Jennifer Steen Booher, Quercus Design

New work

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Wow, it has been a busy week! This is a new series that was inspired by the workshops I’ve been giving –  I started playing with shells along with my students and am kind of hooked on making these wonky little snowflakes now. Prints are available in my etsy shop and they’re so cute I’m thinking about making notecards out of them. What do you think?

ShellSnowflake2-web©There are also two new Coast Walk posts up now, working our way around the Otter Creek shore:

 

Enjoy!

Coast Walks 3 and 6 still lifes

Top to bottom, left to right: fragment of Obama bumper sticker, sea glass, soft shell clam (Mya arenaria), plastic fragment, Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), sea glass, beach stone (diorite?), driftwood, beach stones, oyster, granite beach stone, disposable razor, beach china, sea glass, 2 bottle tops, plastic fragment, razor clam (Ensis directus), plastic spoon holding plastic bead, Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea), driftwood, blue mussel (Mytilus edulis), sea glass, beach stone, remains of plastic chew toy, beach china, sea glass, Rock Crab (Cancer irroratus), disposable razor, Common Periwinkle, sea glass, Dog whelk (Nucella lapillus), sea glass, Obama bumper sticker, sea glass, plastic fork, horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus), Obama bumper sticker, Common Slipper Shell (Crepidula fornicata), plastic plant tag, beach stone, beach stone, piece of a plastic sticker, golf ball, plastic fragment, golf balls.

Coast Walk 3: Cromwell Harbor to Compass Harbor, Bar Harbor, Maine, January 12, 2015

Top to bottom, left to right: fragment of Obama bumper sticker, sea glass, soft shell clam (Mya arenaria), plastic fragment, Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), sea glass, beach stone (diorite?), driftwood, beach stones, oyster, granite beach stone, disposable razor, beach china, sea glass, 2 bottle tops, plastic fragment, razor clam (Ensis directus), plastic spoon holding plastic bead, Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea), driftwood, blue mussel (Mytilus edulis), sea glass, beach stone, remains of plastic chew toy, beach china, sea glass, Rock Crab (Cancer irroratus), disposable razor, Common Periwinkle, sea glass, Dog whelk (Nucella lapillus), sea glass, Obama bumper sticker, sea glass, plastic fork, horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus), Obama bumper sticker, Common Slipper Shell (Crepidula fornicata), plastic plant tag, beach stone, beach stone, piece of a plastic sticker, golf ball, plastic fragment, golf balls.

 

Follow the Coast Walk here: http://jenniferbooher.com/wp-walking/blog/

 

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: driftwood, weathered fiberglass, driftwood, feather, seaweed holdfast, plastic-coated wire, Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus). weathered fiberglass, Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea), seaweed with holdfast, Jonah Crab (Cancer borealis), beach stone, Fucus sp. attached to barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), bird bone, Common Periwinkle, driftwood, beach stones, seaweed (some kinf of kelp) partially covered with bryozoan colony.

Coast Walk 6: High Seas to Schooner Head, January 19 – April 3, 2015

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: driftwood, weathered fiberglass, driftwood, feather, seaweed holdfast, plastic-coated wire, Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus). weathered fiberglass, Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea), seaweed with holdfast, Jonah Crab (Cancer borealis), beach stone, Fucus sp. attached to barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), bird bone, Common Periwinkle, driftwood, beach stones, seaweed (some kinf of kelp) partially covered with bryozoan colony.

Coast Walk 2 still life

I’ve made it all the way to Blackwoods campground, although the blog is only updated as far as Otter Cliffs. Working on that right now!

