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Thank you, Mascoma Valley Regional School District

posted May 28, 2021, 1:30 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated May 28, 2021, 1:52 PM ]

In March of 2020, when the pandemic struck the Northeastern part of the United States, it seemed as if the whole Mascoma Valley banded together.  We all stayed home. Friends of Mascoma greatly increased the capacity of the food shelf to meet the needs in our district.  Quilters all over the Upper Valley stopped quilting and started sewing masks enmass to donate for public use.  Local microbrewers started making hand sanitizer.  The school district’s administrators worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the students and staff alike.  Teachers spent countless hours learning new technological platforms, teaching remotely from their living rooms, and innovating new lesson plans with limited resources. 


When brick and mortar education resumed, schedules were completely rearranged, the entire school district rearranged furniture and implemented increased sanitation practices, health screens and organized crowd flow plans in the buildings.  Buildings were completely sanitized.  And as if that were not enough, as a parent, I received calls from multiple teachers just to make sure that I was emotionally ok and that our family’s needs were being met as best as possible.  I had multiple friends working in the district, and have never seen such strain on them all.  I am overwhelmed with the amount of care our schools have given to our community.  Though our responses to the pandemic have become less unified with time, each one of us found it to be incredibly hard and tiring.  


In January of 2021, I wanted to honor the strain the last year had put on all of us.  The needs of the community and school district were tremendous.  I am neither a doctor, nor a teacher; but I did want to express gratitude and provide some beauty and encouragement to our community.  


Our Hearts Are Bleeding
Oils on canvas, 30"x40"

This week I finally finished the memorial painting, Our Hearts Are Bleeding.  These bleeding hearts seem so appropriate to me.  The white flowers represent the lives lost to covid-19, while the pink flowers represent the individual people in the Mascoma community.  Though we spent a socially distanced year apart, we were still tethered together within our community just as these hearts are strung together by their stems.  We all worked together to overcome the adversity with which we were faced.  We all gave up so much this last year.  Just like us, these plants are strong and hardy and long lasting.  Their lines have grace, and they are resilient.  


I am excited to be able to give this painting to the Mascoma Valley Regional High School.  Many hardy thanks go to the Canaan Hardware Store, Christ Redeemer Church, the St. Pierre Family and the Isabelle Family for financially supporting this work.  The painting is currently drying at my studio but will be installed after framing.  




Inspired by this memorial, Jason Jarvis invited me to participate at Enfield Village School and Canaan Elementary School as an artist in residence.  Using my work from the last two years as a springboard, we taught the children about the use of metaphors in art.  It is easy to paint what we can see, but it is much harder to paint things we cannot see.  How does one paint love or peace?  They were very excited to create metaphoric panels and have them hung for a public art show on the town greens to celebrate what they valued about our community.  While I went with the intent of encouraging the schools, I was the one who was truly encouraged.  The children’s hearts are so big and tender.  They have a true caring spirit and they have a deep value of so many noble things: joy, kindness, teamwork, patience, goodness, perseverance.    


Cardigan Mt.
Oils on canvas, 24"x36"

As the artist in residence, I also was able to give Cardigan Mt. to Enfield Village School. It was meant to address the great ideological divides that slashed through Mascoma Valley as a result of the pandemic and the politics of the last four years.  To establish healing and unity, we must pause to see our commonalities.  Though we may have vastly different perspectives, we share so much simply because we share a common community and physical space.  This painting is meant to inspire us to reach down into our frustration and anger in order to find goodness in one another, just as these trees root down through the hard granite to flourish.  Seeing our commonalities unites us and helps us to extend grace, mercy and goodwill to others.  Like these wind battered trees, we must choose to love one another with grit and determination.  


A Cairn of Hope
Oils on canvas, 22"x28"

Lastly, A Cairn of Hope (Cardigan Mt. from Firescrew) was given to the Canaan Elementary School.  From time to time, we will all experience dark, trying circumstances. When the world seems too heavy, when there is no end in sight to our burdens, when we are at our breaking point, it is so easy to lose our way.  It is easy to make poor choices, say foolish things and behave badly because of pure exhaustion or limited resources. But as a community, we can chose to seek out and care for one another.  We can extend encouragement, guidance and patience, gently pulling one another back into the fold. We can calmly create time and space for people to rest and heal. We can gingerly resolve our differences. When we choose that posture, we become solid beacons of hope, just as this cairn points the way to weary hikers in inclement weather.  


I truly hope that the Mascoma Valley School District enjoys these works for many years to come. 


A Day of Hope

posted Apr 2, 2021, 3:45 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Apr 4, 2021, 6:06 PM ]

For years I did not give Easter much importance.  It is pretty easy to walk through Walmart and disregard it.  There is enough candy to make you sick.  There are baskets and eggs, chicks, ducks, bunnies and occasional lambs.  There is that awful fake grass and - worse yet - peeps.  I admit that I do like black jelly beans.  But other than that, there isn’t much to the commercialized version of Easter.


Even knowing the story of God being tortured to death for my wrongdoing and being raised from the dead over two thousand years ago was not very inspirational to me.  It just seemed weird, confusing, and honestly, pretty creepy.  Christmas was much easier to get excited about.  Experientially, I understand the excitement of a sweet new baby. I have held babies before.  Babies are like micro-humans just bursting with promise and possibility.  But torture?  Being raised from the dead?  This just does not compute.  I hadn’t seen it.  I didn't really understand it.  I couldn’t quite grasp it. 


