Freak of the Week - Kristen Parker

Hey, Hey, hey!!! The FREAK OF THE WEEK is BACK!  Come see what makes Kristen Parker tick and check back next week for more! super dad - screen print on paper - Kristen Parker 2016

  1. Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.02.05.16 KP portrait

Hi!! I grew up in the eastern part of Massachusetts. I moved out here to the Berkshires about 8 years ago. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to stay long, but then I found great friends and had a ton of adventures. I now have an awesome family and couldn’t see myself anywhere else!

I started making art at a young age. My mom is a seamstress/pattern maker and when I was little I would stay up late with her in the studio. cutting holes in fabric, making button covers.. pretty much admiring her skill set.

I studied photography in my early 20’s and completed a two year program at The New England School of Photography. Although I consider photography to have stolen my sole, I have a really hard time staying focused in one medium. When I want to explore new things.  I don’t really let anything hold me back. I haven’t found many mediums I have disliked working with, frustrating.. yes, but I just seem to love it all and feel there is always room for new ideas and processes.


  1. Tell a story, have we met? When? Where? Who introduced us? Oh, maybe you are my niece, well, just give a little history here. People love a setting.

Oh we’ve met!! At a bar.. lol!! I first met you at The Dream Away Lodge. I think I bought one of your skirts (I still have it). We just got to know each other over they years and when I found myself preggos a couple years ago.. you hired me as a hand stitcher.. which for me was great.. because I wasn’t sure how I was going to stay active artistically, since most of my projects at the time weren’t too fit for a pregnant lady. I was very thankful that you took me in and kept my hands and brain busy!

bikes - handprinted photo - Kristen Parker 2013

  1. Imagine a story. It is 2030, what are you up to? What is the world looking like?

OMG! I’ve programmed robots to update my website, track my inventory, update all my paper work on a bi weekly basis! My daughter Pippin is off exploring the underworlds of the earth (whatever that means). I'm home my with husband.. in a home we built ourselves.. with our pigs, cows and goats. My studio is off in the back and I'm still showing art. Along with that, I have an awesome art center I run with my friends offering residencies /workshops / classes whatever our young hearts put our minds to!

  1. If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

I would make everyone stop blowing each other up.

elephants - screenprint - Kristen Parker 2015

  1. What are you most passionate about?

My family, my art and seeing all the world before I die.

  1. How did this passion come to be?

I don’t know. I’ve always been a family kind of gal, I’ve always made art, and I’ve always had travel in my life. I owe that to my parents for exposing me to the idea of seeing the world, and exploring other cultures.

  1. Who/What has been most influential in your work/life?

Again.. lol.. my family. On my mom and dads side, my family is filled with designers, painters, drafters, writers.. And my daughter keeps me moving. I want her to see me as a role model showing her that hard work pays off and she can fulfill any passion she has. The way she sees me means a lot to me and how I work.

free range - handprinted photo - Kristen Parker 2014

  1. Where do you find your inspiration/motivation?

Books mostly. I love books!

  1. Aside from working, how do you spend your time?

I try to walk a lot with my dog and my daughter. (although this cold weather would prove me a liar right about now) I play frisbee golf with my hubby every once in awhile. He’s really good at it so when I play the competitive side comes out for sure. I also love to cook from scratch!

  1. Tell about a life transformation you have experienced.

When I experienced child birth for the first time.

  1. Do you have a prized possession? What is it? How did it come to you?

My moms drafting board. I don’t use it as much as I use too, but she gave it to me years ago, and I’ve just kind of held on to it. She also handed down 2 of her really nice sewing machines to me.

  1. Tell about a magical moment that comes to mind when you look back on your life experience.

When I held my daughter for the first time. I know, so cheesy, but the funny part was I couldn’t stop looking at her.. The nurse brought me a turkey sandwich at like 4 in the morning, and at that point, I asked her if it was ok to put my baby down.. because I really needed to go to sleep. I had this terrifying moment thinking that I wasn’t going to have free hands again for 18 years.. lol. The nurse laughed at me, and put my baby in her bassinet.

  1. If you were able to spend an afternoon with anyone – dead or alive, who would it be? What plans would you make for your outing?

Idk…. Probably Irving Penn, a well known fashion photographer.. I don’t know what I would say to him.. but I would probably want to have coffee with him.. and just pick his brain about life.

  1. What is your favorite place and/or way to spend time?

On a large body of water.. Ocean or Lake. Getting in and out of the water! Maybe body surfing with my sisters..

  1. What is your goal or main focus for your next 12 months?

I'm trying really hard to organize my life as an artist. I’ve put together a website and have been making a lot of new work.. and want to continue with this. I’d like to expose myself to new places to exhibit and sell my work. Im ready to take this side of my life more seriously.

  1. Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote with your blog posting? When? Where? Details and contact information please.                                                                                      YES!! You can view my new work on my website and at Shire City Sanctuary's BINGO! gallery for the month of February at 40 Melville St. in Pittsfield, MA.  Come to the opening on Friday Feb 5th 5-8pm -  So friggin excited!!!postcard_front

Carri Skoczek - Freak of the Week

Do y’all know about BINGO! Gallery? At Shire City Sanctuary there is a sweet little gallery space with all the professional accouterment to make it real. We call it BINGO! ‘cause it is located in the former bingo hall of this amazing building. Each month we feature a professional artist that ties into what we do in some way. This month, until Halloween, we are very pleased to be showing linocuts and original paintings by Carri Skoczek. She is New York City based and her work is truly, not to be missed. 10.22.15 Mistresses

Learn more about her here and then, if you are local, come take a look at her work in person while we still have it here to show off! She is my Freak of the Week, and if you are a regular around here you know that being Freak of the Week involves answering a list of questions via email.  In Carri's own words, here goes:

A brief history..

10.22.15 Carri portraitBorn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1956. Many moons ago I’ve been drawing since before I can remember. Took art classes when I was a kid at the Milwaukee Art Museum. And ended up teaching kids classes when I moved back. Studied drawing and printmaking at UV Eau Claire. Helped start a "healthfood" (thats what they were called back then) restaurant there in the mid 70's.  I designed the logo and then became a waitress, baker, and food maker. One of the best jobs I ever had until it went bankrupt. Then I moved to Denver because I had a ride and a place to stay. Dicked around for a while then went back to art school. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design It was small and fabulous. Moved back to Milwaukee with the intention of moving to Chicago, but found the loft of my dreams..3500 sq. ft 200 bucks a month heat included, top floor, skylights, freight elevator . . . stayed for 13 amazing years, 84 til 96 when I moved to NYC after meeting the most incredible man from New York in New Orleans. . (long story, killer small world connections) and here I am, almost 20 years later. Painter, printer, costume designer and doll maker

10.22.15 Vert PortraitWhat am I passionate about? Art. Making weird hats. Theater. Music. Cooking. Mexico. Egon Scheile. Swimming. Chickens. France. Riding my bike. Good friends. Weird dolls. Shoes. Oysters. That truly magical 2 degrees of separation. My Cuisinart. Our killer art collection. Tomatoes. The Met. Voodoo flags. Reading, real actual books. BAM.

