It’s Working Out

A couple years ago, I pulled my work out of galleries and pretty much stopped accepting invitations to show. I wanted to bring as much focus back into the studio as I could. I wanted to bring some percolating themes to a full boil, work with more challenging scale, and a broader array of materials — basically move my studio practice forward.  Yes, all great intentions, but, of course, without the follow-through of making the time and space to work and actually doing the work, these wants would have gone the way of most intentions. There’s more to it than that, though. I don’t think I would have focused my intentions without having been shook up.  That happened, initially, over four years ago during my residency at Anderson Ranch. Thank you Doug, Sam, Ralph, and Steve for rattling my cage(s) and to Yuri and Dave for picking me up off the floor.  I recall thinking, “What’s begun here, is going to take years.” I sometimes joke (wonder) that I’m a quick study and a wicked slow learner, but as I look at the work I’m doing now, I see the changes I needed were profound and take practice to bring forth.

At the beginning of the summer, I did a two week residency at Haystack Mountain School of Craft. The Ranch was ten. This was a very different but no less marvelous experience. Haystack is a place of soul-feeding beauty with a staff I can’t speak highly enough of.  And the other residents were awesome (I mean that in the grown-up sense of the word). Still, as I reflect on those two weeks, I’m not done being shook up.

Just Three Years

I started this piece over three years ago. I’ve done others like it, but not to this level of detail. Initially, I threw a number of vases in this form, but chose this one to carve.  It took days and days to draw the pattern. When I finally started carving, it took about three days to rough carve one vertical row. I got a bit faster as time went on. There are forty rows. I would work on it for a length of time and either lose patience, focus, or be called to another task before setting it aside. After the first month of working on it, I seldom worked on it for more than a week at time.  At one point, I thought that I couldn’t finish it, but a supportive and enthusiastic collector encouraged me to push through. Once I finished carving, I bisque fired it and found myself at another hurdle. Glaze. I was nearly paralyzed by the possibility of getting the glaze wrong. There are potters who live to glaze. I don’t fall in that category. My solution was to make smaller ‘test’ pieces. You may be able to recognize a few on the website. After several attempts I found the right glaze combination and application. Et voila!  I’m curious to see where in the world it goes.

This piece is not listed on my web store. Please call if you are interested in purchasing it for your collection (207)975-3456.

Featured Artist: Jessica Ives

Name: Jessica Ives
Year of HS graduation: 1999, when my last name was Stammen
Current Location: Damariscotta, Maine
What fills your days?

Learning. Whether I’m painting, swimming, stretching, reading, dancing, cutting a carrot, or driving in the car with my husband, I think it’s good to remember that it’s all learning, that I’m learning to see, and that I’m learning to see more more beautifully every day. I have a sneaking suspicion that how I see and why I see determines what I see. And by learning to see I mean cultivating a capacity that includes, but goes far beyond the visual. Yes, I believe this kind of learning can happen even, and especially, when cutting carrots.

Also, I keep these words by Baba Haridass pinned to my studio wall, as a reminder of the simple things worth filling a day with:
Work honestly,
meditate everyday,
meet people without fear
and play.
What’s most important to you about what you do?

That I love what I do is, to me, the most important thing about what I do. Any other reason I would or could give — as honest, as impressive, or as articulate as it could be — must be secondary to this. We live in a time and place where reason and wordy whys burden everything. Especially art. Love, beauty, enjoyment — as experiences, in and of themselves — are not so much valued. But I agree with Joseph Campbell who has said, “People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”

What impossible dreams or goals do you keep reaching toward?

Tim Keller has said, “You should never go to God because he’s useful. Go to God because he’s beautiful. And yet there’s nothing more useful than finding God beautiful.” I love the paradox in this! I love the mystery and the adventure that it implies. I love that it turns me on my head and puts the world upside down. I think learning to see beauty, without a need for utility, is a goal worth living, and something that will take a lifetime.

Also, I’d like to read all the books I own. This, too, might take a lifetime. I need to stop buying books!
What do you need to keep going?

Beauty, lots of time spent outside playing, and a healthy capacity to say no.

Further comments?

I prefer to paint on the floor! I squat in front of my panels in the manner that most the world’s population sits and rests, butt to heels. Chairs sort of bum me out.

Summer Newsletter (late posting)

Expanding Focus

I’ve been sticking pretty close to home, concentrating my energy, allowing myself to wander in the studio. Things are opening up.

My friend, Garrett, once told me, “The only real power we have is where we place our focus.”
I’m looking more carefully at the sculptural aspects of my work, mixing materials and ideas that have long held my attention. Admittedly, I’m lost some of the time, but I don’t lose my sense of direction. I’m pretty sure this is the set-up for discovery.  Focus and wander, focus and wander.  It’s a lot like breathing in and breathing out.

The only shows in which I plan to participate this year are going on right now.  One is up at Cynthia Wynings Gallery in Blue Hill. It’s a group show called Nature of Materials. I tell you, that woman can hang a show. Please, if you’re up in the area, do yourself a favor and check it out. While you’re up there, stop by Mark Bell’s studio. Our collaborative project continues. He has several prime examples.
The other show is Art to Collect Now currently open at CMCA Bicknell in Rockland.

It figures, then, that I’m mostly counting on you to visit me. I’m working, exploring new forms, refining others, completing commissions, but the show isn’t going on the road to a town near you. It’s staying here, Give a call and come to the studio/gallery. Come Do the LoopAugust 8 and 9.  It’s a terrific tour. I’m thrilled to be part of this stellar group. You really don’t want to miss this.  But, of course, not everyone can make it to Maine this summer.  Come see me online.  Keep an eye out for new work added to the website and to my Square store.

I am truly enjoying this summer. I hope you are too.

See you soon,


Featured Artist: Jesse Gillespie

 PortraitName:  Jesse Gillespie
Year of HS graduation: 1999
Current location:  Rockland, Maine
What fills your days?
My wife and I recently returned to Maine from D.C., where we lived for three years. We’ve been settling in to our new home in Rockland, swimming and checking with friends. A good deal of time has been dedicated to working out details for an upcoming show (see link above to Dowling Walsh). Also, I’ve been experimenting with some new drawings inspired by Max Ernst.
In three sentences, how did you get to where you are now?  
May parents let me develop into myself.
Ed Roth and Brother Thomas taught my teachers.
I grew up on the edge of a state park.
What’s most important to you about what you do?  
Art, for me, is an antidote to the swarm of practicalities and trivialities that consume so much time. My work is nonlinear and improvisational and the act of going into the studio to empty out, be irrational and stop making sense is therapeutic unlike anything else.
What impossible dreams or goals do you keep reaching toward?  
To make something that I can’t identify. I’m not sure what that means…
What do you need to keep going?
Edges. To keep going, I need to know that things end.
What are your best and worst memories from high school?  
Like most people, my worst memory was bullying, which sticks with a person.  I am not homosexual but I experienced homophobia. I didn’t have it bad but it doesn’t take much.
My best memories involve the friends I still have from that time.  The embarrassing times, usually involving girls, are fun to think about too – I should have gone out on more limbs…