Gina Hyams Author

Category Archives: creating

Podcasting Workshops with NPR Producer Susan Davis in Pittsfield and Hudson

Susan Davis by Michael Czeiszperger

Muddy Puppy Media presents Podcasting 101 workshops with acclaimed NPR producer Susan Davis from 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday, April 30 at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts (28 Renne Avenue in Pittsfield, MA) and on Sunday, May 1 at Time & Space Limited (434 Columbia Street in Hudson, NY). The workshop will be of interest to both aspiring podcasters and podcast-loving audiophiles.

Susan Davis is a storyteller—by nature, by craft, by art, and by profession. For two decades, she has ferreted out the most memorable, most profound, most complex, and most interesting characters and brought their tales to the listeners of Public Radio. She has worked as a producer for Marketplace, Soundprint, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation at NPR, as well as for The State of Things on North Carolina Public Radio/WUNC. Her recent podcast clients include NPR’s Alt Latino, The Good Fight with Ben Wikler (#1 on iTunes), Press Record (from the Southern Oral History Project at UNC Chapel Hill), The Monti Radio Hour, and Classical Classroom. She has taught podcasting/audio production at a wide range of venues, ranging from Duke University to the Public Radio Program Directors Conference to the Cultural Affairs Department of the United States Department of State.

In Podcasting 101, Davis will introduce participants to the building blocks of a great podcast, including true listening, the art of hosting, perfecting a sound, achieving a tone, and designing an efficient production structure and schedule She will also address tech issues (all you need to get started is an iPhone and a computer) and share tips on how to build an audience through promotion and distribution.

Tuition is $150 early bird special through March 31 /$175 after April 1. Limited financial aid is available. To reserve your spot, please email Gina (noting your interest in the Pittsfield or Hudson workshop) at ginahyams@gmail.com.

Please note: Susan will also teach a Podcast Storytelling 101 Intensive July 31 – August 5 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For details, please click here.

Announcing the 2016 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Recipient: John McCarthy

My family and I are delighted to announce that John McCarthy of Santa Monica, California, is the recipient of this year’s Leigh Hyams Studio Residency.

How John describes his art: “My work is about giving form to memories, visions, and dreams. Intuition, interpretation, and imagination are the driving forces that have fueled my passion for making art since the 1980s. Inspired by nature, I pay close attention to the forest, to the ocean, and to the qualities of light at night, especially faint illuminations cast by lit windows, campfires, and moonlight. These elements often surface in my painting as abstractions. My painting process includes sensory awareness techniques that allow me to relinquish control and invent new ways of making marks: painting with the canvas behind my back while looking through a mirror; painting the shape of a sound; and painting in near darkness. I often work with both hands simultaneously.”

John’s thoughts on how he’ll spend his time during the residency: “I spent  five weeks with Leigh in San Miguel de Allende in 2006. If I had a month to spend in her studio, I would take walks we used to take together, look at things we used to look at, and remember conversations we had. I would then take those memories along with the emotions they elicit and weave them into new works. Leigh continues to be a large and living presence in my life and work. The experience of being able to work in the place where she once lived and worked and to feel her presence and guidance, would be most meaningful and inspiring. And, I would love to be able to work freely, without distraction or interruption!”

"Mulholland Drive Dream" by John McCarthy, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 72” x 60”

“Mulholland Drive Dream” by John McCarthy, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 72” x 60”

Announcing the 2015 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Recipient: Sally Heppner

My family and I are delighted to announce that Sally Heppner of Portland, Oregon, is the recipient of this year’s Leigh Hyams Studio Residency. Her application is so moving, I am publishing it (with her permission) in full below.

Cheers,
Gina

“Where are you going?” by Sally Heppner, 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 24″ x 36″.

Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Application for May 2015

Submitted by Sally Heppner

How I’m connected with Leigh

Journal Entry from Sunday, June 8, 2008: She said to be ready to hate my work. She said to be ready to cry. She said to stop being nice. She said others have started looking for plane tickets back after a week. Apparently she is going to kick me in the butt. Big time.

This is exactly what I want.

And that’s exactly what happened.

I heard Leigh speak in March, 2008 in Portland, Oregon. The minute I heard her speak, I knew there was something within her that was luminous. At that time her paintings were loose, drippy, luscious botanicals. They drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. She said her painting was about “this incredible joy of being alive.” I knew then I wanted to be near her and learn from her.

She worked me hard. I painted for two and a half weeks in the little garden shed, painting from exquisite dreams I discovered I had only while in Mexico. I changed and my work transformed. Leigh had the ability to help unlock me, to loosen the tight intellectual constraints learned while earning my recent fine arts degree, and I began to paint from the center of my soul.

When I came home, I built out a wall in my little apartment like the wall in Leigh’s studio so I could continue to paint freely, and I did until two and a half years ago when my world turned upside down.

On August 10th 2012, my 24-year-old son, Michael, died in his sleep. We don’t know why, he just went. He was a luminous soul, like Leigh, an artist to the core of his being. His medium was music; when he played the saxophone I was mesmerized. Now I hear him in the sound of the geese overhead as they head to the nearby park, the harmonies of water as a river wends its way through boulders, the whisper of glacial wind blowing down from a mountain at dusk.

When Michael died, I felt him with me, guiding me through my grief. I felt an intense surge of creativity and love. But my painting heart became locked up. I’m still not sure why.

The following summer I realized if anybody could help me unlock this frozen painting heart, it would be Leigh. I would go to San Miguel and study with her again. When I searched and found she had died a few months previous, I was filled with new grief—for you, Gina, for those who would never get a chance to soak up Leigh’s spirit, and for myself because I would not have her to guide me again with her rigorous, exuberant, honest teaching.

I’ve continued to paint through my grief but it’s not the same. I’ve been painting about my search. What happens after we die? Where is Michael now? I’ve also been painting pure expression, like Leigh taught me, but only occasionally. I have lost my heart.

I still need Leigh. I need to feel her joyous spirit; her dedication to drawing; her passion for paint; her love of life. Though her body is not here, I believe her spirit is, and I know that while working in her space she will be near.

When I worked with Leigh previously, I was driven. I couldn’t stop painting. I felt like I was dancing with paint in the little garden shed and I didn’t want to leave. I kept learning from Leigh right up until the end. The last day as I prepared to leave, though exhausted, I decided I had one more painting in me. I started a diptych from a small, loose drawing I’d made at the hot springs the day before. As I worked, Leigh would come in and sit down, discussing the difference between value and intensity, suggesting just a bit more punch, or intensity, in the lower left corner of one. I was so very grateful for every hour spent with Leigh. She helped me open up and see from my soul. As I left San Miguel in the wee hours of the morning I closed my eyes. What did I see? Splotches of lush color juxtaposed against each other. My mind was playing with intensity, value and hue. Lush oranges were playing against the pinks, greens and yellows of Mexico. They were dripping and goopy and slopped-on in my mind. I was continuing to paint, continuing what Leigh had imparted.­­

What would I do for a month in Leigh’s studio?

To prepare myself, I will re-read the journal I wrote while working with her in 2008. I will also re-read her book, How Painting Holds Me on The Earth: Writings of a Maverick Painter and Teacher, which I continue to turn to when I need a good dose of Leigh. (She was writing her book while mentoring me and I had the privilege of helping her edit a few chapters. She also included portions of my journal in her postscript section on mentoring.)

The first morning in Leigh’s studio and garden I will sit and absorb. I remember her often sitting and reading in her garden. I want to hear what new things she has to tell me. I never got enough of her teaching.

Next I w­ill go out and find that luscious Mexican paint Leigh introduced me to. I will buy colors I like and colors I hate, just as Leigh suggested when we went to the little tienda on my first day with her. I will come back to the studio and tack up several large sheets of paper, nothing precious, and begin to paint. I will find those places within myself that I need to let go of and just paint.

Journal entry from Tuesday, June 10th, 2008: She said to think about painting joy later and think about shouting right now. It may not be beautiful or pleasing or anything I have been taught to do. My gut may paint ahead of my intellect. That will catch up later.

I need the time and the place to shout. I will revive what Leigh taught me; how she prodded me and pushed me to my limits. Since Michael died, I have painted when I can but haven’t set aside the time to inquire deeply. When I do have time, I have been reading everything I can get my eyes on and painting my questions about death. We don’t deal with these questions in our society very well. Mexicans seem to accept death much more fluidly than we. I had the opportunity to be in Mexico for Dia de Los Muertos in 2008 and experienced the celebration of loved ones remembered and returning to their families. What better place than Leigh’s studio in Mexico, where the veil between death and life is not drawn so tightly, to continue my inquiry? I will converse with paint in Leigh’s studio every day, then, in the evenings I will write of my experience. I learn by writing; it helps to clarify my thoughts and recall what I’ve learned.

As I was cleaning out my own small studio at the beginning of this New Year, I wanted to set aside painting about grief and paint life again. But when I think about it, I realize I am not done with grief. Leigh’s statement that her painting is about the incredible joy of being alive has never left me. It’s why I was drawn to her paintings and her exuberant spirit in the first place. My work tends to be about life and the joy I find when outside but I know I need the space and time to go deep into death and grieving before I can paint life again. I suspect there is much to learn about death and life and the interconnectedness of the two.

“Transition” by Sally Heppner, 2014. Acrylic and charcoal on canvas. 48″ x 54″.

About my work

In addition to my inquiry about grief, my work is about human interaction with nature. How humans respond to the environment surrounding them intrigues me. We are happiest and healthiest when in touch with where we come from; we have an inarticulate need to be an integral part of the natural universe. The more I turn over rocks to see lives below them and the more I absorb the beauty of what surrounds us, the more I feel a sense of wonder about what it means to be part of this unfathomable whole. Lately, though, when outside and when painting, I find my thoughts turning to life, death, and the nature of our being. I have so many questions.

I have lost my painting heart and I want to find it again. I used to find joy in the way art would open me up to the natural world—I would pay attention to shape, absorb color, bury my eyes in the texture of paint, and express deep emotion. When painting, I have a conversation with my work; sometimes a painting will tell me it is done but not yet ready to be understood. Leigh taught me that too. Looking at a particular painting months later, I begin to understand. I love the continued discovery.

