Day 4 Evan Christopher, Make/Listen, Alleghany Meadows, Make, Use, Look, Think

Day 4 continued.  At 11am we had a special Make and Listen session – blind throwing.  Evan Christopher, a “contemporary early-jazz” clarinetist and composer, the resident artist this week at Haystack was to play for us.  We were to be blindfolded and throw pots using touch while responding to his music.  Can we even center and pull up the walls without using our eyes.

Even though the water was freezing we went swimming!  The sky was beautiful this night.  Haystack is a magical place.

Day 2 Bowls and Pitchers, Day 3 Lidded Jars, Day 4 Teapots, Alleghany Meadows, Make, Use, Look, Think

Our schedule for the two weeks which soon changed.

Haystack Workshop Schedule

Haystack Workshop Schedule

Day 3 was Lidded Jars.  I particularly liked this statement of Allegheny’s  that moment of beauty such as when a flower petal causes us to pause.

What are the decisions we make in our pots that are part of our artistic expression and how can we cause one to pause?

The lids of a jar can be as beautiful as a pot so if the jar is broken the lid is still a beautiful object.

Day 4 Teapots. How does one start?  One thinks about form, about motion, about the feeling of making something beautiful.  Allegheny thinks of teapots as being feminine, the making of tea is a ritual, it is nurturing, it is the taking of a moment to slow down.  Things to think about, how do we think of beauty, what is beauty, how do we look at the world.  These inform our pots.  How a finger or tool touches the clay – those are important moments.

Assembling teapots.  If the spout is too low it is hard to pour.  Place the handle high otherwise it is too much on the wrist when pouring.

Day 1 – Making Cups, Alleghany Meadows, Make, Use, Look, Think

Haystack’s lack of wifi was frustrating (for me!).  To be fair there is wifi in the library and the lack of cell coverage is hardly under their control – still it was frustrating to be on the E with one bar.  It surprised me how much I have come to rely on the internet for my artistic practice.  Those 1980 college days of sitting in the library at Philadlephia College of Art drinking in ceramic and pottery books are long gone!  In recent years I have enthusiastically embraced Instagram, (for which you need internet), when I am inspired and this workshop really inspired me.  Alleghany’s attention to detail and thoughtfulness continue to inspire me.

Allegheny started the workshop making cups.  He asked us to make a cup that is personal to ourselves, a cup to be used for a specific ritual or need.  He challenged us to think about our own rituals, for example, what do you like to drink in the morning?  Here some thoughts he shared with us while throwing cups designed expressly for use in his expresso machine “Sylvia”.

Working on the inside of a form is most important because with forms such as a cup, unlike a painting, you look into it. Balance and proportion thoughtfully executed suggest confidence.


We choose to make things that show our vision of the world and we share our idea of that beauty or tension with people around us.  The work is alive as people experience it.

Alleghany explained his thought process of why he works from the inside out.  As one drinks from a cup, rings of tea or coffee are left on the inside, the liquid leaves traces of horizon lines, just like water rippling along the edge of the shore when you throw a rock into it.  Alleghany as a maker thinks about the experience of drinking the opaque liquid, seeing those horizon lines and finally coming to the last dregs of liquid and having the experience of seeing a change in the form.  What do those lines mean to you as they become markers of time? 

Risk and creativity are tied together, one has to take a risk to explore creativity.


After a glorious lunch which included sandwiches, multiple varieties of salads, two homemade soups, and the aforementioned cookies, Alleghany continued with his thoughts on use and making.  He posed the question what does it mean to be a maker in our culture?  While in Karatsu, Japan, Alleghany studied with Takashi Nakazato, who believes that our hands develop memory through repetition of form, and from this repetition one achieves the rhythm that is used in functional work.  Patterns built up from layers of memory ensures the work is alive as people experience it.

Clay as a responsive pliable material becomes the instigator of plasticity in one’s hands.  Our hands learn from the clay’s plasticity and our touch and sensitivity to the material becomes a direct communicator to the brain, to the heart, and to those that use these pots.

How does one’s work instigate change?  What does it mean to make a breakfast set for two which includes a vase?  Perhaps the new owners of this set find themselves filling the vase with flowers and celebrating breakfast together in a new and meaningful way.  How does the work change when the object is to make serving bowls that fit together?  These are some of the questions and thoughts we began our own making thinking about.

