Liz + Thom - SOUTH CAROLINA WEDDING

At the time of this writing, I am in a drive-up motel in the center of New Hampshire. A body of water on one side of the Inn, the landscape has diminished in blazing autumnal hues of fiery reds and oranges. Now, the trees are mostly barren, my eyes somewhat heavy: I'm tired, but happy to be back in New England.

At the time of this wedding in May, I had just worked two long days (but good days) of production, rushed back to 181st Street in Manhattan, packed a bag of clothes and camera equipment, and set a two hour timer at 9pm, for 11pm that night. Promptly with that alarm, I set out for Lincoln Center; I picked up Amanda from her restaurant. From there, we drove south on 2nd Ave to the East Village; we picked up an excitable Ben from his apartment. Without further ado, we leave New York City at 12:00am on Wednesday morning, and arrive in Charleston, SC at 12:30pm that afternoon.

This effectively began my summer of being rather "ambulatory," as I like to say - and it was mostly for weddings from Los Angeles to Maine. Scattered in the middle was a trip to Guatemala - whose fruits you will see soon enough; a woodworking art and craft retreat in the midcoast of Maine; and a move back to Portland, Maine. If it weren't for all of the time spent traveling for weddings, these work opportunities, and 7401 miles of driving cross-country for the 2016 Avocado Festival in Carpinteria, CA, you might have seen many more weddings churn through the door of this one-on-one conversation we are having right now.

But on this day-after Election Day - one very disorienting, saddening, and thought-provoking - it feels like a welcome distraction to share with you the story of Liz and Thom's Plum Hill wedding.

Liz grew up in Charleston, with access to land in "the country" about an hour to the south. She attended the notable Ashley Hall, her parents are both doctors, her sister is a farmer, one brother is en route to a career in medicine, and the other a furniture-maker.

I'm sure she'd rather you not first come to know her family's property as a location for the film Forrest Gump, but for the garden patch behind the house, or the Civil War history of the home. But the magnificent live oak tree under which Forrest Gump becomes so enamored with Jenny lives on the property. 

The Wall Street Journal did a nice feature on the property, and provides history and imagery I can't, here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-future-of-the-forrest-gump-plantation-1420737259

Before festivities at the Plum Hill Plantation began, we ended our half-day sojourn at The Westendorff for lunch, per a recommendation from an old employee of theirs (who happens to be a good friend, living in Charleston). 

After lunch, we head down toward "the country" to begin the weekend. What followed was a wonderful story of homegrown foods, family-driven hospitality, and a month's worth of entertainment packed into three short days. 

Lucie was responsible for the paella, whipped-up and finished on the fire pit outside, with the help of her friend and chef Sean. She was also responsible for the delicious batch of homemade kombucha served with the meal. Did I mention she grew the rice on the family property? She just was named a big deal in Charleston here.

Among all her great friends and family, Liz got to marry Thom on her family's property, surrounded by birds chirping and sun-a-shining. She just won a great award in fiction, which you can read about here.

Everything at this wedding was as locally-supported as possible. Olivia Rae James is a lovely photographer, and came down from Charleston for the morning of the afternoon wedding and shot some wonderful images that I've seen thus far. She does some amazing things with colors, and I recommend you leaf through her travel and editorial work on her site as well.

Lastly, I must note that Benoit, Liz's friend from Boston College who officiated the wedding, presented what I think to be one of the most beautiful ceremonies I've seen yet. Non-church wedding ceremonies have the likelihood of being deeply intimate and far more engaging than the church ceremony, and I am thankful for his words on love and commitment. Benoit, if you're reading this, my hat is off to you, wherever you are right now.

So many activities happened at the wedding occurred, it was easy to forget a moment here, a meal there. The scope and history of these southern plantations are both fascinating and of course, troubling. But it is our history, and this family has gone great lengths to share the fruits and joys of this land with friends and family, alike.

The song I chose for this video is "Wild With You" by the High Divers, and for several reasons. The lyrics match both physical elements to the wedding's location, but to the spirit of the couple. The High Divers hail from Charleston, and I enjoy pitting their lyricism and energy together with the activity, energy, and loving sentiment of Liz and Thom's marriage. I also hope that by listening and enjoying this tune, you might gain that much more of a well-rounded understanding of the place, and support a smaller band from the Lowcountry who makes good old-fashioned Americana rock music. 

As Liz and Thom have settled in Laramie, Wyoming for the time-being, they are happy there, together, and innately a little more wild (cf: "impromptu slip-n-slip").

Filmed at Plum Hill, in Yemassee, SC.

Photographer: Olivia Rae James - http://www.oliviaraejames.com

Floral: Charleston Floral - http://outofthegarden.com

Catering: Salthouse Catering - http://salthousecatering.com

Rentals: Snyder Events - http://snyderevents.com

Design/Planning: Premier Weddings & Events - http://oohevents.com

Song: "Wild With You" The High Divers - http://www.thehighdivers.com

Whitney + Alex Engagement

Saturday marked the end to another year of weddings and proposals. In 2012, I had the fortune of filming a horse-and-carriage ride through Central Park that culminated in an engagement. This weekend, I had the greater fortune to capture Alex's plan to propose in front of friends and family in the beautiful Wissahickon Valley Park, just a few miles outside of Philadelphia.

