The Tip of Autumn...

But rest assured, it's not autumn yet! Time for a once a year Grist for the Mill post!

We still hike...

View of Watson Pond from Sanders Loop trail in the Kennebec Highlands, Maine. A small, pleasant hike up and back down, with a sweet payoff view. In early July there are blueberries. Now a few leaves are just beginning to change from summer green to autumn red. 

View of Watson Pond from Sanders Loop trail in the Kennebec Highlands, Maine. A small, pleasant hike up and back down, with a sweet payoff view. In early July there are blueberries. Now a few leaves are just beginning to change from summer green to autumn red. 

I walked a golf course in Bath with my golfer husband early one morning (he woke me up at 5:45- it's 48 degrees F? Already?) with camera in hand. It warms up quickly.

The flowers, seen on the fringe of the course, remind me of home when I was small. I knew this flower before I knew the names of plants. I still don't know its name. I'd better find out.

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And rudbeckia, black-eyed Susans, showing a bit of wear as summer nears its end.

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And, in the way that nothing stands unaffected by time and weather, a polished granite marker stands coated with lichen.

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It reminds me (I AM a potter, after all) of lichen glazes on pottery, a specialized sort of thing. As an aside, here are two vessels by Canadian potter Tony Clennell that the lichen above makes me think of:

It's been great weather for hiking. Favorite fellow took my picture. Hazy day, threatening rain, but in Maine, "ya gotta believe." Silly hat, tuna sandwich. The view is of Great Pond, also in the Kennebec Highlands.

Turned my hat backwards so I could see the trail better as we went up. Didn't need my eyes shaded on this cloudy day.

Turned my hat backwards so I could see the trail better as we went up. Didn't need my eyes shaded on this cloudy day.

This spectacular bouquet of fungi was about 20" in diameter. I should get a jigsaw puzzle made of this image, with as many pieces as possible. It would be nice and difficult. Putting it at the end of the to-do list.

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But my favorite thing is still getting out in the kayak. There was little wind on the water, and a bald eagle (yes, the classic all-American white headed bird,) was hanging out on a pile of mud, a first in all my years of heading out onto this lake. I could only shoot long distance fuzzy photos, but I'm going to include one for authenticity here. Getting a telephoto lens camera is now also on the end of my to-do list:

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I wondered if the eagle was the instrument of death for a Canada goose, whose feathers were scattered for ten yards in every direction on the surface of the water.

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The swallows are gone the way of August and its teeming waterbugs, and the crows are here now. They pose for a silhouette against the sky very handsomely. As raucous as crows can be, they are surprisingly quiet; the air is emptied of so many birds, so much quieter than it was in July.

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Photographing the oh so fleeting sunrise next-to-the-last morning of our stay, I hear geese baying and wait for them to come across the lake sky. It is just one noisy pair, far away, but so brash and loud.

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There will be new young cattails when we return again at the beginning of summer.

Posted on September 4, 2017 .

Kayaking on a Quiet Pond

In central Maine there is a quiet pond we love. We try to get there every summer for a couple of weeks. We've managed to log 26 of those 2-week stays, which adds up to a whole year of summer. Although we thought the cabin would go up for sale last year and we would not be able to return, to our relief it has not.

My kayak could be more comfortable, really, with a softer and more flexible seat, and foot pegs, but for a decade it has carried me around the lake, in morning mist and evening sunset and points in between. I have gone out in the kayak with my camera so often, that images of this lake must be imprinted permanently  my brain. In times of stress I think of this lake in early July, with all its life and beauty, and I find a peaceful moment.

The lake is sometimes like glass when I set out.

Towards the islands (Mimi Stadler 2016)

There's not much sound besides the dipping of my paddle. Often someone is fishing somewhere out along the four miles of shoreline, but it's not a busy lake, and quietest in the morning. I point my kayak toward bog islands that dot this part of the lake.

Approaching bog islands on a still summer day (Mimi Stadler 2016)

Morning sun lets me see down into the water, revealing sunken logs and branches and grasses in the shallows.

When the sun is higher or there are more clouds, they reflect off the water and I can't see below.

Pausing in shallows, Maine lake (Mimi Stadler 2016)

I look for byways to nose into. 

Sunlit byway, Maine lake (Mimi Stadler 2016)

A byway. Lots of beaver routes cut secretively through the bog brush. (Mimi Stadler 2016)

When I nose my kayak up into the fringe of the bog islands, I see cattails, stunted spruce and maples, bog rosemary, huckleberry and blueberry in flower, little bog rhododendrons, pitcher plants, sundews, laurel in pink flower, and so much more. The scents are good. The trees on the opposite bank of the lake mass softly in the background skyline.