In 2009 I was told I could not get pregnant because I had significant uterine trauma - but I desperately wanted more children.  Desperately.  I mourned the loss of a dream of a big family. Then against all odds, after multiple doctors told me it was physically impossible to conceive, I unexpectedly got pregnant.  I was overjoyed! It seemed to be a miracle!  But, on Valentine’s day, I lost my little girl in the second trimester.  Her name was Josie Rose.  I went in for a routine ultrasound; she was sucking her thumb but she looked so tired.  I remember distinctly when the doctor told me Josie’s heart was no longer beating.  My hands were on my pleasantly plump belly and I had felt her move just the night before.  I didn’t understand.  My mind didn’t comprehend.  I looked the doctor right in the eye and said  “Well, make it beat.” 


We don’t really understand something until we experience it.  That year I tasted the depth of death’s sting.  My body was split in two, my heart was cleaved, and my arms felt so empty.  I was so empty.  I was just a messy, grieving shell that could not seem to get out of bed.  I drank deeply from the cup of grief.


2009 was also the year I came to know true comfort.  Comfort is not coffee in front of a fire - that is coziness.  Comfort is a husband who crawls into bed with you and pulls the covers over your head so you can cry together.  Comfort is your friends coming to your home and helping you get in the shower.  Comfort is having someone step into your grief with you.  Comfort is having other women you don’t know well listen to your story, and telling you of their losses so that you know you are not alone in your pain.  It is little poems written for you.  It is a small memorial gift.  It is having someone remember the next valentines day to call you and ask if you are ok or if you need them there.  


Before 2009, I had no comprehension of what it meant that God would allow the death of his son just because of his deep love for humanity - of his love for me.  I began to really contemplate the magnitude of what it might mean to be so incredibly loved.  Lots of religions herald goodness and love and kindness.  But I can’t think of another religion that puts humanity in such high regard that God would willingly lower himself to taste that level of trauma.  


That year I began to really think deeply about these things and it has become my habit to celebrate lent.  Many people celebrate lent by giving something up.  I celebrate by choosing something creative to work on while I think deeply about God and the world and me and how we all are wrapped up together. It is a time that I consciously contemplate existential things.  Is there a God?  If so, who does he claim to be?  Do I see evidence of that claim in history?  Do I see evidence of that in my life?  Who am I?  Who do I want to be?  How do I become who I want to be?  Do I really want to know the answers to these questions? If I know the answers, then what?


For me, lent has become a time to really roll these theological and philosophical ideas in my mind like a hard candy in my mouth.  It is during Lent that I have allowed myself the freedom to ask these questions honestly.  I have given myself room to assess and then grow during the season of Lent.  I have found great comfort in my conclusions.  I have come to believe the tortured to death and then raised from the dead out of intense love story. That is some serious love. That is unfathomable.  I have found much comfort and hope in Easter and all the promises it brings. Oddly, contemplating these questions has helped me to accept and love other people with different belief systems than mine because I have come to know, at least partially, how imperfect my own understanding is. 


Usually I do this thinking and meditation over pysanky.  Here are some of my eggs.  I am not a professional “egger”.  But in each of them, there is thoughtfulness and prayer.  I give many most of them away for free will donations.  If you would like one, please email at mhfiber@gmail.com.  This year I am using the donations for hooking up water to my studio.  


Some traditional pysanky, and some pysanky inspired sharpie eggs

I did fewer eggs than normal this year because I spent a bit of my time working on a series of trilliums to celebrate Easter with.  Trilliums are native North American lilies that grow in New Hampshire.  These flowers were chosen to inspire people to think deeply about the character of a triune God and His relationship with us. Additionally, they remind me of the story of Jesus asking his friends to "consider the lilies" when he was addressing their anxiety and worry. (You can read what he had to say about it in the book of Matthew 6:25-34.) Each of these trilliums have micro beads embedded into the paint of the stamens and the pistils. The micro beads refract light giving the appearance that the light is coming from within the flowers.


III Trilliums
Oils and micro glass beads on stretched canvas.


I am fully aware that many of my friends and neighbors are not people of faith.   If you are not, I invite you to give yourself plenty of time to sit and contemplate some of these big existential and spiritual questions. I can't tell you how much benefit I have had from doing this. Take time to read and study and truly search for the answers to those questions.  Talk with others about what you are learning. Assess what you discover honestly.  Think deeply. Dream big.  And love thoroughly.


Artist in Residence at Enfield Village School

posted Mar 16, 2021, 7:37 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Mar 17, 2021, 3:11 PM ]

Over the last year I have really been searching for ways to speak into the lives of my community.  It seems that there is so much darkness from politics and from the pandemic.  But I believe that beauty and goodness are stronger than darkness.  I have been working furiously to heap these good things into my community as a form of encouragement and hope - a cheer for perseverance.

I have had the privilege of working with Jason Jarvis, who is the elementary art teacher for the Mascoma School District.  He was inspired by some of my metaphorical paintings to represent community.  Together, we developed a program in which we could teach the grade schools about creating artwork using metaphors to painting things we cannot physically see.  I am honored and humbled to be able to serve the Enfield Village School as the Artist in Residence.  The children have been over the moon to have a professional artist come to their classrooms.  
  