10.22.15 Egon SchieleMagical moments. My life has been so full of them! It’s all magical.

-That moment when I finish a piece and it makes me do the happy dance. -Selling my first painting when I was 12 to one of the judges in the competition. -Getting that killer loft because the owner hollered to me from the street, "did I know anyone who wanted to rent 3500 sq ft heat included for 200 bucks?" -Finding my first studio in NYC from a sign on a lamp post. -Every moment I've ever spent in New Orleans. -Becoming the costume designer for Theater X in Milwaukee with no theater experience. Being hired based on my paintings, -Building costumes in Trinidad for carnival with Peter Minshall's crew. -Riding the rhythm truck with The Laventile Rythm section. -Smearing my body with mud and dancing all night in the streets for Jouvay. -That moment right before dawn when all the rhythm trucks are gone and all you hear is the shuffle of hundreds of tired dancers. -Making dolls on the beach with kids in Jamaica from junk we found after 10.22.15 Bernice Fordthe reggae beach parties. -Trading paint for art with Reggie the Tin Man . -Skinny dipping in Monet’s lily pond in Giverny. -Swimming in the seine. -Winning the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. -Swimming in the Caribbean way out where the water turns from turquoise to violet . . . breathtakingly beautiful. -Having lunch with Willem DaFoe. -Dinner with John Waters. -Getting a thank you card from Harvey Keitel for the mermaid t shirts I painted for him and his wife, and the pirate sock monkey I made their son when they were king and queen of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. -Nick Cave installations. (the artist) -Bruce Springsteen performing at the first jazz fest after Katrina.10.22.15 snake lady -Eating my gramma's cheesecake. -My first oyster po boy. -The first time I ever had concord grape sorbet. -Learning how to " squeeze the tips and suck the heads" eat crawfish. -Firing a raku pot in the mountains outside of Puerto Vallarta. -Seeing the green flash at sunset on Playa De Los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta. -Letting my students at the Milwaukee Art Museum paint my car. -Cate Blanchette in Street Car Named Desire. -Kevin Spacey in Richard lll. -Actually everything I’ve ever seen at BAM. -Seeing Kazuo Ohno (Butoh performer) perform when he was 90 with his son who was in his 70's at the Japan Society. -Meeting Iris Apfel and giving her the linocut portrait I did of her. -Meeting Gemma Cubero the film maker whose film Ella Es El Matador, inspired my my matadora series. -And meeting you Crispina! Finally live and in the flesh at Artists and Fleas, buying a pair of your undies. Our mutual friend Liz Olney singing my praises and you offering me the show at BINGO!!

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now. What a wild ride its been.

10.22.15 Studio Shot

My goal for the next 12 months? Quit smoking? Practice and improve my Spanish. I’m going back to Mexico October 25. To make art. Bigger and better paintings for my next solo show at Causey Contemporary in 2016. I’m working on a series of female circus performers and sideshow freaks.

10.22.15 Carri HandPrized possession? My eyesight.

If I could spend the afternoon with anyone?? That’s hard. No way I could pick just one. So I guess it's gonna be a party. A picnic. On a river or near a pond, so we can swim. With fabulous food and wine . . with Frida Kahlo, Diego, Egon Scheile, Louise Nevelson, Manet, Lautrec and his dancers from the Moulin Rouge, Hemmingway, and Manolette the bullfighter, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Deren, Julia Child, Tennessee Williams, The German Expressionists, Puccini. The list is actually endless. . . This would be one hell of a party!

Ok I think this covers it.

Cff:  Yes!  I think it does too. This girl knows how to live and make awesome art. Come see. Tuesdays – Saturdays 11-7pm 40 Melville Street in Pittsfield at Shire City Sanctuary's BINGO! Gallery.

10.22.15 Carri finale

Free McQueen Adams

08.04.15 McQueen Have you ever heard of this guy McQueen Adams?  I realize that compared to most I do live under a rock. I don’t watch television, read the paper, watch the news, follow sports, or go to the bar.  A whole lotta people follow him.  He’s worked with Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and toured with Radiohead.  He has dazzled the UK and is signed with Live Nation UK and will be touring Europe next spring. McQueen has filled the house in NYC, LA at the Ace Hotels performance space. He just completed his Ginger Corvette Tour to rave reviews and is going on his Fever Dream tour this September starting in Chicago and playing all over the Country.   Last week I had the good fortune to be introduced to McQueen by a mutual friend and fellow rebel, Aura Whitman of nAtURAlly Catering.

I’ve been checking out his site and videos and McQueen Adams is a super creative genius and F U N N Y! Part comedian, part projection artist, part DJ and a whole lotta performance artist

Just back from his first tour, his agent at William Morris Endeavor needed a live performance video for optimal marketing.  McQueen wasn’t into the whole corporate status quo comedy club in NYC, which is how we got to meet.  It’s the magic of owning a space like Shire City Sanctuary, mind-blowing creatives are drawn in and you get hangout, collaborate and feed each other the elation of creativity.

So, McQueen Adams is making a video in our downstairs stage area tonight.  It’s free and we can accommodate a small audience.  You, as a reader here, are invited to join us 8pm. Let’s be clear, there is no social networking or other promotion of this event at 40 Melville Street in the heart of Pittsfield. Looking forward to a memorable evening.

Pittsfield's Permaculture Oasis

07.30.15.Black Eyed Susans My hubby and I own a former Roman Catholic Church we call Shire City Sanctuary.  It is a Makerspace.  A Makerspace is like a gym for makers. There are day passes and monthly memberships. Members get a key and are welcome to come and go whenever they want. Equipment and workspace is shared. Lockers, Tubs, Shelves, and Studios are options for those who need storage or desire private workspace. There are classes and weekly public events. Oh and an AhhhMazing Event Space that anyone can rent. There is an strong community of collaborators gathering here that is super exciting!

07.30.15.ShadeIn addition, Shire City Sanctuary is residential. Four apartments are complete and inhabited (with two more to come) in the former rectory, next door to the church. We bought the buildings from the diocese in 2006 and moved in so we could slowly but surely turn the building into truly beautiful, ‘green’ apartments. Lots of reused marble from the church, moldings made with lumber from pews, no VOC paint, blown in cellulous insulation, were used to a make apartments where we would want to live. (Oh, and we did live in every corner of the building while we renovated.)07.30.15.ChurchThe two buildings, church and rectory, form a campus-like feel and are surrounded by amazing green space. This spring Chris and I hired Matt Lamb and Jay Allard of Berkshire Earth Regenerators to transform the yard into a beautiful space for us, and our tenants, to spend time. 07.30.15.MattOn Earthday we had seen a screening of Inhabit hosted by Matt at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge  The subject matter was pretty enligtening and Matt’s enthusiasm encouraged us to consider how our city and specifically our greenspace at Shire City Sanctuary really needed to be overhauled becoming organic, low maintenance, productive, biodiverse, and useful space.07.30.15.Hoogle Bed Matt was really excited when we approached him with our idea to Permaculture-Up the grounds at our center-city property and he set right to work. He walked the property, and assessed what we had growing there. He cleaned up trash, turned the neglected compost piles, and walked the property more, observing all the while.  Next he arranged a tenant meeting to establish how this greenspace should function to best serve the people who would use it most. After some careful thought and deliberation, he formed a solid plan for the space with stages of installment.  07.30.15.BlackCapsThen Berkshire Earth Regenerators showed up with a crew of the most amazing helpers and worked HARD for about a week. They planted a hugle bed, buffering noise and creating privacy. They built a beautiful shade structure to hang out in, created a swale to conserve and use rain water most efficiently. There are walkways, flowers and food growing. Soil is being nurtured with cover crops. Butterflies are fluttering, children are playing and our family dogs are finding shade.  07.30.15.QuinnIn just 6 weeks our property has been transformed and we have just gotten started.  We are really excited to keep the project going. Now that we have our first stage at the rectory solidly underway, we plan to encompass the church with permaculture and spread it as far and wide as we can. Ideas include lots of food and flowers right in front of the church, a rainwater catchment system (off a very large slate roof), fruit and nut trees that overhang our sidewalk with produce to share, a driveway changed from asphalt to pavers that allow drainage and greenspace, bunny tractors, bee hives, and chickens.  All in the heart of a predominantly asphalt covered small city in western Massachusetts. Feels like we might just be part of the solution and THAT feels really really good.  Thank you Matt Lamb and Berkshire Earth Regenerators!

Freak of the Week - Ali Herrmann

 THIS Ali Herrmann  

  1. Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.

I am and have always been an artist, even when I didn’t always see it to fruition or only worked at it part time or as a hobby. For as long as I can remember, I have always painted, but I have also been known to explore ceramics, jewelry, book arts, drawing, and printmaking. I received my BA from Bennington College in 1998, where I studied fine arts and soon there after, explored NYC for a year. I moved back to the Berkshires after realizing that I was living simply to pay rent and found myself with no time to paint. That was back in 2000. Since then I have found myself gardening, cooking, exercising, exploring, and making art, while learning to build a career around it.

Lily pads

  1. Aside from working, how do you spend your time?

Aside from studio time, I like to jog and go on long walks and hikes. The combination of nature, fresh air, exercise, blue skies, grey skies, and Vitamin D helps clear the mental slate. I often find myself thinking of things and ideas that wouldn’t normally come from working in the studio, so it’s good to get that perspective, like a part of the brain exercising alongside me. I also love to cook and belong to a FB foodie group called Eat Share Eat, where we share our recipes/creations, talk food, and post lots of  tasty delectibles. We just exchanged secret Santa names and have to send a fellow foodie something, so it will be fun to give/receive in this group!

Tools Tools 2

  1. Do you have a prized possession? What is it?

My hands are probably my greatest possession, as they allow me to create and make my art; however my eyes would be a close second. Without my hands I could not create as I know it


  1. What is your goal or main focus for your next 12 months?

Over the next twelve months, I want to explore new areas and ideas within my artwork. One big way I’m going to do this is through a Journal Project I recently created, funded by the Martha Boschen Porter Fund grant, awarded by the Berkshire Taconic Foundation. I have given out about 30-40 journals to interested friends, artists, peers, and anyone who said, ‘I want one!’, and asked everyone to ‘journal’in any fashion or style they choose. It could be writings, lists, doodles, collages, poems, etc, but basically whatever journaling means to each individual. I have a wide range of participants, so it’s going to be exciting what I receive back. I’ve already started getting wonderful, heart warming comments from participants and it’s only just begun! When I receive the journals back, I will then begin to go through them, using the words, notes, sketches, etc to create a new body of work, solely related to/reflective of these journals. It’s still in the exploration phase, but I am very excited to see what I get back from everyone.


  1. Where do you find your inspiration/motivation? Who/What has been most influential in your work?

Nature is my biggest influence, inspiration and motivation. I love looking at colors, patterns, and repetition that nature provides and that motivates me to emulate and create from what I see. The act of creating provides a motivation to continue to make more, and provides the inspiration and ideas to continue to make work. There are always new discoveries to be had in the act of creating.


  1. What is your current passion?

My current passion is painting. I use oils, acrylics, watercolors, inks and encaustics…and have even been known to use nail polish on vellum as a paint medium.


  1. How did your passion come to be?

When I was in fifth grade at Cheshire Elementary School, I was in a program called PAT, Program for the Academically Talented. This was a time when, during 3rd period, a group of students would be excused from class (but expected to make up the work) in order to pursue extracurriculars like art, creative writing and computer science. It was there that I studied oil painting and have been in love with painting ever since. And yes, I know….

art = extracurricular? {Harrumph}


  1. Tell about a magical moment that comes to mind when you look back on your life experience. Tell about a transforming memory?

When I was a senior at Bennington, I had been working on this oil painting for my thesis exhibition. It was a painting of blue jeans, repeated on a grid format. Each square had a pair of pants in it, painted a specific color, while the background was also a separate, solid color.            The painting went from looking very checkerboard-like to very quilted, and continued to flip flop in this fashion. I struggled to finish the painting and felt very much like I was ‘painting the painting’, which at the time meant that I was simply laying color down, like a color by number piece. No matter what changes or improvements I thought I made, I felt like I was simply going through the motions, that I was struggling, forcing if you will, this painting into trying to be done and complete. But every time I looked at it and revisited it, it was just so unsettled and unresolved. I let it hang in my studio as my crucifix to bear, so that I could study it and be reminded that I needed to find a way to finish it. It was gruesome. I ended up taking it off the wall and propped it face first in the corner of my studio, so that I didn’t have to look at it and be reminded. I had other work to do! One late night in the printmaking studio, while working on a series of prints using similar ‘pants’imagery, I had that magical moment, an epiphany of how to finish that painting! It was through making prints that I finally understood what this painting was all about, what it needed to be. So I mad dashed upstairs to my paint studio and in about ten minutes, mixed up paint colors and finished the painting. The next morning, coming back to the studio was pure excitement! The smell of soppy wet oil paint was in the air and my painting hung there, smiling at me. One of my fellow peers came over and said, ‘it looks great!, so where’s the other one? You should hang them both together, side by side!’I said, ‘that’s it…that’s the one.’Of course then the conversation bantered a bit with, ‘no the OTHER one,’until seeing the horror in their eyes, it had finally sunk in that I had so drastically transformed new life into this painting and wasn’t looking back. I smiled along with the piece, knowing I had done it.


  1. If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

I wish I could wave a magic wand and put an end to Monsanto and all the evil, sickness and destruction it is causing and spreading in the world.

REd Flowers

10. Imagine a story. It is 2030 and we have brought the environment into balance. How did we do it?

So you mean after the big apocalyptic global climate shift we just nearly survived? First we would have to admit we were part of the problem. Then we’d have to learn our lesson, forgive ourselves and move on to change our ways. I’d like to think that we stopped hydrofracking for natural gas, banned Monsanto from ruining the food, water and land, found a way to eliminate fossil fuels out of our lives, minimized our plastic production, cleaned up the air pollution in China, and forced companies to take/buy back the waste that is generated in whatever they produce, you know, recycle? I could go on, but don’t want to be that negative or pessimistic here; however, that would be a really great start. Guess I should wave that wand again.

Close up Earrings

11. Tell a story, have we met? When? Where? Who introduced us? Oh, maybe you are my niece, well, just give a little history here. People love a sett.

 It won’t be long, but here it goes. I applied to the Holiday Shindy 2014 and got in! Hooray! So a few days before I went to pick up my packet of postcards, Crispina had emailed me and said, I have a really funny story to tell you. When I got there and introduced myself, Crispina explained that she thought that I was her friend, Ali Herrmann. And then I smiled and it dawned on me!: she thought I was the OTHER Ali Herrmann. So yes, there are two of us in Berkshire County. We haven’t ever met. And I’ve tried Googling her, but all I find is that I’m stalking myself. So perhaps if the other Ali Herrmann is reading this, she will stop at the Shindy and say hi!

12.  Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote with your blog posting? When? Where? Details and contact information please.

HOLIDAY SHINDY:Holiday Shindy 2014 Postcard

Shire City Sanctuary

40 Melville Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201

Preview Party: Friday Dec 12, 5-8pm

Saturday Dec 13, 10-5pm

Sunday Dec 14, 10-3pm

and preview some of my work here too:

Freak of the Week - Kyla Ryman

Kyla Ryman of Home Grown Books

Every week I feature a friend, family member or acquaintance doing remarkable work for human betterment that somehow ties to our weekly theme.  This week we are looking at children's books.  I have two notable friends doing work that needs mention with Children's books.  You might have read about James Owens and The World is Just a Book Away, earlier this week.  Now, let me introduce you to  Kyla Ryman.  She has brought some well researched, artistic, forward thinking kids' books to market with her business partner Jessica.  Read on and learn a bit more about Kyla and her company Home Grown Books.

1.  Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.

That’s a big question. I guess that if I boiled down my focus, it would be to rethink what learning and education can be for kids. I went to an alternative high school in NYC, studied at Bank Street College of Education, and taught for many years in progressive schools as a reading specialist. Then I attended an Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) conference about 5 years ago, and it blew my mind. I had to spread the word that the world of education can play out in so many different ways. I’ve started a company that works with artists to make engaging books for kids who are learning to read. I am really into promoting a more organic style of education. I liken it to the slow food movement- diversifying choices and starting with basics. Play is such an important part of learning, as is pulling back and thinking about what the kids need and supporting and scaffolding their learning in natural ways.


  1. Tell a story, have we met? When?  Where?  Who introduced us? Oh, maybe you are my niece, well, just give a little history here.  People love a setting.

I am friends with your cousin, Blaise, from my teenage years! I think we met at some parties- you were part of that interesting, artistic family related to Blaise that had wild names. I  also always salivate about the Dolphin Studio calendars. More recently you and I connected when I was trying to figure out how to make some plush cats modeled from one of my books. I finally found a place in Cochabamba, Bolivia that is a fair trade women’s collective to make them- they are great.

Cats made in in Cochabamba, Bolivia at a fair trade women’s collective


  1. Imagine a story.  It is 2030 and we have brought the environment into balance.  How did we do it?

We took back our power from the biggest players, started living more locally and cleaning up our mess. We valued beauty, nature and community over profits, and we support each other, so that we are free to make choices that are not out of fear. That’s how we did it. This Sunday, I hope everyone is showing up for the climate march in NYC!!!


  1. If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

Everyone needs to stop blaming each other for the past and move on to figure out how we can make things work for the future- really we need to end violence of all kinds!!!!


5.  What is your current passion?

Having big conversations about what we really need to think about in education. What kind of adults do we need in the world? Can we get them by pushing curriculum down to younger and younger kids?  Does a business model work in schools? Are we creating a product or are we raising people? I think there is a deeper level of learning and thoughtfulness when children are studying something that they are interested in and feel in control of their learning. It’s emotionally healthier, and you must have a greater sense of community for all of that. The community is key. We also have all of these divisions- separating children from the world, separating aging people, people with physical and mental issues.  Everything is so polarized right now. Then we get scared and don’t learn from each other because we never see each other. The whole system is out of balance and wacky.

  1. How did your passion come to be?

Being a teacher in very different settings and being a parent to two very different children transformed my ideas around schools and learning and the possibilities of what could be.


  1. Who/What has been most influential in your work?

I learned a lot about supporting kids organically from Bank Street, but AERO allowed me to pull back and look at the bigger picture, like structures around power and kids and education. That organization is doing great work promoting the thinking of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, Zoe Weil, Grace Llewelyn, Wendy Priesnitz and so many more!

Some Home Grown Books

8.  Where do you find your inspiration/motivation?

 Man, kids are so present. When they are in a supportive environment,  without an arbitrary curriculum being shoved down their throats, they are so happy and joyful. That gives me hope.

9.  Aside from working, how do you spend your time?

I bike, I read, I hang out with friends, dance and I enjoy being around art.  I enjoy cocktail hour too. Sometimes all at the same time.

Grover Book10. Tell about a transforming memory.

 I remember when I learned to read. I loved this silly book: “The Monster at the End of this Book: Starring Lovable, Furry, Old Grover” and I remember my dad used to read it to me in a very funny and dramatic way. So, I decided I wanted to learn to read it. I practiced reading that one book over and over until I made no mistakes. I also had a fourth grade teacher who did a quiet reading time everyday- the first teacher who did that- and I really started to become a serious reader, then. After I read a book over a 100 pages, I realized I was a reader for the first time. I started reading at night before going to sleep, and I haven’t stopped since.

Night Sky

Friend of the Week - James J. Owens

One of the magical things about staying put, and living in proximity to where I grew up is the fact that most people who grew up here return to visit on occasion. One morning at the coffee shop, a few years back, I had the pleasure to stumble across James’ path. We reconnected and have stayed in touch since. He actually inspired this week’s theme with the work he will tell you about in our cyber interview. Noble Humble and Selfless – now read on:

  1. James J Owens

    Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.


I grew up in the Berkshires and, although I have traveled all over the world, and live in California, it is still my favorite place…the place I go to really unwind. After graduating from Monument Mountain (Regional High School) in 1983, I received a BA from Bates College in Maine. I then worked for about 6 years in France, England, Germany, and Africa for companies including Louis Vuitton, Coca-Cola and Agfa-Gaevaert, before returning to the US to get my MBA at Columbia University in New York. At that time, I interned for, and later worked for, Bain Consulting in Paris, before changing the direction of my life and working in film. The first film I worked on was “Before and After” filmed in the Berkshires in 1995—and I still have three very good friends from that movie, who have played seminal roles in my current charitable work. After several years of working on film and in film production in New York and Los Angeles, I began working at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, in the MBA Career Center. After finishing my MA in Writing from USC in 2003, I transitioned to a full-time faculty position with the university and I have been teaching in the USC Marshall School of Business since that time. I am currently finishing my fourth (and definitely final) degree, a doctorate in education (Ed.D.) from USC.

In October of 2008, based upon a book I have been working on for more than 10 years, I launched a charity to promote children’s literacy through providing books, building libraries, and teaching educational programs in developing countries. The charity is called The World is Just a Book Away (WIJABA); you can visit our website at We built our first library for children affected by the world’s worst mudflow disaster in Sidoarjo, Indonesia in June of 2009. And, thanks to the hard work and generosity of so many people, including our Board, Advisory Board, Ambassadors and donors, on August 25, 2014, we opened our 63rd library.

We have now reached more than 32,000 children in Indonesia and Mexico with more than 37,000 books. We have also facilitated five programs that have, thus far, reached more than 1,500 children.