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Amanda and I hid in the woods capturing as Whitney, Alex, and Bair walked along Forbidden Drive, onto a beautiful bridge, and soon into the arms of hidden friends and family below.

But before the proposal went down, AP and I went to a used bookstore/cafe to kill some time, and quite randomly stumbled upon the timely Courtship and Marriage by Francis E. Merrill (published in 1959, to note). 

Merrill begins:

This book is a sociological study of courtship and marriage in the United States. It is not not a guide to sexual adjustment in marriage, a treatise on happy marriage, or a manual of household management. The author is not a psychiatrist, a gynecologist, or a home economist. As a sociologist, his primary interest is in courtship and marriage as forms of social interaction.

As I flipped through the book, an "Engagement" chapter popped from the pages. Four bucks later, it came with us onto the trail. He begins the chapter, "Engagement is the final triumphant stage in courtship....Two people enter a new form of interaction, with new social status, new rights, and obligations, and a new conception of themselves."

October has come and gone. Soon you will see wedding videos roll out over the next couple months, as I dive into editing-mode. This will most likely be the last series of weddings for a while, for many reasons.

A lot has happened over this year, including two cross-country road trips, several big moves, and incorporating the business into an LLC. Nothing monumental, of course, but we have been busy. Taking a step back and looking at Merrill's words that "[t]he engagement is the culmination of one type of interaction and the beginning of another," so will be this final round of wedding videos for a while, and the beginning of new ventures.

Enjoy the images below. Thanks Al and Whit!

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Whitney's dad is someone I've grown fond of over the years. (I'm going to take a break after this last photo to give everyone a chance to catch their breath, maybe grab a tissue, because this one is certainly a tear-jerker.)

I have a lot of respect for wedding photographers for many reasons, but I will say that the "engagement session photography" portion of a photographer's fee is where I stand on the knife's edge. This is the time where conceivably you "get to know the photographer" before they zoom into your wedding date, cameras in faces, flashes blazing. It is intimate, and you are supposed to find an aesthetically pleasing location to take dressed-up pictures. Why? I ask myself...

After some time with this book's sociological exploration of engagement, this is the part where I don't buy this (relatively new-in-the-field) built-in element to a "wedding photography package." Because unless hired for the actual engagement day, I think there is a lot left out; in fact, I think this whole concept misses the idea that an engagement is a social function! If it were entirely private and intimate, I think a couple with their privacy priorities in line would elope, forget the diamond ring, and not make a fuss about it.

Merrill suggests there are  six functions of engagement:

  1. Social function
  2. Sexual function
  3. Physical function
  4. Personality funciton
  5. Homemaking function
  6. Solidarity function

Nowadays, different than the "good-ole'-days", couples are not surprising each other with marriage. In the "homemaking function" he suggests that a lot of the "prosaic but important questions" should be asked of one another, and that [e[ngagement is the best time to discuss them."

But cognitive-thinking, well-intentioned human beings in loving relationships want to avoid the staggering omnipresence of divorce that has hit our world. Thus they talk about what they believe to be these important matters before they get engaged: frugality, kids, where they want to live, how they want to live together - all things that are important tenets hopefully driving towards a more successful marriage.

[I have a lot of thoughts on marriage and weddings and engagements that I need time to process after four years of "working" them, but after this beautiful weekend in Philadelphia, I can conclude that the engagement/proposal is best shared and celebrated in the company of friends and family. So don't pay mind to a wedding photographer who wants to cover an engagement session, or to inflate their wedding-day package price - get a friend or relative with a decent camera in the weeds with you and help capture this day the way it really happened.]

Sharing the news with Alex's mother.

Sharing the news with Alex's mother.

Priorities in check.

Priorities in check.

From a Cub to a Cat.

From a Cub to a Cat.

The Behms are beaming!

The Behms are beaming!

The five-page Precipice on how it all would go down.

The five-page Precipice on how it all would go down.

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The whole lot of us.

The whole lot of us.

Thanks for the bubbly, Maria! 

Thanks for the bubbly, Maria! 

"There's no point having nice things if you don't use them!"

"There's no point having nice things if you don't use them!"

Party on Garth!

Party on Garth!

The Future Mr. and Mrs. Behmstow

The Future Mr. and Mrs. Behmstow

Your photographer couple. Looking forward to using this camo + bird caller to be even more discrete than you thought was humanly possible. Available for outdoor engagements, funerals, divorces, and births worldwide! We're your last-minute videographers, but never your last-choice!

Your photographer couple. Looking forward to using this camo + bird caller to be even more discrete than you thought was humanly possible. Available for outdoor engagements, funerals, divorces, and births worldwide! We're your last-minute videographers, but never your last-choice!

Francis and the Lights

If ya'll aren't hip to Francis + The Lights, here's a little reverse-intro:

F+TL feat. Bon Iver, Kanye: https://youtu.be/wScYn10D2vo 

It was the mashing-up of those two songs in my head that spurred this thought process.