I have been meeting with the children every day.  They are creating plaques with metaphoric symbols, colors and textures to express appreciation for characteristics of our community that they value.  They were very excited to learn that they each get to use a real wooden panel just like the Mona Lisa was painted on.  We have talked about the metaphorical symbolism of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi in the Statue of Liberty, Makoto Fujimura's color metaphors in his Silence and Beauty paintings and Bisa Butler's textural metaphors in her quilts.  Here, I am showing them an example of a metaphor plaque we are making with the children: this apple represents a healthy community and the green background symbolizes growth that we have when we make healthy choices.


We were fortunate enough to hang a complete exhibit of my work throughout the school building for the children and staff to enjoy during my time at the school.  I am amazed at the dedication of the staff to help make this happen.  A special thank you goes to Barry and Jason for their generous help with hanging everything!  They did a tremendous job laying it out.  



Look how the colors of my paintings compliment the tile mosaic in the lobby of the school!  They chose that perfectly.


In between classroom time with the children, I have been painting in the lobby.  This painting will be donated to the school after my time with them is completed.  I followed the same process for this painting that the children are using for their panels in class.  They have watched me over the course of the last two weeks every time they come into the school in the morning, every time they go out for recess.  A few have found me "on the way to the bathroom" (which is not close to the lobby).  Painting in a public place is much more difficult than I could have ever imagined! I can't quite reach that deep state of concentration that I am accustomed to, and I answer continual questions.  But the excitement of the children as they have watched the painting evolve has been a joy.  As one eloquent first grader pointed out - joy bubbles like a fountain. 

 

It is good for the children see how long it can take to paint a painting.  It is good for them to watch me struggle with a color here, and a line there.  They have watched it start to pop and as I paint a little bit, they are surprised to see things evolve.  There is a tree!  Oh, I didn't notice that flower! 

The painting is called "The Winter Wren".  During the summer months in NH, our woods have a tiny and ordinary looking brown bird - the winter wren.  Though they  may appear drab, these little birds do something extraordinary: they sing a loud bubbly song that floats through the forest with great clarity.  Like those little birds, we may feel small and ordinary - but we must remember the power of our words.  We also have the ability to add beauty to the world around us.  Words of respect create community.  Words of truth create trust.  Words of empathy create brother and sisterhood.  Words of graciousness build people up. Words of encouragement create bravery and perseverance.  Words of loving correction create reflection and change.  Words of assurance create confidence.  Everyday we have the privilege of determining who we will be and how we will affect our community.  This ordinary bird is to be our extraordinary example, reminding us to choose words full of humility, truth, hope, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and peace.

The comments from the students have been so encouraging to me.  I had one student tell me that the school was much friendlier with my paintings up.  Another student said they felt calm when they looked at my paintings.  Another said they felt more joyful.  The price tag that I put on a piece of my work is not actually what gives it value.  When people are moved by my artwork, when it makes them feel deeply, when it makes them think - that is where the true value is.  Usually, I don't know what value my work holds until much later.  Sometimes I never know, actually.  While I came to serve these small children, their comments, excitement and cheers of encouragement for the painting in the lobby have actually been a service and blessing to me.  I am awed at how much goodness they have in them.  Thank you, EVS.  Thank you very much.

The Sunflower

posted Jan 13, 2021, 2:12 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Jan 15, 2021, 8:13 AM ]

  

The Sunflower


At the sun's dawning

Its rays shoot out

Chasing night away,

Shooing darkness 

Scattering doubt

Exposing secrets 

and decay.


A golden orb

Snaps to its path

For a slow

        Heliotropic

                Promenade,

Seeking truth

Searching for love

Plumb with all that is good.


A thousand petals

of  spontaneous praise -

A shout of adoration explodes!

Glory is given

And homage is paid

Until the close of day.


And in faith the orb 

shifts back again

In faith it turns back east

In faith it waits 

In faith it hopes

For the surety of an encore.


Oh to be

            like that in faith - 

In truth and love and joy -

To be unfettered

Of all that is wrong

And only goodness employ.



Donations to the Friends of Mascoma Food Bank

posted Dec 9, 2020, 2:05 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Dec 9, 2020, 2:37 PM ]


This Christmas season has been very quiet for me because the pandemic has us all at home.  Most of the gifts my family is giving are homemade or purchased from local artists and businesses.  Because I live in a small town, I know most of the people profiting from my purchases.  While my family has always given handmade things (I am an artist, afterall), my community is making similar choices.  People making these choices have helped me to stay afloat as an artist through a pandemic.  I truly could not have made it this far without your monumental faith in me or your support of my work.

Please help me celebrate Christmas!  Between now and Christmas, I am celebrating by donating 50% of my sales from my paintings, prints and note cards  to the Friends of Mascoma food bank.  The Covid cases are drastically increasing through New Hampshire. This food bank has been vital to so many people in the Mascoma Valley through this ordeal, and it has drastically increased its services to the community.  Food distributions have sky rocketed to more than 250% over last year.  If you are looking for that special gift for someone, consider purchasing a painting or print.  I also have a handsome line of blank note cards available with my paintings on them.  To purchase, simply email or Facebook Message me. I am willing to ship to anywhere in the United States.

 


In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this sneak peak of a painting in progress - First Snow on the Poplars.



I hope you are enjoying this season and that you have a joyful, peaceful, and merry Christmas.  

