community encircled

Category : Art, Shakers
Date : December 3, 2023

community encircled

past & present

near & far

‘Hands to work. Hearts to God.’

Shaker mops made from so-called ‘waste’

fabric pieces include chair and rug tape & old cloth

sleeping mats & ottomans made from ‘plarn’ aka recycled plastic shopping bags

Thanks to Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon for the panel discussion about reuse and the necessity to make with one’s hands and use what we already have in hand.

Panel moderated by Shaker Museum’s Sarah Van Buren with Jerry Grant (Shaker Museum ) Elise McMahon (likeminded objects), Sabine Steen (Triform Camphill) and Fahari Wambura (Fahari Bazaar)

As Jerry Grant noted, if you can end the day knowing that you made something, there is a satisfaction for both body and mind. 

Find more information about The Alchemy of Re.Use on view until December 17 2023, HERE


butterflies & moths

Category : Art, collage, Poetry
Date : December 3, 2023

one of my teachers used to say

make one, make fifty

and so here a kaleidoscope*

made sixty five or more

and still no wiser

as to the whys

and wherefores

* a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope

.

.

and a Mary Oliver poem
.
.
One or Two Things
Don’t bother me.
I’ve just
been born.
 
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes
 
for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.
 
The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
 
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever,
 
which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.
 
One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning—some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.
 
But to lift the hoof!
For that you need
an idea.



studio slanted light

Category : Art, Shakers, Textiles
Date : December 3, 2023
studio slanted light

.
studio slanted light
Shaker color research
Mary Gartside’s colour blots
circular stitching.

Mary Gartside (c. 1755-1819) published 3 books on color theory. Her 1808 An Essay on a New Theory of Colours is illustrated with these amazing ‘colour blots’ —abstracted views of ‘white, yellow, orange, green, blue, scarlet, violet and crimson.” Abstract before JMW Turner, before Kandinsky, before…………

Thanks to Alexandra Loske  for her research on Gartside. [quotes and info from Alexandra Loske, ‘Color: A Visual History from Newton to Modern Color Matching Guides’]


it’s in the mail

Date : December 6, 2020

Thursday December 10th marks the poet Emily Dickinson’s 190th birthday. Dickinson sent many poems to her friends in letters and as letters, often with a flower enclosed.  During the 1800s, the Shakers communicated amongst their 19 villages with letters, setting aside time in their schedules to read these aloud to the sisters and brethren.

And how do these two strands weave together you might be wondering? These acts of correspondence inspired a project between the bookbinding studio at Camphill Village and me, the artist-in-residence at Hancock Shaker Village.

For the past months, we have been sending letters, books, poems and art materials back and forth. This course of action chosen, for we are unable to collaborate in person due to Covid-19.  

Recently, I received this from one of my collaborators:

“I just wanted to touch base and thank you for the wonderful creation that we are so fortunate to be inspired by. Every time I see that original envelope my heart leaps with joy. And the poems are such a healthy nourishment for the soul.”

In light of Dickinson’s birthday and in hopes that President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will choose an inaugural poet, we offer a few of the poems that we have shared, “nourishment”  for your souls.

Prayer Bowl by Al Hunter found in “When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs came Through” edited by Joy Harjo
Necessity by Stuart Kestenbaum found in his collection of poetry, “How to Start Over”
When I am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver found in her “Devotions The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver”

Emily Dickinson, #1693, date unknown found in “The Poems of Emily Dickinson” edited by R. W. Franklin

(more…)

color X 2

Date : October 14, 2020

The Shakers literally ‘colored their world’ from the interior and exterior of their buildings, to the objects they used and to the garments they wore.

Slowly this vibrant world began to dawn on me about a month into my residency.  Was it when we examined their garments with a blue warp and red weft, a process they called ‘changeable,’ that renders a vibrating look to the coat or gown?  Was it standing in the storage room and seeing painted pails all the colors of the rainbow?  Was it being overwhelmed by the multiple yellow ochre hues of paint–peg rails, floor, built-in cupboard, window trim—contrasted with the blues, greens and reds of the objects in the dwelling room?