 Like Francis dancing? Watch this beautiful piece: https://youtu.be/yqhaMewA2K0

Want more pop-culture relevance bc you're a sub-millennial or out of touch? With Chance: https://youtu.be/rT4wUByldo4

Now you're really into Francis + The Lights, so you do what I did four years ago and listen to this flawless set from 2011: https://youtu.be/-v0TDyJlEDw?list=FLGyaAsGNHF824rqxdcaJIwA

Wait!

Then you were really into the direction of the video, and notice that Jake Schreier works with Francis a lot, and made a bunch of these. And amidst these moments of revelation, you find a promo for Donnie Trumpet's album, Surf, with this video: https://vimeo.com/116806293

AND FINALLY! You were all "Who is Donnie Trumpet?" and find out that he is part of Chance the Rapper's crew, and released an album with the Social Experiment, and that the short film to this second-to-last song on the album is very fun; more fun than you thought you could have: https://youtu.be/i4ooH8frBWg and proceed to consume the entire album!

Guatemala: Three Revelations

GUA > LGA 8/1/16

Three things revealed themselves on this most recent trip to Guatemala.

1) I do not wish to move to Guatemala, and pursue a life there. [Traveling back to a place I once believed this to be the opposite feeling, I can attempt to note the differences between experiences.]

2) It is probably in my future to have some extended garden or tiny farmland, in order to cultivate a more balanced life. OR "Worthwhile projects are never complete."

3) A more succinct work thesis - that the reason I travel, film, and photograph and share these things with the public, is to compress the distance between you and a story; a story you either don’t have access to at this moment, or didn’t know you needed to hear, see, or experience.

#1
Four years ago, for two months out of half the year, I lived simply on a $500/month stipend. During two of those months, I worked for a nonprofit, traveled to fairly remote parts of the country, and lived in an incredible hotel in the heart of a town at the edge of a lake. I saw peers, colleagues, and ex-pats living affordably, in a lush and verdant “city” on a body of water, whose sheer beauty was always dwarfed by three majestic volcanoes. I grew more than fond of the novelty of a tortilleria on every block, where I picked up a bag of freshly hand-formed, hand-patted, and hand-grilled tortillas, daily. You couldn’t shake me from my ritual walk to the market for two bananas, one or two avocados, and a mango for breakfast every day; nor could you convince me that the Guatemalan tipico fabric and woven textiles (rooted in ancient Mayan culture) doesn’t make for the most beautiful clothing in the world.

And so, with the illusion that life is and was the most grand it could be, I - at 22 years young - thought I found a future home. When? I didn’t know - but it felt concrete.

At present, I have made up my mind that this is not a future home, but a place to continue to travel for healthy lengths of time (7-10 days is, in my opinion, an unhealthy and too-brief amount of time to spend in an entirely different culture, especially in Latin America). I still dream of improving my Spanish with every visit, to acquire colloquialisms that indicate I’ve retained something more than just a a tourist t-shirt, to show that I care.

Definitely in line with a future trip is a coffee roasting apprenticeship with Mike from Crossroads Cafe, or at least visits to multiple coffee fincas, and understand more than just a coffee cupping (although until that happens, I will continue to try to make Tandem Coffee’s weekly 12pm cupping with Emily, or find Counter Culture Counter Intelligence Training Center and further the knowledge from afar). With conversations about climate, fresh coffee berries still on the branch, and green beans ready to roast, there is so much more to learn about this anxiety-inducing, creativity-fueling spoil of the ancient + modern world that we know as coffee.

My personal request for any man or woman who endeavors to preserve an ancient cultural tradition, or if you fancy yourself a budding loom-weaver, or fabric savant, do yourself a favor and go to Guatemala. Go into the highlands, go to the lakes, go to the pueblos where ancient techniques are being lost. People are not buying - and thus supporting - the hand making of brand new guipiles, because the market for second-hand and vintage vestments are becoming so saturated that the demand for new textiles isn’t there, and thus this special, niche skill might be lost forever.

(Refer to Heidi Villatoro's Atipico, where she is trying to cultivate a business to allow men and women to continue practicing these arts here.)

#2
Walking through fields of cilantro, lines of young avocado trees, and witnessing the solar-driven dehydration of herbs, fruits, and vegetables in Cantel, on Marco Cruz’s organic farm, it was hard not to want all of it. For lunch we had humble - but sizable - plates of veggies right from the garden, picked that morning. Carrots, potatoes, beans, corn-on-cob, avocado, all stewed with the beef stock for our bowl of soup. We drank cardamom coffee and snacked on dried apples, plantains, and habaneros from steps away. This is the beauty of having some land to cultivate and appreciate. 

Marco, who runs a cooperative of organic farms in the region, spoke of how he could have been working in the capital, making more money than he would know what to do with. He is a decorated member of the country’s military, and has more degrees than I thought I knew he had. His pursuit of knowledge of many areas is inspiring - he is one of those generalists I so admire. Yet with all of these scholarly and military feats, he consciously decided to become an organic farmer. He tells us it is because he was searching for balance, and being at home and with farmers and proactively engaging with his land is what’s going to shape a day-to-day that brings him the most joy. 