Thanksgiving

posted Nov 26, 2020, 8:57 AM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Dec 2, 2020, 6:07 PM ]

            

        I am excited to share two paintings that are to be permanent installations at the Richard W. Black Community Center (RWB) in Hanover, NH.  The paintings are being donated by Christ Redeemer Church in honor of the Upper Valley community and how they have served the physical needs of our church over the last 20 years.  Many of the larger church events have been held at the RWB because the church does not have a physical building of its own.  When I proposed this idea last February, I did so because both the Upper Valley community at large, and Christ Redeemer Church, have played a vital role in my life.  These two paintings are by far my most personal pieces of art. 

        I have chosen to use the native lady slipper orchids to represent that community is a long term investment. Lady slippers take 10-17 years to go from seed to blossom. The seeds are extremely tiny, consisting of only a few cells. When those seeds are given the right environment, conditions and time, they begin to grow. That growth is very slow, but eventually, they blossom into one of NH's most prized wildflowers. Similarly, community takes time. It must be tended to, cared for, fostered and given the right conditions to allow relationships to form, to allow growth in individuals and for long lasting positive influence to happen. Community must be tended to with care. When this is done, communities grow into something stunningly beautiful.

        The second painting is of indian pipe flowers. These fragile flowers contain no chlorophyll for photosynthesis, but obtain nourishment from the rich organic soil. They have a symbiotic relationship with other plants and can thrive in even the deepest, darkest places in our NH forests. We have many in our communities who are fragile and vulnerable among us; people who see dark circumstances and who have little hope. In a community, justice, truth, mercy and love matter. When we provide this richness, even our vulnerable blossom and thrive. Suddenly they give value and dimension, dignity and beauty to our communities.

        I have written many things about these two paintings, but I keep finding myself pounding on the backspace button. How can I convey something that I feel so strongly about?  How can I articulate visceral emotion?  How can I convey the importance of what I have to say? To understand why these are my most important work, you must understand that community actually and truly saved my life. 

As an adolescent and young adult, I experienced circumstances that created feelings of intense isolation and loneliness.  It was a consuming loneliness - the kind that makes it hard to breathe.  It shaped my very core, and became a slow vortex that sucked me emotionally downward; it nearly destroyed me.  I eventually became unable to maintain even casual relationships because I literally could not find a path out of the suffocating feelings of not being understood.  My sense of isolation morphed into a false belief that I was smited by God, that I contained no goodness within me, and that I was totally unlovable.  I believed I was the very essence of bad.  With this false belief, I began to expect rejection.  My behavior began to mirror my belief, causing a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy.  

By the age of 19, I was a school dropout, unemployed and living in an unfinished basement, in a house of strangers, 1200 miles from where I grew up.  My few belongings were propped up on pallets because the basement sometimes leaked.  The basement contained a toilet randomly placed, with no walls around it, not unlike a jail cell.  My life became devoid of meaningful connection to others.  I was figuratively and literally alone.  Let me tell you, that was an intensely dark time.  

In hindsight, I see there were many reasons I wound up in such a desperate, despairing state.  Some of those reasons were my own fault, but many of them were beyond my control and unavoidable. For many, many years I tried to hide my early life from others.  It is not at all comfortable for me to talk about, and when I do, my story comes out in random, non-chronological clumps that are hard for other people to follow.  Frankly, it is embarrassing to express how low I was - how depleted - how destitute.  When I do try to share, no words are quite sufficient to explain the intense reality of my situation or of my emotions.  When I try to explain how I got there, I am often met with dumbfounded consternation, and in many cases, true disbelief.     

  To simplify my story, I distill it down to this: all of my experiences together caused me to taste a very profound lack of community and it nearly killed me. Community is a feeling of fellowship with others.  It can be gained from sharing common goals, attitudes and interests.  It can be gained from sharing a common space or by sharing particular characteristics.  It can also be gained by simply sharing common experiences. Community gives people a sense of value and belonging.  People can only feel love when they are in community.   Put simply, community is sharing a common life. 

It was community that brought me out of my darkness.  We all know that maturity and growth take time.  It is more difficult to know that it also takes one another.  Mature growth comes from love and forgiveness.  It comes from regarding one another more highly than ourselves.  It comes from teaching and gently correcting each other.  It takes friendship, kindness, compassion, patience, goodness, empathy, serving one another and generous hospitality.  

I was fortunate enough to find these things, and though it sounds extreme, I do believe community saved my life, in a very real way.  In the late 1990s, it was the community of Walling & Berg Law Firm (where I was employed) that I experienced people recognizing my dark state.  Two mentors there - Dorothy Cleveland and Nancy Berg - spent countless hours investing in me.  They recognized pain I could not even admit.  They shared their own stories with me. They opened their homes.  They shared meals.  They spent hours talking to me about life and the world and they gently steered me into counseling.  They encouraged me to go to school and to work hard, and they provided stability.  Amazingly, as creative women themselves, they recognized my need for creativity and directed me towards the arts.

After striving towards an undergraduate degree, I eventually went onto graduate school.  It was here that I began to understand peer friendship at a different level. I formed friendships with people from other cultures.  I stumbled alongside my peers and learned what it meant to be a critical thinker.  I learned to be comfortable with the process of learning and how long it takes sometimes.  

