandated to buy my art.  No legislation exists that demands everyone in the country purchase an asha fenn original.

Nor does the lack of my artwork in their home fill people with unbearable shame.  Instead, I have the great blessing of knowing my work is purchased by people who love it enough to go out of their way to make it theirs.  Which means that I have to look at this life I lead as a gift rather than something that is owed to me; financial vulnerability has become something of a constant.

 

In my wildest dreams, Maine Artists Group was to be a way to mitigate these problems.  Pooling together the resources of artists to have an online store, to promote each other’s work, to have a community that we can rely on.

by Leslie Wombacher of Sundial Photography
by Leslie Wombacher of Sundial Photography

Only, right now, almost eighteen months in, we are in flux.  We have lost members and gained members. Beginnings bear their own special difficulties: success is a dream rather than a proven possibility. Some members of the group are having harder times, some better, and all of us have a shortage of time to dedicate to building this community.  This enterprise requires effort from each member and we cannot always give it the energy we should. At least, I know that is true for me.  The rest of my life has crept in and kept me from doing everything I wanted to.  I feel like I have failed my friends, these artists I believe in so strongly.  I have also done my best which helps soothe my mood, but still feels inadequate.

But I am nothing if I am not stubborn.  Bullheaded to the point of stupidity, barreling forward with my dreams even when it seems like insanity to others.  I recommit to making a living at my art every morning when I wake up.

by Shawna Mayo Barnes of JSB Arts
by Shawna Mayo Barnes of JSB Arts

A few days ago, while I was in a gallery in Belfast, I was fretting (doodling frowns) over the future of the Maine Artists Group and what the future holds.  I do this aimless worrying too often.  An artist from Washington State, here on vacation, and I started talking.  He pointed to the doodles in front of me, the pottery on the other side of the room and the slideshow of my artwork moving cross the screen of my iPad before him.

“The universe provides.”  He said, “You pour your heart and soul into this and you are so talented.  Don’t fret.  The universe provides.”

“Ah,”  I smiled, for I never tire of hearing that I am talented, “but she doesn’t always provide in a timely manner.”

“That’s the point.”  He laughed, “You have to be patient and keep working.”

by Janelle Delicata
by Janelle Delicata

As he left, I thought that he was right.  Patience is not my greatest virtue, but stubbornness and determination can make up for what I lack in calm composure.  Most of all, I could no more stop doing this work than I  could stop breathing.  Actually, I imagine that the cessation of the latter will be the only thing to stop the former.  As I returned to my doodling after he left, I kept thinking “the universe will provide” could be a good mantra.

When I sat down to write this – a post on Maine Artists Group been long overdue – I realized my primary focus was to thank all the artists I have been working with during past year and a half.  However, I also need to use these words as a reminder (to myself more than anyone else) that success is not instantaneous.  Even when we want it to be.  Even when we demand that it come with loud impudence.

For the universe provides in her own sweet time.

Nostrano and the Garlic Festival

NostranoLast night i was honored to get a chance to eat at Nostrano, a marvelous restaurant in Bar Harbor.  It was Frank Pendola’s way of thanking a few of the people who participated in the Garlic Festival – as though the sales we made and the chance to help KidsPeace were not enough!

i jumped at the chance to attend.  i had heard amazing things about Nostrano – almost too good to believe – but once i was there i realized their praise was altogether too modest.

The whole experience left me awed: the space is small, gorgeous, holding less than 20 people (which explains why the participants of the Garlic Festival have to take turns).  NostranoThe end result is that you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s house – only that friend and his wife happen to be some of the most amazing cooks you have ever encountered.  The way Frank explained the components the meal, how they were prepared (his wife made the best beet salad i’ve ever had, so she told us about that one), his philosophy of cooking, how he transformed from a molecular biologist to restauranteur, entertained and educated us.  The meal, needless to say, was divine.

I should have taken pictures of the space, because it is lovely and stunningly designed, or Frank, his wife and the other guests, because they are all awesome.  Instead, i found myself snapping pictures of my pottery in the kitchen, being everything i had ever hoped for: functional and lovely and well-used.

Which brings me to my primary thought: i am very grateful for the other local business who help and support my endeavors.  Nostrano is a fantastic example of this.  i have seen Frank support local farmers, KidsPeace and other small businesses with steadfast enthusiasm.  We are all grateful.  He has a growing collection of asha fenn originals – and to see them there, being used, integrated into such a beautiful restaurant, left me nearly as giddy as the food.