And one final thought – cicatrix – this word became our mantra as we talked about it’s meaning and how it can apply to much of pottery.  We came back to it many a time.  The dictionary definitions for cicatrix are:  1. The scar of a wound.  2. A scar of the bark on a tree.  3. A mark on a stem left after a leaf or other part has become detached.  

Initially, we were using the noun cicatrix to convey the connection between handle and mug but it grew to spouts, pitcher handles, and knobs.  A cicatrix became those moments in time, those connections, that convey a decision, a choice, an artistic practice.



Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Make, Use, Look, Think, Alleghany Meadows

Back from two fabulous weeks at a workshop at Haystack on Deer Isle, Maine. It is a magical place. Founded in 1950 the school moved to it’s current location in 1961. The school was designed by renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and is cleverly built on the side of the hill preserving the natural landscape. The entrance called the “breezeway” houses two buildings, to the right is the gateway auditorium and to the left the store and library.  The only (I repeat the only!) wifi (for students) is in the library and the only place where phone calls are permitted is here in the breezeway.  It can be a very popular area.   A short walk on top of a large granite boulder walkway takes you to the heart of the campus and a view of the ocean which is accessed by a long staircase.

The school offers clay, glass, metals, paper, bookmaking, blacksmithing, weaving, fibers, woodworking and more.  Susan and I were there to take Alleghany Meadows workshop Make, Use, Look, Think.

There are various types of accommodations from dormitories to quads, doubles and a few  private single rooms with shower.  These buildings built into the hill are accessed by wooden walkways.  The ceramic and wood studio is on the right and one level down is the metals, paper and textile studios.  Glass and the Fab Lab are a short walk back up the hill.  And then there is the dining hall.  The bell rings at 8am, noon and 6pm and the food is simply abundant and delicious.  We all began to feel like a pavlovian experiment trained to hear the bell and become instantly hungry.  And then there are the cookies.  Large batches of cookies baked daily, we never had the same cookie twice.  After lunch the cookies were put into a large cookie jar and were accessible along with a constant supply of hot coffee all afternoon until they were all gone.

I didn’t take many photos of the food but this one of cookies with our excellent chef Tom is  from Alleghany!  All the food was served in hand made dishes.  Large bowls for salad, pitchers for serving water, platters and bowls for vegetables, small pitchers for dressing.  Breakfast and lunch were self serve while dinner was family style.  The food was excellent and it was impossible to go hungry!  Every night was a dessert to rival the previous nights!


Decadent Design for the Soft Surface Workshop with Ben Carter

It is an honor to listen to an artist talk about their work, their process, their inspirations. I love hearing ideas about process or inspiration put together in a way that I think ‘I have never heard that before’.  And the bonus: it makes me think differently about something going on in my own work.  This experience with words is analogous to teaching a beginner to throw.  We all use different words to communicate the process. I imagine that for most us these words come from our teachers who taught us to throw.  Learning to throw is hard and, I think, even harder to explain in words.  At some point the student must experience the process for themselves.  Sometimes, it takes a new teacher to use slightly different words for a student to understand.  When a beginner realizes how to use their body, their hands, when they experience the feeling of the right amount of pressure they get that “ah ha” moment and voila they can center the clay.

Yesterday while listening to Ben I was having lots of “ah ha” moments.  I have always thought that a mug should have a flat bottom like a coffee can.  Ben makes the bottom of his pots, even his mugs, with a natural curve.  He sees the whole interior as one plane as opposed to a horizontal and vertical space.  It sets up the pot for his decoration.  For me the “ah ha” moment came when he talked about arches and strength.  A catenary kiln arch is so strong that it is hard to take down.  The same could be said of a curved arched bottom of a mug – it is stronger.

I came away with another gem.  In talking about his desire to create soft surfaces, Ben said the tension created by the rib is released by pushing into the surface.  He is creating and releasing tension.  “Ah ha!”  I think about creating tension but not releasing it.  And then there was the description of form language.  A pot should have the same form language and not have a foot speaking Chinese, a rim speaking Staffordshire and a belly speaking German salt.  I smiled as I visually conjured up a pot with these three languages. “Ah ha!”  Thanks Ben.



