by Alison Shaw (and Sue Dawson)
HAVING MARTHA’S VINEYARD as my primary subject matter for more than 40 years certainly comes with many rewards, but also with its share of challenges. In the years that I’ve spent photographing these 100 square miles, I’ve constantly had to push myself to see the island anew. And sometimes I struggle to maintain my inspiration, creativity, momentum, and stamina, to keep shooting the same place for so long. If I lived in “America” I could simply go to the next town in search of new subject matter. Actually, I do go off-island to re-energize and shoot in other locations, and it does help. But I still have my one heart- and soul-touching muse – my island home.
So when I need to re-group, I remember one of my favorite quotes, from Marcel Proust: “The true voyage of discovery lies not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” It’s not about finding a new environment, as fun and adventurous as that can be. It’s about finding something within myself.
Mary Breslauer did this wonderful piece on Alison’s new Shoreline series, in Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.
T H E R E ‘ S N O T M U C H T I M E L E F T . . .
by Sue Dawson
I’VE BEEN having some great conversations with potential Mentorship students over the past week. They’re deliberating about whether to join this year’s program, which starts on Monday afternoon. They have questions about what to expect, what they’ll learn, how they’ll grow. I love these conversations – I’m sure they can hear me typing sometimes, trying to precisely capture their insights, so I can remember them later.
I thought I’d share some insights with you…
by Sue Dawson
WE’VE BEEN thinking a lot about teaching lately. Alison just finished teaching her week-long workshop here on the Vineyard, and we’re planning a weekend retreat for our Advanced Mentorship group. I’m also just starting to email people on the “interested” list for our 6-month Mentorship, which starts soon. But it’s funny what Alison and I talk about a lot these days…
First, picture us sitting at a cafe, drinking a latte (me) or a short latte with an extra shot (Alison), after a morning walk on the beach. Or maybe we’re hanging out on our back deck in the evening, with a drink and a deck of cards. Or working together in the kitchen. Usually, we talk about work, kids, family, cats, friends, and ALL THE STUFF WE NEED TO DO. See how I put that in caps? There’s always a lot to do, and it mostly fills the conversations we have, in a good (responsible) and bad (uni-focus) way.
But around this time of year – when the gallery season is almost over, the crowds of tourists have one more weekend of fun before things start to close for the season, there’s a chill in the air, and leaves are starting to crunch underfoot – we start to talk about what we want. Now that summer’s over, how do we want to spend this fall, winter, and spring? After such a busy season, what do we need? What will fill us back up again?
by Sue Dawson
ALISON SHAW GALLERY began on July 20, 2006. Our first sale was a notecard, to Alison’s cousin’s wife, Jana. I tried to just give her the card, but she insisted on paying, so I asked for a dollar bill. It’s still in my desk drawer in the gallery, so I see that dollar every day. It’s really hard to believe it’s been there for 10 years already!
Ever since we moved into our little building in the Arts District of Oak Bluffs, we’ve been fascinated by the history of this place. In honor of our 10th anniversary, here’s some of the history we’re proud to be part of:
88 Dukes County Avenue used to be a one-engine firehouse – one of several in town, including the t-shirt shop across from Nancy’s Snack Bar (Engines 1 and 2), “Highland Hose” near the Ocean View Restaurant (on Church Avenue, Engine 3, now the home of one of our customers), and the building in town that’s now “Cottagers Corner,” which was originally Town Hall from 1882 to 1966, and over time also a police and fire station, before the Cottagers acquired it.
So let’s go all the way back to the beginning – in 1880, “Cottage City” seceded from the town of Edgartown, and established their own fire department. In 1907, the town name was officially changed to “Oak Bluffs.” Our building was built in 1914 – we found the date, along with three initials, on the shiplap upstairs that was uncovered during our renovation over 90 years later. 1914 was also, of course, the year World War I began.
by Alison Shaw
I JUST DUSTED OFF some old binders of medium-format transparencies, did a little digging, made a few calculations, and realized I’ve been photographing the work of stonemason Lew French for nearly 25 years. Wow, talk about time flying. In the course of those 25 years Lew and I have spent countless hours together, traveled many thousands of miles to photograph his work, completed two book projects, and he even built a wonderful beach stone fireplace in our old Farm Pond house.
I’m proud to announce the launch of our second book together, Sticks and Stones, at our gallery this Saturday, August 6, 5:00-7:00pm. Lew and I will be there to meet you and sign books.
Our first book together, Stone by Design, was published in 2007. Every single photo was shot on Martha’s Vineyard, where Lew had created all of his master stonework and gardens. Nearly 35,000 copies sold, and the book really put him on the map as not just a craftsman, but as an artist. CBS Sunday Morning did a fabulous segment about Lew, he’s been piling up awards and honors for his work, and he now has fans all over the world.
As a result, Lew’s not just a Martha’s Vineyard stonemason anymore. His well-deserved reputation has far exceeded the shores of the Island. So the stonework that graces the pages of Sticks and Stones took us to places like Brazil, the Adirondacks, Maine, Washington DC, Cape Cod and Boston.
My most memorable trip for this book was, without a doubt, my trip to Brazil in January 2015. I left the Island in near-zero temperatures, and photographed “sea smoke” on the ferry trip across Vineyard Sound (caused by frigid air meeting slightly warmer water). You might need to “like” my Facebook page to see the video below:
by Sue Dawson
PLEASE JOIN Alison Shaw Gallery and gallery josephine for 4th morning, our impromptu way of celebrating the revitalization of the Arts District in Oak Bluffs, and our newly-installed sidewalk! The highway trucks finished up today, just in time to toast the completion of our safe walkway between the Arts District and the Oak Bluffs harbor.
We’ll be open from 10am to 2pm on Monday, July 4th, serving delicious breakfast beverages, and tasty snacks. It’s a perfect way to start your morning – drinking a latte, sitting in our beautiful garden, and looking at stunning art.
We also just hung Alison’s new photo of her favorite Oak Bluffs jetty (the one on Inkwell Beach) on the main wall. We used our premium framing, with museum glass – I really love this one.
We look forward to seeing you on Monday!
Photo by Eli Dagostino
Reporter Mollie Doyle and photographer Eli Dagostino spent a day with Alison, and produced this wonderful article in the MV Times. We had just moved to our new home, and this was the last day we had in our old house – where our family lived for 30 years. What a day…
by Sue Dawson
WE’RE OPENING for the 2016 season tomorrow: Saturday, May 28th, between 10am and 5pm. This year promises to be different. We like to shake things up occasionally (keeps it fun for us). To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re hosting two parties – one on July 9th, and one on August 6th. Instead of hanging a full “show” each month, we’re going to just hang new (and retrospective) pieces when we feel like it. So the walls will be changing often. If you want to buy something right off the wall, you can take it with you. We’ll just hang a new piece in its place. We love the fluidity of being able to move things around, and hope you will too!
This summer, I’m planning to write a series of blogs about our building, which began as a one-engine firehouse. And by my count, Alison’s been a professional photographer on Martha’s Vineyard for 40 years (another milestone!), so I’ll do some posts about her too. We’re really looking forward to sharing this season with you.
by Sue Dawson
EVER WANTED to do a workshop with Alison? This year, there are four locations to choose from. Alison loves teaching, and has been doing it for decades. The workshops are a great way to immerse yourself in photography for 3 to 7 days, and really get inspired creatively. You’ll learn tips and techniques, make new friends, and take some awesome photos. Click each location for more info.