Bog island, Maine lake (Mimi Stadler 2016)

I check on the young osprey (see all the white still in its plumage?) at its nest. It responds with a volley of peeping and angry calls and flies around its nest in a frenzy, so I paddle on.

Young osprey at its nest, Maine lake (Mimi Stadler 2016)

And my quiet paddling is rewarded with a glimpse of great blue heron. 

Great Blue Heron, Maine lake (Mimi Stadler 2016)

More usually I see only evidence of herons, like empty mussel shells. (They could also have been left by other lake mammals we often see here, like beaver, cormorant, or loon.) 

Mussel shells, Maine lake. Note hole in underbrush; who goes through here?  (Mimi Stadler 2016)

Mussel shells, Maine lake. Note hole in underbrush; who goes through here?  (Mimi Stadler 2016)

I had seen a loon on her nest on a tiny bit of bog island way out on the lake. One evening I saw her in the distance with two fuzzy chicks riding on her back. 

Paddling is great exercise, and it's easy because it's so enjoyable when I am so focused on the life in the lake.

There are fragrant water lilies (white) and bullhead lilies (yellow).

Bullhead water lily (Mimi Stadler 2016)

Various birdhouses have been weathering here among lichen-covered trees for years. I am interested in the contrast of wood against wood: living tree, rotting stump, and the weathered milled lumber of birdhouse or shed. 

Weathered birdhouse, Maine lake (Mimi Stadler 2016)

Weird and interesting stumps and the bottoms of keeled-over trees make the shoreline a mystery of shapes and colors. Their reflections on the water make them doubly interesting.

Stump, Maine lake shoreline (Mimi Stadler 2016)

I haven't identified the bright, beautiful yellow flowers on bare stems*, so delicate and about 6" tall, that spring up among the marsh plants and on islets of sediment around the bog islands. (*Anyone know what these are? Please comment.)

If I am inclined, a hammock awaits me through the ferns as I come in to the little sandy landing spot on the lake by the cabin in Maine. 

Hammock through ferns, Maine (Mimi Stadler 2016)

Posted on July 20, 2016 .

Smile Because it Happened. In the Rain in Maine.

Maine is a big inspiration for me. My Pinterest page has all sort of things "pottery", and one other big thing: nature photos from the beautiful state of Maine. When my husband and I started coming up here 27 years ago, we were youngish parents. We began hiking and canoeing with our children on beautiful rivers and one special quiet lake. We rented this same "camp" down a dirt road along that lake, Torsey Pond, grilling dinner on the porch and watching sunsets. We lit our Sabbath candles on the screened porch and set the old table with a cloth, two loaves of challah and wine. We celebrated our anniversary here, and recuperated from stresses.

We started out here when our youngest, now working and married, was still sleeping in a crib. Eventually, we mailed invitations for our oldest's wedding from the local post office. We met the owner of the camp next door and slowly got to know him. (He is a wicked good character.) 

We rented the camp through its acquisition by two owners, the second for about 18 years. We became friendly with the second owners by email and phone. They kept our rental cost low, and I sent them handmade mugs in the mail in gratitude. We've never met the other family who rents the camp, but they and we write a page or two in the camp journal before we go home at the end of our summer stays, and we have "seen" their children grow up, their dog die, and their new puppy fearfully try the lake. Last year saw the first time our baby grandchild came to visit. We are going to buy the fearless little fellow a life jacket to play outside this year.

Time passes. The owners have moved to a house from 1799 a half hour further from their vacation camp on the lake. They are planning to buy alpacas and goats for their "new" place, which need care in the summer, too, and so they are thinking of selling the house on the lake. I think of Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay". We've loved this place, and if it were about 5 hours closer, maybe we would consider buying it. But after 37 years of marriage and many interesting changes in life, we would not undertake this responsibility. For a decade we have said, "Where would we go for this peace, if they sell..?" and now the question becomes more immediate. Still, houses for sale linger for a few years around here. We may be able to return a time or two more. Who knows?

Over the years, the camp acquired happy kitsch. 

and lots of signs. They're all around niches in the porch. 

Some Wizard of Oz related...

and others with a wry sense of humor...

that I have photographed just for fun as they accumulated over time.

It is this one that I am thinking about at the moment, on a day of rain, in Maine. 

Posted on June 28, 2015 .

What is "Talented"?

"You're so talented!" I often hear this said to creative and productive people I know who make pottery, bake for a living, sculpt, paint, dance, sing, manage something, teach...  

