Greetings from Eastport


Across the bay, Canada.


View of downtown Eastport from the pier.

Months ago, I applied to an open call with a proposal to make banners inspired by maritime history and semaphore flags.  

Today, I am posting this from Eastport, Maine, one week into the Studio Works residency at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art to which I am so grateful for the opportunity.  

Eastport is the easternmost city in the U.S., but it is more like a small town (so small, in fact, that my very definition of “small town” seems to be expanding while the conceptual parameters are diminishing). Coming from New York, it feels a bit anachronistic to me. Many of the buildings are beautifully preserved from the 1800s, when Eastport flourished. My lodgings are similarly historic,  so it seems fitting that my digital and online capacities are reduced while I’m here. For that reason, my posts this trip will be infrequent and concise, if I can help myself.  


Page from an 1800s Eastport directory in the collection at the Tides Institute.

A few reflections, great and small, in no particular order:  


New woodblock print of a flourish (typographic ornament) on linen.

• Printmaking is a little like riding a bike. Though I printed most actively in my undergrad years, once I got back in a print shop it seemed quite familiar. I enjoyed many “I remember this” moments: feeling my arm fatigue mixing cold inks straight from the can, listening to the sound of the brayer to learn about the tackiness of the ink, and all the peripheral tips and tricks in setup and cleanup to save time, like making little tabs of scrap materials to use for skimming inks or modifiers.    


A very handy reference chat for the organization of letterpress type. Without it, I'd be helpless.

• Printmaking is nothing like riding a bike. It’s a long slow process of proofing, refining, modifying, adjusting pressure, adding packing, and so on. The ideal is perfect craftsmanship demonstrated through identical reproduction. I was never into that. And I don’t want to get hung up on it now. I’m trying to let this be more experimental, not having to produce an edition, unless it’s an edition varie. To let my hand, indeed, my ability, however lacking, show. I’m interested in decoration and domestic production–e.g. how individuals, not corporations, made flags for hundreds of years–so I think it makes sense that the banners aren’t perfectly mass editioned like Victorian collectibles.  

The most rewarding place from which to learn has been, for me, the mistakes. At the same time, perhaps there are no mistakes–there’s just more than one right way to do things. –Marcia Tucker, A Short Life of Trouble


Happiness Is… Research Note #4

I habitually plan ahead, but there are lots of things I only learn by doing (and failing). Likewise, experiences drive home the principles I  intend to remember but somehow forget.

Such was the case today, as I got to work on a new project sewing twill tape and transparent vinyl. I had a slow start, as I learned to reconcile the surprisingly stretchy twill tape with the not stretchy-at-all vinyl. It took a few hours for me to find a rhythm and start to make real progress.

So at dinner, I sang my sewing machine’s praises. It felt trusty, reliable, like a lithium ion drill driver—I finally felt like my burgeoning skills are appropriately utilizing some of the machine’s capacities, while the promise of more advanced projects lay ahead for the two of us.

It was ironic, then, when my sewing machine’s feed dogs stopped advancing. Then, the reverse lever offered none of its usual resistance. Something snapped, inside the machine first, and then inside me second. I panicked. I have a lot of production ahead of me during this residency, and most of it requires sewing. I don’t have time for the machine to sit in a repair shop!

But this is the reality, and I must conform to it. As Martin Seligman explains in Flourish, there are realities you can shape, and those you can’t. I can’t change the fact that my sewing machine needs repair. But I can work so that this setback doesn’t derail my residency.