Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Somerville Reads Book Discussion for FARM CITY

April 5, 2012

“There was something captivating about making something
useful again – about resurrecting the abandoned…”

Oakland, California seems like the last place on earth one might find a farm.  In her memoir Farm City, Novella Carpenter makes a case for it being one of the best, no matter how unusual.  When she and her boyfriend Bill decide to make their home in “Ghost Town,” one of the rougher neighborhoods in the area, they immediately see its potential by transplanting their urban farmer instincts to their new plot of land.  Establishing a “squatters garden” in an abandoned lot that flourishes into a community garden of sorts is only the tip of the iceberg.  Carpenter takes the adventure into many different directions from the joys of beekeeping to the raising and slaughtering livestock, including a turkey called Harold and two enormous pigs.  Cataloguing the struggles and triumphs of her endeavors, Farm City is the story of a woman who wants to see sustainable life even in a place long-abandoned by society – she wants to prove that even the ghetto holds promise.
On Thursday, April 5, Jessie Banhazl of Green City Growers, and a Somerville urban farmer, led a group discussion about the book in the Main Library.  Jessie spends her day working to install raised bed gardens all over the greater Boston area and thus has a unique perspective about Carpenter’s endeavors.  “She wasn’t fearless, but she acted that way,” Jessie said. 
The discussion began with why the ghetto and why Carpenter seemed to get away with having her farm there without too much protest from the neighbors.  There are places where the notion of someone wanting to keep chickens in his or her own yard might become the heart of a heated public debate, but that didn’t ever seem to be the case for Carpenter, no matter how loud – or smelly – her animal hoard became.  Issues of individual survival were more on the forefront for most of her neighbors – and the benefits of the garden were for everyone, since Carpenter freely shared whatever she grew with whoever wanted some.  The land wasn’t hers, after all – and in many ways, each of her neighbors was doing something either questionable or downright illegal, so the tendency seemed to be that everyone looked the other way, taking handouts from each other when the opportunity arose.  Occasionally, Carpenter expressed frustration with her neighbors – like when she expends a great deal of time and energy into growing a single watermelon only to have it lifted by an anonymous stranger – the reality also had to be acknowledged that the very land she farmed didn’t even belong to her.  “Even though someone’s taking something from her, she’s taking something from someone else,” Jessie pointed out.  Going on, Jessie added, “I think it’s like driving – some people are respectful and some people aren’t.”  The “good neighbors” were the ones who contributed seeds or helped farm or harvest or found other ways to back Novella and Bill up whenever possible. 
From there, the conversation turned to the recurring theme of beekeeping throughout the book.  Bees, of course, are a wonderful source of pollination, but would you be thrilled to have a beehive on your neighbor’s back porch?  Novella and Bill’s neighbors never seemed to mind it.  Everyone reaped the benefits of a thriving garden and endless honey.  The discussion then became about the wonderful experiences people have had with growing their own food and what a difference it makes to harvest fresh produce from your own backyard.  One of the women in the group said, “I’m always amazed when someone says they don’t like tomatoes – they say, ‘Oh, they taste like nothing.’  Taste like nothing??  They taste like everything!”  Jessie added that she’d encountered school children who believed that vegetables came out of cans or met line cooks who had no idea where the food they were preparing originated.   The disconnect with people of all ages not really knowing how food comes to be shocked the entire discussion group.  “Food’s become about convenience, not about thought,” Jessie said.  Educating people about how what they’re eating is produced is an extremely important piece of the social puzzle that is often overlooked.  Jessie suggested taking children to visit farms and community gardens to lift the mystery and make them better aware of where food comes from.
The discussion group also spent some time considering the frank way Carpenter describes slaughtering and preparing her animals to be meals.  “I thought it was both brave and crazy,” one of the women in the group said.  Discussion about whether or not certain individuals would be able to do what Carpenter did – raise a turkey from a day old and then eat him for Thanksgiving dinner, for example – led to a discussion about vegetarianism or veganism.  Committing to those lifestyles perhaps comes with a certain level of economic security, much the same way a more affluent neighborhood might cause a ruckus over someone wanting to keep chickens on his or her property, whereas in Novella and Bill’s neck of the woods, such things were so far from the big survival issues that no one batted an eye at much of anything.  It didn’t matter how cute and fuzzy that bunny was – when you’re hungry, that bunny just might be the thing that will keep you alive.
As the discussion wound down, Jessie praised Carpenter’s candid and honest approach to writing her book, never seeming to back down from what some might consider difficult truths about what she had to do to survive as an urban farmer. 
Before the group dispersed, there was an announcement made about the Somerville Reads Celebration happening from 1PM-3PM on Saturday, April 21 – also known as Earth Day.  The theme is food, so come hungry and bring a dish to share for this potluck-style event.  See the Events Calendar for more information!

