by Sue Dawson
I JUST RECEIVED a lovely email from one of our former Mentorship students, and thought I’d introduce you to her.
Jean Schnell first took a workshop with Alison on Cape Cod in 2012. She then took our weeklong Martha’s Vineyard workshop in 2013. When Alison and I came up with the idea for a 6-month Mentorship program in 2013, Jean was one of the people we thought would be perfect for it. Happily, she agreed, and worked with us in the Mentorship and Advanced Mentorship for the next three years.
When I’m talking with potential Mentorship students, I often talk about Jean. At our first retreat, in January 2014, she surprised Alison during her first Mastermind (at the two retreats, each person has 30 minutes to present something to the whole group, and ask for feedback or critique – the whole room is focusing on you and your work). At the beginning of the program, Jean had bought a printer, but hadn’t even taken it out of the box. Alison’s first advice was to take the printer out, set it up, and give it a try.
by Sue Dawson
SO HOW ARE YOU DOING? I ask this because we’re living in a pretty crazy time. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, politics…. I often wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety these days, to be honest. Things are increasingly out of control, which can make me feel powerless, and worried. When I wake up at 2 or 3am, I read the news on my iPhone, and scan through Facebook. I’m staying in touch with what’s going on as much as I can, both in terms of national/international news, and the everyday posts of my friends and family. I guess it helps me feel more connected, and less vulnerable, to know that we’re all in this together.
All summer I’ve been talking with people who come into the gallery about this. I’m fascinated by the different ways people deal with the uncertainty of weather events, political upheaval, and the overwhelm of daily life. Some folks turn off the news, choosing to protect their psyches by avoiding what’s happening. That can work in small doses, but inevitably we do get pulled back to reality at some point. Others learn all they can, throw themselves into finding solutions, and helping others. They need to do something. Some people choose to exercise, travel, or do creative work, to find a sense of personal balance that seems so elusive these days.
by Sue Dawson
NIKON just came out with a brand-new top-level DSLR, and Alison’s psyched. She uses the D810, which has 36 megapixels. The new D850 has 46 megapixels, which is enough to merit the purchase. But it’s not all about megapixels. It doubles the D810’s maximum ISO, and has a cool screen that tilts so you can view at different angles. Suffice it to say that Alison wants it.
So then this crazy thing happens – the Nikon branch in Asia/Africa did a promotional excursion with 32 top professional photographers, giving them each a D850 to try out. Here’s the photo of the pros, posted on Instagram:
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.
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: