Sunday, August 19, 2012


It's amazing how quickly the time passes.  "A moment ago" becomes "a year ago" almost while you are asleep, and you put off that phone call or email  (or, in this case, blog post) for one more month......
Which brings me to my point...

Last July, I organized a group of ceramic artists with ties to the Gulf Coast to participate in an Artists Invite Artists session at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine.  Actually, the "organizing" part happened about a year and a half earlier, starting with a written proposal of the session to the Board at Watershed, almost a year's wait to hear if the session was to be approved, and culminated with a mad rush to find enough folks who were interested in attending.  This is where that whole "Eternal Sunshine of My Spotless Mind-thingy" really works wonders: All of the planning, and begging, and coordinating, and running around is all but forgotten. Instead, I am left with the fond memories of a group of what has to be some of the most remarkable people I've had the pleasure to work with, and I think they should be acknowledged here.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with how an Artists Invite Artists session at Watershed works, prepare to be enlightened:

Tyler Gulden, Programs Director, and Dana.
Step 1: During an even of Guinness at an NCECA conference an artist (in this case, me- though it is usually someone who is much more renowned, respected and responsible) comes up with what, at the time, seems like a brilliant idea for a 2 week session at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, and pitches it to the Director (..that would be you, Tyler) or Board Member.  Our session was originally planned as a New Orleans ceramic artists' session, to be billed as "MidSummer Mardi Gras".....not the most original, I know, but you have to play to your strengths.

Step 2:  Write a cleverly worded and articulate proposal to said Board, wrapped in $50 bills and mailed to Maine with a box of New Orleans pralines.

Step 3: Wait.

Step 4: Find at least 7 other artists who you can convince that it would be a "really good idea" for them to pay to spend 2 weeks working together halfway across the country. (Trust me: it is!)

* repeat Steps 3 and 4 for the next 16 months*

Step 5: Go to Maine and spend 2 weeks making work in a barn/studio situation that defines the word "rustic".  (Tip: Bring your own light bulbs! Seriously, it's better currency than cigarettes in prison).  And don't forget your mosquito repellent.  By the gallon, if possible.

...the studio
Old Salty.
Watershed is a unique situation in that there's no teaching or workshop component to the session.  Everyone sets up in a communal studio and just makes art.  In some cases, this means refining an idea for  a body of work, in others, it may simply mean taking the time to make something that you might otherwise not give yourself permission to make in your own studio.  Depending on the session, you could be a junior in college working right next to one of your clay heroes, it doesn't matter, everyone just does their thing and makes work.
I'm still trying to find some images  of the teapots
that I made with the  local red clay. (Actually, they're on my phone, which is not an iPhone, and I have no idea exactly how to get them onto the computer!)  This was a big step for lil' ol' porcelain- throwin' me, and it was refreshing to work on a kick wheel, spinning slowly with a great big hunk of red mud! ...that stuff's banned from my studio, usually.  I still keep these pieces around and, after a year, it's been interesting to see how the touch and aesthetic has crept its way into my recent work.
So instead, here's some images of the crew at work and play.  I must also confess that I have probably the worst collection of photos from this session! There's a Dropbox file somewhere, and most of the other folks took much better shots.  But, hey,'s my blog:)  Hopefully I will be able to upload some better pictures, but until then:

John Donovan...working on the bunny!

.....Lisa Ehrich.

Our session consisted of:

John Donovan, John Gargano, William and Rachel DePauw, Stephanie Rozene( and her awesome husband, Brendan Aucoin), Lisa Ehrich, Liz Bryant, Dana Chapman-Stupa (accompanied by her husband, Rick- another awesome guy!), Lauren Duffy, Dori Zanger and Mark Yudell (both from Israel) and Shauna Cahill, as our session assistant....oh, and me.

....this can't end well:)
Clearly, this band of hooligans was more than capable of rising to any challenge set before them. I assure you, no Mill Pond bridge was too high to jump from, no quarry too cold to swim in, no local red clay too rocky to throw with,  no Pabst Blue Ribbon too warm to drink ...(Well, what did you expect from a session billed as Midsummer Mardi Gras?! Hello, Board Members, you knew what you were getting into! -'just kidding, of course-we love you and hope you had as much fun as we all did....where's that little winking smiley face?  I need an emoticon!).

I'd also like to send a big "THANK YOU" to the incredible Watershed Summer Staff!!  Without all of you guys and you're hard work, none of this would've been possible!

In the immortal words of Watershed summer staff/cook Adam Redd, "In just the first week you guys managed to out-drink the previous session of wood firers, burn all of the firewood for the rest of the summer, and consume 5lbs of bacon!"

Redd, all i can say is, "You're welcome".

Stephanie Rozene, with a family of beautiful bowls..

...a new cross draft wood kiln. train kiln.
And we made work. A LOT of work.  A TON of work!  It's truly amazing just exactly how much stuff you can make when you have almost unlimited time to focus on being in the studio.  Most of us haven't had that kind of  time to work uninterrupted since grad school and, even then, there were other obligations to meet.  We were fortunate to have our 2 week session include the annual Watershed Salad Days fundraising event, and be treated to good food, live music, a pottery sale, and plates by Salad days arstist Gratia Brown!
J. Donovan's Bunny Warrior, drying..
..the remnants of the old beehive kiln, soon to be the stage for
a psychedelic dance party, courtesy of Shauna who "just happened
to have a trunk full of glowsticks.....Hey, you never know, right?"

Ok, so maybe  it's easy to make light of the situation now that it's a year or so behind me but, in the end, everything worked out better than I could have ever planned.  And for that, i'd like to sincerely thank the folks who were originally on the list that had to drop out.  I'm being totally serious here: if not for you all (....sorry, i meant "y'all"...) this session would never have happened the way it did.  Ok, so we had to end up stretching the New Orleans/Gulf Coast connection a bit to include some of the amazing artists who were tapped at the last minute to plug the gaps and meet the quota, but, in all honesty, there's no way that I could have possibly planned or picked a better group of people to work with.  That all just sorta happened on it's own.