Hard to say if it was just one moment, but more likely an accumulation of hues over time that dazzled. The Shakers lived in a vibrant world, both interiorly, with their religious beliefs and exteriorly with their painted world.  If only I could time travel back for a day, a week and take that color walk with them. 

I invite you to take two color walks with me.

Next week on October 22 at 5:30pm via Zoom, Hancock Shaker Village Curator Sarah Margolis-Pineo and I will discuss my residency, the search for the Shaker palette through natural dyes and mine the collection for brilliantly colored examples.

Please sign up to join us for A Coat of Heavenly Brightness and register here at Hancock Shaker Village’s website.

Last week, I participated in ‘COLOR + ECOLOGY’ part of the The Common Thread Series, a collaboration with the Southern New England Fiber Shed and the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at RISD.  Laurie Brewer, RISD Museum Costume & Textiles Associate Curator + RISD Apparel Faculty Member along with Amy DuFault and Dora Mugerwa discussed ‘how color’s relationship to regional ecology and history impact the curation of how colors are represented in fashion and textiles’. 

Video of our discussion is available here via The Nature Lab.


fluorescent yellow

Date : September 16, 2020

Large swathes of goldenrod grace the fields now and sway in the wind on this late summer day. We natural dyers long for this time of year when we can harvest the brilliant flowers that make an eye popping fluorescent yellow on cloth.

The Shakers dyed with many fall harvests—goldenrod, sumac, walnut—but didn’t wear yellow.   Why I wonder didn’t they take advantage of these vast fields of bright flowers?  Deborah Burns notes “goldenrod grows in neglected fields” and “where corn had once grown tall, goldenrod now replaced it.” A ‘neglected’ field did not exist on any Shaker farm, so, perhaps, the goldenrod was not as plentiful as it is now. I still search for the reason that Shakers didn’t wear yellow, but maybe it is as easy as yellow shows dirt more than a deep butternut cloth.

If you go to harvest goldenrod, you will not be the only one, for the pollinators are out in full force taking nectar and pollen from the goldenrod, making stores for the winter months.

I invite you to carry Mary Oliver’s fitting poem, Goldenrod, in your pocket as you seek pollinators amongst the fluorescent yellow inflorescences. 

On roadsides,
in fall fields,
in rumpy bunches,
Saffron and orange and pale gold,
in little towers,
soft as mash,
sneeze-bringers and seed-bearers,
full of bees and yellow heads and perfect flowerlettes
and orange butterflies.
I don’t suppose
much notice comes of it, except for honey,
and how it heartens the heart with its
blank blaze.
I don’t suppose anything loves it except, perhaps,
the rocky voids
filled by its dumb dazzle.
For myself,
I was just passing my, when the wind flared
and the blossoms rustled,
and the glittering pandemonium
leaned on me.
I was just minding my own business
when I found myself on their straw hillsides,
citron and butter-colored,
and was happy, and why not?
Are not the difficult labors of our lives
full of dark hours?
And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,
that is better than these light-filled bodies?
All day
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,
they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness,
in the pure peace of giving
one’s gold away.



Mary Oliver, Goldenrod from New and Selected Poems, 1992

Deborah E. Burns, Shaker Cities of Peace, Love and Union A History of Hancock Bishopric, (University Press of New England, 1993), pg. 190.


community

Category : community
Date : August 30, 2020

Later today a group of our communities’ essential workers—teachers, nurses, firefighters, health care workers, police officers, maintenance workers, foodbank volunteers, and grocery workers—will be thanked for their service over the past months.  No, they won’t be opening letters, but instead will be offered words and music by Yo Yo Ma, Anjimile, Emanuel Ax, Billy Keane, Chantell McFarland and Deval Patrick — Live from Hancock Shaker Village:  Songs of Comfort

Hancock Shaker Village is known as the City of Peace and seems a fitting place for this evenings’ thank you celebration.

Even though, The Shakers as a society operated outside of the World, as they termed it, they very much participated in and contributed to their surrounding communities.  In her book Shaker Cities of Peace, Love and Union: A History of the Hancock Bishopric, Deborah E. Burns cites many examples, but this one is both apt and particularly poignant.

