This majestic spirit watches over Lucy Vincent Beach. If you were standing there now and turned around you would see nothing but the ocean.
As I write this here in my Pennsylvania studio it kinda sorta feels like that ocean is being wrung out of a beach towel directly over our heads.
A train of tropical moisture has been parked over much of the east coast for days and two blocking pressure systems have squeezed that train into a narrow pipeline through central PA.
Many of you may be right in that pipe with us today and I hope you are safe. Our Little Conewago Creek is thinking about big time flooding and with more storms in the pipeline we’ve been carrying treasures and trinkets up to higher ground.
Only 50 feet away, the studio is a full story higher than our creekside log cabin, so I am writing this from my studio office where it is more or less higher and a tiny bit drier. My haven of creativity will be our home until the waters recede.
And, if those muses can all come together and summon up some powerful positive karma…
We will be on that beach and bowing to this goddess of goodness and light in a very few days…
When I was One, I had just begun. When I was Two, I was nearly new. When I was Three I was hardly me. When I was Four, I was not much more. When I was Five, I was just alive. But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever, So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
Now We Are Sixty…
When I take stock
of all the steps along the road
the people and places the lessons and loves
the pleasures and the pains
wanderlusts and home comings all
what seems to have most defined my life
the whisper of a wake in this world that has
so far been me
it is the things my hands have made.
I am leaving spoons and chairs
drawings and paintings
sweaters and shawls
journals and quilts
garden beds and compost piles
scattered along the road like breadcrumbs
not to find my way home but to say I was here.
There is something in spinning called the long draw. It can be defined as a technique, but spinners will understand it better as a Zen-like goal that embodies both skill and soul. You aim to pull the carded wool as far as your arms will stretch, while maintaining a steady rhythm to the wheel, and a gently tapering thinness to the yarn. It requires practice, and patience, and when achieved one is truly balanced with the universe and beyond.
My hands know that place well… and always get there long before my heart does.
We have one more stop to make in Mystic. A short walk from the Morgan is a lonnnnnng building
And this is the Spinning Loft, below which is the Ropewalk at the Mystic Seaport Museum. There is a short video ...click here...which shows a bit of what this room was all about, and you can read more of it’s history there as well.
But it really is worth a visit to let all your senses dive into this space. Resonant with the century old aromas of hemp and salt air, the velvety soft patine of well worn wooden surfaces, the sensuous flow of the carded fiber, it positively sings history.
The perspective isn’t skewed, this building is really 250 ft long, and it was only one section of the original Plymouth Cordage Company, which operated until the mid-1900’s and was then moved to the Mystic village.
Here are some close up shots to lure you into the lusciousness of the fibers…
and the long walk back in technology…
And there’s a mystery…
As is so often the case, when I returned from one of several visits to the museum and reviewed the thousands of reference photos, I spied this carving on the giant spinning wheel.
Those frisky muses.
Round about my birthday, the Follansbee came through on his trek to teach some woodworking down south, and, being a carver of woody things, I showed him this part of the painting, whereupon he said that Plymouth Cordage used to be a company town built around the rope making industry.
I went down a serious rabbit hole after googling it. I’ll leave those historic details dangling for anyone interested in doing their own research, but the point here is that many of the old buildings remain in town.
These Painter’s Notes will serve as a reminder to Peter that he said he would look into seeing if anyone in those parts recognizes the building from this carving… well…from my rendering of the carving.
That should be sorta fun.
For me, it’s all about the peaceful art… of spinning.
We have climbed the gangplank and boarded the Charles W. Morgan.
Towards the bow of the vessel, just to the right of the great steering mechanism at the helm, there is a narrow winding passage of stairs leading down below the main deck and into the Captain’s quarters. On the right is a room that slants into the bow of the ship, with an elegant sweep of a settee with room enough for a Windsor chair and a small writing desk. Step down and through a doorway to the left and you enter this chamber.