I often wish there were a better word or phrase. "Talented" seems to fall so short of the mark.

What is talent, really? It is an inclination one is given early on, whether by DNA or environment. What it really is, is the seed of something that has to be watered and fed. 

"Talent" is defined by those early efforts to produce something with the blessing or gift one has been naturally given; it is reflected in early work that shows promise. But when a person has really worked that gift and built upon it, "talent" has shifted into something else, something much greater. Should it be called a craft? A trade? An art? A profession? A finely honed skill? Is there an all-inclusive word that describes all of these together? 

Is there a word you can substitute for it? I haven't found one yet...

Posted on December 31, 2014 .

Jack Troy Vessel That Came Home With Me

The Art School at Old Church pottery show the first weekend of December is one I await with tremendous anticipation. Pottery afficionados within driving distance of Demarest, New Jersey come to see this show because a good number of the best makers in the pottery world come sell their work here.

Sometimes a special piece calls to me. That's what happened on Sunday. I bought a vessel by Jack Troy.

Mr. Troy has been a maker and teacher for many years. He is also a writer of both prose and poetry. This vessel drew me in because of its round fullness and color, first, and then by its great visual warmth. Although I don't know Jack Troy personally, I understood by the deceptively casual beauty of the piece and the expertise required to make something so light and fair from earth and fire, that it was a labor of love and a wealth of knowledge that brought the vessel into existence.

The interaction of this piece with fire is told as a narrative as one turns the vessel and looks at every side. 

Mr. Troy knows by experience where the placement of each vessel will either expose it to the flow of flame and ash, or block them. Long acquaintance with his porcelain and familiarity with the qualities of his kiln and the qualities inherent in kinds of wood, allow him to make highly educated guesses as to what will happen inside the wood kiln.

(Jack Troy vessel. The ash in the firing settled upon this side of the vessel, which faced up during firing as the pot lay on its side; the ash made a semi-smooth surface with areas of feldspar-like glistening texture and variations in the cream colors. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014)

There is always serendipity in what happens inside a wood kiln.

(The melted ash flowed in many smaller runs off of the cream colored side of the pot, which was facing up in the kiln. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014) 

(The ash flowed with gravity towards the part of the pot resting on five seashells wadded with clay, as stilts to hold the pot on its side, above the kiln shelf. This ash collected like green glass... Photo Mimi Stadler 2014)

 

(Here is the vessel as it was displayed in the TASOC show, with its jewel of green ash-glass. The calcium in the seashells seems to have fumed as it burned away, left beautiful orange flash marks on the reactive porcelain. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014) 

(The simple foot, just a flat floor tapped in with the palm of the hand while still semi-soft to give it concavity. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014)

(Although this vessel is all about the rotund body, it is still a vessel, with an interior and an exterior. The interior is a lovely surprise. Mr. Troy used a Malcolm Davis shino glaze with Redart clay added to it. The result radiates visual warmth. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014)

Wood firings require a special kiln, room on a property, and a permit from the town where one lives. The storage of wood, the repeated stoking sometimes over the course of 72 hours, and the sheer physical labor are not even the whole story. The heart of the firing is expertise that comes from guidance from pros and lots of experience. Dedication and love for wood firing on the part of the potter are all "musts". In addition, each wood kiln has its hotter and cooler spots. Each can be learned and then manipulated to direct the path of flame and ash in a certain way onto and around the clay pieces in the kiln, but even so there are always unexpected variables, some unwelcome and some brilliant. Each type of wood burns to ash that has its own chemical composition, which affects the resulting color and finish on the pots. Mr. Troy's vessel here is porcelain, and yet all porcelain pots do not necessarily have the same mineral composition and thus possibly not even the exact melting point, depending where it was mined and what percentages of mineral components there are in it. So results of different porcelains in different kilns are more knowledge to be gained... In short, not just Jack Troy, but the maker who creates vessels that succeed as this one does, has worked his butt off, learned, learned, learned and gloried in it, and he or she is one in a million. 

As is this vessel.

A Handmade Pot is Like a Poem...?

..Or maybe a poem is like a handmade pot?

By which I mean, if it isn't immediately obvious when you look at it, the idea behind that pot probably comes from somewhere really individual and personal within the artist who made it. 

The artist has to make the thing regardless of how it will be understood. If life is an exploration for you in some artistic or just plain curious facet of your soul,  then you know: You never really "get there".  The exploration becomes what is meaningful.  Along the way you make a fine whatever-thing-it-is you-hope-to-make: a poem, a cake, a bookcase, a painting, an iris you bred yourself; a handmade clay pot. And if you love the process, and you want to express some ideas, you try lots of ways to do it.