Chihuahua library opening


I am truly passionate about WIJABA. As a professor of communication, as a writer, and as a bibliophile, teaching, writing, and books are cornerstones of my life. It breaks my heart to see children without books, because I cannot imagine my world without books. I have now traveled to more than 50 countries on 4 continents, but I didn’t take my first airplane until I was 14 (when my Aunt Claire took us to Disney World in Florida). However, long before that time, I traveled through time, space, and millennia through the pages of books. I have always been a dreamer, I have always believed that the impossible is only impossible until someone does it. My earliest childhood memory is of my mother reading to me and my mother always encouraged me to dream and work hard, because I could achieve whatever I wanted with those two ingredients.

This early childhood memory was continuously reinforced for me through books and now I see my life as forming a circle through which I am blessed to dedicate myself to providing hope for children who have so little and deserve so much in the form of books, libraries, and educational programs, which allow them to learn, dream, achieve their potential and—eventually—affect real change in their own communities.


  1. Tell a story, have we met? When? Where? Who introduced us? Oh, maybe you are my niece, well, just give a little history here. People love a setting.

I remember meeting, you, Crispina ffrench in middle school, when Stockbridge and Great Barrington schools merged. Although this was quite a while ago, I remember it clearly for several reasons. First of all, I had never met anyone named Crispina or even heard the name. Second, I had never met anyone whose name started with two lowercase letters. Third you were very creative—I even had that impression back then and you came from a family of artists, which intrigued me. And, finally, we both shared the connection to Ireland, you through your parents and me through my paternal grandmother (since that time, I have become a dual citizen, thanks to my grandmother’s birth in Ireland and this allowed me to work in the EU).

I also remember the feeling that you viewed the world differently from most people and, since I had always felt like a giraffe, this really resonated with me. I don’t mean that it’s bad to feel like a giraffe—in fact, I now consider it as a blessing. And, I don’t mean this as a judgment of myself or others—but, rather a statement that I, personally, never really felt like I completely fit in with the environment. Growing up, I didn’t seem to clearly fit any of the societal norms and expectations—real or perceived. I felt like I was watching a different movie from many other people (although I couldn’t have articulated it that way at the time). Perhaps most people feel this way, or perhaps many people do feel like they “belong.”

I still feel like a giraffe, but I now tend to have a wider circle of friends and acquaintances who also articulate that they feel this way. At any rate, this is how I felt growing up and, in meeting you, I recall feeling that—although we came from very different backgrounds and although no one would ever accuse me of being overburdened with artistic talent—you were a kindred spirit in viewing the world and dealing with the world as a bit of a maverick.


  1. Imagine a story. It is 2030 and we have brought the environment into balance. How did we do it?

WIJABA has recently partnered with Dr. Jane Goodall (Over the past decade I have developed a friendship with Dr. Jane that started with my interviewing her for my book) in opening a library in her honor for orphans in Indonesia. Dr. Jane, one of the world’s leading environmentalist and UN Messenger of Peace, is a true hero of mine. We have committed to launching her Roots & Shoots environmental program for children at 80 schools in Indonesia by the end of 2015.   I am so honored and proud of our work with Dr. Jane and by the following statement she made on the occasion of launching the orphanage library:

“The WIJABA library is very obviously making a huge difference to hundreds of children. Just watching the way the children pick up the books and read them, and the expression in their eyes and their excitement, makes everything worthwhile.”

In answer to your question, I adhere to Dr. Jane’s philosophy of children planting roots that launch shoots. I really believe that we can only bring the environment back into balance through educating children (and we must keep in mind that there are nearly 1 billion illiterate or functionally illiterate people on the planet). I believe that children, in their own local environment—which can be viewed as one piece of a world map puzzle at a time—can initiate programs and take actions that will rescue our environment. This is why both WIJABA as an organization and I personally committed to partnering with Dr. Jane Goodall and her amazing programs.

Bali orphanage library opening with Dr. Jane Goodall.


  1. If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

To ensure that all children have access to books and education. This should be a universal right and not a privilege. I will never forget the first library we opened. I asked my interpreter what a little boy had just said to me in Indonesian. He replied, “the boy said he had never seen a book.” I remember how puzzled I was and I said to him, “you mean he has never owned a book.” The interpreter is very fluent in both languages and asked for clarification from the little boy. Then, he said, “he has seen school books with a lot of text. But he has never seen or held an actual book for pleasure…a story book or a book with pictures.” I found it difficult to digest that I was with a children who had never held books they could enjoy and I knew, at that moment, that I was doing what I was meant to do.

James kissing book in Bali

At the most recent library opening I attended in Bali, a four-year old boy found a small book about a panda. He touched the book to his forehead in Bali (a sign of respect) and kissed it three times. He then held it up to me to kiss. I will forever treasure the picture taken at that moment.

People often wonder if they need a lot of money to make a difference and the answer is “no.” I believe that if each of us, from where we stand takes whatever action we can, we will change the world. In the case of WIJABA as little as $1 can buy a book, $5,000 builds an entire library at a school or orphanage in Indonesia and $10,000 builds a library in Mexico.

And, to summarize my answer to your question, I will continue to do my part from where I stand to promote the cause of children’s literacy, because I believe that all children deserve the right to dream, educate themselves, and craft their futures. Books, literacy, and education are the true fishing poles in breaking the cycle of poverty for mankind.


  1. What is your current passion?

I have many passions ranging from collecting tribal art, to travel, reading, writing, yoga, skiing (I love skiing and don’t do it enough) and learning to play the piano. However, I would say my driving passions are that of being the best father I can be, being the best teacher that I can be, and being of the most possible service to others from where I stand today and in the future.


  1. How did your passion come to be?

My mother was always surrounded by books. I will never forget that she read “Gone with the Wind” in a day. I was 9 when she died. She was studying to be a teacher at North Adams State College, which has since been renamed Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA. My earliest memory is of looking at a picture of the pyramids in Egypt with her and of my asking her if we could go there one day and she said that if we could dream it and if we were willing to work hard, we could do it. My mother never made it to Egypt, interestingly both my sister and I have. In 1994, I traveled for three weeks in Egypt. I arrived at the pyramids before dawn and received permission to climb to the top of the “smallest” of the three (which if I recall correctly, is still about 18 stories tall and I am petrified of heights). I climbed gingerly to the top and arrived in time for sunrise. And, almost as if a miracle unfolded in front of me a man on a camel approached from the distance, which is exactly what appeared in that photograph, in the book I had looked at in my mother’s lap as a child. It was as if the picture in my brain from early childhood had manifested in reality—it had. I looked out into the horizon—I gazed at the pyramids and at the vast Sahara beyond and I said out loud “I made it.” I think that story, better than any other, summarizes what has driven my passion to provide at-risk and disadvantaged children with access to books and educational programs.