The Last Supper, Santa Fe

We spent the day at Canyon Road. Saw these wonderful ceramics by Ruth Duckworth. I had snapped a few when the gallery manager asked us not to photograph – they are all on their website.

Driving to Canyon Road caught sight of these amazing Jun Kaneko ceramics at Peters Gallery, Santa Fe.

Our last supper was absolutely delicious at Joseph’s of Santa Fe.  Highly recommended!

We sat outside under an awning and it began to rain, we stayed there until an enormous flash of lightening and a clap of thunder a couple of blocks away forced us inside.  This was the sky after the storm as we left the restaurant.


Puye Cliff Dwellings

Susan and I decided to go south to Peco’s National Park. After an hour’s drive on 25 we arrived to find an empty trading post. No trails to hike.  There was a large plaque with the history of the area.  Looking at the images online as I write this we clearly were in the wrong place!  What a shame to have missed the real deal!

Quick reroute and we were driving back to Santa Fe, the same route we took coming south, and on our way to the Puye Cliff Dwellings. What a great choice!  A not to be missed tour.

We arrived just in time for the 12 o’clock tour – having left at 930am!  The whole tour was magical.  Our tour guide was a local Native American, Derek, who is clearly a wonderful ambassador for his people. He talked so intelligently and eloquently about his people, the history, and it’s future.  He sees his generation coming out from the self imposed silence of the older generations and introducing Americans to their customs and way of life.  After the atrocities suffered by the Native Americans, especially the Navajo in this area, they took their hearts, souls, and ceremonies inside the kiva and maintained great secrecy.  No white people allowed in.  They are now proudly calling themselves Diné as Navajo was an American name given to them and has no meaning in their language.

Derek told us the pottery shards contain the spirit of those that made them and if we take them home we will be haunted by those spirits.  The piles of shards are those that have been returned because those that took them were being haunted!  That was enough to make me a believer!

Leaving the mesa and climbing down to the cliff dwellings.

The cave dwellings were dug into the rock with wonderful petroglyphs high above on the wall.  Some of the dwellings were 2 and 3 stories so they could stand on the roofs and carve these petroglyphs or paint the pictographs.






Jeff Oestreich Workshop Clay Studio March 2009

For Susan!

Santa Fe Continued

After spending 5 days in the studio it was time to explore Santa Fe.  We started at the Spanish Market – mostly religious themed crafts.  I have been to Indian Market which includes all the crafts, each pueblo has their own style and no two are alike.  The younger generation are making within the tradition and at the same time developing their own voice.   I find that very exciting.  We visited Shiprock Gallery on the Plaza and saw top of the line jewelry, weaving, and pots.  We lunched at Cafe Pascal and I had a magnificent plate of Huevos Rancheros.

We returned to Museum Hill to visit the Museum of International Folk Art.  Amazing collection from all over the world.  Here are some images of my favorite objects.  I didn’t write titles or countries down – sorry!


Last Day Mark Pharis Workshop

Today the studio was both hushed and full of activity. Some participants were cleaning up and leaving early, some finishing last minute details, settling up bills (mine was very high I have a very supportive husband!), and saying goodbyes.  I didn’t take any photos today but here is one from earlier in the week of the group!

Participants of the Mark Pharis Workshop at Santa Fe Clay

Participants of the Mark Pharis Workshop at Santa Fe Clay

Susan and I ended the day on a “Behind the Scenes Tour” of the Georgia O’Keefe Home and Studio.  We saw the room where she stretched her canvases, her bedroom next to the studio (now set up as a bedroom) and the fall out shelter in addition to the regular tour.  It is really a magical place, no wonder she waited 15 years until she could buy the house.  Georgia O’Keefe’s bedroom is on the corner of the house.  The two outside walls have enormous plate glass windows with a view overlooking the valley.  She could lie in bed and look at this view.  We were not allowed to take anything up to the house with us – no photos allowed – but I found this one on the internet.


Georgia O’Keefe House, bedroom



We had a wonderful dinner at the Abiquiu Inn.  Highly recommended.