Room For Craft
“In my mind, poetry and astronomy resemble each other in an essential way. Thousands of years ago, we looked up at the night sky, and brought disparate stars together, to project ourselves onto the ultimate blank page, and make sense of our place in the world. Poetry does the same with words.”
“I love traveling, the difficulty, the weird shit that happens, pushing and hiking trails that are plain torture, but the experience is always worthwhile, and the shots all have stories. Landscape photography is a practice that leaves you with so much, because there are stories with all those shots, and coming up on a crazy view in complete solitude, or a scene in thick fog and harsh conditions, or even just a vivid sunset or a moody sunrise . . . it's an amazing feeling, and very rewarding and fulfilling.”
“Because I'm a person who reads and researches constantly about the tragedies our earth is undergoing at the moment, I do find myself feeling overwhelmed at times. In my work, the apocalyptic narrative is the dominant one right now. The project of this book was, in part, a survival technique. Meeting people who are so passionately committed to not just acknowledging that we are facing huge problems, but really thinking creatively and actively pursuing alternate paths for us made me feel hopeful. We simply can't give up. We need to remember that we can change our behavior if we want to do it. We just have to start. Hopefully the people I write about in this book will inspire readers to make changes in their own lives.”
“I spent my childhood steeped in the outdoors—I had a pasture to roam, creeks to leap, half-abandoned barns to explore. As a kid, these places were full of mystery and discovery; as a teenager, they were places of solace and retreat. And, while my adult life has been spent mostly in urban/suburban environments, I still find, as Wendell Berry notes, “peace in wild things.” I walk around my neighborhood each evening, admiring my neighbors’ gardens and the starlings roosting in Bradford Pear trees. Which is all to say, my access to and experience of nature and wild imagery has always been in conversation with the domestic and tamed: there’s nothing wild about a cornfield, but there is something wild about watching a deer disappear into the long green arms of that field, in the way its scent peppers an entire summer.”
Author Michael P. Branch lives with his family in the high desert of the western Great Basin. Their remote home sits at six thousand feet above sea level and is subject to deep snows, blistering heat, wildfire, and flood—none of which deters Mike from walking over one thousand miles per year on the surrounding public lands, often accompanied by his two young daughters. Michael speaks about strategies for successful writing—and thriving—in a rugged and often misunderstood wilderness.
We’re used to seeing Dar Tavernier-Singer and John Singer, the pair behind Tavernier Chocolates, sharing samples of their chocolate charcuterie and interpreting their craft to the curious visitors and local vendors of the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market. Today, the weather has cooled and we have instead come to meet Dar and John indoors at the Cotton Mill, a 1910 renovated mill on the edge of town where circus performers, musicians, painters, potters, and foodsmiths cultivate their craft spaces.
Artists choreograph in tight quarters their repeated movements of pulling ink over silkscreen, cutting cloth, painting banners—all while contorting their bodies to avoid bumping against wet paint and the wood stove that warms the tent. Outside, children and adults of all ages spray paint canvas banners which will stream dragon-like overhead in frontline actions. The primary goal of this group of artists is to produce screen-printed patches to outfit water protectors.
Poet, scribe, and mentor Verandah Porche lives at Total Loss Farm, the site of a back-to-the-land commune where she moved with a group in 1968. The land is owned by a nonprofit—when the old commune expanded, it morphed into a land trust. "It’s still very much a community and it was originally based around people making art. We have a very broad interpretation of people making art. I like to think of it as the art of living."
Allison Barnes is a photographer, fine art printer, and writer currently residing in Chicago. She is the co-founder of the darkroom Great Northern Labs, and her work has been featured in Aint-Bad along with other publications. The Hopper discovered Allison’s work at the Vermont Center for Photography where her series on place, Neither For Me Nor The Honey Bee, was exhibited in January of this year.
“I always make breakfast,” Elder begins. Coffee, homemade bread, peanut butter, and apple sauce are staples. Rita and he treasure a slow and comfortable morning: “We really like breakfast—and always light candles for it.” After eating, a second round of coffee is taken into the living room, where the two read poetry aloud to each other before engaging in the work of the day. They’ve made their way through Emily Dickinson, “have always read Frost,” and recently became enamored of Billy Collins.