From left to right, top to bottom:

Hovering above: plastic ring, sea glass

Row 1: young Blue Mussels (Mytilus edulis), Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), more mussels

Row 2: granite beach stone, Corallina officinalis, plastic marker cap, driftwood, Dog Whelks (Nucella lapillus)

Row 3: sea glass, fish eggs (dried out now but there’s a photo of them fresh in the CW2 blog post), sea glass, more mussels (not sure if they’re Blue or Horse Mussels), acorn (probably Quercus rubra), beach stone, mussels

Row4: Dog whelk, more mussels, Rough Periwinkles (Littorina saxatilis)

Row 5: Seaweed attached to barnacle, Smooth Periwinkles (Littorina obtusata), sea glass, plastic thingy (I think it’s from a glow stick), beach stone

Row 6: Rough Periwinkles, granite beach stone, sea glass, mussels

Row 7: Dog whelks, Horse Mussel (Modiolus modiolus)

Hulls Cove, Maine; November 25, 2014 (Beachcombing series No.86)

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In this photo: Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis), stone encrusted with Coralline, Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), Waved Whelk (Buccinum undatum), sea brick, Rock Crab (Cancer irroratus), beach stone, lobster claw band, polyprolylene rope (probably from a lobster trap), nursery plant tag, Periwinkles (either Littorina littorea or L.saxatilis), maple seed (Acer sp.), lobster claw (Homarus americanus), Smooth Periwinkle (Littorina obtusata), corn kernel, Paper Birch bark (Betula papyrifera), pink granite, sea glass, acorn (Quercus sp.), Knotted Wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum), Green Crab (Carcinus maenas), styrofoam, Dogwinkle or Dog Whelk (Nucella lapillus), coal, driftwood.

At 7:30am on November 25 it was relatively warm at 59ºF, but there was a chill wind in the shade. The sun was still working its way up over the hills when I arrived, and then clouds blew in and it stayed grey all day. There had been a storm the day before, and I had driven by that afternoon to watch the surge. When I see the waves pounding the shore like that I realize what a miracle it is that I ever find a single unbroken shell! There was more kelp than usual, along with some big quahogs and coralline-crusted stones. There’s one at the bottom of the 3rd column from the left. I was struck by how similar the coralline looks to the styrofoam piece in the upper right. When they are half-buried in mud it’s really hard to tell them apart!

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A beaver-chewed log.

 

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Coast Walk

On New Year’s Day I started a project called the Coast Walk. I’ll be walking the entire shoreline of Mount Desert Island over the next two years. The walking, photographing, interviewing, photo-processing, writing, editing, and general admin tasks have been taking up every minute, so this blog will be a little neglected for the time being. I’ll post links to the Coast Walk entries – hope you enjoy them!

 

The Bluffs, Bar Harbor, Maine; November 18, 2014 (Beachcombing series No.85)

The Bluff, Bar Harbor, Maine; November 18, 2014

Polypropylene rope, sea glass, driftwood, beach stones (basalt, granite, schist?), Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis), crab claws (prob. Cancer borealis), Periwinkle (Littorina sp.), wire, Dog Whelk (Nucella lapillus), Waved Whelk (Buccinum undatum), Green Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus drobachiensis), Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus), Rockweed (Fucus vesiculosus), pottery fragment, rusted metal with Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides)

 

It was 36ºF when I hit the beach around 1pm. The sky was overcast but every now and then the sun would peek through the clouds. Of course, every now and then a few stray snowflakes would fall, too, as if the weather were trying for an overall balance of some kind. This is one of my favorite beaches – I almost always find some interesting stones and a few good pieces of sea glass, in addition to the usual crab shells, dog whelks, and periwinkles. I also find a lot of trash mixed into the deep piles of seaweed on the high tide line. You can kind of see those piles at the far right of the photo below – there’s a section of paler stones high up on the shore (paler because they are fully dried), and that yellowish-brown strip is an accumulation of seaweed about a foot deep.

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I use a grocery bag for beachcombing; after 2 hours on the beach it was about 1/4 full of my finds. The rest is garbage:

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It was a very good day for sea glass:

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and buoys (eventually I’ll try to return them to their owners.)

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and rocks:

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I think these are Rough Periwinkle (Littorina saxatilis), but I’m still kind of unclear on how to tell L. saxatilis and L. littorea apart. Every time I think I’ve got it, I find a shell with characteristics of both.

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A couple of Herring Gulls were diving for crabs just off shore. Made me glad I brought my big camera with the big lens!

