‘Twas a lovely surprise a few weeks back, to receive…by way of a thank you of sorts…a package from Matthew Stackpole. He, by way of Martha’s Vineyard and Mystic Connecticut, and a lifetime of service to both seafaring villages and museums and maritime history everywhere.
He had sent me a copy of the book, The Charles E. Morgan – The Last Wooden Whaleship, written by his father Edouard A. Stackpole. It’s a lively in depth history of the ship and her adventures published in 1967. I’m only part way through and it has me hooked. Great sky chair reading. Thank you so much Matthew.
Matthew and his brother had the run of the Morgan when their father was at the helm of the Mystic Seaport Museum.
So he had fond memories to share when looking at the paintings I had done from the museum and the ship for last years’ Granary Gallery Show.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum opened the doors of their new home this week. Here’s a bird’s eye view nearing completion from their website…
DCIM100MEDIADJI_0292.JPG photo credit probably Denny Wortman but I’ll check.
It’s an exciting time for all who have supported the dream of transforming the old marine hospital into its newest reincarnation as home for the MV Museum and its collection of island history, artifacts and lore. The Museum, as a collective, is a living breathing vibrant organization which brings archived island history to life for each new generation.
Readers will remember that way back in 2013, can it be that long ago, I worked on a series of paintings, Reclamation, which explored the Marine Hospital building as it then stood, abandoned and restless, on the hill overlooking Vineyard Haven harbor.
The MV Museum had just purchased the property with the goal of converting it to their new headquarters. And, after five years of hard work and visionary grit, the board, staff, construction workers and volunteers have realized their dream.
As part of the opening exhibit in their space devoted to Island Art, “Lost and Found, The Marine Hospital”, the museum has curated examples of artwork inspired by the original building. They managed to round up, and have included, several of the paintings from my Reclamation Series, and Adam Smith sent me some photos of those paintings in situ from the show…
The 2008 painting of Strider’s Surrender, which was donated to the MV Museum by a supportive patron, has now found a home in its permanent collection. Chris Morse, owner of the Granary Gallery, sent me a photo of the crew installing the piece…
And Adam caught it again at the opening…hello from the studio to Phil Wallis, MV Museum’s Executive Director, down along the hallway there…
The Painter’s Notes for both the Reclamation Series and Strider’s Surrender fill in some of the inspiration and back story for these pieces and can be read by interested parties by clicking on their highlighted names in this sentence.
It is both personally and professionally kind of amazing to see these paintings hanging in the new museum.
As artists… we churn our days away at the easel challenged by the muses tossing paint around with tiny brushes grounded, as far as our left brains will allow, and working primarily in the present.
It is humbling to see one of those creations hanging in a museum which is grounded, as far as any good mission statement will allow, in the past.
In preserving the past.
I don’t often get to see where my paintings go after they are sold. If I’m brutally honest, it is sometimes so emotionally difficult to put so much of my self and soul into the creation of the artwork only to let it go and never be seen, by me, again that I have to compartmentalize that bit into a dusty corner of my heart.
If I had a gratitude journal… today’s entry would be this blog post.
I am grateful for all those whose support has given these paintings a new audience to tell their stories to…and I am looking forward to getting to see them again…in person soon.
My frantic mind had settled enough to let the sun come up without my help, which gave the overnight coating of sleet enough time to begin to melt, and sorting the box of newly arrived garden seeds was a most pleasurable task to begin with, then a walk to the compost pile turned into a bike ride in the greenhouse, which lead me to Ruth…
(photo credit Mother Earth News)
Ruth Stout. The other party to which I am late in coming today.
Arriving at this sixtieth decade I seem to be only just now stumbling across the paths of quite a few amazing humans. This week it is Ruth. Or was, as she left the planet after 96 years of living here, back in 1980.
I’ll bet that most of my hard core gardening friends are smirking as they read this having known of Ruth and her simple ways well before my stumble…Ruth Herself didn’t throw away her tillers and pesticides until she was 60…so there ya go.
The evolution of my own gardening life saw me give away a brand new tiller a few years ago after learning about building better soil by letting the critters do the work..and I know many of you followed along as I adopted Joel Karsten’s Strawbale method which I have been experimenting with for about 5 years now… and that has morphed more recently into my latest guru Charles Dowding’s No Dig compost only beds which Kory has been helping me build and tend.
Well move on over and pass the hay… it’s time to quit working so hard and strip down to the essentials.
I’ll let you enjoy this introductory video… for those who are not smirking, and you can google down this rabbit hole to your hearts’ content… because it’s time for me to lift some brushes… but before I go… here’s a little teaser of a nod to my favorite part… she gardens in the buff. Yes. Yes.