I don’t want to let these things go. Now, glimmers of the power of art and nature emerge occasionally but the rigors of making ends meet clutter my mind and affect my art practice. I need the time away to focus, a fresh start, to revisit what Leigh taught me and push my painting to the limits. I am ready. Leigh said in her book, “For me, the act of drawing or painting a landscape fulfills some inarticulate need to be an integral part of the universe – to meld with the natural world, or, somehow, through painting, to touch the life force for an instant.” This quote exemplifies the mysterious and powerful interconnectedness of art and the natural world. Setting aside a month to paint and examine the connections between art, nature, life, and death in Leigh’s studio in Mexico would allow me to come away with a deeper understanding of this beautiful existence we’re living, a renewed pursuit of painting, and a good dose of Leigh’s spirit, so I may share with those around me this incredible joy of being alive.

 

A Painting Tribute to Leigh Hyams by John McCarthy

Los Angeles-based artist John McCarthy was one of my mom’s favorite people. They met at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, in 1996, and he went on to serve as lead assistant during her master painting classes there from 2006 until her last seminar in 2011, as well as participate in workshops she led in Providencia, Colombia and at various locations in Mexico, including San Miguel de Allende, Patzcuaro, Guanajuato, and Xilitla. He recently shared with me this vivid series of paintings that he created in tribute to her.

Leigh and John at Esalen, April 2008

Remembering Days and Nights: 
A painting tribute to Leigh Hyams, mentor and friend
by John McCarthy 
January, 2015
These are memory-generated paintings inspired by the loss of my art mentor, Leigh Hyams (1926 – 2013).
 
For 15 years I painted with Leigh and other artists in Mexico, Big Sur, and Colombia, often working outside in the tropics to capture in abstract form the essence of the jungle, the wind, and the sea. This series is a remembrance of those days and nights: A recollection of the colors and sounds and smells of the forests and the shore as we all painted together, looking at each other’s work and delighting in conversations about art.

Leigh teaching at Esalen, 2007

The painting, Crossing the Bridge, was inspired by a vision that I had one night last year before I drifted off to sleep. I found myself in a forest in Big Sur with Leigh and another artist friend, Kay Bridge, who had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was a forest we had all painted in many times, and I could see Leigh walking across a footbridge, with Kay following behind. I was struck by the aliveness of that moment: I could see what Leigh and Kay were wearing; I could see the moon and smell the pine trees; I could hear leaves rustling and waves crashing in the distance. And then, in an instant, I realized that Leigh was dead and Kay was soon to die. That searing moment was the genesis of the painting.

‘Crossing the Bridge’, watercolor, charcoal and ink on paper, 53” x 42”, 2014

At Leigh’s memorial service at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco, her paintbrushes were placed in a basket and those in attendance were invited to take some. I took three brushes, mixed them in with my own, and used them to create this series.

Leigh’s paint brushes (photo by Gina Hyams)

‘The Night Walk’ acrylic on paper, 22” x 30”, 2014

‘Jungle, Xilitla’, acrylic on paper, 9.5” x 12.5”, 2014

‘Warm Xilitlan Night’, acrylic, caran d’Ache and charcoal on wood panel, 29” x 29.5”, 2014

‘La Selva Mexicana’, charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2014

‘Rhythm of the Sea’, acrylic on paper, 9 3/8” x 12.5”, 2014

‘Waterfall, Xilitla, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 16” x 20”

‘Remembering the Forest’, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2014

‘The Afterglow’, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 30” x 22”, 2013

‘Rituals of Spring’, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2013

John McCarthy drawing

‘The Winds of Change’, charcoal on paper, 22” x 30”, 2013

John and Leigh at Esalen

John McCarthy is currently seeking gallery representation. Please email any leads to him at johnmccarthyartist@me.com.

Interview with Kaarin “Pook” Lemstrom-Sheedy of pookstyle gift shop in Chatham, New York

p o o k s t y l e at 2 Park Row in  Chatham, New York, is one of the most charming gift shops around. It’s owned by Kaarin “Pook” Lemstrom-Sheedy, a veteran bookstore and museum shop retailer, who shares space with Park Row Gallery & Framing. She says she’s having the time of her life with the shop and her joy shines through in the gifts she stocks. 

Kaarin “Pook” Lemstrom-Sheedy

Prior to launching p o o k s t y l e in 2010,  Kaarin managed the iconic Scribner Bookstore and Barnes & Noble 128 Fifth Avenue Sales Annex in Manhattan, and she designed and ran museum gift shops at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MASS MoCA, the Mount, and Hancock Shaker Village.

Gina: What defines p o o k s t y l e?

Kaarin: Clean, modern designs from the U.S. and around the world, with a pinch of humor and a dash of whimsy thrown in for good measure. “Pook” is the name my father gave me as a baby, and prior to opening p o o k s t y l e, the only people who called me by that name were my family and very oldest and closest friends, so I had to think carefully about releasing it into the world. Happily, it has been a very pleasant and good experience. I’ve met many other pooks and pookies—both two and four legged! Customers usually ask if they can call me pook once they know what it means, and I always say yes!