There is no secret here. People are catching on all over. In Maine (I keep reminding folks after the Farmland Trust’s Annual meeting last October), we have the country’s highest number of small farms (and growing), with the lowest average age farmer. Lowest average age + Most small farms = The young farmer movement is HAPPENING!

The green thumb comes first. The farm, second. The balanced life of health and uplifting conversations with communities about food, farming, and the future: continual.

Mike at Crossroads Cafe in Panajachel told me on Sunday that he can’t believe it’s been four years since we saw each other last. I compared the amount of completeness I observed in his self-built home. When in Guate in 2012, his home was merely a cement and stone structure, merely the bones. No windows; construction and painting materials lay everywhere. He and his wife Adele were camping in tents in what would become their master bedroom. We drank coffee at sunset on the rooftop over his future living room.

He then remarks that in life, the things you start and build will never be complete. He has been building this property from empty hillside for 12 years. In four years since I was there, he notes the amazing feeling of “completeness” - but only by comparison. When I describe the house then, versus what we were communing in those couple nights ago, the differences are remarkable, and yes, he says, it does feel more finished. But he cautions that it never really ends, and just to know that life maintenance will persist, and to just keep fording along through adventures and misadventures.

In my eyes, this thought of Mike’s augments the connection to a living, breathing home with farmland. A farm plot will never be finished if one takes good care of it. Treats the soil better than when you first began working in it, and it hopefully never becomes a finished product. This is one of my more notable reveals for the future.

#3
Not two weeks ago, leaving a work trip in Charleston, SC, and meeting friends and family in Atlanta, GA, I made the conscious (albeit easy) decision to pit-stop in Irmo, South Carolina. Here stands the temporary apartment of dear friends John and Ashley. They moved recently, and plan to move again after just closing on a home in the next town over.

Although I didn’t make much of it during the expedient dinner, John said something that stirred me. In passing, he confesses that he doesn’t always follow the media/writing I send out into the world. He says that it makes him feel a tiny bit depressed that he’s not doing something similar. I take pause at this idea, because if not for my closest friends and family, and for a personal record of history, why am I sharing in the first place?

The past week, in Guatemala, I tried to be conscious of what and how I shared content through outlets such as Instagram, Facebook, and this personal blog. There is no “holier than thou” or “look at me” complex I am feeding, but why now am I so self-conscious? I don’t mean to alienate myself or my friends. I aim to include you all in these stories.

It wasn’t until last night, in the 240 square foot Crossroads Cafe in Panajachel, nearing the end of a three hour visit with Mike and Adele (the cafe owners and friends from four years ago), that Mike articulated what I could not to John two weeks ago. 

Just as I have been, Mike at the cafe has been bitten by the travel bug. It will forever remain a blessing and a curse, because once one’s eyes have been opened to the people and places and cultural differences around the world, it’s hard to close them; to return to a life categorically more stale than that initial adventure from whence he or she first embarks.

Because of this fact, aided with the employing of cameras, I choose to engage with everyone I can, in order to learn their story. I choose to understand the reasons behind different meals and cuisines, expression of different ideas, and more, with the hope that someone seeing or hearing or experiencing them, is influenced. Whether it be an enormous inspiration, or one more subtle, it is possible that someone else’s story impacts your life.

And so, for you, John, and for anyone else who might occasionally feel down when they see something I share, I hope to clear up any ill-seeming intention to boast about travels and work. 

[“Fear of Missing Out” - neé FOMO - is bullshit. Everyone has their own journey, their own timeline. So the next time you ignore a story, dismiss a point of view, or denigrate the integrity behind authentic thought and image sharing, remember there are storytellers like me who aim to shorten the divide, and bridge experiences for anyone who remains open to them. ]

Stay with me on this, and down the line, as I try to positively shorten the distance between you and a good story.

Linked:

http://crossroadscafepana.com

https://www.tandemcoffee.com

https://counterculturecoffee.com/learn/training-centers

https://www.etsy.com/shop/AtipicoGuatemala

http://www.proyectotierraverde.org/en/home/

https://chrisbattaglia.squarespace.com/blog/2015/11/16/ehdvjnff0m5ww7c6nst03zoilmgtl1

Guatemala, Round 3

Today I fly to Guatemala, plane departing in less than an hour. Thumb-scribbling this note at a bustling gate at Atlanta's International Terminal, I have one theme on my mind: friends. 

I am going to meet Jesse, with whom I shared two work trips in 2012. He opened a socially-conscious, locally and sustainably sourced taco shop in the central square of Quetzaltenango (Xela, pr: shay-luh ). We join forces for seven days to create a non-diminishing cache of media to be used to market and promote the business for years to come. I am encumbered with the most camera gear that I've ever carried domestically, or internationally.

Backing up 24 hours, I spent the night at Noah's home in Virginia Heights, a community in Atlanta. Noah and Jesse and I all worked together for Pencils of Promise while in Guate those years ago. Noah and his fiancée Ioulia and I shared the home-office in Matagalpa, Nicaragua March-April 2012. A friend I've seen a small handful of times since then, it took no time to catch up like days of yore. Most notably, Noah enacted one of the more prized tenets of friendship I've felt, by indulging a curiosity yesterday.

