Masterful work: Open since July, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts’ new building in Edgecomb, the Joan Pearson Watkins House, houses an art gallery. Currently, the gallery is hosting an exhibit titled “Masters and Apprentices,” featuring the work of master basket, wood, blockprint, assemblage, and jewelry artists and their apprentices.
Artists participating in the show are master sculptor and jeweler Joseph Ascrizzi, master woodturner Kim Dailey, master basketmaker Gabriel Frey, master jeweler Nisa Smiley, and master printmaker David Wolfe. Apprentices to each, for about a seven-month period, were Lisa Bailey-Audet, Jedediah Malcore, Frances Soctomah, Lauren Beach, and David Connor, respectively. The apprentice and master artists come from the Maine Crafts Association Craft Apprentice Program.
Taking in the Watershed show is a pleasure, offering much quiet contemplation due to the spacious, spare nature of the well-lit, white-walled gallery – and due to the fact that everything in the exhibit is of such high quality. It is virtually impossible to tell the difference between the work of an apprentice and the work of her or his master, a testament to both the teaching skills of the master and the talent of the apprentice.
For instance, in looking at the two baskets woven by apprentice Soctomah, of Old Town, and 12th-generation Passamaquoddy basketmaker Frey, of Orono, one is hard-pressed to decide which basket is made by which person, as they both appear to be so well crafted.
The basket made by Soctomah, who also belongs to the Passamaquoddy people, is a perfectly crafted herringbone market basket made of brown ash. Accompanying it is a smooth wooden tool known as a basket-weaving gauge. Frey’s basket is the classic trappers pack basket. The beautiful, practical basket is made of black ash (only slightly darker in color than brown ash, which is very light in color), with dark-brown leather straps. It is also accompanied by a wooden basket-weaving gauge with a rather intricate design carved into it – the only sign that this basket and tool might belong to the master.
Similarly, the work of apprentice and master woodturners Dailey and Malcore has much in common, including a simplicity that to the casual observer belies the sophistication of each artist’s eye and hand. In every case, from Dailey’s decorative birch burl hollow form to Malcore’s cherry burl vase, the artists have chosen gorgeous pieces of wood from which they have masterfully coaxed the most beautiful forms. Of note: Malcore’s cherry burl and walnut hollow globe ornaments with long, icicle-like wooden pendants – small, intricately crafted pieces that would lend an air of elegance to any Christmas tree.
Freedom artist Ascrizzi’s sculptural assemblage pieces, “The Prisoner and the Gate: A Personal Bell” and “Echo,” possess a weighty seriousness due to the type of materials used – bone, shell, antler, oak, stone – and the careful, thoughtful creation of each piece. Each is also what Ascrizzi terms a “box sculpture,” a “visual poem,” as he has taken great pains to present each collection of natural items in careful harmony so as to allow the whole to “speak a language of its own” (ascrizzi.com).
Ascrizzi’s apprentice, Bailey-Audet, also of Freedom, runs with the antler theme in her formidable antler pendant necklaces.
Jewelry artist Smiley and her apprentice, Beach, offer two cases filled with wonderfully crafted necklaces and earrings. Beach’s necklace featuring a black piano key inlaid with the greenish-blue mineral chrysocolla and thin bands of sterling silver is exquisite. The same goes for Smiley’s mussel shell pendant necklace featuring a tiny handcrafted silver limpet attached to the shell.
Printmakers Wolfe and Connor offer masterful woodcuts, among other prints, including Connor’s multicolor “The city I love” and Wolfe’s five-color piece of a cat, “Odalisque,” part of a limited edition set of woodblock prints based on the well-known 1960 painting by Dahlov Ipcar.
I chatted briefly with Watershed Executive Director Francine Rudoff, who happened to be in the gallery when I was visiting. “In April, we’re going to be hosting a statewide K-12 exhibition of student ceramic artwork,” she told me. Following that will be a “big ceramic arts exhibit next spring and summer.”
Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts’ Joan Pearson Watkins House is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Its art gallery is free for the public to visit, but donations are accepted and appreciated.
The “Masters and Apprentices” exhibit runs through Thursday, Oct. 31.
Learn more about the Maine Crafts Association Craft Apprenticeship Program at mainecap.org.
(Christine LaPado-Breglia has written about the arts in both California and Maine. She is the recipient of two 2018 Critic’s Awards and a 2018 Local Columnist award from the Maine Press Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write her a letter in care of The Lincoln County News, P.O. Box 36, Damariscotta, ME 04543.)