I’ve been watching the forecast like a hawk and we’ve got a slight warming trend for the next week or so…averages above 40 and near 50 degrees. And coupled with the sunshine Finn and I headed out this morning to soak up some of that vitamin D, and I thought you’d like to join us.
In the photo above you can see those beds which Kory and I tucked in for the winter. The two in the foreground have some plantings and a cold frame. Let’s take a peak…
Under that tunnel on the right is an earlier fall planting of carrots. I invested in those tunnels for the first time this year and they are terrific. The manufacturer is Haxnicks. I went just now to Amazon to find a link but they only have the fleece version. The one shown here has a poly netting. Very sturdy and allows a lot of light in as well as terrific insect protection. They also make a heavier shade version which I’ve used with great success in deep summer heat. I’m using this one to cover the carrots and provide a structure over which I can drape a heavier plastic sheeting for insulation. We’ve had weeks of sub-freezing temps and so far they are not dead…so that’s a win.
The mini greenhouses, one shown on the left, are new this year. They fit the bed perfectly and I anchored them to the wooden frames for extra security. I did find that link…click here. (Actually I just checked the link and it is not the exact one shown above but it is the same manufacturer. Might need to do more surfing than I have time for right now to find the right one.)
So far I love them. I had a larger version of them years ago and, in the warmer winters, it gave me a full extra season of growth for kale and chard and even some pop up spinach volunteers.
You can see this swiss chard, planted last march, is still going strong and is my go to smoothy ingredient.
Today it was time to experiment with the second one I bought, and so the flat of seedlings which have been keeping me company inside the studio were ready to rock and roll…
I popped out a few of the kale and Hakuri turnips and out we went…
My theory is that this one may be warmer than the other as it is sheltered from some of the winds by the greenhouse which may also throw back some warmth from the south facing sun.
Here you can also see the easy access from the zippered panels.
Boy did it feel great to sit on my garden bench and hold the Hori Hori knife, and just like that they were planted. I have zero expectations that newly planted seedlings will make it planted this late but I live in hope these days.
It wasn’t in the original plans, but I thought adding one of those tunnels here might give an extra layer of warmth, and it worked out perfectly as a support for…
Yep…the christmas lights.
Somewhere I read of a gardener putting a string of lights inside a cold frame to add a tiny bit of heat during the night. Why the hell not. I can never get enough of christmas lights.
I’ve put the compost thermometer in there so I’ll have some idea of the comparison between the two covered beds.
As you can see, a solid 43 degrees before I covered was promising.
And here we are all bundled up and ready to grow…maybe.
It’s a sea of mud out there now, and shortly after I wrote last week’s post those pesky Muses actually did show up and have made up for my basket of angst by hurling half a dozen new and sparkling challenges my way.
So…as Finn conquers…it’s time for me to get back to the easel…
But Oh My Goddesses did it ever feel good to be out working in the garden on this almost Solstice day.
The studio stack of ready to roll panels is dwindling…
( Drawing credits to Daniel (top) and Rose (underneath) Follansbee )
And so it’s time to get out the magic 8 ball, no I don’t have one of those even as a prop, and try and guess what sizes of panels I might need for paintings that I haven’t even thought of doing yet.
I have a few big panels already made up, but I’m giving myself a wee break from working on those huge compositions…they take a physical toll as well as a mental one, and this old artiste needs some time to rebuild both body and soul before tackling the next one…or two.
So, I made a plan to carve out some small and medium sizes.
Kory helped me clear out the garage last week, what a mess, and this week he stepped into the roll of apprentice to give me a hand with stage one…cutting the panels out of 4′ x 8′ sheets of Dibond. We uncovered 5 full sheets and I decided to save one for that odd size which I don’t yet know I need.
I’ve written about the panel making process, and the use of Dibond, in three earlier blog posts, one all the way back to 2010. You can read them, if you’re interested, by entering Dibond in the search box…see it there at the top right of the website page ?
We managed to get most of them cut…before noticing that some of the lines and edges were skewing. This happens no matter how carefully I measure and clamp and hold the jigsaw. My professional picture framing experience has made me a master of the art of measurement, alas, even with cutting guides, stronger clamps and an even stronger set of assisting arms, my set up isn’t ideal for perfection.
And, at this stage especially, perfectly squared corners is a must. Further down the road, once these panels hit the easel, and I start figuring out perspective, on something like this composition for example…
I’ve got to trust that at least one corner is true so that when I use a T-square to draw the sketch on the panel, I can get all these horizontals and verticals to line up with each other in a convincing enough way that you, the viewer, forget about them. I want you to trust that these beams are as solid and sturdy as the original joiners intended, so that you can feel safe enough to walk around in that workshop and study what I really wanted you to experience…the light on those beautiful fibers.
