Cultivating Community at Haystack

Being a successful artist is about so much more than producing great work. It’s about cultivating community and making work that is true to who you are. As a grad student in Ceramics, I’ve been thinking about these ideas for a while now, and a recent four-day visit to Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, ME provided a powerful affirmation that I’m on the right track.

Department Head Katy Schimert invited me to take part in the September weekend along with six other RISD students and about 50 grad and undergrad students from nine other East Coast art schools (that’s me in the photo above, fourth from the left). It was a chance to engage outside of the studio with peers from different disciplines and to be inspired by Haystack’s incredible scenery and architecture.

In addition to presenting our work to the group, we were invited to workshops led by Haystack Director Paul Sacaridiz and practicing artists Michael C. Andrews,Anna HeplerSharon LoudenRoberto Lugo and Sheetal Prajapati (below, demonstrating her technique for spinning cotton).

Louden spoke about Living and Sustaining a Creative Life (Intellect Ltd., 2013), a collection of essays she edited, and shared with us the many ways she has managed to sustain her creative practice over the past 20 years. The genuine dialogue she facilitated helped us express the challenges we face as artists and also provided some practical tips on keeping expenses low, applying for every opportunity and grant under the sun and getting used to rejection.

Many of us are exploring similar ideas, like the moral implications of the materials we choose to engage with. Andrews, for example, spoke about the yarn he uses to weave large-scale textile sculptures. What makes a material honest? he asked. Are natural materials more authentic than synthetic ones? It was this kind of exchange and the very real, human connections I was able to develop that made the Haystack experience such a meaningful one.

Anina Major MFA 17 CR is a graduate Ceramics student who blogs about the RISD experience. Photos by Sharon Louden and Yuping Hsu MFA 17 DM.

This blog post was originally published on the Rhode Island School of Design blog.

Anina Major