Bill Chisholm: Local Collection August 2011 Artist of the Month

Local Collection Boston’s
August Artist of the Month

About the Artist….

The staff at Local Collection spends a lot of time examining Bill Chisholm’s work.  Look at these pears – they seem so human in the way they’re relating to each other in this image.  One is nuzzled up against the other.  In the next image, there are two big pears and one little one – obviously a happy family.  Check out the way the stems are joined on the cherries – looks like love.  Here is an apple viewed from the top – let’s think for a moment about perspective.  A thoughtful look at Bill’s work can result in hours of analysis and story creation about what these fruits and veggies are doing, what their relationships with each other are, what their “body language” is demonstrating.

There is no shortage of guesses and discussion.  Customers, too, get caught up in the back story of these images.  In many ways, Bill Chisholm’s paintings are the ultimate conversation pieces and the perfect housewarming, thank you, wedding, anniversary, Christmas, birthday, and thinking-of-you gift. 

After growing up in Rhode Island, Bill has spent the majority of his adult life in the greater Boston area.  While his interest in drawing and painting began in high school, he didn’t pursue it as a career until his early thirties.  His dream was always to produce art, though in the early years, he entertained the thought of being a writer, and writing is still something he’d like to explore later on. 

 Influenced by abstract-expressionist Mark Rothko’s approach to color and the figurative painter Odd Nerdrum’s painting technique, Bill has achieved mastery in oils, especially when it comes to his still life projects.  He also works to develop his eye for landscapes and portraits, two other subject matters he enjoys very much, and has made a life commitment to continued learning about all aspects of the craft.

As was hinted at previously, Bill has a particular affinity for pears.  Many of his more popular images are pears, either alone or in groups, and each image is very much like looking at a portrait.  “I like pears very much,” Bill says, “because frequently, they have human-like shapes.  But from a technical standpoint as a painter, they come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and even textures – the skins vary quite a bit.”  He goes on, “This is also what I love about fruits and veggies in general.  They have so many shapes and also color which offers an endless exploration into color relationships from the subtle to the vibrant.”  Besides the pears, one of Bill’s favorite projects is his painting of a cluster of asparagus.  “’Asparagus’ I am fond of because there are parts painting tightly and loosely yet the whole thing is very realistic.”  He enjoys the challenge of working with such a limited color range and the result, especially in this case, is “both elegant and fun.” 

Bill creates most of his pieces in his Somerville, Massachusetts studio found on the second floor of a renovated barn.  While he works, he listens to audio books because “the good readers have an incredible ability to give many voices and bring the auditory beauty of the author to its full execution.”  Current favorites include A Light in August, read by Will Patton, The Help, and To Kill a Mockingbird, read by Sissy Spacek.

As a full-time artist, Bill believes “art for art’s sake” can be a well-suited partner for “art for commercial sake.”  For him, hard work with open eyes can allow both to happen naturally.  As one of the original Local Collection Boston artists, Bill Chisholm’s work proves the universal appeal of a well-crafted still life that simultaneously is the perfect gift from everyone and the perfect opportunity to tell the story behind the art – a true picture worth a thousand words.

Bill will be doing an oil painting demonstration in-store on
Thursday, August 18th from 1PM-4PM.  Be here to see what he creates!

one giclee print (up to an $80 value) – in store only – see store for details!

Maggie Carberry: Local Collection May 2011 Artist of the Month





About the Artist

When Local Collection Boston opened its doors to the public in historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace on Saturday, May 1st, 2010, there were thirty New England area designers represented in the collection.  The store was the second of its concept by brand pioneer Katie Kurtz of General Growth Properties.  The original Local Collection in Glendale, California as well as the new Boston location were designed to give up and coming artisans and designers a platform to showcase their work and introduce their line to the public.  Local Collection is a starting point whose aim is to provide a spotlight on those talented individuals who could not necessarily afford their own retail space. 
One of the original Boston vendors is New York-state-native-turned-Jamaica Pond-resident Maggie Carberry.  Maggie works with a variety of media from photography to painting to jewelry.  Easily a staff and customer favorite for her variety of product and its one-of-a-kind appeal, Maggie found a home quickly at Local Collection.  As one of the first vendors to volunteer to conduct an in-store event, she set the bar for how to maximize her time in residence here.  One of the things that sets Local Collection apart from most of the other stores in Faneuil Hall is that local product meant the local artists could be here in the store to demonstrate their process and interact with a public who very much enjoy meeting them.  Maggie has hosted six events between May 2010 and April 2011 and has another coming up on May 24th from 4PM-7PM.  Each has been a memorable, interactive experience for customers.  You never know what she’ll be doing – encaustic painting, earring or key chain making, or demonstrating the intricate procedure involved with assembling her silver or bronze pendants.  When you see her on the events calendar, you should always come out ready to play.
Because “play” is the name of Maggie’s game.  After attending college in Washington, D.C. and grad school in London, Maggie spent a few years teaching art in Brazil before bringing her talents to Boston in 2006.  She uses the world as her canvas and finds inspiration everywhere.  “My work always starts with ‘a camera and a journey,’” Maggie says.  “I often say my camera is my sketchbook.”  Her dream job, of course, is to be a photographer for National Geographic, both because of her love of travel and her eye for the interesting in the world around her.  Architecture inspires much of her work as well, which is evident in “Daydream Dwellings” collection.  As stated on her website maggiecarberry.com, “I find that repetition in architecture facilitates daydreaming much like a mandala facilitates meditation.”  Early on, she even considered a career as an architect before finding her true calling as an art teacher.  Much the same way her favorite creation is the one that has caused her the most struggle, she has a soft spot for the students who “struggle but keep trying.”  Maggie wants to keep learning new techniques – “Glassblowing or stained glass is probably next on my list” – and expanding her artistic experience.
Maggie can’t remember a time when she didn’t love to paint.  “The house that I grew up in had a pretty big attic.  There was a little room that my siblings called the ‘studio.’  I remember hiding myself away there for hours.  There was one time I got in trouble for ‘sneaking out.’  The truth was I was up in the attic working on a watercolor painting of the house for Father’s Day.”  Now, her art has evolved from watercolors in the attic to a complex procedure that begins with an original photo being transformed through a gum transfer process or Xerox lithography.  First, she rubs gum arabic into the toner of a Xerox copy.  Next, oil based ink is rolled onto the paper.  It sticks to the toner and washes away from the white areas with water.  The image is then run through a press and transferred onto a more absorbent, archieval paper.  The process breaks down the image and creates a “bad print.”  Finally, she uses inks and encaustic paints bring it back to life.  The “leftover” fragments and scraps from these images end up as the stars of her mixed media pendants.  Each piece she creates is therefore 100% original since the exact same process can’t be duplicated.  Soon, she will have prints available of some of her more popular creations to give her more time to expand her collection and try new things.
As Maggie learned through her own artistic journey over the last year, trying everything is a conclusive way to find out what works best, both in her process and her path as a rising star in the local arts community.  “I tried out just about every opportunity that was presented to me,” she says.  From having a cart in Faneuil Hall to traveling to out of state craft shows to local open studios to Artexpo NY to SoWa Open Market to hanging paintings in ice cream shops to juried shows to ETSY (and then off of ETSY…and then back on ETSY), Maggie wanted to try every avenue available to independent artists.  “There are a few things that made Local Collection one of the better venues I tried this year,” she says.  “Perhaps the most important are the people who work there.  They are the ones who watch people interact with my work all day and whenever I ask, they give me great feedback…  Having the freedom to experiment with different products has also been a great advantage.  I’ve come to realize that my work is a natural fit for the tourist market, a market I hadn’t considered before.”  She adds, “As an emerging artist, my experience with Local Collection gave me the confidence to keep building my career as an artist.” 
The reaction to Maggie’s work has ranged from the humorous – one customer confessed to loving a recent purchase so much that he “may have blurted out more than once, ‘I wish I could make out with this painting!’ – to the poignant – a recent widow was moved to buy a piece to hang in her new home as part of her new life after losing her husband.  Maggie’s work catches the eye with a thoughtful pause and leaves the beholder with a sense the great creativity and unique perspective.  Without a doubt, Maggie Carberry’s work will continue to evolve and grow and change the more she learns.  What’s next?  Could be anything, true, but there is no doubt it will be simply stunning.

