Friday, June 18, 2010

Burning for Clay

“Look, we got you something - authentic riverbank clay!”

“Oh, authentic, huh?”

“Well, you know…” Because I sure didn’t. Here I was, talking with our new artist-in-residence at D Acres, potter Ethan Hamby, and clearly in way over my head. Terms like bisque and cones, fast-fire and Japanese-style were routinely peppering his sentences. I was doing my best to keep up, but nothing was particularly reminiscent of kale, compost, or oxen.

Though the process may be a tad baffling, it’s plain to see that he has skill. Not just talent, but expertise. A touch of the hand and a turn of the imagination – voilá, he can create some remarkable pieces out of clay. And with those sentences, I’ve nearly expended what I can say regarding ceramics. So let Ethan do himself justice…better yet come on out to the farm and meet him in person. Stop in for a workshop, or swing by his Red Barn Studio to check out his work. You won’t be disappointed.


It has been a dream of mine since my early teens to live with a community active in pursuing work that makes the world a better place. I have created my life as a potter to work directly with the earth and learn skills of self-sufficiency, trying to connect with nature and be conscious of my consumption of its resources. It was challenging, though, to maintain gardens while involved in intense pottery production and weekend craft shows. So I have come to D Acres, a small experiment in living sustainably, where the foundation is laid for eating well, inspiration and authentic expression.

I am here to make art from mud in every shape, size, and function. I will make mugs to use for tea brewed with the dried flowers and herbs that grow in D Acres gardens. I will make musical instruments for entertainment by the campfire. The largest work will be a Japanese-style kiln coated in cob (clay, sand, straw) and sculpted into a dragon. Sculptures will begin emerging as if planted in the farmscape. I hope to work with the land and strive to reflect the beauty of Nature’s majesty.

Clay as a vessel for fire is a driving force in my work. I grew up with a wood-stove in my home and every time my mom would light it she would say ”Burn, baby, burn.” At an early age I caught the bug for building fires. When I started making pottery I searched for a way to fire my work without using electricity or gas. One day I took old electric kilns to my backyard, stacked them up on bricks, and built a fire underneath. This first experiment fired to 2000 degrees in two hours. I was stoked to discover that I could get paid to play with fire. Here at D Acres I will be continuing my fiery endeavors, already having built a wood-fired kiln. I will be building a Japanese-style climbing kiln, and re-sculpting a pizza oven. Pizza ovens are really where D acres and I will collaborate to create the best edible art. Clay is shaped by hands; fire, fed with wood; and pizza topped with all the delectable vegetables my fellow farmers have worked so hard to grow.

My love for my work is so strong that I need to share it with others – teaching techniques I have discovered and honed over the years is what I really enjoy. I want people to make things out of clay because it is so much fun to dig into the earth and sculpt it! Making pottery is a meditative process that releases stress and focuses the spirit. Building with cob is an accessible way to construct ovens, sculptures and structures that almost every age can participate in. I will be offering workshops at D Acres this summer to share my passion for these ways of living and creating art.

Making Art and living sustainably are ways for me to enrich my life and the lives of the community around me. My mission is to make as much organic art and share it with as many people as I can. There are many experiments and techniques to discover this summer. I hope you all can come for a workshop, firing or just to visit and talk art.

Remember that “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”-Picasso

-as published in the North Country News

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vegetables aren't just for summer

Our meals these days are reliably accompanied by a salad of sorts – the variety and quantity of its contents continue to increase as these warmer months descend upon us here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead. If there is a season that connotes the flavor of fresh produce, it would be summer, no?

And fortunately, our area is rich with local producers. From a plethora of fruits and vegetables, to eggs, dairy, meat, and baked goods, local farmers provide quite an array of goods to our region. But saying it is not enough. We want to celebrate the diversity of local foods and spread the word. Come find our what we’re talking about at the 2010 Pemi-Baker Local Food Guide Launch. It will be held on the Plymouth Common June 12, 11am-1pm. Pick up the 4th edition of the Local Food Guide, meet local farmers, sample their goods, and enjoy the tunes of local musicians.

D Acres began publishing the Local Food Guide in 2007, the beginning steps to cultivating a thriving local food network. Since then, we’ve expanded the guide each year, now totaling 39 farmers and 23 local advertisers. Thanks to the advertisements of local establishments, a listing in the guide is a free service to area producers. New to 2010, we’ve also included a map pinpointing local farms, as well as information on summer and winter farmer’s markets throughout the Pemi-Baker region.

Why such excitement over a local food guide? Well, for one, we at D Acres are remarkably interested in food. Everyone needs to eat, and the better the food, the better the health and the well-being of both people and land. Local food specifically increases individuals’ connection to a region and its landscape, while decreasing dependency on national and international systems of production and distribution. Furthermore, strengthening local food networks is a direct means of providing local income to local people, a means of keeping our money local and investing in our own community. To quote farmer and author Wendell Berry, “without prosperous local economies, the people have no power and the land no voice.”

So knowing your farmer is vitally important, and not just in the summer. Eating is a year-round endeavor, and so is buying food. The 2010 Guide can help you do it locally. In addition to listing regional farmers and the goods they produce, the Local Food Guide also lists the times and locations of a variety of seasonal markets.

Be a part of a greener picture in our region! Join us June 12, 11am-1pm, on the Plymouth Common to meet your local farmers. Pick up your copy of the Local Food Guide – a sustainable community starts with your next meal.

as published in the North Country News