“Haystack Mountain School of Crafts has recently begun offering a two-week residency program for artists. I applied, although I wasn’t sure my work would qualify in the crafts category, and I haven’t made anything out of ceramic clay since undergrad. To my grateful surprise, I was accepted. I had no real structured plan of what I might do there, and as it turned out, many of the resident artists in the program were also there to experiment with media new to them, including working in the Fab Lab with laser cutters and 3D imaging.
“I had heard so many wonderful things about this place, since Mass Art brings students there every Fall. The location, far out on Deer Isle on Jericho Bay, amid rock islands covered in pine and fir trees. Architect Edward Larrabee Barnes called Haystack his “happiest” project, and it is a joyous meeting of building and environment. The spare, 60’s modernist buildings float over a huge granite outcropping, connected by a system of walkways and stairs of pressure-treated lumber. Cabins are very basic and simple, uninsulated and unheated. My roommate and I shared the tiny bathroom.
“Unprepared for the chilly night temperatures, I spent a frozen first night, awakening to the amazing beauty and silence of early-morning coastal Maine. I took a stroll on the walking trail winds through the Haystack property, among trees sheltering oval pads of brilliant green moss a foot thick. Breakfast was ample, fresh, and made right there in the kitchens. The food is locally sourced where possible, healthy and tasty. The chef wowed everybody daily with fresh baked cookies and outrageous cakes.
“We residents fell into a rhythm of long days and nights of work in the studio. The weather continued cool (I seldom removed my down vest) and changeable. When the sun came out it’ was brilliant, and (almost) warm out. Then, in would roll massive clouds, signaling a spectacular thunderstorm. I acclimated to the weather, acquiring more blankets-and I finally found my alpaca socks which I wore to bed almost every night. Breaks were celebrated with a bonfire on the rocks at the edge of the ocean one evening, and a lobster picnic. Cell phones were banned from studios and cabins, but most of the time this felt more liberating than annoying.
“The ceramics studio was the place where I spent most of my time. The first day I went through 25 pounds of clay, making stuff that will be parts for new sculpture, I hope. I spent most of my time working in hand building, although I did try throwing again (after many years since undergrad.) It’s not like riding a bike, at least in my case. However, some of the artists there were capable of creating gorgeous air-filled forms on the wheel. At the end of the first week we fired the gas salt kiln for the first time. The salting sequence was spectacular, generating clouds of vapor out the stack as the salt/soda mixture vaporized in the hot kiln. I also learned to make paper, and experimented with some 3d forms made of pulp. Both processes seemed simple and proved challenging to do at all well. I’m happy to be coming home with a small stack of handmade cotton paper.
“This two-week residency culminated with a festive celebration, live and silent auctions. I was able to snag a beautiful piece by artist Michelle Samour. So, I returned to Boston with that, a decent haul of works in clay and paper from the studios, and many memories to treasure of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.”
To see work by Linda Leslie Brown visit her artist page: www.kingstongallery.com/artists/linda-leslie-brown/