I trained as an artist from the time I was young, at university and art school – with shows in Chicago and an MFA from a celebrated New York art school. I claim that I know as much about art as most art historians and have a good feel for color, design and abstraction. My pictorial memory is nearly eidetic. I am not saying this a boast but as a precursor to a growing conviction about my work. I just finished a 300-page tome about the necessity of the aesthetic to conjoin with the economic, as a remedy to much of our social, political and economic woes – the artist as entrepreneur. Not a new concept, no, but one that might be ready for the form I am deepening my commitment to taking.
As an artist trained in New York I always had in the back of my mind the pursuit of some sort of gallery career. I have a lovely, prospering porcelain business, isn’t that enough, you say?? Well, quite frankly, no. I am after all, akin to the greats in talent and training. However, I am not among their peerage in regards to the exhibition record. At this point in my life, an attempt to turn back to that quest would be an upward battle.
Now, that 300-page tome bears within its pages the germ of an idea, one that I have been discerning and nurturing for the past 17 years as a country potter with artistic ambitions. It is the notion of the artist as part of a more magnanimous group of social engineers, social artists, as such, á la Joseph Beuys, to a degree, with strong shakes of the philosophers thrown into the mix. The social situation, culture itself, at the level of community, is sorely wanting more participants in its alchemical, interactive, evental magic, prying open the private and inserting the playful yet practical element of the artist as participant. In public.
So, I embark upon a new journey, that of showing up at the farmer’s market. In recent years I have been doing more and more local events to sell my wares, having let go of the national shows for want of a simpler way to make a living. A little closer to the vest, but also closer to home, developing healthy relationships with local businesses and supporting the rural economy. Thus, this Friday I debut in Chatham, NY as a vendor of locally produced wares. And I am thrilled.
Hudson River Exchange is the brain child and sweat equity endeavor of Kate Moore and Stella Yoon. We have been showing with these organizers since they first began putting great events together. The annual summer market and festival is coming up on the Hudson River the last weekend of June. A carefully curated group of artisans grace the banks of the Hudson River in a celebration of the Hudson Valley's bounty of talent, energy and all things local. In addition to the artwork and artisanal offerings of home goods, herbal creations, bags, toys and things you may not even imagine, is food and entertainment. This year the event opens Friday at 4 and stays strong until 9 and runs all day Saturday from 11-6. Come and see us and check out the latest offerings of the studio!
The Spencertown Academy sponsors an annual garden tour accompanied by a market in our fair town that I have been doing for the past, or I don't know, 10 or so years? Its been a while, anyway. The market is a lovely affair, part of their effort to include gardening and all things green in the cultural offerings in Spencertown, NY, and the Hudson Valley. Brain child of Madeline Sparks, former garden editor of Real Simple Magazine and gardener extraordinaire, the event has grown in popularity over the years. We love this event because it gives me the opportunity to focus on vases for cut flowers, a particular passion of mine.
From the website:
"This lovely outdoor marketplace will be held on the Spencertown Village Green across the street from the Academy on June 17. This year’s market will showcase more than a dozen vendors offering plants, home and garden furnishings, birdhouses, antiques, garden books, and expert garden advice. Also, shoppers will find bargains on choice garden items and accessories at the Academy’s White Elephant Booth. Food options will include an ice cream sundae booth, grilled burgers, hot dogs and sausages prepared by the Spencertown Volunteer Fire Company, and salads served by Friends of St. Peters. The aim of the market is to offer the rare and the unexpected at affordable prices. Admission is free and a portion of all sales benefit the Academy.
In addition, the Garden Market will host two educational opportunities. At 12:00pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and Educator Lisbeth Karlsson will give a free talk about invasive vs. native species in the garden. At 2:00pm, Zema’s Nursery will lead a workshop on how to make your own hummingbird-friendly planter. Advance registration for participation in this workshop is required, as space is limited; tuition is $65 (including all materials). Pre-made Zema’s hummingbird planters will also be for sale."
After a late blizzard (24” in March!!) the snow has melted and we are in mud season. In the country, that means wellies (or rubber boots for you green horns). But, so glad to begin to feel longer days of sunshine and light, warmer temperatures and the promise of a renewed delight in the land. I love four seasons even if late winter gets a little bleak at times. Because, after so much cold dark weather, spring feels even more exciting, renewal and refreshed earth, trees and animals, wild and domestic, enliven the landscape and the spirit.
These lovelies came up in my garden this week. Snow drops are my first flowers every year. The big kablam! comes with my daffodils a few weeks from now. We have about ten thousand planted in the hillside, a legacy of the prior owners.
Gardening is coming. And with spring and warmer temperatures comes warmer colors in the studio. I will retire the neutral, subdued tones of fall and winter for the brights of spring and summer. My free brush work will segue into these brighter hues; yellows, reds, oranges and lime greens and blues as well as the featured palette for the coming season. I like to think of dinnerware as fashion for the table. So, change it up, at least a couple of times a year. Stash those winter dishes and pull out the lighter, more whimsical dishes of the warm months.
Enjoy the coming plenty, blossoms and sunshine!