My shop has been described (by Rural Intelligence) as a “museum store without a museum” and I think that’s quite fitting; it seems my roots are showing. One of my guiding philosophies, a holdover from my museum years, is the desire to offer “something for everyone” and I therefore have a fairly broad range of price points—everything from a $300 Japanese copper teapot to a “folding ruler” for $6.

p o o k s t y l e offers things that I love, like, and/or believe in. My hope is that others will share my enthusiasms, and so far, anyway, so good! I should also add that at the shop’s core, shoppers will find many Scandinavian products. This “flavor” comes from my childhood in Amesbury, Massachusetts—my Dad was a Finn and my Mom an Olson, so growing up, there were many Scandinavian things in our home.

Gina: What makes a great gift?

Kaarin: Something that the giver feels good about giving—whether it’s because they know it’s just the right fit for the recipient, or because it’s something they have discovered and feel delighted and excited about personally and can then pass that delight along in the giving. 

Gina: What are your thoughts on fun hostess/host gifts?

Kaarin: Things that are attractive, maybe a little out of the ordinary, but also useful. For example, I carry a wonderful line of felt coasters from DAFF of Germany, in a whole range of fabulous colors. I encourage my customers to mix and match—have a little fun and at the same time customize and personalize the gift for your recipient. I carry at all times a variety of delicious Swedish jams—gooseberry, lingonberry, black currant. Always a lovely and tasty offering—and again, most useful. 

Gina: What’s the best gift anyone ever gave you?

Kaarin: When my now husband, then boyfriend, Bob, and I were dating, he gave me a flute one Christmas, something that had been on my Xmas list—along with a harpsichord (hey, a girl could dream!) —for many years. I believe it was a little beyond my parents means to buy me either one, much as they would have liked to, so when I opened that gift on Christmas Day, with my family all around me, my mother and I began to cry! My Mom later said that was when she knew that Bob was the “one for me.” 43 years later (41 wed, 2 dating), I’d say she had it right.

A walk around the shop with Kaarin…

Kaarin: These are Swedish mini Shea butter soaps: lingonberry (lingon), blueberry (blabar), and  cloudberry (hjortron) and Swedish egg white facial soap. I’m very fussy about smells, but I love the fresh, light scent of these Swedish bars. I’ve been giving the egg white facial bar to an 89-year-old friend of my late Mom’s for years, and she swears that it works wonders on her aged skin! Great stocking stuffers, all. 

Kaarin: I love the whimsical design of the B clock—the “B” theme as in bees, birds, and bunnies, the element of surprise when customers realize that it is made of lightweight recycled cardboard. It’s elegance created from everyday, humble materials—love that formula! 

Kaarin: p o o k s t y l e features an ever changing selection of used and rare design books pulled from sister store, Berkshire Books (which my husband Bob helms, and which is located right around the corner at 2 Park Row), as well as one-of-a-kind, unusual, hand-selected titles sprinkled throughout the shop.

Kaarin: A Cabinet of Curiosities at p o o k s t y l e includes rolls of colored cotton string, footed ceramic vessels by Cape Cod potter Frances Kate Johnson, tiny glass vases, angel ornaments from Denmark, red and white Yule candles from Sweden, and felt Moomim purses. On the counter are bundles of the most wonderful, longest-lasting white taper candles from Sweden (which are a p o o k s t y l e staple).

Kaarin: As long as there’s a p o o k s t y l e, there will be rubber stamps and art supplies! This is a terrific new Year of Holidays Stamp Carving Kit from Yellow Owl Workshop, creators and champions of clever rubber stamps of all kinds. There are also handsomely boxed brass key rings from Areaware (old keys being another p o o k s t y l e passion). Color Appeel crayons, ridiculously awesome crayon sticks with fun peel-to-reveal action. The Tea Towel Stencil Kits include two blank 100% cotton tea towels, drawing stencils, and fabric markers. Choose either the veggie or cat motif and have a ball creating your one-of-a-kind tea towel masterpieces! 

Kaarin: A typical p o o k s t y l e mix of fun and whimsical gifts: Melamine portrait plates from London’s National Gallery, classic folding Swedish ruler, brightly colored fabric watches, rubber stamp kits, ink stamp pads in a wide variety of colors, Sturdy cork coasters: choose from We Heart Canada, Chickadee, Snow Shoes. Boxed Cubeots (“a wooden puzzle with a playful personality”).

Kaarin: Here are soft lamb’s wool throws in pink and grey from Klippan, Sweden and a round, ingeniously designed scarf hanger from Japan. The cheerfully colored plastic bins were originally designed as baskets for marketing (veggies in particular stay fresh and intact), but there are any number of uses for these sturdy, light weight containers. I use mine as an elegant guest room wastebasket! 

Kaarin: A delightful tiny village contained in a matchbox. Made in the Netherlands, the 17 wooden pieces can be arranged in endless combinations. A sweet, diminutive stocking stuffer! 

Kaarin: In keeping with my “something for everyone” philosophy, p o o k s t y l e carries a selection of playful and unusual jewelry in a variety of price points. Fun, affordable readers fly out of the store. Available in four different color combinations, many customers buy one of every color and then place them throughout the house, ever at the ready!