Some of my pottery that toys with the meaning of "functional":

("Marketplace Tea", 2000. The fellow who is not a teapot is a sugar bowl. They used to have a goat creamer, but it broke... By Mimi Stadler Pottery. Photo by the artist, 2014.)

("Balancing", 2000, by Mimi Stadler. Made on a whim with a scrap of clay left on my potter's wheel after cutting off a bowl. It kicked off a small series. Photo by the artist, 2014.)

("Dysfunctional Family", 1993. By Mimi Stadler. Photo by the artist, 2014. The largest pot has a tiny opening.)

Below is pair of conjoined vessels, viewed from four sides. They are a handbuilt duo, standing on four little dabby feet. They balance, but I visualize them interacting with some environmental element to remain standing, like a bed of sand, or else a passing mouse would knock them right  over.

("Conjoined Vessels" by Mimi Stadler. Stoneware with iron oxide wash, glazed inside, 1999. Photo by the artist, 2014.)

("Conjoined Vessels", one side profile)

("Conjoined Vessels", back view)

("Conjoined Vessels", other side profile)

You can make a handmade pot anything your heart desires, almost, if you take that journey of exploration that plays with expression.

Sometimes a pot is a bowl or a tureen or a cake stand. Other times it...isn't.






Posted on September 18, 2014 .

Rocking Out with… Rocks.

Textures and shapes from the earth. Rolled and tumbled in streams and rivers and the oceans. Scratched by retreating glaciers eons ago and still bearing the marks. Celebrating…rocks.

Maine coast rocky ledge, somewhere near Bailey's and Orr's Islands (Photo: Mimi Stadler 2013)

boulder, Harpswell, Maine (photo: Mimi Stadler 2013)

Looking downstream, Carrabassett Valley, Maine (Photo: Mimi Stadler 2014)

Looking downstream from a wooden bridge on Sugarloaf Mountain, Carrabassett Valley, Maine (Photo: Mimi Stadler 2014)

Streambed rocks on Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine (Photo: Mimi Stadler 2014)

Rocks weather and erode into smaller and smaller particles. And the smallest of these, with or without the addition of other minerals and oxides, make up…clay. When I'm not hiking and kayaking around rocks and taking photos, I'll be in my clay studio. Meanwhile, keeping inspired by the geological origins of my medium!

http://www.mimistadlerpottery.com

Luxury of Time: Maine Images

We have often been to Maine. We have rented the same little cabin on a lake in the woods for a week or two at a time for more than twenty summers.

The little cabin on the lake. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

The little cabin on the lake. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

From that woodsy nest, we have driven in all directions and hiked, canoed, kayaked, enjoyed beaches and explored parks both regular and Acadian, stopped at roadsides for vegetables, picked blueberries and strawberries on hilltops and along trails, and seen the occasional moose. 

Along the way I've toted (successively) three cameras. I'm not one for only the big vistas. There are small images that draw my eye, like lazy bubbles on the sand at the kayak landing near "our" dock, and seawater nibbling away sand to reveal pebbles at the Maine beach,

Ebbing tide at Popham Beach, Maine. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

Ebbing tide at Popham Beach, Maine. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

and many, many permutations of the sunset off "our" dock. 

A peach and apricot sunset over the lake. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

A peach and apricot sunset over the lake. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

There are big stones on our hikes that speak heavily of the boiling cauldron that is the core of the earth, and give further testament about glaciers that retreated over its surface; and tree roots that embrace the landscape fiercely. Leaves make a haven of patterns, and waterbugs scoot tiny rings within rings on the surface of the lake. 

Clouds reflected in a waterbug's rings on the surface of a Maine lake. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

Clouds reflected in a waterbug's rings on the surface of a Maine lake. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

There's the soft gray of a rain-spangled day.

The patter of rain on lake and dock, through a raindrop-spangled porch screen. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

The patter of rain on lake and dock, through a raindrop-spangled porch screen. Photo Mimi Stadler 2014

The greatest luxury is not the cabin, although it is sweet and quiet. It's not the camera, although I spent some thought and money on this one after my last one took its final wheezing click of the shutter. It's the time. Time to truly look and contemplate is the greatest luxury of all. To be able to lift a camera in places where the textures are vast or tiny but wilder than what I know in suburbia, makes time, even though it is not still, feel still for a little while. 