Cheers! Mary Anne
As a kid, ironic as this may sound, I grew up with Dalmatians. My favorite book and then Disney animated feature was 101 Dalmatians. My first pet was Topper, a liver colored pooch, so sweet. My mom still tells stories of how he let me do pretty much anything to him and was a cozy pillow as well as baby sitter. After Topper died we got Missy, who had multiple litters of puppies (well, 3 to be exact), one of which was intentional. All the puppies found homes, but I was exposed to a lot of spotted dogs. So, later on in artistic career I was feeling a little all over the place in the design department. I realized I needed to commit to a pattern, or I was going to drive myself nuts. So, I looked at what I had been drawn to, taking a lesson from Matisse, who advocates taking stock of what you are about and going for that. I saw a lot of dots and decided to narrow my output to – dots. That said, there is a lot of variation in dots. And I have explored many avenues of dot variations over the years. However, my dot exploration is far from over, but I have a couple of decades of study in the area of dots under my belt. I have even seen the dish itself as the dot, a round shape on your table among others forming a pattern of – dots.
All of that said, a particular editor at the New York Times has again chosen to publish a dotted plate (or pasta bowl, as they are calling it) in the venerable paper. Yay! The Times seems to like my dots over the years and thus, it seemed only right that I create a brief outline of my history with dots. I do have to say, I think dots possess a touch of the avant-garde. Don't you agree?
We are big pet lovers and huge fans of the rescue community. Here at the studio we have daily visits from Mary Anne’s two dogs, Lulu and Mikey and two cats, Barley and Scout with my kitty cat Sweetpea watching the parade from my deck next door (and sometimes a little closer - meow!!). Both Barley and Scout each have their own low bowl from our serveware collection with a cozy towel that we find them sleeping in as we work in the production studio or in the packing and shipping area. We have just added Annie to the mix of our rescue collection that is made up of our rescued pets, past and present, and rescued animals that belong to friends. It’s a community here and we are loving that this is such a popular collection.
And the birds, oh my? The birds from our yard are found in our Flora and Fauna collection. I will admit that I am a big fan of our blue bird. There is nothing like spotting in a big fat blue bird sitting in a bright yellow tree! Ours makes such a sweet gift. I know it will make you smile too.
Spring has finally arrived! There has been a lot of activity around the studio. Crocuses are done but the daffodils are in full swing. When my husband and I bought this place 16 years ago, there were 10,000 daffodils planted on the hillside. We didn’t realize our good fortune until we had been here almost a year and we first witnessed the glorious blooming in April. Now we know it is coming, but it never fails to astound us. We invite friends to harvest as many as they like, but we never run out.
This morning I cleaned up some containers for gardening on my back porch and planted my first pansies of the season. Pansies are sturdy little flowers, perky and cheerful, and willing to withstand some chilly nights. We are far from in the safe zone for most plants, but pansies seem to take whatever nature can throw at them. Warm weather is heading our way!
With the warm weather comes eating outdoors, barbecues, long walks and shirt sleeves. Most important our local farms are gearing up for summer harvests and the return to really local produce. Little Seed Garden is a local farm that I have been trading CSA* shares for pottery for almost ten years! Claudia Kenny and her family appreciate using handmade dishes and we love the relationship we have built.
Food figures prominently into the ethos of the studio. Cooking from scratch is how we roll here. Since lunch is part of our daily routine, Janet and I break at around noon and head to the house to prepare the midday meal of the day for the production team. Little Seed is just one the farms that provides our bounty. In addition, we get produce form Ironwood Farm and Miller’s Crossing as well as farm stands along the road. Some of us eat meat and for local animal protein we rely on Little Ghent Farm, Retrograss Farm, Kinderhook Farm and Miller’s Crossing providing mostly chicken, beef, pork and lamb.
Michael Pollan has written numerous books about the importance of local food, small family farms, and the relationship between eating close to home and food security. I am passionate about the subject and moved to the country to be near where the food that we eat is grown. It is easy to do in cities too, just shop at farmers’ markets. Spending time planning, shopping, cooking and sharing food with family and friends is time well spent!
Local food eaten on local porcelain, even better! Not only do we feel better physically, mentally and spiritually, we are enjoying a beautiful, peaceful experience and extending that vibe into the community.
I hope you can take the time to live and eat close to home, at least sometimes, shopping at the farmers’ market and cooking from scratch. Or, come visit and we will show you how!! Yay spring!
*CSA stands for community supported agriculture, a wonderful way to get fresh local produce and support your local farmer. Check out one in your area!
April in the studio is an exciting time. The days have grown longer and this year we didn’t have a lot of snow. The weather report predicts a couple of days next week in the 60’s! While it is still winter, there is the promise of spring in the air.
For a new year, there is new work. I have created a few new drawings to add to existing collections, including two drawings of bees, a simple peace sign, a shaker hand with a heart in it and a drawing of my beagle Annie who died last fall. Annie was friends with Henry, whose standing and sitting poses have been favorites since their introduction. Additionally, music is a new collection and gratitude has become its own category, giving us the opportunity to contemplate what it means to be grateful.
We honor France with merci and je t’aime and embrace multiculturalism with thank yous in Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, German and more. We will keep the web shop up to date with stock in our inventory and encourage you to call to order bespoke dinnerware. We are also creating a new catalog to make ordering super easy. Please send us an email to ask for a copy.