I offhandedly remarked it is a continual goal of mine to learn to drive stick-shift. Without pause, he offered to take me to a lot and let me get behind the wheel. No baulk or hesitation at the potential pitfall of putting my amateurish manual transmission knowledge to the test. There was something special to this casual offer. I am trying to process it further but will leave it open ended to ponder for you.

Not 24 hours before that, Amanda and I spent a brief, serendipitous couple of hours at Jessie's new home in Atlanta. Although JLo and I have known each other as friends for 13 years, it was her boss Lindsey's remark at the housewarming barbecue that reminded us to "know your squad." Being in Atlanta for a weekend and happening into her housewarming and catching up to a cheerful, lovely friend and her instantly wonderful companions made 2003 rush back to me.

And finally, I must comment on the folks I call friends in Charleston, SC.

I spent a week photographing outside of town, but spent every night with some people I regard as nearest and dearest companions in this world. Whether it is Elizabeth, whom I met in Laos four years ago and never looked back; or her boyfriend Ben, who opened his home to me, is one of the smartest and more interesting builders and photographers met, yet; Chris and Alex are wildly talented illustrator/painter couple who opened their home and studio and world of exciting friends and couldn't be any more humble or nice people in the world; then Joshua and Amanda, who make everything in life 100x more interesting and fun and a life worth living; and finally Luke, whom I've known for my entire life, is my "God-brother" to laughably invoke some meaningless religious language for our relationship, and is like family and game for most anything I threw his way.

This trip is to celebrate the great work of a friend, compounded by the week of exhausting and exhilarating friendships, further propelled and elevated into newer experiences, yet.

Nearly five years ago, before flying to Guatemala on a whim with a nonprofit and people I knew nothing about, I sent out an email to spawn the coming years of staying in touch and keeping abreast my friends and family with travels, work, thoughts, and surprise musings. If you wish to join that same list of people, I urge you to sign up through this website to receive emails full of pictures, video, walls of text like this, and the like.  

Thanks, please reach out with any thoughts or questions or new business, and see you next from Guatemala. 

Diego (who, coincidentally is Guatemalan) guiding the coffee cupping at Charleston's branch of Counter Culture Coffee; Chris Nickels over the shoulder in green in a nice new birthday shirt.

Diego (who, coincidentally is Guatemalan) guiding the coffee cupping at Charleston's branch of Counter Culture Coffee; Chris Nickels over the shoulder in green in a nice new birthday shirt.

Joshua, Amanda, Elizabeth, Ben, and Luke. My kings and queens of Charleston, SC.

Joshua, Amanda, Elizabeth, Ben, and Luke. My kings and queens of Charleston, SC.

Alex Waggoner at home in her studio.  

Alex Waggoner at home in her studio.  

Ann Ladson Stafford, at home with her chickens. A new friend from Haystack Mountain School of Craft who makes a bangin' roasted tomatillo salsa and Daisy Cutter cocktail (cf: FIG, in Charleston). Oh yeah, not to mention a talented metalsmith.

Ann Ladson Stafford, at home with her chickens. A new friend from Haystack Mountain School of Craft who makes a bangin' roasted tomatillo salsa and Daisy Cutter cocktail (cf: FIG, in Charleston). Oh yeah, not to mention a talented metalsmith.

Find more current and probably up-to-date images by following on Instagram: @chris___battaglia (yes, that is three underscores because there is a male model from New Jersey, and others). 

Link to "Friends" by Francis and the Lights (feat. Bon Iver):  https://open.spotify.com/track/2lyuqYDVbRQDzAZ4VMPBsi

Relational Study #001 - Part 3 of 3: Haystack

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Adam John Manley instructing our class, "Re-Interpreting the Familiar Object." Haystack, 2016.

Adam John Manley instructing our class, "Re-Interpreting the Familiar Object." Haystack, 2016.

[Before you continue:]

Relational Study #001 - Part 1: Reunion, and getting ready for a month away 

Relational Study #001 - Part 2: Bachelors in the mountains + Exciting News


It was quite the week-ending in New Hampshire for Andrew's bachelor party. It brought me great joy to make endless pots of coffee, cook our final meal together, and carpool back to Maine as a unit.

As I drove up the coast, on Route 1, I couldn't help but to notice how deep the turquoise water looked; how verdant and lush the greenery became; patches and fields of stone; and peppered throughout were perfectly-Maine farmhouses. 

Of the first magnificent - and unexpected images - is the Deer Isle - Sedgwick bridge. A beautiful, green, cable suspended bridge. The bridge was erected in 1939, a contemporary of our darling Golden Gate Bridge, by Joseph Strauss in 1937. Interestingly, one chief designers and engineers of the Deer Isle bridge, David B. Steinman, was a poet, and often was cited for the similarities between his bridges and poetry.

"A bridge is a poem stretched across a river, a symphony of stone and steel." -David Steinman, "Brooklyn Bridge - Nightfall"

More about the the bridge here.