“A report from Hudson, New York, in the Pittsfield Sun of November 28, 1803 states:  On Thursday morning last, between eight and nine o’clock, 73 waggons arrived in this city from New Lebanon loaded with different kinds of provisions which is a donation from the Societies of Shakers in New Lebanon and Hancock, to the sufferers by the late terrible epidemic in New York.  The following are the quantities of provisions which they shipped from there to New York, vix. 833 lb. of Pork, 1951 lb. of Beef, 1746 lb. mutton, 1685 lb. rye flour, 52 bushels rye, 24 do. beans, 179 do. potatoes, 34 do. carrots, 2 do. beets, 2 do. dried apples.  Besides these provisions the two Societies made up 300 dollars in specie, which is also to be presented to the poor of New York.  Would not the wealthy part of the community do well to imitate this most noble example of the Shakers?”

 Deborah Burns, Shaker Cities of Peace, Love and Union:  A History of the Hancock Bishopric, (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1993), pgs. 52-53.

Please note, this concert is limited to the invited audience and will be broadcast live on WAMC starting at 7pm and continues until 8:30 pm.


letter writing

Date : August 17, 2020

Today seems a good one to talk about mail, since the United States Postal Service is in a funding crisis and it is a service that many rely upon.

How do you communicate with others?  The best method seems the most direct– meeting face to face.  What if this is not an option?   Would you email, text or consider rolling up your sleeves, finding some paper and ink and sitting down to write a letter?

We (me, Camphill Village, & Hancock Shaker Village) are embarking on a collaboration to make artwork together.  Unfortunately due to Covid we cannot gather together, but we can collaborate together by using alternate means of communication–letter writing. Letter writing was very important to the Shakers, for it kept the various Villages in Union. It kept them together.

“Of course, for much of the 19th century, Shakers kept in contact by writing letters. Family elders wrote frequently, and their letters were read aloud to Believers during evening events known as union or reading meetings. As a journal kept at the Mount Lebanon East Family (probably written by Sister Jane Shearer) stated on May 19, 1867, “This afternoon we had the reading of several letters from Pleasant Hill, Kentucky and they were all interesting.” Indeed, the reading of letters from distant communities must have been one of the many regular duties of family and ministry elders; on April 8, 1876, a Mount Lebanon Church family journal notes that there was “a reading meeting this morn, [and Elder Giles Avery] read to them letters from Groveland, Philadelphia, and other places,” and then in the afternoon he read the letters to the Center, Second, and South Families as well.” 

Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon, “How Shakers Kept Union Remotely,” June 16, 2020, (accessed on August 17, 2020).

Along with letters, I am mailing sheets of paper hand painted with coreopsis ink made from the plants grown at Hancock and printed paper with oak leaves gathered from Camphill.  They sent me beautifully bound blank books and cards to write upon.  As our materials crossover the Taconic Mountain range and land in our studios, we roll up our sleeves and get to work.



three essentials

Date : August 10, 2020

This past week, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, Curator at Hancock Shaker Village and I went on a field trip to meet our collaborator at Camphill Village for a tour.  It wasn’t the astoundingly beautiful and plentiful herb garden or creative energy found in the neat stacks of bound books and elaborate calligraphy that took my breath away (and believe me they did), but the three essentials that Camphill is founded on.

Three Essentials

1—Recognition that in every human being lives an eternal healthy spirit no matter the disability.

2—Every human being has the right and responsibility to learn and develop.

3—Continuous striving to create community.


wearing color

Date : July 31, 2020

How do you pick the colors of your clothes?  What if you could only wear colors that you could dye, would this limit your palatte? Or might it open up a rainbow?

indigo dye bath

Recently, I read that the Shakers were allowed to wear any color they could dye themselves, and that fact stopped me in my tracks.  I imagined that the Sisters and Brethren would be clad in garments that were ‘drab’ in color and hadn’t imagined them wearing bright salmon—maybe made from a madder dye bath or pink from cochineal.