When I moved from Minnesota to New Hampshire, my community morphed from one with shared intellectual goals to one with a shared physical location.  The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Craftstudies studios helped me to grow professionally in ways I never would have expected.  It gave me the courage to make a radical career shift from engineering to the arts.  It pushed me to be a little less critical of myself.  It was in the town of Canaan, NH that I learned what it meant to be a good neighbor because neighbors like Patsy Carter and her family and Carrie Cahill Mulligan modeled it for me.  

But the community that touched my life so profoundly was at Christ Redeemer Church.  Honestly, before going there, my anger caused other people to push me away. At Christ Redeemer Church, I was given space to express my anger at the world and all the darkness I had seen.  I was invested in and valued.  Emily Tworag, Dori Willeman, Megan Eshbaugh and Lara Mather showed me friendship in profound ways.  I did not share the same worldview as them.  I didn’t understand theology, or even right from wrong.  In fact, I had repeatedly seen people misuse Christianity for personal or political gain, causing me to fear anything religious.  But these women loved me in very concrete ways.  They wept with me in my sorrow over lost pregnancies and abuse and hard parenting days.  They literally fed me when I was too tired and sick to feed myself.  They listened to me.  They encouraged me to speak.  They forgave when I needed forgiveness. They taught me to discuss difficult, emotional things. They taught me to quiet myself to listen.  They challenged me to think critically about philosophy and religion. Though they never compromised who they were, they accepted me and didn't try to force my worldview to fit theirs. Slowly, over many years, they came to truly know the rawness of me and they loved me anyway.  And that love laid bare over the messiness of my life taught me that I have value.  I believe this was Gods grace to me. He saved me through community.

When I say community saved me life, I mean it literally.  Statistically speaking there is no way I should have survived the circumstances to which I was subjected.  It is all too common that people with similar stories become so alone and desperate they end up homeless, with debilitating addiction, overdosing, suicidal, in prostitution or killed in violence.  I have watched it happen to several people around me.  

In 2020, it has been easy to get lost in the darkness of our world.  While in the midst of a pandemic and with many of us celebrating Thanksgiving without extended family and friends, it may be difficult to see anything joyful.  It is even cold and raining outside today.  But it is in our darkest hour that it is vital to practice thankfulness.  Thankfulness gives life in the midst of despair.  I am thankful for community. I would like to invite you to celebrate it with me. This year, please join me in celebrating community by reaching out to someone in your life who you would not normally reach out to.  It may end up saving a life, and it will certainly enrich your own.


Changing it up

posted Aug 3, 2020, 5:14 AM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Aug 19, 2020, 8:20 AM ]

The Hanover League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Gallery has permanently closed.  This is rather devastating for so many reasons.  It was a place where beauty and love expounded, inspiration flowed and many of my friendships were born and fostered.  And, it was also where I sold most of my work.  Though the Craftstudies studios are still hanging on, Covid is taking its toll on our livelihoods.  I have not remained unscathed; I have not been teaching or throwing pottery since March.  

In the midst of all the uncertainty, I have been trying to learn how to be flexible.  Thankfully, my family is learning to be flexible, too - and generous towards me.  I have a been able to rent a wheel and started throwing some pottery in my mudroom.  This has enabled me to not let my skills slip.  


I love my mudroom.  Together, my husband and I lovingly built the whole thing from scratch, including a contoured window bench, huge double windows to let in light with exquisite trim and a hand cut tile floor.  But it is a mudroom, and my family uses it as such.  There are boots with cow manure on them from my son who works on the farm across the street.  And dirty laundry mounding up in the attached bathroom.  And shoes everywhere.

      

Ordinarily, this would be no problem.  I am used to sharing my space and I am used to messes.  And so I threw a dozen mugs.  



These five mugs were the only mugs that did not meet destruction.  Fifty percent of my work was wrecked.  One from a flung shoe.  One was knocked by the bathroom door. A wareboard was bumped by a laundry basket.  There is no proper water filtration system for the water that has clay in it. There is no spot for greenware or bisqueware. And most importantly, there is no power for hooking up my kiln.  My mudroom is not a suitable place for me to set up an rudimentary pottery space.

So if I am going to work from home, I have to get creative.  No problem.  I'm an artist.  That is what I do.  And so while I was figuring out how to handle the pottery situation, I sewed up this quilt for someone I love dearly.  I thought and gardened and sewed - trying to decide what to do.  


And there, behind the quilt, beyond the garden, and way out back is my soon to be chicken-coop-turned-art-shack.  

Behold!  My new 12'x16' art shack!




My family has been wonderful! They helped me cut down a huge tree that was threatening to flatten the structure.  They jacked up the shack for the sill to be replaced.  They helped me moved it about 50' closer to an existing waterline.  (This was a painfully slow process that involved jacking it up, putting round fence posts under it and pushing with bars and all our might to get it to slowly roll, inch by inch closer.)  It is not insulated.  There are no windows for light.  There isn't really a door that would keep out any critters (except for a bear).  But it is a start.  

I have a rented wheel and a beautiful kiln ready to be hooked up. But.....

I do need power run out to the shack for the kiln and wheel.  I do need a fire barrier to provide safe place to fire the kiln.  I do need insulation so I can work in winter, and some kind of heater.  I do need a door that will keep animals out.  And I do need rudimentary shelving for greenware, bisqueware and finished pottery.  I do need a floor that can be mopped to decrease particulate exposure and health hazard. I do need a water filtration system and a utility sink.  It would be a luxury to buy a wheel of my own. And I would love some windows for painting in natural light.   

