Haystack landing

I mentioned before that part of this public journaling is for me to remember and be able to go back in time and dip back into a particular feeling, emotion or thought surrounding events, my creative endeavors and experiences.

I need to parse out my two week sojourn on Deer Isle in Maine at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and this seems like a good place for it. If you haven't already clicked on that link, do yourself a favor and do so. You will be transported into magic land where creatives or people who want to connect with their creative selves get to explore for 2 weeks in the most majestic setting, surrounded by people from all walks of life and directions of the globe, all the while being nourished by food prepared by wonderful and caring staff. 

I didn't really know what to expect. Quite honestly even the day before I left to drive up, I wasn't packed, wasn't totally in the headspace that I am leaving my super jam packed life to go "play" for 2 weeks. I felt it was so preposterous that I get to just wander off from my business and obligations. Miraculously, as always when I'm set on something, life truly supported me. Those two weeks were super quiet, no emergencies, no special requests, but a slew of amazing responses to my "Wise Women" piece. I must have really intentionally carved out this space for myself and life opened up for me. Thank you!

deer isle  

I'll start with the setting. I have a special place in Maine in my heart. It is reminiscent of the Croatian coast, only in the sense there are gorgeous trees right on the beach and thousands of miles of coastline that is rich with undulating coves and small islands. That is where resemblance ends. Maine is not a tame place and each time I come, I feel I am able to deeply connect with nature which I've been yearning for more. The School was built in 1950s by Edward Larrabee Barnes, integrated into a rocky steep setting, not disturbing its geography rather blending in the presence of about 80ish or so people that get to inhabit the space for 6 separate sessions each summer.  It is considered one of his greatest achievements. If you are keen to find out more about the architecture please read HERE


Cabins are elegant, simple boxes with triangular and rectangular windows that insist you become synchronized with nature. Light beams around 5 am each morning and you are encouraged to honor the circadian rhythms and engage with your immediate surroundings. Almost every day I opened my cabin door, which I shared with my roommate and now a new friend Tina Cheng, and watched the spruce trees in front of me from my bed, or listened to the sounds of rain. The quiet was so welcome and profound. As you know nature quiet is different kind of quiet. On Deer Isle you hear gentle water lapping underneath your windows, wind rustling the trees and many species of birds. Campus is surrounded by a trail which I took to each morning before breakfast and sometimes 2-3 times a day. I was intentionally filling every cell of my body with that space. It was magical. When I look at the photos I took, most of them were of nature around the campus. I was yearning for this quiet for myself that grounded me for the other parts of this experience. I would walk and journal and sit and listen, drink tea, look at the water, look at the wind across the water, I was really present for it all. 


What you layer onto the setting are the people. We are all there together on this special journey, each of us coming with some (or none in my case) preconceived notions and each having our alone and group experience. Every encounter during meals and breaks is meaningful and you quickly drop the superficial exchanges and dive deep into the "stuff" of life.  I've met Tina, Lauren, Terry, Roni, Elizabeth, Jerry, Jessica, Monika, Tara, Talia, Raquel, Rowan, Phyllis, Jaime, Dana, Alexandra, Kasha, Kim, Hui, Linda, Sonya, Abby and Abby, Taylor, Walter, Aminata, Funlola, Phuc, Marissa, Sherry to name a few. I shared many meals, conversations, copious amounts of tea, stargazing on the rocks by the ocean and karaoke evening that killed my vocal chords. Energy was amazing. Conversations were about creativity, the messiness of life, changes, evolving, all of it.  In the first five days I also became acutely aware of how much of a safe space Haystack is. People that come to Haystack don't all conform to the societal norms that are sprung and almost demanded of us and my heart hurt when I thought about challenges that many face in our increasingly unsafe and prejudiced world. I remember having that thought, while sipping a cup of tea around midnight on the deck looking up at the stars and how profoundly sad I became while also grateful that there are still spaces where we can all be ourselves. What's wonderful about being around people is that you engage with everyone, most likely with people that would not be in your social orbit in your "regular" life. Here we were all people and Haystack was the glue that temporarily bonded us together in the most deeply connected HUMAN way.


Lastly, the classes. I chose a blacksmithing class with an amazing teacher Thomas Campbell. I have a small show coming up in Minneapolis at the beginning of October  and I committed to something that is a bit outside my creative bounds. I thought that taking a class would serve as possible perspective shifting. I didn't necessarily want to make sculpture or produce something that I can use, but I wanted to engage with something new and put myself into a learning space. This I haven't done since college. Thomas was an amazing teacher. Lots of patience, lots of dry humor and the six of us in the class established an easy rhythm after a few days. We helped each other and watched as each one of us navigated different obstacles and continuously problem solved. It was amazing to spend all day at the studio, leave the phone behind and move with the work. It took me 4 days or so to settle in. Blacksmithing is nothing like metalsmithing, and I felt my body resisting. I didn't expect it to be so physically taxing. But after the fourth day I completely settled into my surroundings, into my class and made a few pieces I feel proud with.


There are 6 sessions happening simultaneously at Haystack, ceramics classes, graphics, wood, fibers, small metals, and big metals. It was really lovely to hear and see how each class was structured and how people worked. Spaces are open and you are encouraged to stop by and chat as everyone was working (this means morning, day or late into the night). Weaving studio was a zen space compared to blacksmithing so I found myself gravitating towards it. Students attending classes range from complete novices to people that want to build on their practice.



Each teacher had a presentation about their work and I felt so honored to be in the space of such amazing creatives. For me, someone who has spent better part of her professional life in a design/corporate world, being in the presence of artists and witnessing their journeys really struck deep. I have been balancing my professional life and artist life and it dawned on me that I have finally consciously and intentionally made that transition. I now fully move and operate as an artist and my corporate career gave me the business acumen that I lean on when making practical decisions. What a realization to come to in such a welcoming space as Haystack. I feel somehow full circle yet at the beginning of a very full and fruitful journey. 

This is only a taste of this space in the best way I could describe it. I might come back here and expand on this as I process more. But if you ever wanted to tend to your creative self in a space that offers full freedom, even sometimes in overwhelming ways I suggest you take yourself on this special journey. 

A short medley here:

I'm leaving the teachers websites so I remember whose presence I was in and how they moved me.  I'm so grateful to have taken this space for myself. And I am certain I will do it again and again.

Phuc Tran was a visiting artist- I didn't have a chance to sit in his workspace but did share a meal and really enjoyed his presentation. I am on the last chapter of his amazing memoir "Sigh, Gone" and I suggest you give it a read- BOOK HERE

Kim Mirus-  fibers teacher

Daniel Minter- graphics

Funlola Cocker- small metals

Beth Ireland and Keun Ho Peter Park- wood

Ebitenyefa Baralaye- ceramics

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1 comment

  • Well said Mia! I’m so glad you were there. It was wonderful to be in the same class.

    Elizabeth Walton on

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