Kaarin: These beautiful dreamcatchers are made from vintage Canadian laces. No two alike and they’re available in two sizes. Sweet dreams nearly certain.

Leigh Hyams Studio Residency in San Miguel de Allende: 2016 Application Guidelines

Leigh’s family established the Leigh Hyams Studio Residency to give an artist a free month-long creative retreat at Leigh’s casita in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The furnished casita has a painting studio, simple kitchen, one bedroom, Talavera tile-filled bathroom, and an extensive collection of art books, as well as access to the patio garden and roof terrace. Everything you need, including organic groceries and art supplies, is within walking distance. For more information about the house and neighborhood, see Casa Duende.

Leigh painting in her casita studio circa 2008

GUIDELINES

1. Applicants must have some connection to Leigh – be it that they were her student, friend, or fan.

2. The residency will take place May of 2016 and will include rent, utilities, housekeeping three times a week, and assistance as needed from the bilingual property manager.

3. The residency is for one person (no friends, no family, no pets) so that you, the artist, can focus on your art without distraction.

4. The artist is responsible for his or her own transportation to Mexico, food, and art supplies.

HOW TO APPLY

Application deadline: February 5, 2016.

Answer these questions:

1. How are you connected to Leigh?

2. What would you do with a month in Leigh’s studio?

3. Please tell us about your art.

Email application to: ginahyams@gmail.com.

Casita bedroom

Day bed in the casita studio

Casita kitchen

Casita dining area

Casita studio

Casita bathroom

Announcing the 2014 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency Recipient: Painter Carolyn Miller

We are pleased to announce that Carolyn Miller of San Francisco is the recipient of the 2014 Leigh Hyams Studio Residency.

Here’s how Carolyn plans to use her May retreat in San Miguel de Allende:

“After being initially intimidated at trying to paint where Leigh painted, and finding it hard to be in the casita when she is no longer there, I believe I would be energized by her dedication to her work and as a result I would paint some large canvases. Last September I had a solo show at Canessa Gallery in San Francisco, and one of the paintings was of my mother’s famous dahlia bed at my childhood home in Missouri. On one of Leigh’s visits from Mexico I had told her I wanted to paint that dahlia bed, and she encouraged me to do. I tried to do that painting then and failed, but last year I did complete a large painting and named it ‘My Mother’s Dahlia Bed, for Leigh.’ After that painting sold, I decided I wanted to do several other paintings of the same subject. I also would like to do a series on the Missouri woods, and a series of Missouri rivers. I’m interested these days in large canvases, 48 by 48 inches, that would eventually be stretched.

Because the Canessa show went well, I would like to try for another show there, probably with another person, so a month of time to paint would allow me to gather some new work toward that end. Some other ideas I have for paintings include abstracts based on the sidewalks in San Miguel, because when I was there I became fascinated with the colors and patterns in the native stone. I would also like to do some paintings of the flowers, vegetables, and fruits sold in the mercado, some of which I sketched when I was staying in the casita. I would also like to experiment with some streetscapes and interiors, two kinds of painting I have almost never done but have always wanted to try.

Recently I’ve been taking a long time to do each painting and have found it hard to find the time to paint, but I believe that if I had an entire month to devote to painting I could achieve much more, as I did in the days when I took part in Leigh’s classes and workshops.”

 

Update June 16, 2014

To see photos of the works in progress Carolyn painted during her residency, please click here.

“My Mother’s Dahlia Bed, for Leigh” by Carolyn Miller

Announcing the Leigh Hyams Studio Residency in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Leigh’s family has established the Leigh Hyams Studio Residency to give an artist a free month-long creative retreat at Leigh’s casita in San Miguel de Allende. The furnished casita has a painting studio, simple kitchen, one bedroom, Talavera tile-filled bathroom, and an extensive collection of art books. Everything you need, including organic groceries and art supplies, is within walking distance. For photos of the house and more information about the neighborhood, see Casa Duende.

 

GUIDELINES

1. Applicants must have some connection to Leigh – be it that they were her student, friend, or fan.

2. The residency will take place May of 2014 and will include rent, utilities, and housekeeping three times a week.

3. The residency is for one person (no friends, no family, no pets) so that you, the artist, can focus on your art without distraction.

4. The artist is responsible for his or her own transportation to Mexico, food, and art supplies.

HOW TO APPLY

Application deadline: February 1, 2014. The winner will be announced by February 15, 2014.

Answer these questions:

1. How are you connected to Leigh?

2. What would you do with a month in Leigh’s studio?

3. Please tell us about your art.

Email application to: ginahyams@gmail.com.

Interview with Author Kate Lebo about Pie and Poetry

Kate Lebo makes poems and pies in Seattle. Her writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Gastronomica, and Poetry Northwest. When Kate is not creating poems, she is hosting her semi-secret pie social, Pie Stand, around the US, teaching creative writing at the University of Washington and Richard Hugo House, and pie-making at Pie School, her cliché-busting pastry academy.