In the mean time, I'll be doing what I can to set up the likely scenario of having my three children at home for a year of remote learning and working from home.  And I'm painting.  Right now I'm working in pastels.  But will start working in oils again toward the end of this month.  

Here is is a quick pastel painting I did of three children eating lunch on the top of Rattlesnake Mt.  


And this is the one I sketched up yesterday and will start to paint today. Meadowlarks have the most beautiful song and they are such cheerful little things that just fill you right up with joy.  


So, if you have ever liked any of my paintings, please consider buying one now so I can get my art shack up and running a little faster, enabling me to do pottery from home and paint a little easier.  You may send me an email at mhfiber@gmail.com or you can PM me on Facebook and we can arrange delivery.  Also, stay tuned for pottery that will (hopefully) be coming in time for Christmas. 


A Voice

posted Jun 24, 2020, 12:20 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Jun 25, 2020, 3:39 AM ]

Over the years, I have gotten emotionally mired in the less than favorable circumstances around me.  It is easy for me to be pensive and melancholy.  This year has been fraught with unfavorable circumstances.


It has been bad from the start.  Drought and fire consumed the entire continent of Australia.  A pandemic has pummeled the world and over 477k people have died.  In the United States, there have been mandated lock downs, quarantines, and social distancing.  People feel distant from one another.  The situation here has morphed from “we are all in this together” to “your mask (or lack there of) is a political statement”.  Social distancing has become essential or ridiculous, depending on the crowd you hang with.  People are fighting viciously about how best to handle the crashed economy.  All the while many Americans - many of my neighbors - are faced with job loss, food insecurity and gnawing loneliness.  


Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, our nation watched in horror as George Floyd was killed by police, slowly, over a $20 bill.  This served as a catalyst, spurring many Americans into conversations about systemic racism.  We wrestle with our beliefs and our culture, and thousands took to the streets in protest.  A few riots took place and the political right and left began to address the situation from vastly different perspectives making it nearly impossible to solve the problem calmly, with dignity and sensitivity.  Rhetoric is harsh; accusations fly with intensity making it impossible to find solutions to our societal brokenness.  


It is easy for me to think I am just an artist who makes very little money; there is nothing I can do.  I live in an old house, in a small town, in rural New Hampshire.  The problems are too big and too established.  The situations are too nuanced.  I see no wise path forward.  Our sins are so ingrained in us that we cannot even see them. I am too small and too insignificant to make a difference.  I convince myself that I don’t matter.


Over the years I have learned to deal with my melancholy.  I learned music is able to quiet my soul.  Poetry can move me.  Other people's words and lyrics can give voice to my big emotions that leave me speechless.  Something as simple as a clean room with a beautiful paint color on the walls and a bowl of fruit on the table can relax me.  A sculpture can ignite a fire within me. A painting can arrest my inner storms.  When those storms are calmed, I am able to hear other people and have a healthy perspective.  Aesthetics are vital.  We intuitively know this is true.  This is why we wish pictures in home magazines were our own.  


Art fits and expresses our uniqueness, and it holds tremendous power.  It comforts,  calms and unites.  It has the power to create awe.  It lights fires. It even has the power to bring to light something horrific so we can see it, admit it and then process and change it.  


Some artists have the power to make art that highlights hard issues with which we are faced.  Clara Aden’s Slave Relic moves me.  I cannot look at her work without feeling profound sadness.  It shows us the ugliness of our human desire for power and control and money as it explores the history of slavery and exploitation.  While atrocities are painful and difficult to see, wounds cannot be healed without examination. Her work serves as a mirror that reflects our brokenness. I am grateful for artists like this.  They have important voices - so very, very important.  After all, realization and acknowledgement are the first steps toward improvement.

slave relic, Clara Aden


Sometimes I wish I could naturally convey things as important as this. But this is not my tendency. It is not my voice.  


Yesterday, I took my children strawberry picking at Wellwood Orchard in Vermont.  I have done this every year of my children’s lives.  And as I stood there in the splendor of the mountains, picking sun-kissed berries, I realized the truth of the importance of my work.  My voice is not big or loud or confrontational.  My voice is quiet. However, it is equally important because it marks the next step toward change.




Years ago, while working for Nancy Zalusky Berg at her family law firm in Minneapolis, I saw lots of division and fighting.  Nancy had the unique ability to provide a space where two parties could meet in mediation, pushing forward toward reconciliation and resolve; she made all kinds of people feel valued. She had the ability to challenge people to examine themselves while maintaining humility to examine herself as well. She did this both professionally and personally; it was in her home that I saw this first hand during a difficult conversation in which my actions were called out. Mediation is usually uncomfortable and difficult.  I observed the path forward began with a space safe enough that both parties could come together with their guard down, even if just for a moment.  A safe place is one where healing begins.  Without that safe space, people remain on the defensive and horns lock. Bitterness takes root and consumes without this safety.   To be sure, some situations are so dire that courts must be utilized.  However, let us not underestimate the power of safe environments and the conversations they allow.  It is slow and time consuming, to be sure, but incredibly useful for effecting improvement.


Artwork can help create that safe space.  It can be used as an invitation to a path of unification.  My work is that of a peacemaker - a mediator.  Once the chips are on the table - the divisions laid bare - the ugliness exposed - we must find a path toward repentance, forgiveness, mercy, justice, grace.  And that space must be safe for all parties. My work helps to create that safe space where these things can begin.