The private sleeping quarters for the captain…a separate cheerie little chamber having been built for at least one of the captain’s wives up on the main deck where she could be relieved of her claustrophobia and seasickness.
See at the very end there, where it describes the “gimbaled bed”.
That was a fun thing to paint. It looks funny without legs, and I kept wanting to make it level but that’s how it rolls.
What drew me to spend a few weeks inside this chamber was the light. For a dark and close space, this room was filled with many sources of light bouncing within. I found it a happy place to be but I have seen Master and Commander, many many times, and I’m not sure I would have been cut out to sleep anywhere in that ship… during a storm… on the high seas.
I am pleased to invite you all to the island of Martha’s Vineyard for the opening of my 2018 show at the Granary Gallery.
Sunday August 5, from 5-7pm
I’ve been in a full tilt painting sprint since January and I laid the last of the brushes down only a few hours ago.
The work this year takes us to a few new places, has a few new faces, and takes some head long dives into depth and detail.
I’m as eager as I’ve ever been to launch the annual rollout of New Paintings. It will be the first chance I get to see them as an entire show. During the long months of production, the finished works are set aside to dry in stacks throughout the studio until it is time to begin varnishing and photographing. Due to space limitations here, this happens in stages and until I walk into the gallery on the afternoon of the show, the first glimpse I get of them all together is on this blog as I unveil them to you…dear viewers.
So let’s get right to it…
Let’s take a boat to Mystic…
The Cooper’s View – 24 x 28
There are a couple threads of themes which run through the 14 paintings for this year’s show. This painting weaves two of them together. Mystic and Me.
When I was a young girl living in Swarthmore, PA, our family would escape the dangers of Mischief Nights around Halloween and drive up to New England. I have vivid memories of exploring Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. My father loved boats and was building a wooden model of the Cuttysark around that time, and some of those interests filtered down to me…but I didn’t appreciate it back then.
What drew me in was the Cooperage. The Mystic Seaport Museum is a magical collection of all things maritime and wooden boat building and seafaring lore. A historic seaport village, along the banks of the Mystic River, brings maritime life in the 1800’s… alive.
From their website…“The buildings you see aren’t replications–they’re trade shops and businesses from the 1800s that were transported to Mystic Seaport from locations around New England. The village is made up of many bustling maritime trades, from shipsmiths and coopers to woodcarvers and riggers.”
So picture a 10 year old girl, whose three younger brothers are running off the energy from the long car ride, while she walks into the dark and dusty cave of the Cooperage.
( I have added a link here to the museum’s website where you can watch a nice little video and see inside the place for yourself.)
I was fascinated.
A small shack full of wooden barrels, and piles of wood shavings, and a shaving horse…
Fast forward about 20 years or so and look where that little girl was sitting…
I wielded my own drawknife for a decade making chairs and spoons and baskets and such. Then I put down the woodworking tools and picked up the brushes.
Fast forward another 20 years and that little girls has just turned 60.
And, on one of her now regular trips to New England, she returned to Mystic and once again stood inside the dark wooden den of the Cooperage…and turned around.
The Cooper’s View is just that. On this crisp fall day the sunlight bounces off of the t’gallant sails being raised on The Morgan which is docked just outside of the shop.
The Charles W. Morgan is the last of the American whaling fleet and was painstakingly restored at the Mystic Seaport Museum. (here’s a link to the museum’s website with a complete history and chronicle of her restoration…Click Here.)
We will go on board that ship in tomorrow’s blog post, but linger here a while and soak in the salty air and take a closer look at that rigging…
enjoy the playful pastel diagrams drawn inside…
and study the roman numerals carved on the barrel stays…
The artiste has taken license, in an autobiographical way, and added her own hatchet and well worn drawknife to authenticate the pastiche.
It was deeply moving for my 60 year old self to stand in that shop again and realize that I’ve come full circle, and back around yet another one, to complete a creative cycle that my 10 year old self didn’t even know how to dream of.