  1. Who/What has been most influential in your work?

My mother, because she gave me my love of the written word and books. And, then there have been so many others who have helped me on my journey—WIJABA alone has 14 board members, 11 Advisory Board Members, 12 Ambassadors, our Presidents in Mexico and Indonesia, our Director, our team in Indonesia, and hundreds of friends and donors. Without the work of so many amazing people, WIJABA and I would not be able to carry out this work. It is truly a team effort. However, I would like to mention two people, one of whom some of your readers may know, because she was first my teacher when I was 14, then my mentor for so many years, then my friend, and now also a WIJABA Advisory Board Member. That person is Dr. Roselle Chartock, who taught at Monument, lives in Great Barrington, and who is a teacher, educator, author, and artist all rolled into one. Roselle has been (and continues to be) a true inspiration to me for 35 years. The second person is Emilio Diez Barroso, who is my dear friend and also the Founding Chariman of WIJABA. I feel very blessed to have Emilio’s friendship in my life and also for the role he plays for WIJABA as a visionary in business and as the person I lean on when I don’t know which direction to take when some new opportunity or challenge presents itself.

WIJABA Ambassadors & Jenny Ming (CEO & President of Charlotte Russe)


  1. Where do you find your inspiration/motivation?

 In one way it is simple—in another way complicated. I think of the role books and education play in my life. I think of what my life would be without books. I think of my mother who dreamt of becoming a teacher and I think of my son, who is so passionate about reading that he sometimes walks and reads at the same time.   Then, I think of all the children without access to books and education and I realize that books and education are not a choice to me, they are part of me. So, I set the intention to be the best role model and father I can be for my son, the best teacher I can be for my students, and the best possible CEO of the WIJABA to serve others.


  1. Aside from working, how do you spend your time?

If we were texting I could write “LOL.” I really don’t have a lot of free time, and that is, in large part, because of how I have structured my life. But, I am very blessed in that I truly love what I do. Other than spending time with my son, I enjoy yoga, going to the gym, reading, and spending time with family and friends. And, I am going to ski more this year.

James & son, Alexander with Cher


  1. Do you have a prized possession? What is it?

I am extremely sentimental and I treasure many things, although I do not consider myself particularly materialistic. Most of what I treasure is linked in some way to my family. Beside my bed I keep two objects: one is a key, the other is a bell. The key is to my paternal grandmother’s ancestral 3-roomed cottage in Ireland, where 10 children were raised under very hard conditions. My grandmother, or “Nana” as we called her, came to America and worked as a maid and created an amazing life for herself. I often think of the incredibly bravery required to do what she did, and she was a wonderful grandmother. I wrote a story her journey that was published in a book titled “Leitrim Treasure” last year—both the book’s publication and giving a copy to Mason Library in Great Barrington were very proud moments for me. The bell belonged to my maternal great-grandmother, of whom I have vague memories. It is shaped like a maid in a large hoop skirt. My great-grandmother used this bell so often to summon the staff in her house that the face is worn down.   These two objects—a key and a bell—remind me of different parts of myself and that we all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors.


  1. Tell about a magical moment that comes to mind when you look back on your life experience.

There are many. But, there is nothing more magical than witnessing the birth of my son.


  1. If you were able to spend an afternoon with anyone – dead or alive, who would it be? What plans would you make for your outing?

There are so many people I have been blessed to meet and so many people I would like to meet. I would love to have a picnic with His Holiness the Dali Lama, whom I briefly met, but never had a conversation with. Since this is the realm of fantasy, I would also like to invite my children and my grandchildren to this picnic under a huge weeping willow tree.


  1. What is your favorite place and/or way to spend time?

I love spending time with my son. In terms of places—Paris, New York, Ireland, Bali, the Berkshires…there are many places I love. In particular, my favorite walk in the world is down the dirt road at the Old Covered Bridge in Sheffield, close to my step-mother’s house. I love dirt roads (and in my opinion we don’t have enough of them any more). I love walking on this road and I find it incredibly peaceful. When I am in the Berkshires, I walk there almost every day.


  1. What is your goal or main focus for your next 12 months?

It is my intention to continue to expand WIJABA’s reach to more children in Indonesia and Mexico, particularly through the expansion of our educational programs and mobile libraries. I also want to—finally—finish the book I began writing in 2003 that prompted me to launch the charity. The book is also called “The World is Just a Book Away.”


  1. Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote with your blog posting? When? Where? Details and contact information please.

Yes, I would love to encourage your readers to visit our website, Please consider liking us on Facebook (The World is Just a Book Away). And, if the cause speaks to you, please consider donating as little as $1, which truly makes a difference by buying a book in Indonesia, or as much as you can.


Finally, Crispina, thank you for asking me to participate in your blog—I am truly honored and also proud to call you my friend.

Mexico Library Opening

Freak of the Week ~ Jeremy Stanton

It is not possible to have a theme involving outdoor dining and not include Jeremy Stanton.  You can find him at The Meat Market in Great Barrington where he set up shop a few years back as the first artisanal butcher I ever heard of.  He's a trend setter and travels far and wide with his amazing catering business, Fire Roasted.  Check him out here and make sure to experience his gifts in person.  Well worth a day trip, and a must if you are a carnivore in The Berkshires! Jeremy Working a Mid-Summer Fire Roasted Catering Party

Cff:  Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.

JS:  I was raised in a community for handicap children, just out side Philadelphia PA. I spent part of every summer with my grandma in Copake NY, we would cook and preserve foods, an activity that I loved. Those moments were hugely inspirational. She died about 20 years ago just after I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

I am passionate about cooking with FIRE and supporting local agriculture: buying food from local farms is a good way to support local agriculture, maintain the agrarian landscape, and preserve traditional food practices. I am the owner of 2 food businesses; The Meat Market, which is a local meat butchery and café, and Fire Roasted, a catering company which focuses on local and seasonal foods cooked at the event’s site- over open fire.

Cff:  Tell a story, have we met? When? Where? Who introduced us? Oh, maybe you are my niece, well, just give a little history here. People love a setting.

JS:  We met at your old studio in Housatonic many years ago, I have no idea who introduced us, or why I was there. I do remember being very impressed with the concept of your business. Reusing, in a creative and beautiful way, to create functional art.

Cff:  Imagine a story. It is 2030 and we have brought the environment into balance. How did we do it?

JS:  In addition to other’s amazing innovations was the success of my campaign to bring people’s awareness to themselves and their own actions. A key component to my message states that telling other people what they should do is not cool! The key is that we are all responsible, and acting with integrity is the only way to live an authentic life

The Annual Sausage Fest Held at The Meat Market on Rt 7 in Great Barrington


Cff:  If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?07.17.14 Dead Animals

JS:  I would make every person believe that ALL creatures including humans are equal and deserve respect, and the opportunity to be healthy and safe. It may sound strange coming from a person with a butcher shop- but I believe in the natural order of things, the predator/prey relationship between species. BUT I have a huge problem with non-humans being treated as if their only purpose is to feed us. Animals we eat should have led a life including their natural behaviors (open land, grazing, raising young in a clean environment in which they can freely move.) In addition, I would also force self-love on all beings- the knowledge that we are perfect just the way we are, that is the place that healthy aspiration and personal evolution arises from.

Cff:  What is your current passion?

JS:  My current passion is freedom, allowing every one the chance to live the life they want, free from fear and the binding constraints that stop them from doing what they want. And cooking with FIRE!

Cff:  How did your passion come to be?