So, if you are aiming for perfection, and you find some fatal flaws in the production, it is best to stop and fix them then and there. I am personally blaming, in no small part, the nine thousand percent humidity that drained our batteries pretty quickly in that stuffy garage. Years ago I stole the line from the yayasisters movie…”I’m puddlin’ here”…this was more like a tsunami.
After re-squaring up a stack, I realized tomorrow’s another day Scarlet, and availed myself of the air conditioning here in the studio office to set about cooling down and restocking my supply of canvas, which is needed for stage 2.
Years ago I did an exhaustive search for the best canvas on the market. Every artist has an individual preference for a painting surface and mine was the smoothest possible. I wanted the durability and flexibility of a richly gessoed canvas without the bounce and weave. The Dibond gave me the best man made substructure, and I settled on Joe Allen’s Portrait grade 10oz Army Duck (see roll in photo above) to wrap around it.
Unprimed, and smooth as silk, this canvas is sturdy and pliable, it wraps beautifully with just enough bulk to avoid fear of tearing, and it comes in manageable 60″ rolls. I order a couple rolls at a time to save on freight and when I did the calculations and I figured that I would be dipping into my last roll I knew it was time to reorder. But when I went to place my order on line there was a glitch. So, I called, got a recording and sent an email inquiry.
This morning I got a response explaining the quirky website glitch was just that and one more click would get me sorted. But there was also the sad news that Joe had died just a few weeks ago from a fast moving cancer. His wife Jacqui said that she and their son Justin, who she notes is “now the artist in the family”, will be attempting to keep the Canvas supply business running.
I never met Joe in person, but remember him as most accommodating, and pleasant to do business with and that kept me coming back over the years. He went out of his way to help keep the costs down as these heavy rolls have to be trucked all the way from Texas.
Jacqui has just written back to confirm the order, and in keeping with that tradition of kindness, has offered some alternatives to help save me some money on current shipping costs.
I wish them all the best as they navigate the business and their lives in the coming years.
If you are in the market for a superb quality product, fine salesmanship, need to restock your studio shelves, or want to try out something new…give Allen’s Canvas a shout. They are even having a sale right now.
Meanwhile, back here in the studio, there actually seems to be a patch of blue sky out there. Maybe that will drive away some of the humidity, maybe not. I’m giving the garage a pass today let my lungs clear out and give my flaring knuckles a rest…I’m going to play with the tiny brushes and watch the birds outside at the feeder.
I’ll try and chronicle the next step of the panel making process so you can see how that goes…in the mean time stay frosty out there.
While I sit here in the studio, awaiting the plumber, who will help me address the water which is pouring out of a busted pipe in the basement below my feet.
These unexpected pauses, jolting the daily drive train of a creative workflow, still unnerve me… there are decidedly a scarce few things which fill me with more dread than having to go down to the basement.
But, with Pat’s steady backup, I have conquered that stage of the drama and the power has been cut off from the errant water pump and, as I mentioned, the trusty plumber is on the way.
Which gives me that rare moment… the unexpected pause between crisis and resuming of normal play and I am filling this one by paying forward a gift.
Last night, after a long day, a message popped up on my phone from one among you who are followers that I have never met, but whose name I recognize from the occasional gift of a “like” response to a posting here or there.
She wrote that she follows my work and she had read a poem which, for some reason, made her think of me… Pat looked at me from across the sofa and asked why I was crying… I read the poem outloud, and we were both in tears.
So this pause is by way of a thank you to K, for stopping to share the gift of this gracefully moving beauty and her own kind words, and to remind myself to take a deeper breath and let the muses take the wheel today.
The Vineyard Gazette had a photo, which I can no longer find, of someone hanging the sign on the Derby Headquarters along the Edgartown Harbor. That photo, which I still can not find even on line, reminded me of the day I spent this winter painting a teeny tiny replica of that very sign.
I was able to find a replacement photo for you, courtesy of the MV Times files, which was attributed as…Derby weigh master Roy Langley rings in the Derby in 2015. — MV Times file photo..sorry I can’t credit the photographer.
I also found a reference to Mr. Langley in the 2017 Derby Souvenir Booklet which is available to read on line…click here. There is a nice tribute to him, written by Ed Jerome, on page 96 as Roy was retiring his morning weigh in duties, which mentions that, “at the age of 89, he (Roy) will no longer place contestant’s fish on the scale to be weighed. However, he will continue to gather morning baked goods for volunteers and coordinate the disbursement of the fish to the Senior Citizen Filet Program.”
Everything I love about the Vineyard is in that sentence.
So, back to that painting…
You remember this one ?