Chin Music Press recently published her debut collection, A Commonplace Book of Pie, with illustrations by Jessica Lynn Bonin. An eclectic mix of prose poems, fantasy zodiac, humor, and recipes, the book explores the tension between the container and the contained while considering the real and imagined relationships between pie and those who love it.

A Commonplace Book of Pie from Kate Lebo on Vimeo.

Gina: Please talk to me about pie as poetic muse. What is it about pie that sparks your imagination?

Kate: Pie offers a sweet structure for me to work within and push against, a whole list of pie varieties that each come with their cultural and seasonal associations, assumptions that can be turned upside down, moods that can be illustrated with food, or little known facts that can reinvigorate a pie we thought we knew. I started with pumpkin pie and, like anyone at a feast, couldn’t stop there. As the collection grew, I began to see how pie, as commonplace as it is, is a powerful metaphor for what we reveal and conceal, what we contain, how we contain it. Crust keeps the secret of its filling, but invites us to cut it open and reveal all.

And pie has a certain universal delight to it. For the same reason you have fun reading the poems, I had fun writing them.

Gina: I gather A Commonplace Book of Pie evolved through several iterations. Please tell me the history, and how you ended up publishing with Chin Music Press. Your book seems quite different than the other titles they publish.

Kate: A Commonplace Book of Pie started as a handmade zine, just one part of an otherwise ephemeral collaboration with the sculptor Brian Schoneman. Pie was our common place, and we used it in the project to make an approachable, playful sculpture. The zine gathered bits and pieces of pie lore and aphorism together, set them with recipes, and complicated things with 10 prose poems, each describing what sort of person you were if you liked a particular kind of pie. The idea was to have fun with a shared love of food, but it was also to go deeper into that food than mere enjoyment, to ask the audience to consider how food tells a story about who they are.

I continued to print and handbind the zine for a couple years after that, selling it in indie bookstores and at events. I kept writing pie poems. In part because I wanted to make poems, and the structure was there, waiting for me to fulfill it, and in part because I wanted to figure out what this project was about, why people responded to it with such energy, why I’d chosen to write poetry about something as sweet as pie. Most of the ideas I’ve mentioned here have become clear to me only through writing the full manuscript, which now has 25 poems, two master recipes for fruit pies, 5 recipes to get you going, and a smattering of quotes and pie ephemera. And illustrations. This book wouldn’t be complete without Jessica Lynn Bonin’s incredible paintings, which capture the materials and process of pie-making in a way words never could. A Commonplace Book of Pie owes its inspiration and its culmination to collaboration–with two incredible artists, and with Chin Music Press, my publisher.

While I was writing the book, I kept an eye out for presses that published beautiful, affordable books that mixed genres. When I saw Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer, which came out in 2011 on Chin Music Press, I knew I’d met my match. I pitched ACBOP to them first. Two or three weeks later, they took it! I wasn’t expecting publication to be that simple. I think our shared interests made things easy as, well, you know. We’ve worked as a team to get the book out into the world, setting up an unconventional and ambitious book tour that’s as comfortable in Whole Foods as it is in literary venues. The subject matter of A Commonplace Book of Pie is unusual for Chin Music, but the multi-genre, visual form is right up their alley.

Gina: I loved your riffs on pie personality types. Several years ago, I had the idea of a dating app or website that would match people based on their pie personality profiles. I’ll never get around to that idea, so feel free to run with it if you like. In your book, you define lots of different pie personalities, but you don’t say which one you most identify with. So, what sort of pie are you, Kate Lebo?

Kate: Ha! I’ll never tell. Okay, I’ll tell. There’s bits of me in all the poems, though none of them are about me. Sometimes I’m cherry. Sometimes I’m mud. That line about “the chocolate pie-lover would like to convince you that her height is three inches above the crown of her head”–that’s totally me. I’m trying to do that right now.

Gina: Your book trailer is charming and well done. How did you create it?

Kate: Thank you! I’ve been so lucky to work with Stringbean Productions, a film crew based in Seattle, Washington, on videos like Bliss and Taste of Pie School (you can find all our videos here). We reunited for this book trailer with the idea of weaving impromptu tales of pie personalities from complete strangers, old friends, and local personalities. We camped out in Victor Steinbrueck park on the Seattle waterfront on a hot day in July. Interviewed anyone who would stand still and say something about pie. We filmed in just about every part of town, in backyards and front yards and parks. Our editor cut the best bits together to make a short film that captured an otherwise hard-to-summarize book. There’s absolutely no way I could have made that film on my own–I’m just the idea lady. Erik, Jean, Katie, and Doran just blow me away with their teamwork and vision.

Gina: Writing Pie Contest in a Box put my in touch with the wonderfully generous pie mafia sisterhood. What’s your connection to author/pie entrepreneur Beth Howard (queen bee of said sisterhood)?

Kate: I believe we met through a Facebook group, Pie Nation, which has introduced me to a whole community of writers and bakers nationwide. In the summer of 2011, I stayed with Beth at the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa, helped out at her Pitchfork Pie Stand, and wrote part of the manuscript for A Commonplace Book of Pie. It was a dreamy week. She says “your hands are your best tools.” I couldn’t agree more.