JS:  In the beginning I had a pasta business that was celebrated as a local company. I always felt a little hypocritical, so when I had the opportunity to study local Grass based meat and value added meat production I took it. The New England Heritage Breeds Conservancy had an abattoir in north central Ct. and I was offered a position there, it was a great learning experience. I learned that meat is a crop we can sustainably and humanely grow in the northeast well, and a great way to support local economy and agriculture is buy local meat, thus a passion was born!


Sausage Case at The Meat Market - Rt 7 Great Barrington MA

Cff:  Who/What has been most influential in your work?

JS:  There are many many people who have influenced me through the beginning of my career. Through relationships with many farmers and passionate teachers (writers, artisanal food producers, passionate food consumers like my wife) it became clear to me that the solution to the abomination of factory farming , is more local farming.


Cff:  Where do you find your inspiration/motivation?

JS:  1) Standing in a field of ready to harvest food 2) at an event site where I get the opportunity to visualize a meal served to the guests 3) when I find a cooking technique rooted in history that I can adapt to today.

07.17.14 Piggie

Cff:  Aside from working, how do you spend your time

JS:  I love to tinker with projects at the beautiful home I share with my wife Emily and our kids. Most recently I refined our outdoor shower. In addition I recently took up unicycling and spear fishing!


Cff:  Tell about a transforming memory?

JS:  I got married to Emily in 2008 my marriage has transformed me. Being married has given me the opportunity to work toward being the complete person I strive to be. Facing challenges with a partner that I would otherwise have left unfaced.


Cff:  Do you have a prized possession? What is it?

JS:  My 1980 Jeep CJ5, I bought it 10 years ago from VA. My eldest son Kyle and I flew down to pick it up and drive back to the Berkshires. In addition to being a very fun vehicle to play in, that trip was really fantastic.


Cff:  Tell about a magical moment that comes to mind when you look back on your life experience.

JS:  I believe that we are where we are meant to be, that the universe provides and that people are all connected. Having that belief makes magical moments all the time. 16 years ago my son Kyle was born at 26 weeks gestation he was 1 pound 14 oz. An event that challenged my belief in the infinite power of the universe, and as each day passed and we faced each potential hurdle my faith was restored. I am glad to say that this story has a happy outcome and Kyle is a strong young man.


Cff:  If you were able to spend an afternoon with anyone – dead or alive, who would it be? What plans would you make for your outing?

JS:  I would spent the afternoon with my grandfather, because I never had the chance to meet him. I would air out the garage and spend some time working on my classic car. We would give the old girl a tune up and stop after a while and have an iced coffee. I would love to know about his life, everything that he had done and not done. We would take the top on the car down and go for a sun filled drive through the Berkshire Hills. Our destination would be Ashintully Gardens we would drive up to the ruins and sit next to the pillars watching the sun set over Tyringham Cobble.

07.17.14 JSliced Sausage

Cff:  What is your favorite place and/or way to spend time?

JS:  I love the beach, the wind, the smell of the ocean in the wind, the sun. When I make it to the beach I feel at peace with the world. The power of the mighty ocean reminds me of how temporary life is and that we are only here for a glorious moment so we had better get all that we can out of it.


Surf Casting

Cff:  What is your goal or main focus for your next 12 months?

JS:  On the cusp of our three-year anniversary at The Meat Market I am excited about being able to fine-tune my business over the next 12 months. The first year of business consists of a fair amount of thrashing around wildly, year two brings some clarity and systemization, and year three, if you can hang in there, is when it gets fun.

07.17.14 Fried Chicken

Cff:  Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote with your blog posting? When? Where? Details and contact information please.

I would like to ask people to come to The Meat Market for Fried Chicken on Thursdays, Asado on Friday Saturday and Sunday or just stop by for lunch

Sign up for our mailing list at join us for one of our special events!07.17.14 Skewers

Freak of the Week ~ Alan Hayes

Some of you may know that my husband and I bought a former Roman Catholic cathedral in Pittsfield, Ma and have been renovating it for over 8 years. (Come see our fledgling site at Our current push is to complete our commercial kitchen where we plan to accommodate artisanal food producers, including Hayes Home Roast.images 07.02.14 Alan Hayes Portrait

Each week - usually on Wednesdays, we feature a FREAK who speaks to our theme. This week's theme is Coffee and Alan Hayes is worthy of our Freak of the Week title - and he is a Coffee Roaster, proprietor of Hayes Home Roast.

1. Tell our readers about you, My most recent worldly manifestation is as a coffee roaster and coffee entrepreneur. This a development of my experience roasting my own coffee, for my own use, for the last 13 or 14 years.  Stop on over and get a one-time-only free sample of our coffee of the week!

But I am most seriously a photographer. My photography, which I pursue for its own sake, in significant ways fairly aimlessly, is the best expression I have in the world, my deepest exploration, the deepest impression I make on the world. I began taking pictures seriously about fifteen years ago.This is a link to a representative sample of some of my photographic work:

Prior to that I had various careers in craft of different sorts, from carpentry and woodworking, to graphic design, to most recently, a foray into acoustic metal sculpture:

None of this activity has ended up particularly associated with getting money, which is why I’ve started putting together a extremely small scale coffee roasting business. This is a manifestation of craft, though at the heart of it is a process analogous to making popcorn. What I am finding is that it is a very good way of being in the world, interacting with people, and making sufficient money to pursue my deep heart pursuits. I feel extremely fortunate to have found a money gig that is so profoundly satisfying on so many levels. Coffee is something that a lot of people really like, and I am in a position to provide them with a kind and quality of coffee that not all that many people have ever experienced. It’s very nice to be able to so simply give so many people such a basic pleasure.

07.02.14 Alan Hayes 32. Have we met? When? Where? Who introduced us? I first met you at one of your holiday open houses, where I  became aware of your remarkable work and purchased a blanket, which is one of my prized possessions to this day. Then some years later we became facebook friends, partly I think because I was always ready to encourage you to keep your girls home from school, the way my mother did me. Then when we met up again, we knew each other a bit. One of the great things about the internet is that it provides a means of finding the other nuts like yourself!

3. If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be? I would arrange it so that everything for which it was feasible would be kept in Ball jars. I understand that this would probably make very little difference in the world, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking it should be done.

4. What are you passionate about and why? I am passionate about art, my own, and others. I am deeply concerned with social justice, in the simplest sense of treating all people equally. I am very committed to doing whatever I do, photograph, sculpture, book design or coffee, at a high level of accomplishment.

07.02.14 Alan Hayes 25. Who/What has been most influential in your work? My former wife, Rosemary Starace was extremely important in my development as an artist.  My identity as an artist is the most important thing in the world to me.

07.02.14 Alan Hayes 46. Where do you find your inspiration/motivation? Don’t know the answer to this one. I guess I would say I spend a fairly large amount of time moping, and then it just comes. A lot of stuff originates for me at a totally preverbal level, as body feelings, and vague sensations of motion, and a feeling of being in space.

7. Aside from working, how do you spend your time? Work has always been pretty central for me. I tend to be happiest when I have some work to do. Outside of working I spend a fair amount of time just thinking, and being with a few friends. Never got the whole vacation/entertainment thing particularly. I like to cook, though I cook simply, to eat; and read voluminously. And then there is the internet!