Here’s a pic of me working on that derby sign…
Let’s zoom in a bit…
Keep your eyes on the left hand side …
It’s a bit tricky to read, which is why I hunted for that stock photo, but here’s the closest I can get you…without standing in front of the painting with a magnifying glass…
My sign is about a quarter inch wide. The door is closed between morning and evening weigh-ins, but the rods were reeling away at the public wharf…a little further over to the right…
This painting, Anchored in Autumn has found a new home this week. Reports are that it may even be able to catch its own glimpse of the harbor from the new resting place.
We are making plans to return to the island soon, and I’m looking forward to finding a spot on the bench alongside the Derby Headquarters and parking there with my sketchbook to collect some notes as the winning contenders are brought in to be recorded.
Well, tomorrow at this time we will be pulling into Mystic for our first stop on the way to the island. And so it is fitting to use this last blog post before the show to catch you up on the investigation into that carving on the spinning wheel at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
THIS JUST IN…
Remember this painting…
The Spinning Loft
And do you remember the detail shot of the carving on this large wheel in the foreground
Well, Follansbee and Co have uncovered some information that brings us closer to solving the riddle of who might have carved it and what building would it have been.
I’m a food historian who consults with museums, film producers, publishers, and individuals.
My training is in archaeology and cooking, and I enjoy applying the knowledge of past cooks and artisans to today’s food experience.
My work is exploring bygone pathways of food history and culture, through building, experimenting, playing, and eating.
I’ve known of her through Peter, and following her on social media, but we haven’t yet met.
So Peter reaches out to his Plymouth pals and they do what they do best…research stuff. I’m going to copy the thread of their discoveries here, with permission of the author, and then the caveat that she made me promise to include will be there at the end. Clearly these people are driven by brilliant minds, and their super powers are curiosity.
From Peter then Paula,
PF -So the question is: Is the graffiti scratched into this equipment at Mystic, originally from Cordage park, real? Is that a building somewhere around Cordage?
Who would know?
PM -I will want to read her blog later carefully—but yes what mystic exhibits is one third of Plymouth Cordage’s rope walk.
PM -The builidng in the graffiti (which IS fascinating) looks to be a wharfside structure, right? The ell to the right is on pilings over the water. Plymouth Cordage was situated to take advantage of Plymouth’s best natural channel—a piece of relatively navigable water called the Town Guzzle. Certainly long gone by the time of this image around 1900:\https://digital.hagley.org/AVD_1982_231_016
If you look at this map, you can see how the walk was situated….(here’s a clip) I would guess that the building pictured would be between the place it was carved in the ropewalk building and the harbor.
There are other 19th c images I’ll poke around for later
Then Peter assumes he has satisfied my tasking him to get the skinny…
PF – (satisfied) my debt to Heather that is…god knows what I owe PM now…
Then… PM – Also January 25, 1867 — the storehouse at the Cordage Works was “blown down” in a gale and a lot of damage was done to wharves…. that could have been the end of that building (WT Davis, Memories, p 221)
And again a day later…
PM – In its earliest iteration the Cordage consisted of a rope-walk, wharf, storehouse and other buildings (incorporated August 1824).
Huge expansions came by the late 30s, with the adoption of steam power, but the walk itself might function the same regardless of power source.
I can see from the same source that two Carrs (Andrew and Patrick) had been working for the Cordage for decades by 1900 —then both around middleaged and having started working there young — Patrick at 9).
My money that a little more research will suggest their father, Belfast emigrant William Thomas Carr, produced these graffiti after lunch on August 4th, 1851, while his foreman was out sick with “a summer complaint, brought on by eating blackberries and cream”. Okay, we probably won’t get to that satisfying a level of detail. But the first two paragraphs are documented at least.
And quickly after I asked if I could share this here…
Sure, Heather, with the proviso that it is very “tossed-off” and incomplete—I should be working on my own problems, but I get so sucked into these kinds of questions (in case that’s not apparent) but I’m always surprised when others are interested. And although I was joking about the elder Mr. Carr from Belfast, I would not be shocked if I could get a little further with his identity—the Cordage was great at record-keeping. In it’s first fifty years at least it was the very model of a paternalistic enterprise — its founder had very high ideals and took a distinct interest in the welfare of the workers and their families.
Here’s the bibliography so far. (There are lots more cordage publications, too, that I haven’t looked into yet.):
The Plymouth Cordage Company; Proceedings at Its Seventy-fifth Anniversary
By Plymouth Cordage Company (1900)
Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian
By William Thomas Davis
History of the Town of Plymouth
By James Thacher
Now wasn’t that cool to learn about ?
I know, me too, I love the library at our fingertips time we live in.
And I love that all these people are making their livings today by dabbling in centuries old traditions and crafts.
If you want to learn more about such endeavors, I encourage you to start by doing some of you own research, and I’ll make it really easy for you…
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.