Gina: What’s next for you?

Kate: A cookbook! Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour & Butter will be out on Sasquatch Books this Fall 2014.


 

Interview with Author Andrea Lawson Gray about “Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes”

Andrea Lawson Gray

San Francisco-based author and chef Andrea Lawson Gray collaborated with Adriana Almazán Lahl on a wonderful new book titled Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). It delves into the foods of Mexico’s many holidays, each chapter featuring historical and cultural background information, along with recipes and photographs. This comprehensive volume explores both major and lesser-known fiestas, as well as rites of passage celebrations, such as quinceñeras, weddings, and funerals.

 

Andrea is the proprietor of Tres Señoritas Gourmet, a caterer specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine and Una Señorita Gourmet, a private, in-home culinary service. She writes a column on Mexican cuisine for the Examiner.com and a blog on food in San Francisco’s Mission district, My Mission: Tastes of San Francisco. A single mother of three children, she also volunteers at International High School of San Francisco, working on diversity and social justice issues. She is building a small hotel and cooking school in Tenango de Valle, Mexico, called Casa La Tia that she hopes to open in the summer of 2016.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gina: What are the roots of your passion for Mexican cuisine and how did you learn to cook it?

 

Andrea: My passion for Mexican cuisine really comes from my passion for Mexico, its people who are just so hospitable, noble, and humble at the same time and value the land and their traditions in a way that I think we have forgotten here. The cuisine is such a natural extension of all this that I actually had a yearning to become immersed in the cuisine as I became more and more immersed in Mexican culture. It really drew me in.

 

Gina: How did Celebracions Mexicanas come to be and how long did it take? Had you written much before?

 

Andrea: I had been writing a column for the Examiner.com for several years on Mexican food and Mexican restaurants. I had planned to write a book when I moved to Mexico; I wasn’t sure what exactly it would be about, but as I tracked the interest in my columns I found that whenever I wrote about Mexican food for a specific Mexican holiday, I attracted the most readers. So it came to me that I had the topic for my book, but I still planned to write it when I moved to Mexico (which will be in 2016).

 

Then I received an email from Ken Albala, who was to become my editor— he was looking for a writer for a book on Chinese cuisine. I never let an email go unanswered, so I replied, almost as a joke “I actually don’t know enough about Chinese cuisine to take on your project (even though I did own a Chinese restaurant in NYC…but I was the frontend person, not in the kitchen), but if you ever want to do a book on Mexican cuisine, I’m your gal.” He replied that I should submit a book proposal. I had never done one before. The rest, as they say, is history! I had NO idea that my book was the first of its kind until I read the description on Amazon: “the first book to bring the richness and authenticity of the foods of Mexico’s main holidays and celebrations to the American home cook.” I couldn’t believe it!

 

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Gina: How did your collaboration with Adriana work?

 

Andrea: As soon as I got Ken’s email, I knew I needed a collaborator to provide recipes. I am well-versed in Mexican cooking, but I wanted someone’s family recipes. All my Mexican friends, well, at least the women, have notebooks of their mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. I met Adriana and (several other amazing Latina ladies who cook) when I interviewed her for a piece I wrote for my column on La Cocina, the business incubator that gave her her start. Of all the women I had met for my article, Adriana was the first to come to mind. When I approached her, she said, “I have been waiting my whole life to write a cookbook!”

 

Almazán Family Cookbook

Gina: What did your research for the book entail?

 

Andrea: I began by locating original texts. Fortunately, there are several really wonderful sources, starting with Bernardino de Sahagun’s Florentine Codex, recorded between 1545 and 1590, when he first met the Aztecs right after the Spanish landed. There has been lots of scholarship on the subject, so many of the more important texts, like the Florentine Codex, have even been translated into English. My Spanish is good, but reading Spanish as it appeared in the colonial era is a bit of a stretch for me. There are wonderful texts from the height of the Spanish occupation, written by women with a great eye for detail, and these are widely quoted in the book. Fascinating material! And in December of last year, Adriana went to Mexico and was able to go to several libraries…that was invaluable.

 

Chile en Nogada

Gina: How did you source the photos?

 

Andrea: Everything about this project was blessed! First, Adriana not only had the culinary education and recipes to make the book really shine, she also minored in photography at the University in Mexico City, and is an excellent food photographer and stylist. I also have a food styling background from a previous career as a creative director (something I never imagined I would be tapping into again).

As for the amazing in-country photos of Mexico’s indigenous people, Jorge Ontiveros, our photographer, has a passion for this and was excited about the opportunity to share his work in this country, where it had never been seen before. Many of the photographs in the book were from a collection he already had, and he was able to take other photos we needed for the book, for specific holidays.

 

Gina: How did you find a publisher? Did an editor there help shape the development of the book?

 

Andrea: Our editor, Ken Albala, already had a series with Alta Mira Press, the Food Studies and Gastronomy arm of Rowman & Littlefield. He presented the proposal to the publisher for us. He was also invaluable in guiding me in terms of voice for the book, recommending sources, and across the board. We were just so lucky…we couldn’t have wished for an editor more versed in our topic!