8. Tell about a transforming memory or magical moment that proved life-changing. This is going to be a weird one! But you did ask! I once had a dream which featured an aquarium. The aquarium was fairly large, filled with water, colored gravel, the whole bit. Floating somewhat beneath the surface of the water was an old style half gallon ice cream carton, which was leaking small magenta/pink plastic nuns from one corner. That’s basically all of the dream that I remember. It convinced me of the utter meaninglessness of dreams, while at the same time becoming a lifelong obsession. I’ve considered various way of actualizing it. Carving nuns out of styrene (they were definitely styrene!), getting them injection molded, sending to China and getting a container load made, finding out where the local moldmakers drink their beer and making friends, but part of me just wants to leave the whole business in the unactualized realm…

07.02.14 Alan Hayes 59. Do you have a prized possession? What is it? Well, there’s my Crispina blanket! Tools are very important to me. I have a few that I have had most of my life, and even some that came to me from my parents. I have reached a point in life where I’ve become the keeper of heirlooms. It’s more the meaning and associations of things than the things themselves, though the things can hold the magic.

10. If you were able to spend an afternoon with any one person – dead or alive, who would it be? Why and what would you plan for your time together? I always have trouble with this sort of question, but what came to mind is that I would like to have been able to spend some time with the photographer Milton Rogovin, just talking, showing each other pictures.

11. What is your favorite place and/or way to spend time? I like to be making things or working on photographic or graphic projects, things I can lose myself in. These days a lot of this is just sitting in front of a computer, of course.

07.02.14 Alan Hayes 712. What is your goal or main focus for your next 12 months? Getting my new business, Hayes Home Roast to the point where it is supporting me and letting me have sufficient time for my artistic pursuits.

13. Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote with your blog posting? When? Where? Details and contact information please. The biggest thing I have coming is the official roll out of my coffee roasting business. This has been awaiting the securing of a proper commercial space to do the roasting, which looks, finally, to be imminent. Please take a look at my new website,

Freak of the Week - Elizabeth Keen ~ Indian Line Farm

index_10Let me preface this week’s column with a disclaimer.  Elizabeth Keen is a farmer who I have known from a distance as we both circle through our community – smiling as we pass. This is her BUSY time.  She didn’t have time to sit and answer questions but generously set aside time for a lovely phone conversation covering the typical list of Freak of the Week questions and more.  This week’s column combines information gathered from our discussion and Indian Line Farm’s promotional material. IndianLineFarm_1975What is Community Supported Agriculture? CSA brings together community members and farmers in a relationship of mutual support based on an annual commitment to one another. At Indian Line Farm, members purchase a "share" of the anticipated harvest and make payment in advance at an agreed upon price. In exchange, the farmers plant, cultivate, harvest, wash and provide a bountiful selection of vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs. In short, the farmer and members become partners in the production, distribution and consumption of locally grown food.

Indian Line Farm was one of the first CSA farms in the United States when Robyn Van En, Jan Vander Tuin and a group of local community members started it in 1985. Currently, there are over 1,700 CSA farms feeding hundreds of thousands of people throughout North America.

Indian Line Farm is a 17-acre farm located in South Egremont, Massachusetts. Farmers Elizabeth Keen and Al Thorp have been growing at Indian Line Farm since 1997. In 1999 they formally purchased the farm using a unique partnership model with the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires and The Nature Conservancy. Now they operate the farm with the help of dedicated employees and apprentices.

IndianLine_1494Our conversation went something like this:

Cff:  Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

EK: I love to be outside I love to make things beautiful and to be physically active.  I love to exercise, and I am somewhat of an introvert even though I get tons of energy from being with others.

Cff:  If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

EK:  I would make it easier to come to consensus, easier to break down the barriers of communication. Even people who think they understand each other sometimes don’t.  I see this issue with people who care about each other and who all want the same thing arguing across a barrier of misunderstanding.

Cff:  Who has been most influential in your work?

EK:  Well there is not just one individual but a whole slew of farmers- Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training has continued to be an amazing resource to me and Al.  They answer questions, and provide support.  We would have felt very alone without them.  They have helped, encouraged and have been willing to share all along the way.  This reminds me of how generous people have been with me and encourages me to be generous with my knowledge too.

Cff:  Where do you find inspiration?

EK:  I am very inspired by customers and members, those who make a commitment to our farm.  Their commitment is sometimes overwhelming. It makes me want to keep going.  I have also found inspiration in our weekly email.  It provides a stage for creative writing, reflective writing, and observations to flow. I am inspired by my ability to write and reflect and get feedback on that writing from the people who come to the farm.

IndianLineFarm_2963Cff:  Aside from working how do you like to spend your time?

EK:  Well, I if given the opportunity, I love to curl up with a good novel.  That doesn’t happen often this time of year.  I LOVE Crossfit!  4 months out of the year I can’t do it and I feel a little off.  The rest of the year I just love it!  I love to be active with my kids, to ski, hike, and teach the love of being outdoors.  (kids are Helen 7 Colin10)  Oh and I love needle felting, knitting, and really wish I had all the time in the world!

IndianLineFarm_2907Cff:  Tell about a transforming memory or magical moment that proved life-changing.

EK:  2 things

1. I lived and worked in Guatemala for four years before coming to farming.  There I traveled with a group of refugees from Mexico going back to Guatemala.  The energy and momentum was life changing.  To be surrounded by a group of people who had nothing, who worked so hard to go back to the homes they had to flee from taught me what is right and what we actually need in our lives and what we do for a our family.  Definitely life-changing.

2.  Sarah Hudson, is a woman who was on a delegation with me in Guatemala who happened to be from Tyringham.   I came to visit her after returning to this country and told her I wanted to work on a farm.   Sarah took me to Mahaiwe Harvest where David ingalls was a little grumpy but answered my questions. Later I realized I had interrupted his work time.  The sun was setting while the moon was rising behind me.  It was magical.  I met Al that day.  We didn’t speak but passed.  That whole meeting changed my life.

IndianLineFarm_2302Cff:  What is your favorite place and/or way to spend time?

EK:  My favorite place is Culebra Puerto Rico.  We go every year and camp on the beach.  It is the most relaxed I am all year.

Cff:  If you were able to spend an afternoon with any one person – dead or alive, who would it be?  Why and what would you plan for your time together?

EK:  Well I had a guest Professor of Peace Studies he was from Notre Dame – I went to Colorado College. He had a huge influence in the two weeks I learned from him. He was the first person who encouraged me to look at peace and justice work, as work.  I once heard him speak on NPR on Mt Holyoke Education Minute! He really had a significant impact in my life and I have not been in touch with him for 25 years.

indian_line-370Cff: What is your goal or main focus for your next 12 months?

EK: We are limited by land space and cannot do any major expansion – 5 acres of vegetables, a mix of CSA and Farmers Market produce. A big change this year is that we lost a long time employee (8yrs) and hired 3 newbies. While the learning curve is underway – and time consuming the change makes me realize we need to be more systematic. Post signs and directives in accessible locations throughout the farm - in the green house, at the wash station. . . We need to be better set up, more organized and articulate. The systemizing is underway and really helpful for all of us. Indian Line Farm Logo

Cff: Thank you Elizabeth for the peek inside your way. Thanks too for the education on how your CSA works and for sticking with it as you have to feed and inspire a whole new generation of farmers and healthy eaters.