shades of madder

“Believers were told they might use any color they could dye themselves, and dye books indicate how broad that color range actually was.  Besides the popular (and practical) blue and the butternut shades, recipes for red, black, “lead or mouse color,” salmon, pink, yellow green, drab, brown, purple, crimson, lavender, scarlet, orange, buff, blue-black and slate were given.  Yellow was not used extensively, and the number of dye recipes for red shades, and, interestingly recipes for the brightest colors (orange, bright green, purple) often specified for dyeing on silk.” 1

coreopsis solar dye

“A variety of other dyestuffs were used during the remainder of the summer. Some were gathered or procured locally (purslain, hemlock, beech bark, sorrel, sumac), but most were purchased from chemist.  A wide range of dyestuffs and chemical “assistants” is mentioned in Shaker account and receipt books.  Cochineal, madder indigo, and logwood were common purchases; and alum, cream of tart, copperas, and bitrio were common setting agent, or mordant, purchases. Other dyestuffs—aleppo galls, camwood, brazilwood, fustic, annatto, redwood, catchetu, weld, and woad—were also mentioned.” (2)

coreopsis gathered from Hancock Shaker Village dye garden

At the moment, madder, woad, weld, and coreopsis are growing in the dye garden at Hancock Shaker Village and indigo in my dye garden.  For cochineal, indigo, logwood, fustic, brazilwood, my source is none other than Botanical Colors.   Purslain, hemlock, beech, sorrel and sumac are easily foraged.  And over the next few months, I will start to make a dye book filled with all the shades of colors worn by Shakers.  

Beverly Gordon, Shaker Textile Arts, (Univesity Press of New England:  Hanover, NH, 1980), pg. 78, 76


hand held

Category : Artists at Work
Date : July 17, 2020

wool handcarders, niddy noddys, spinning wheel parts and wooden mitten molds.

‘tunnel’ bonnet forms for a sister, wide brimmed brethren hat forms and boxes for linen thread.

elegantly curved carpet beaters, irons of all shapes and sizes, sieves and hoes.

potato mashers & bowls, drying racks and butter churns, and rows and rows of wooden buckets.

wide baskets, tall baskets, baskets with handles, baskets without, baskets with woven wire bottoms.

looms and great spinning wheels lined up at the starting gate, ready to spin raw wool into thread. 

flat floor brooms, small handheld brooms, and mops with heads made from rags.

the evidence of hands exists in these objects.  hands made the tools that allowed other hands to stretch the cloth over the hat form, to spin the wool into thread walking many miles alongside the great wheel, to beat the carpets daily to keep them free of dirt, to mash the potatoes to fill the mouths of the many that worked in the field that day to fill the baskets with tomatoes. 

maybe it was the accumulated years of work that overwhelmed me as I stood looking at these objects made by Shaker hands for Shaker hands.

later, this quote found me: “And within Shaker culture, the act of making gift drawings may be aligned with the other modes of labor, such as sweeping, that the Shakers classified as women’s work and sacrilized.  Sacrilization socially legitimated these modes of labor by elevating them to expressions of spirituality.”

“Hands to work. Hearts to God.”

[quote from Francis Morin, Heavenly Visions:  Shaker Gift Drawings and Gift Songs, (Drawing Center, New York, 2001), pg. 31.


reuse & relocate

Category : Artists at Work
Date : July 8, 2020

The Shakers were not shy about retrofitting or changing design to accommodate new needs.  This early practice is evidenced by one of the oldest ‘relics’,  Mother Ann’s rocking chair—an eighteenth century stationary Windsor chair to which rockers were added [in the collection of Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA].  

Whilst a chair might be a manageable object to retrofit, a building did not daunt.  The Hired Men’s Shop at Hancock Shaker Village once served as a seed shop and later as a working print shop. This building was not merely converted by simply carting in new equipment and putting up a wall or two, but the entire structure was rolled across busy Route 20 to replace a burned down building.  Using what was at hand for what was needed. 

And for the next six months, the building will function as an artist’s studio for the ARTISTS AT WORK pilot project.  Before moving in, I swept the wide wooden floorboards, for as Mother Ann Lee [founding leader of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers] said, ‘There is no dirt in heaven.”  

Six windows fill the room with natural light.  A large pot bellied stove sits in front of an faded red built in cupboard with 21 drawers and four cupboards. To my surprise, when opened, the interior of each cupboard is painted a citrine yellow.  We set up a work table and brought in a rocking chair.  

Time to get to work. 


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