Please join Maggie in-store on May 17th for a Metal Clay Demonstration and again on May 24th for a Encaustic Painting Workshop.  Visit our Facebooks Event Tab or call the store at 617-722-4310 for more up-to-the-minute information!
See store for details.

JLM Images: Local Collection July 2011 Artist of the Month


About the Artist...
Jen Matson of JLM Images received her first camera as a gift when she was in the 8th grade and it was love at first sight.  What started out as a hobby became her life’s work.  In 1998 she transitioned into the world of professional photography and hasn’t looked back.  “I tend to see the world as photographs,” she says.  She frames her shots by instinct and has favorite locations she is drawn back to re-shoot.  With the simple consideration of time of day or change of season, there is a whole new image to capture. 

Whether the intended shot is an old favorite or a new location, Jen’s focus is on capturing the moment in its purest form.  She shoots on Fuji film using a Minolta x-370, which is a basic SLR (single-lens reflex) camera.  “No fancy features, not even autofocus,” Jen says.  “And I print all the pictures myself in the darkroom.”  Jen’s images are almost exclusively Boston-based.  Scenes ranging from Harvard Square to the North End to the Charles to Fenway Park to the Public Garden fill out JLM Images’ portfolio.  Though she doesn’t usually photograph people, her keen eye for the way light affects landscape and cityscape makes her a master of her craft.  One of JLM Images’ most popular photos is of the Make Way for Ducklings statue in The Public Garden.  Jen recalls a correspondence with Nancy Shorn, the artist who designed and sculpted the famous Boston landmark, who said Jen’s photo is the best of its kind she’s ever seen.  “Coming from the artist who created them, that really meant a lot to me!” she says.

Jen was onboard at Local Collection Boston as one of the original vendors when the store opened in May 2010 and continues to be one of its most popular product lines over a year later.  Of Local Collection, Jen says, “It’s a great store in a very visible location.  It’s a reason for people who live in the city to go to Faneuil Hall.”  Going on, she says, “There are very few places left that sell handmade art by local artists.  It is wonderful for us to have a venue like this located in the heart of downtown Boston, somewhere the focuses on quality and unique handmade art.”  Local Collection’s goal is to give a voice and a platform for all of the up-and-coming New England artisans so that Jen’s shared-philosophy of “My Hobby, My Business, My Art” can become a reality.

Jen will be showcasing her work in a special gallery event on Thursday, July 21st from 12PM-2PM.


Whenever you spend $30 or more on JLM Images at Local Collection, you will receive a FREE blank greeting card!