My body was tired, I was not yet anxious for this exciting and new experience upcoming, at Haystack. You know, for all the flack I may give to camp culture, this draws water from the same well.

I arrive to Deer Isle, and it is clear to me the grounds are nothing short of spectacular. People move through the property in a very particular way. One can ascertain a sense of peace. It feels like belonging, but also like potential that is in somewhat of a crouched position - awaiting her first chance to leap.

Architect Edward Larrabee Barnes designed the Haystack campus with several intentions. One notable intention remained that the grand staircase cleaving the property in half would force people to interact with one another. Almost every dorm or studio facility lived on an off-shoot from the main staircase, and everyone had to use it to exist there. Additionally, this place was meant to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape, and be a low-impact, environmentally friendly place. 

Paul Sacaridiz, the new director of the school, spoke to us on the evening of arrival, and I couldn't help but notice that he spoke with such intention, great elocution, smart and colloquial diction - all to be admired. He read a fantastic passage about "loss":

“Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing. There are objects and people that disappear from your sight or knowledge or possession; you lose a bracelet, a friend, the key. You still know where you are. Everything is familiar except that there is one item less, one missing element. Or you get lost, in which case the world has become larger than your knowledge of it. Either way, there is a loss of control. Imagine yourself streaming through time shedding gloves, umbrellas, wrenches, books, friends, homes, names. This is what the view looks like if you take a rear-facing seat on the train. Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before. The material falls away in onrushing experience. It peels off like skin from a molting snake. Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” 
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I love this line, "the art is not one of forgetting but letting go." This stuck with me because of the environment that Haystack creates. They want every person in attendance to nearly lose themselves in the work. They keep a tight meal, studio, and evening program schedule in order to remove all accountability from one's day, save making. To let go of everyone on the outside, all sorts of preconceived notions of your own work, as well as expectation of a final project at two-weeks'-end: these are the tenets I think Sacaridiz inspired by reading this wonderful excerpt.

It is on this first Sunday evening in Deer Isle in which I find exciting an abundance of opportunity. On one hand, there is great chance to explore and immerse in multiple disciplines at once. Everyone becomes surrounded by nearly 100 new faces and conversations, all stemming from art and studio work. On another hand, we were afforded the opportunity to dive into the written word with visiting artist and poet, Lia Purpura. For her participation at Haystack, she held an open-ended workshop every day to read poetry, write, and talk about writing. 

Chandlee (Left) and Lia Purpura (Right) during our first week of the poetry workshop.

Chandlee (Left) and Lia Purpura (Right) during our first week of the poetry workshop.

The quote from Heinlein, at the top of this article, serves as inspiration and corroboration of a point that I've discovered has become core to my values. "Specialization is for insects" is rather funny and somewhat poignant. I believe that society is moving further away from the principle of being "generalists," and not in a good way.

During a late night discussion with MaJo Keleshian, the Drawing faculty for this session, we spoke of "living simply" (especially in direct relation to my t-shirt, a Geoff McFetridge-designed-for-Patagonia from 2009 that bears the same phrase). We also spoke of something that her friend suggested to her, that there is going on an "Extinction of Experience." Immediately, I relate this idea to life as I often hear it told to me: "find one thing and stick to it."

Many laugh - sounding deflated - when I introduce a new idea, experience, or interest to them. I can only guess they become less sure of my future successes without a hard-and-fast line to follow. But I think it is just as important - if not, more important- to be good at many things, especially as they relate to a wellness and mindfulness - not merely one's job.

Somewhere amidst interest in fermentation, farming, woodworking, and a new eye towards permaculture, I find myself a freelance photographer at a craft school in Maine.

I am rapt by the interdisciplinary structure and artists within them. On our first Saturday afternoon, Greg Wilbur, our resident Metal Raising expert, stopped through the wood studio. By this point in the session, Greg had presented his lifetime (more or less) of work in a slideshow, ambled several times into the woodshop, and exhibited the most patient of attitudes throughout. For this reason - and my new interest in his rare type of work - I asked for a brief demonstration on how to raise a scrap piece of copper I had brought with me. He invites me to the studio and spends but 15 minutes showing me the basics of this specific metalsmithing technique. He proves to be as patient as I suspected, an honest man with engaging and instructive ways of teaching. Anyone would be lucky to have this man as a teacher.

Greg Wilbur engaging with Ann Stafford in the metal shop. Two truly special humans.

Greg Wilbur engaging with Ann Stafford in the metal shop. Two truly special humans.

After this, the T.A. in the Blacksmithing studio, Nick Bruno - a bunkmate in the 11 man, shared dorm - offers to show me around the "Hot Shop." Bruno attends to explaining the studio's workings at this point, and demonstrates a simple gas-fueled steel forge. After a few hits, he hands me the hammer and lets me take a few novice whacks. What an amazing and exhilarating feeling to create different contours, lines, and changes in the steel with few applications of heat!

In some ways, I hadn't the slightest idea how these various studios would help me understand the work in the wood shop. And then the moment washed over me: although I would hardly glean more than a passing fundamental in the other studios at Haystack. The benefits, here, proved to be in the community and interdisciplinary nature of the conversations between peers.

