Room For Craft
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.