Gifts as Memories

Remembering Selma, who I met at Kean College's pottery studio, whose daughter let me choose these while she packed up the contents of her late mother's house

and Selma's sister Eleanor, long gone, a weaver and a woman with style and beautiful silver earrings, who gave me a gift from Oaxaca, Mexico, made by Dona Rosa

and thinking of Suzanne, my potter cousin, who let me choose this woodsy cup from her work on the shelves in her light-filled studio

and carried these home in her hand luggage from Japan for me 

and Liz, fortuitously met at a symposium, who became a pottery friend, and gave me a bowl she made- which makes having a pear, a pear with a friend

and smiling to think of my grown children, who when they were small made these often-used and much enjoyed pots (among others)-

Gifts from the hands of the people in my life, rich with memories.

 

Posted on April 10, 2014 .

A Child Filled With Music; Inspiration That is Nurtured

Alma Deutcher, 8 years old. Genuine, lovely. The image below is poor because I captured it directly from a video clip, never the best idea for clarity. But never mind... you can see and hear this little girl more clearly in the clip itself. 

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Below is the link to the interview I saw. It is from a program called Intermezzo with Arik, on Israel Educational Television, which showcases and interviews musical personalities. Since the child, from England, is bilingual, it is partly in English and partly in Hebrew, and has English subtitles.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/KPMiYi8btjk?feature=player_detailpage

This is about, but not only about, a child whose musical sensibility and ability surpasses that of most adults. I want to emphasize that I do not use the word "prodigy." I think it is possible to ruin a gift like this by containing it within labels and hyperbole. I suspect there must be many human beings whose gifts of artistic expression were not nurtured, who were actively discouraged by social and familial pressure, or by poverty and other constraining factors, from expressing the music or words or whatever special sensitivity lies within them. The greatest difference about this violinist and pianist of such tender age lies in the way her wonderful gift was and has been greatly nurtured by her parents. I found myself so drawn to the magnetic love of music that comes through this child, that I watched it through to the end.

I could not help but wonder, watching her play, at the gifts embedded in the human spirit that so often go untapped. Here one can see when a gift is enabled, and encouraged to give expression. The young Ms. Deutscher's face utterly shines with feeling. 

Nurture your children's most beloved and positive aspirations whether you see a gift there, or not. And if you were once a child whose aspirations of expression were not nurtured, it may not be too late.

 

Walking in Snow & Thinking of Wood-Firing

Today during the first snowfall of the year, I was procrastinating going down to the studio, when my friend M called to go for a walk. M's a teacher, and her school was closed today. When she has a day off, I often do not, but since I was being irresponsible anyway, I thought it would be good to be walking about out of doors. 

We passed tracks in the snow, human, squirrel and rabbit, but these were puzzling me as we walked and chatted.

 

Huh?

Huh?

Eventually I pointed out the strange tracks to M. "The overhead wires!" she said immediately. The snow had toppled randomly off the power lines with the wind, and left its prints in the snow below. These were not the prints of a wooly worm on crack hopping around on a chilly belly.

Random surfaces along the walk, like these tracks, made me think of wood fired pottery. I know- it's a tenuous connection- but so logical to a potter!

Firing with wood affects the glazes, with the ash flying around the kiln and landing on the pots, and the movement of the flames, which together make the glaze flow artfully in its molten phase. The slower the firing in the kiln, and the slower the cooldown once it's reach peak temperature, the more the tendency for some glazes to form crystals. It just so happened that the work of Randy Johnston came to mind, as I'd seen photos of it recently. 

Randy Johnstone pitcher; from www.mainecraftsguild.com

Chance plays a big part in the crystal formation and the runs of glaze down to the foot/ But just as overhead wires are up in the air by design, in the studio the glaze is put on with studied experience. Just as the snow dropping is a "happening," so too happenstance lies in the movement of heat and ash around the piece. 

Johnstone-McKeachie Bottle, www.marywood.edu

Just so in the kiln, too, is the crawling of a shino glaze on a wood fired bottle, with carbon settling into the waxed areas of either iron rich clay or iron oxide-brushed clay. The more you know clay, the more you can appreciate the marvelousness of this pot.

Randomness and intention. My motto for today. 

Posted on December 11, 2013 .

Over Land & on Water, Images

Texture. Surfaces to run your fingers over. Bark, leaves, bugs, ants, worms, dogs, cats, rocks and plants... with textures. With "tooth", shall we say. Everywhere, textures to see and touch.  

Water-worn wood

Taking a break recently from the pottery studio and the suburbs for a couple of weeks,  wandering with a camera, inside and outside in rural Maine.

 

Who's been hungry? 

Blackbird across the water

Interplay of angles and woods, painted and not

The porch railings segment the scenery & the tree further divides it

Taking a deep breath. 

Posted on July 1, 2013 .