I can't recall the last time someone, unprompted, shared their motivations and driving force behind their craft. Sometimes, when conversation allowed, there would be talk of the futures, both immediate and long-term. While not entirely monumental, the gravity of these talks occurred so naturally among people who were strangers a few days prior. This creative, wooded, studio-centric environment facilitated unfettered lines of thought; the communal dining tables enforced family-style meals and feelings. And when not in the mood to talk to others, in the interest of introspection or exhaustion, all you had to do was stare wistfully out of the dining lounge walls of windows, over the studios, through the trees, and overlooking Jericho Bay.

Lobster boats and a full, Strawberry moon over Jericho Bay, from the Grand Staircase. 2016

Lobster boats and a full, Strawberry moon over Jericho Bay, from the Grand Staircase. 2016

The real highlight of this two week session was the reason for which I attended: Adam Manley's wood studio, "Re-Interpretation of the Familiar Object." Adam John Manley was trained at San Diego's graduate program, under Wendy Maruyama, in furniture and wood work. He has taught many programs, participated in residencies, and more.

Manley helped guide our class through mental exercises and physical exercises (walk in the woods, visit to the local Dump) to help us conceptualize and realize a project to undertake during the 12 day session. And although open-ended, without a specific technique under the microscope, I found the formal training in processes and general techniques very helpful throughout.

It took nearly the whole of the first week to determine a project. Back and forth I went, hovering between themes of bicycling, barbering, recreational trailers, functional sculpture, dual purposes, farming, coffee, kitchen, and too many more to name. Finally, I drew inspiration from my cache of Thoreauvian musings in Walden:

"I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. "

And thus, the project was born: three chairs, all with a nod to traditional and socially-charged elements. Through many iterations and ideas, especially counsel from Adam, I ended up designing a modern take on the Shaker chair (to be hung on the wall), with elements of the Valet Chair (to hang a suit jacket and store belongings), and a sculpted seat supported by hand-turned and threaded legs.

The other projects, realized by my studio mates, in order of bench in the shop:

Larry - Wheelbarrow Picnic Table

Steve - Variations on a dump theme; Found Object American Flag

Sandy - Wood Books inspired by Christian Bouchard, and other artful wooden treasures, found objects.

Myself - Walden Chairs (see below)

Tim (T.A.) - Sculptural Boat

Autumn - Lathe-turned Vessel/Urn/Vase/Piggy Bank

Dave - CNC-milled shingled model of a Haystack structure

One major Manley influence I found exciting was the wooden tap and dye. His Prototype Pill Chair makes clever use of the functional element, and I loved the idea for this set of chairs.

The legs I made are maple, turned and tapered on the lathe, threaded and angled slightly for structural integrity. The seat and leg-support disk are cherry, beautifully figured and although sculpted for my own rear, was designed to accommodate the most generous of bottoms with a 15" x 17" dimension (approximately, before sculpting). The seat-back "hanger" is still in the works, but here designed by hand, with the help of a CNC router and MIT Fab Lab faculty, Prashant Patil, and made of Baltic Birch ply (for structural quality). Lastly, the singular post (not pictured) is walnut for central support between seat and legs. I longed for a dark contrasting feature, and this satisfied both structural and design qualities I had hoped to realize.

So, although a work in progress, below are images bearing some of the visual nutrition of my time at Haystack. Never having endeavored into the world of furniture, or fine finishing techniques, I now know the intensive process both involve.

And since I cannot thank everyone involved in the two weeks enough, I look forward to spotlighting the artists and people who helped move along this incredible and short journey into a new world of craft, creativity, and a future of more time away from the busy metropolitan life, in favor of a more purposeful one.

Everything at Haystack was in abundance and profusion, and truly was some of the best of its kind, and my relationship to woodwork, the Maine coast, like-minded artist collaboration, and the people along the way made it invaluable. 

The only cautionary part of this tale is that diving into old relationships, forming new ones, and forming even more and interesting ones is the strain it puts on others: family and partners, alike.  Architect Christopher Alexander - whose work I am more than diving into at present, regarding building and environmental design - says it best:

"A man wants to live in his work and he wants to be close to his family; but in a town where work and family are physically separate, he is forced to make impossible choices among his desires."

In order to develop and understand the relationships outlined in the past 4 weeks, it is important for me to now realize that family and companion relationship had to suffer just a little bit. You can't give yourself completely to work or new connection without being mentally and physically present. It was very difficult to be absent from loved ones for two weeks, and with the unexpected communication desert, but upon my departure, I realized how much I took for granted the work it takes to sustain these relationships, no matter how raw and inviting the Maine surroundings.

Lucky for me, I've got an understanding family and loving lady who accepts all of these things, but who would appreciate a little more response next time. I am laughing silently to myself at how silly this might read or sound, but it is all true, and I am sometimes a pain in the ass for this and other reasons.

These are some of my "back of the head thoughts" that are not always easy to comprehend - lest you can even produce them in the first place - but make for understanding this life a bit more manageable.

Wood studio (left) and Ceramics studio (right) illuminated at nighttime, 2016.