My voice is not a political sign on the lawn.  It is just a beautiful hand thrown bowl of strawberries with the question: “Would you sit with me awhile, share my snack and talk on my porch?  Tell me, what do you think about what happened last night in the news?”


My voice is not a protest sign.  It is just a pottery vase of heirloom peonies with the question: “Did you smell them?  I love them.  This is a small piece of me.  Tell me, what do you like?  What is your story?”


My voice is not a t-shirt with a slogan. It is a mug that fits your hands just right with the question: "Cream? Sugar? Have you ever thought of it from this point of view?"


  

My voice may be subtle. Yet, it is equally as important. My voice is a simple painting and a story behind its creation which serves as a place of rest.  It is a place to turn to when that porch conversation gets to testy.  It is a safe place of respite until the hard conversation can resume.  Use it to flip to your back for a restful float when you are too tired to swim any further.  It is a safe place to catch your breath.  Art can prevent you from drowning.




If you find yourself watching the news and feeling disturbed and indignant, and yet you are uncomfortable proclaiming your beliefs on a street corner, consider the possibility that your voice is a different kind of voice. That does not mean it is weak or morally inferior. Actually, it takes great strength, wisdom and self discipline to do what I am proposing. Consider capitalizing on hospitality to foster change.  Create a space to share with others. And if you are able, consider investing in a few pieces of art to make people feel comfortable.   Use these things as the blessings they are - items to help create beautiful, safe places where meaningful, transformative conversations can happen.


A Call for Creativity

posted Mar 30, 2020, 5:29 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Mar 31, 2020, 5:58 AM ]

When I was a little girl, my mom came into my room late one night and woke me.  Her excitement pulled me out of a warm sleep, and she beckoned me out into the chilly night air on the porch.  Her excitement was electric, making me zing with anticipation. She stood frozen, taught, hushed. I waited patiently for my eyes to adjust to the dark, then followed her gaze.  There, on the screen next to the door, was the palest green moth. It was like delicate sea glass poised in the inky night.  

I was spellbound by its wings, with bright spotted false eyes that somehow generated light.  It must have swallowed the moon. It drew me from the depths of the surrounding night to itself.  It was stunning. My mom pulled me near and whispered quietly that it was a luna moth. She let her words float away as we studied this wonderful creature.  


New Hampshire's Giant Silk Moths: Polyphemus, Luna and Cecropia


Slowly I lifted my hand to touch it - to make it my own - but mom gently pulled me away. “It’s too delicate to touch,  you’ll hurt it and it won’t be able to fly.” Instead, we watched its wings ever so gently open and close and open and close until, in one strong beat, it lifted and flew over the yard and into the trees in a slow, erratic flight.  


All the darkness around me was chased away by the brightness of that luna’s beauty.  It’s wings conquered night and I shared it’s weightlessness. A light was sparked deep in my chest.  There was silent magic. Years later I would remember that moment when reading Nette Onclaud’s poem …. “This elegance is not meant to be mine…., with joy, I tossed it back to grace the woods.”


These are dark times.  Our country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic and it is harrowing.  Sadness fills me as I watch whole cities be bludgeoned with illness.  Tens of thousands are sick. Thousands are dead. I taste angst as I watch the National Guard set up military medical tents for all the sick people.  People are losing their jobs. The economy is tanking. We isolate ourselves in hopes of slowing tragedy.  


The classes I was teaching abruptly halted.  Some of my shows are cancelled. All of the stores and galleries where I sell my work are closed.  Artists are all in the same boat. None of us have much hope for making money for a while. The governor has declared a stay at home order, and if I’m not careful I begin to believe that I am called to do nothing. 


In the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, scientists have been able to use MRIs in order to quantify the positive effects of beauty and art on the brain.  Slowly we are beginning to understand how beauty and art are actually life giving. It produces positive biophysical responses in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain.  Beauty actually heals. Creation is actually regenerative.


Artists are more than professional makers.  We are creators and keepers of beauty, love and hope.  And these push out darkness and despair - just like that luna moth conquered the night.  Never have I known my community to need these more than it does now. As artists we must join the ranks of workers and help to produce healing.  Though we are unable to go to hospitals and give medicine or ventilators, we can fill the world with the salve of our work. We can decrease stress, angst, and fear.  We can alleviate sadness and bring people closer to one another even in the midst of social distancing.  


I am hoping to share some of my creations (even my small, imperfect ones) on social media in order lessen the effects of all this suffering. I hope you join me in this endeavor. Though our typical venues are closed and we are unlikely to sell work now, share your art. It has so much more value than money.  Offer it to the world. After all, the elegant dreams born within us were never ours to possess. They are there to give.


Week 1: Covid-19 social distancing

posted Mar 16, 2020, 3:27 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Mar 17, 2020, 1:51 PM ]

This last Thursday I took my youngest son to an orthodontist appointment.  Like I have done on most Thursdays for the last four or five years, I went to Hannaford's to grab a few things.  Thursday is generally a great time to go grocery shopping because it is usually empty except for myself and a few people of an older generation. 

Like many people, I have been following the Covid-19 progress as it sweeps through our country and county.  Yet, as I went to the store on Thursday with my son, I was completely shocked.  Only a few hours before, President Trump delivered a speech declaring that the American borders would be closed at midnight - the parking lot was packed with panicked shoppers.  When I got inside, ALL the flour was gone, and ALL the rice was gone (except for in the ethnic sections - which is so, so sad for so many reasons).  Toilet paper and cleaning supplies were gone. No hand sanitizer.  No canned tuna.  No oatmeal.  Only a few packs of frozen veggies.  Whole shelves were bare.  The store was packed with people.  But it was oddly quiet.  No one talked to one another.  Everyone was buying large quantities and I noticed a few older couples that I recognized.  They seemed so bewildered.  

I stood there for a moment - shocked - overwhelmed - stunned.  My son looked up at me with big eyes and asked "Mom, is this the apocalypse?"  That question broke my heart.  He was watching closely and saw people "panic" buying.  It was fearful and ugly to see.  It seemed so selfish and soul-consuming.    And with my son observing, I forced myself to stay calm and steady.  I did not want him to see my fear.  I forced myself to give the last bag of frozen green beans to a woman with a baby in her cart who was at her wits end.  I forced myself to silently remember it is okay to go without coffee for a while.  And I bought my normal groceries, minus flour, rice and toilet paper, and then left.  

This week, I have had to calm my fears often.  I had to tell myself to not be compulsively consuming the news.  I talked to my kids about limiting our resources - about the importance of not wasting anything - of why hand washing is so important.  I had to constantly stuff my fears down inside me.  If my kids coughed, I'd wonder if they were "getting something." My fears were silently eating away at me.

A long time ago I was doing my dishes and put soap into my water bottle to cleanse it.  It was nearly impossible to get out all the soap by adding a little water to it and then shaking it out.  Doing so just produced more bubbles.  I tried over and over.  But then I noticed a very curious thing.  If I put the bottle under the faucet and let it fill up completely with water, the never ending bubbles were displaced and the soap was removed.  

Fear is like that.  Stuffing it down inside me doesn't make it go away.  Holding it silently doesn't make it go away.  Joking about the situation doesn't make it go away.  Pretending I'm in control doesn't make it go away.  I can't stop my fear.  It is suffocating.  But like displacing bubbles with water, I can displace my fear with thoughts of truth.  It is a continuous process to keep the fear bubbling up in me at bay - and I know I need that stream of truth to be constant.  But if I fill my mind with truth, I remain calm and fear becomes powerless over my response.  

Focusing on truth doesn't mean nothing bad will happen.  
It doesn't mean my family will remain healthy.  
It doesn't mean we will love our dinners over the coming weeks and months.  
It doesn't mean I will have endless snacks.  
It doesn't mean I will not be inconvenienced. 

But it does mean that fear does not own me.  
It does means I can choose not to be consumed with self and a love of my own comfort.  
It does mean I can choose to see and love others and to remember their needs are equal to (and in many cases greater than) mine.  

So what is the truth?  

The truth is I am extremely fortunate.  If I run out of toilet paper, my toilet is only a few feet from my tub. If I get tired and need space, I can ask my kids to read or play outside.  I can use the time I am usually commuting to work for exercise.  I can eat lunch with my family every day.  I can teach my kids more about my craft.  I can take naps. I can focus on things like the crocus that just popped out of the ground.  



The truth is I can start my seeds for my garden.  I can enjoy the sun from my porch swing. Today I have food to eat - and it is in beautiful pottery.  I can enjoy finding my youngest asleep in a wheel borrow (this happened). I can enjoy a campfire where my oldest plays guitar and my daughter reads.  I can savor the plunk of sap dripping into buckets.


The truth is I had time and supplies to finish my cecropia moth painting.  (I hope you can see one of these someday!  They are exquisite!)


But the biggest truth of all is this: all of the happy amenities I have now are worth nothing compared to the fact that I have a God who cares about all the suffering that is happening in the world right now.  He cares about all the sick people.  (Read the book of Matthew.)  He cares about people losing their financial security. (Read the book of Ruth).  He cares if you are short on food and if your body feels frail. (Read the story of the fish and loaves of bread).  He cares if you are anxious and not sleeping.  (Read the book of Psalms.) Our problem of sin and suffering is a great one. In fact, it is so great, we are incapable of knowing how big our problem actually is.  It is so great that God, himself, had to come into this world - to bring himself down from a heavenly-other-worldly place - and enter into our Covid-19 riddled lives to be with us.  He had to come down from his supreme authority and ultimate power and magnificent glory to subject himself to our world of sickness and death and suffering so that we could avoid the greatest suffering of all: a separation between us and him.  But he rose from the dead.  He conquered even death.  To be with us.  Because he loves us.  That is the biggest truth. 

Even if you don't agree with me or believe this to be true, I recommend you read these stories anyway.  Think Princess Bride.  
    Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
    Grandpa: Are you kidding?  Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles ...
It is very apropos to our current time.  The bible is truly an amazing literary thing.

So in this time of worry and fear and uncertainty, let the suffering we might experience produce a perseverance to handle what is tossed our way.  Don't be cowed by fears; we are in this together.  Let our new found perseverance give us a character that focuses on loving one another rather than one that feeds our selfish desires for the comfort of toilet paper.  Let's not go to the grocery store with "mine, mine, mine" in mind.  Let's cherish the good things in our life and hope in good things to come. Don't let our mere discomfort be confused for the greater suffering of those of us who have no food, get a pink slip, or lose a loved one.  Heed the pleas of medical professionals to stay home.  Wash your hands.  Endure a little bit of stir-craziness for the sake of our common good. And most of all, cling to truth.





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