 

Gina: What’s your favorite Mexican celebration and why? Please share a related recipe.

 

Andrea: My favorite time of year to be in Mexico is for Dia de Los Muertos, as the altars start to appear in the pueblos and the puestos (market stalls) sell special chocolates and alfreniques (sugar skulls). I love Adriana’s recipe for pumpkin mole, made with chiles, chocolate, and pumpkin purée, but my favorite from our chapter on Day of the Dead is for Marigold Patties in Tomato Stew, because this is not something we really cook with here, marigold petals (cempazuchil), the traditional Day of the Dead flowers. Their bright orange-yellow color represents the brightness of the sun, and their aroma is believed to attract the souls of the dead to the altars prepared in their honor.

 

Marigold Patties in Tomato Stew

Tortitas de Cempazuchil en Caldillo

(SERVES 6–8)

 

1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded (see recipe below)

1 egg white

10 cempazuchitl flowers, petals only (edible marigolds, should be organic)

1/2 cup Mexican sour cream

1 sprig epazote

1/2 tbsp Mexican oregano

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

2 cups of Tomato Caldillo (See recipe below)

2–6 tbsp oil

MIX shredded chicken with egg whites and the petals of 4 flowers, finely chopped. Add cream, epazote, oregano, salt, and pepper; mix well. Form 2-inch patties. Chop the remaining flower petals and cover patties with the petals. Prepare Tomato Caldillo.

Add oil to a sauté pan and fry patties (you will need to continue adding oil, 2 tbsp at a time, as you remove cooked patties and add new ones to the sauté pan). Cook 2 minutes on each side. Drain well on a paper towel and add to Tomato Caldillo. Serve with rice, beans, and warm tortillas.

 

Chicken Stock, plus Shredded Chicken

(MAKES ABOUT 1 GALLON OF STOCK, 5 POUNDS SHREDDED CHICKEN)

 

1 ½ gallons water

6 chicken legs and 6 chicken thighs, with skin and bones (about 4–6 pounds)

1 head garlic, roasted

½ onion

½ tsp whole black peppercorns (or 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper)

2 carrots, peeled

1 celery stalk

1 sprig fresh cilantro

1 bay leaf

1–2 tbsp salt

If time allows, first roast chicken in a pan in the oven at 350° for 30–45 minutes to get a stronger flavor. Bring the water to a boil and add the chicken. As it returns to a boil, skim the foam and particles that rise to the top with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the garlic, onion, peppercorns, carrots, celery, cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 30–45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. (If chicken has been previously roasted, remove after 30 minutes.) Remove the chicken and cool. Strain the stock and reserve. It will keep for 2–3 days in the refrigerator, up to 3 months in the freezer. For convenience, you may want to reduce stock and freeze.

When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand—not with a knife. The meat should not be too finely shredded.

 

Tomato Stock / Caldillo de Tomate 

(MAKES 4 CUPS)

 

¼ cup minced onion

1 garlic clove, puréed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup tomato purée (see below)

3 cups chicken stock (see above)

1 large sprig of cilantro

1 large bay leaf

Salt to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, add tomato purée, and cook for 12–15 minutes on medium high until it changes color and volume is reduced by half. Add chicken stock, cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Allow to boil for at least 10 more minutes to season well. Your stock is ready to be used in any recipe. Use it within 48 hours or freeze for up to 3 months

 

Fresh Tomato Purée

(MAKES ½ CUP)

 

3 small tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

½ onion

Blend all ingredients until smooth; strain and reserve. Use immediately or within a day. Or keep refrigerated for 2 days. You can also freeze for up to 1 month


Gina: I understand you’re building a home in Mexico. Please tell me about it. How far along are you? What are your hopes for the property?

 

Andrea: Yes, about seven or eight years ago, I went to visit friends in Tenango de Valle, in the state of Mexico, about half an hour from Toluca. I arrived at the Mexico City airport and we drove through an area known as La Marquesa on our way to Tenango and I instantly had this feeling of familiarity—that I was taking a trip that I had been preparing for all my life. When I arrived, I knew this was where I wanted to live.

 

Casa La Tia Kitchen

The idea of opening a casa de huesperas or guest house, and cooking school came later, as I thought about how I would earn a living in Mexico. This also seemed like a great way to share my love of Mexico and Mexican cuisine with many of my friends here in the U.S. The area where my house is doesn’t have a significant American population, at all. I like to say that if you ask where “la gabacha” (the foreigner) lives, people just point to my neighborhood. I began construction of Casa La Tia in what was just a cornfield five years ago, and now we have plumbing, electricity, and the house is almost complete. All five bedrooms and four bathrooms are done, as is the kitchen, which is colonial style and has a parilla instead of a traditional stove. The entire kitchen is covered with hand-cut hand-painted Talavera tile produced in Metepec, about a half an hour away.

 

Gina: Do you plan to write another book?

 

Andrea: Yes, I am working on the proposal as I write this. It’s a book more specific to sustainability and using all the parts of the plant, animal, or even seeds in some cases, but through the lens of Mexican cuisine. The topic was actually recommended to me by one of my readers! I think the timing is perfect, and there should be a lot of interest!

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