Wood studio (left) and Ceramics studio (right) illuminated at nighttime, 2016.

Linked in article:

Deer Isle - Sedgwick Bridge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deer_Isle_Bridge

Adam John Manley: http://adamjohnmanley.com

Wendy Maruyama: http://wendymaruyama.com/home.html

MaJo Keleshian: https://umaine.edu/art/faculty/keleshian/

Greg Wilbur: http://www.waterstonegallery.com/artists/greg-wilbur/

Ann Stafford: http://www.annladson.com

Nicholas Bruno: http://nicolasbrunophotography.com/PORTFOLIO

Prashant Patil: http://www.patilprashant.com

Lia Purpura: http://liapurpura.com

Paul Sacaridiz: http://www.paulsacaridiz.com

The light at the end of the one month, relational study tunnel. Point Pleasant, NJ 2016.

The light at the end of the one month, relational study tunnel. Point Pleasant, NJ 2016.

Relational Study #001 - Part 2 of 3

A Bachelor Party in the Mountains

The forthcoming weekend in New Hampshire had a bracing smell of Allen’s Coffee Brandy and tequila, coupled with new friendships and the lush greenery of North Conway in June.

Second in my study of relational development, this bachelor party weekend can be perfectly summarized by riverine activities, drinking with old friends, and friends being friends with friends. For one man, this is a reunion of family and friends there to celebrate his final moments as a single man. Functionally, it is a way to introduce some of the important guests at his upcoming wedding, and so the shared experience during the wedding weekend is elevated to feel like everyone has been friends for a long time.

Ever since paddling the Mississippi with one of my dearest friends-cum-canoe-outfit several years ago, it feels as though my eyes have been opened to the beauty of river activity - and they cannot be shut.

Chris Wolf E. Staudinger and I, connected by more than just Patagonia Capilene 3 Baselayers and short, colorful shorts. 2013.

Chris Wolf E. Staudinger and I, connected by more than just Patagonia Capilene 3 Baselayers and short, colorful shorts. 2013.

We nine gentlemen drank into the wee hours, cooked delicious meals (a first-time-paella I would be particularly proud of, had more than half the mussels cooked through), and spent an entire day on the Saco river. Thanks to a little ingenuity and general whimsy, we found a semi-inflated basketball (appropriately, “Wilson”) on the water, and made up Water Bocce on the spot. The water was frigid, the temperature perfect, and the laughs abundant.

"Wilson" the Water Bocce Ball, 2016.

"Wilson" the Water Bocce Ball, 2016.

Paella, 2016

Paella, 2016

Nine guys getting together in the mountains: what’s so special about that? Not incredibly much, to be honest. The extraordinary thing about this weekend was that eight of us got together to celebrate a single person; yet, it was totally immersive, getting connected by the variety of quips and debauchery drawing from this one person’s lifetime of relationships.

They say you are a composite of the five people you surround yourself with the most. So when two handfuls of us got together in the mountains - and on the river - I knew that the deep conversations and mixed bag of emotions felt only could have happened because at the core of this big group was a great human being. That, certainly, is a reason to celebrate.

Saddled by the expansive views of the White Mountains from our back balcony, we spent many hours imbibing under the open sky, and nighttime stars. The moon was out, and a Sean and Luke, a couple of rugby friends from Andrew’s college time, led us in what seems like an hour of limericks and song that I had never done before.

We departed from New Hampshire on Sunday the 12th, most of us headed in different directions, either Boston, Maine, or New York. I passed through Portland to drop off Ang’s brother Matt, and to continue north to Belfast.

While in Portland just before the bachelor party, I met with my SCORE mentor to discuss upstart small-business things. I am not sure how ubiquitous this program is, especially with peers and contemporaries, but I highly recommend tapping it as a resource. It is a group of retired executives, who - with appointments and appropriate matching - aid small business people with respect to any counsel needed.

Two important things that have come up recently: the formation of my first and Maine-based business, Village Vitals, LLC (!). It is the overarching legal/tax protection I need to continue to spawn my many ideas and things. And the acceptance of the Avocado Boards into the 30th annual California Avocado Festival. For these, and many other reasons, I am in need of some foundational help, and SCORE mentorship has fast tracked me into thinking about these things properly.

With some business advice, an LLC, and (yet to be discovered participation) Avo Fest news, I am back in Belfast. I swapped Andrew for three green stumps of some recently-sawn spruce, and embarked upon Deer Isle. What I did not realize at the time, until arriving at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, was that I would be inundated with nearly 100 new faces, all artists and creatives who would facilitate a collaborative and (yet again) another immersive experience I didn’t know I needed.

Up next, two weeks of the last bit of exploration of new relational development with strangers, new friends, those closest to me, including myself.

"Stump + Nails" 2016

"Stump + Nails" 2016

RELATIONAL STUDY #001, THE FIRST PART, HERE: https://chrisbattaglia.squarespace.com/blog/2016/6/28/relational-study-001-part-1-of-3

Linked:

Rivergator Guide: https://rivergator.org

SCORE: https://www.score.org

California Avocado Festival: https://www.avofest.com