Although the food won.  Dessert put it over the edge, probably because of the local peaches!

Go to Nostrano if you find yourself in Bar Harbor, there is a link to make a reservation… in the mean time, visit their website to entice yourself.

Meditation

20130916-222848.jpgTwo weeks ago, i began a meditation group. i have been using meditation with increasing success for about a year, and was thrilled to meet people interested in meditating with me. In a way, meditation is like drumming: it’s fine individually, but better in a group.

As a creative woman, i find that stillness facilitates my art. It can do a lot to silence the demons of self-criticism and insecurity. For the longest time, i could only find that kind of empty mind when i was deep within a project – at the wheel, i would disappear; nothing would exist except for the paint and the brush; when i write, the characters would seem more real than anything tangible. Going to that place of stillness and peace just by breathing and opening into awareness of myself and my surroundings has become a strange liberation. i do not need to cling to the art as i once did, believing that it is my only salvation – although it remains my greatest delight.meditation

In two sessions, we have tried five different meditations: following the breath, tonglen, body scanning, a version of Lecta Divina and a musical meditation. We’re trying to find our bearings, what meditations work for all of us. After both meetings, just like when i meditate alone, i have found myself flooded with ideas and inspiration. It can be incredibly difficult finding focus after that stillness. The sudden roar of ideas can be deafening. Perhaps the constant activity of my brain feels the need to overcompensate after having been deliberately quieted.

It is delightful to open up my studio to this new purpose.

 

Summer’s insanity

three bowls
three bowls

Summer just got a little crazier than normal.  Art in Maine is a seasonal business: we produce much of our work in the winter and then sell it in the spring, summer and fall.  That does not imply that art is not made during the three warmer seasons – at least not for me – i wind up adding the job of selling my work on top of what i am already doing creating it. Here is a freshly updated page telling you where my work will be, both open air markets and the galleries that sell my pottery and art.  Between deliveries, gallery sitting and manning my booth at events, i suddenly go from the equivalent of having two full time jobs to three.  It has taken me four years to get used to this rhythm intellectually; but when July comes and the work suddenly explodes, it still throws me off balance.

Yet, there is immense joy in this.  i love seeing customers react to my pottery and sculptures. For some reason, i never get tired of praise.

maine pots inside
maine pots inside
maine pots
maine pots

Also, this is a great opportunity for me to see what kind of things people want.  Some years it has been small items, others huge works.  I’ve been making pottery for Oli’s Trolley – all Maine themed pots – and i am finding they are selling in my studio even before they make it to Bar Harbor.  This is a good thing.

However, this year may prove to be different.  i unexpectedly added to summer’s insanity.  A few days ago, a new book started pouring out of me.  This one seems to be short, concise, and surprisingly useful.  However, these are the earliest stages.  It is outlined, about a quarter of the chapters written in a wild flood of ink.  Of course, this wonderful gift comes now, flowing effortlessly in every moment i can spare.  It is completely inconvenient that i’m adding to my workload at this exact moment.

But, these words cannot be denied or delayed.  It has happened before.  Years ago, writing what wound up being the first novel in a set, i wrote this poem to describe how that work flowed out of me.  While this book is very different in character, the following lines still explain the compulsion that has overwhelmed me:

 

fire angel
fire angel

fire woman
fire woman

yellow angel
yellow angel

—burning—

i am burning.
a year has passed
and i am still burning.
i wrote the realization down
after that day’s purifying fires
and then brought to page
so many more.
i told the story
with just enough lies
to reveal the truth.
i am burning
from the words i have penned,
and i am burning
with the compulsion
to write more,
to right more,
to finish this work,
to hold it in my hand,
to release it into the world
on paper or in ash,
but either way to complete
this act of fierce, merciful purging.
i am burning.
i am burning.
but, i doubt finishing
this particular rapture
of chapters and characters
will extinguish the heat
that cycles through me
filling me with this calling,
making me vibrate with its intensity,
for, with luck,
with Grace,
the writing will not end
until the writer does.

written in 2009

—-

 

So i am writing until the i am overtaken by sleep.  As soon as i awake, i steal time from other work by picking up the pen.  i am writing while i eat.  My notebook comes into the bathroom with me.  My cat stares at me grumpily while my scribbling delays her daily dose of affection.  Without a doubt, it is all worth it – i do not know what i would do without the poems, the stories, the paintings, the figures and the pots.