This post is way overdue! I've been procrastinating about documenting my 2 week Studio Residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and I'm finally getting around to it. Last spring (May 28 - June 9) I was fortunate to be one of 50 residents selected for the opportunity to play and create in any or all of the studios at Haystack . I went without a highly specific plan. I brought with me an open mind and the possibility of working at something I'd never done before. In the end, this was one of the most fun and creative two weeks I've spent, ever. And it all took place in a spectacularly mystical and beautiful place. Oh, and did I mention the lobster picnic on the rocks?
Experiments in Textiles and ceramic slip
Prior to this residency I'd been mulling over an idea for dipping textiles into porcelain slip and firing it with the intention of retaining the impression of the textile in a hardened, ceramic-like state. So, from textiles (where just about every loom was being used, mostly by first-time weavers), I wandered up to the ceramics studio, with a few little crocheted samples in hand, and did a few tests. As you can see from the photos below, I ended up dipping more than textiles in the slip, just to see what would happen. Of course, when fired, whatever was dipped simply burns away, leaving an extremely delicate (an often hollow) sort of exoskeleton behind. I like some of the results (maybe the beginning of a body of new work about "fragility"?!), but learned that this process will take a lot more time, experimentation, and expertise in the ins and outs of ceramic slips, firing temperatures, and on and on.
Adventure #2: Molding and Stitching Paper
This is a story of a circuitous route to a new idea.
On one of my walks to the rocky shoreline below the Haystack campus I picked up a mussel shell that had a hole in it and needed mending. This brought me to the small metals/jewelry studio to see if there was a way I could pre drill tiny holes around the edges of the ragged hole in order to "mend" it with needle and thread without further cracking the delicate shell. After accomplishing this, as I was leaving the jewelry studio a box of copper scraps caught my eye. Hmmmm. Some of them looked like they could be mended too. More drilling. More stitching.
At about this time I paid a visit to the print studio where another scrap box with giveaways attracted my attention. I left with what I later learned was a good-sized sheet of well-used blotting paper. I began playing with cutting, wetting, and shaping the paper to see if I could make it somewhat "sculptural". To my great delight, this paper was up to the task. And, of course, being in a stitching frame of mind, once shaped, these little paper sculptures cried out to be stitched too.The pictures below tell the story. (Note: now, many months later, I find I am applying this idea to some new work - sculptural free machine embroidered pieces with hand stitching. More on that to come in a future blog).
The Forge Beckons
This was an unusually cold spring in Deer Isle and the lack of heat in the cabins and studios was beginning to wear thin. This brought me to the forge, one of the most stunning (and the warmest) studios at Haystack. I fell in love with everything about this place. The fire, the sculptural anvils, the array of hammers, and the patina of so many well-used tools. I went to the forge to see if I could scale up one of my little paper sculptures into something made out of steel. I wanted something solid, something with heft. Which meant it had to be steel. This was no small undertaking, and it was a test in determination. I spent the first day cutting my piece of steel and shaping it by hammering it cold over one of the anvils. That kept me really warm! By the middle of day 2, someone suggested that it really should be heated to make the hammering easier. Into the fire it went, and the work began to progress at a much more rapid pace. By the end of day three the piece was just about finished (and my arm and hand muscles were too). Oh, I forgot to mention that I had to use a hand drill to make all of those holes in the steel so I could "mend" it with a paper yarn that I plied by hand.
And this is the end of my long-winded tale of my open studio residency at Haystack. The best part of all, of course, was the remarkable people I met-- residents and staff alike -- who made this a truly special experience. It was a privilege to be counted among them.
Happy ending -- unexpectedly, I returned to Haystack later in the summer to take a workshop in fiber sculpture with Tanya Aguinigas. It was a LOT warmer.