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Art Work

Ever hear of a Blog Hop? It’s usually a chain of bloggers linking to one another with a common theme. I’ve been invited to join one that’s a little different – artists discussing their personal creative practice. Everyone who participates answers four questions:

What am I working on?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why do I do what I do?
How does my process work?

I was invited by Jo Atherton, who weaves intricate and colorful tapestries out of rope and objects she gathers off the beaches of Cornwall. We’ve been chatting via email about the peculiarities and similarities of our beachcombing experiences. Jo’s post is here: http://flotsamweaving.com/blog/

What makes this particular blog hop so compelling is that these are really big questions. Since all the blogs link to the person who invited them, you can trace the questions back through dozens of artists, all of whom are making amazing work and each one has different answers to these questions. (Warning: it is possible to lose an hour very quickly following this thread – have fun!)

 

What am I working on?

My main focus right now is a series of still life photos that I’ve been working on for 5 years, called “The Beachcombing Series.” (You can see the whole thing in one place here.) Each photo in the series documents the things I found on a certain day: the title of each photo is the name of the beach and the date on which I found those objects. It’s a simple premise, but over the years it has developed into a very satisfying and complex practice: my walks on the beach have become a a kind of transect, partly scientific and partly poetic. The things I pick up are points of intersection between myself and the life of the shore. In the still lives, I plot those points of intersection and try to visualize the interconnected usages of the tidal zone. I write a blog post for each photo, noting the time of day, the kind of weather, and the things I noticed on the beach (like dead jellyfish and cool geology.) The blog posts help me sort through my impressions by recording all the data.

_DSC4002-web©On January 1, I’m starting an intense, two-year project (for which I’m still trying to find a name!) You can read my full description of the project here, but in summary I plan to walk all the way around Mount Desert Island’s shoreline. I’m inviting lots of people to join me to talk about their interest in the shoreline, whether it’s history, marine biology, tourism, fishing, geology, just about everything – and I’ll be posting those interviews on a dedicated blog.  I’m partnering with local scientists to take advantage of the data I gather, and I’ll be producing a still life photo for each day of walking, which will also go up on the blog. I’m incredibly excited, can hardly wait to start, and a little overwhelmed at the logistics!

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There are a lot of people who make beautiful photographs of found objects or natural debris on a white background, that is certainly not unique to me. Mary Jo Hoffman’s gorgeous Still blog comes to mind immediately. I don’t know of anyone else using still life to explore complex chaotic systems, though. Frankly, I’m not even sure what my “genre” is – is it still life photography, is it SciArt, is it documentary? I find it very hard to respond when people ask what I do, because if I say “I’m a photographer,” they imagine weddings and portraits, so  whenever possible I say, “I’m an artist,” pull out my iPhone, and just show them.

Hulls Cove, Maine; Halloween, 2014 (Beachcombing series No.83)

Why do I do what I do?

I can’t help myself, I’m fascinated with this whole process – I love going out on the shore and looking intently at it. I’ll squat over a tidepool and watch barnacles feeding, or go out when it’s 5º below zero so I can see the ice freezing in ripples as the tide ebbs. And then I bring all that back to the studio in my head and in the objects I’ve picked up, and try to make this visual expression of everything I observed. I have images in my head that have to come out, it’s that simple. I had to learn photography and lighting and Photoshop to get them out, though, which was not simple.

How does my process work?

I find having a clearly defined framework for a project is incredibly helpful. You can skip the floundering stage of ‘what should I make?’ and move straight into trying to express ideas through that framework. As I said above, mine is to make a photograph from things I pick up in one beachcombing session. So I go out, spend a couple of hours beachcombing and bring home a pile of flotsam and then spend anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks trying to find the right combination of objects and the right balance:

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Eventually I find a composition that feels right, at which point I set up the lights and photograph it. It takes me a day or two of work in Lightroom and Photoshop to make sure every object is evenly lit and has equal visual weight. That’s tricky for me, since some objects are dark and velvety, like periwinkle shells or coal, and others are bright and reflective, like sea glass, so they all respond differently to light.Beachcombing series No.75