Reflecting on summer work, studio residencies, ‘from the field’ & ‘giving tuesday’

Resident Artist at Maine Farmland Trust’s artist residency at the Joseph Fiore Art Center. Photo by Kristin Dillon | Blue Horse Photo

Jeweler and Painter

If you received my recent email you may have already linked to the Maine Farmland Trust website page, with the snippet I wrote about my month long residence. There is so much to share! They even used my little watercolor sketch as the header of the past residents page, I am so honored. I could wax poetic about this experience for hours but here is a snippet.

Jefferson Maine is a formative place for me. I spent my childhood summers going to our log cabin ‘the camp,‘ built by my father, brothers and uncles, shortly before his life was eclipsed by cancer while I was very young.


It sits just a few miles away from where this artist’s center now exists, which would make my father so thrilled had he been alive to see this materialize. This camp I now share with siblings, is on the banks of a nearby body of water much smaller than this setting on Damariscotta Lake. The landscape is a part of my cellular memory, the plants almost a part of my DNA. This experience was a priceless opportunity to re-connect with parts of my integral artist being, for I began my adult life as a painter. This time reassured me, that my instincts are correct and I now have a path to pursue a project that will hopefully come to fruition in 2020.

Haystack and Legacies

Not only this one residency but I was fortunate to have  kicked off summer with a freezing two week residency at another precious place, Haystack.  I was accompanied by many amazing artists that I now feel are friends and colleagues.  I want to simply state how important artists residency’s are to an artist’s practice and development.

(NOTE: read more about Haystack and how it connects to my graduate school at Cranbrook and Black Mountain School, where Joseph Fiore studied and taught – click on the link above, which links to much press about the current exhibition about Haystacks formative years).

Giving Tuesday and Not for Profit Arts Organizations

So, as the paradigm  in the US does not currently support not for profit arts organizations such as these two, nor is it supportive of artists in general so please consider how you can help.

Thankfully places like Haystack School of Craft and Maine Farmland Trust continue to raise funds to support artists such as myself in our passions and our need for time and place to work. For this I am grateful… but I am also asking, as we are upon ‘Giving Tuesday’ to consider donating to as many arts organizations as you can.

I will just end with some images that Kristin Dillon of Blue Horse Photo took of me in my studio the open studio day at the Joseph Fiore Art Center.

Utricularia vulgares in guoache on 22″ x30″ BFK rives black paper. Plant was released back into the lake from my kayak.
I did not draw or paint directly from this microscope borrowed from Maine Mychological Association, but it would help me look at plant structures so I could adapt my brushstroke to reference the gesture of growth habit. Sometimes counting parts for accuracy in morphology.
It was fun to see what details Kristin picked up with her lens. Wonderful person and wonderful photography.

A watercolor sketch of the black walnut tree outside of my studio I became quite enamored with.
22″ x 30″ moss gouache painting on paper by j.e. paterak- haircap moss on rock from stonewall at Rolling Acres Farm

Volunteer herbarium preparator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens










On the first Tuesday of every month for over a year now, my friend Rebecca Goodale (a book artist) and I have been going to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to assist with the preservation and display of plant samples for scientific, historical and climate related research for the new herbarium in place at the gardens. In a recent Portland Press Herald, Meredith Goad wrote an article about Herbariums in Maine. Images above (left) my grid of nine samples that I laid out and glued last month and then posted this complete set on Instagram. In the second image (right)  Gallium palustre that is the plant mentioned in the article for being one of the tricky delicate ones. However in December I learned the specimens that are collected from lakes are even more challenging, as they absorb the glue and do not remain rigid, making it really difficult to lay out. To see more photos and follow my explorations both at and beyond the bench, follow me on Instagram.

Iris, living fully in every sense of the word

I just watched the documentary film, Iris on Netflix. It was so wonderful, I just have to share my enthusiasm, and wonder how I missed the exhibition a few years ago while it was at the Peabody Essex Museum. “Meeting” Iris via this film’s presentation was eye opening. I cannot remember the last time I laid down my hard earned cash to buy a fashion magazine. Yet I find that  I have recently become more aware of a few hidden gems in the fashion world; like Alexander McQueen and a hat maker he worked closely with, Philip Treacy. The existence of these makers seems more interesting to me than the art jewelry world I used to aspire to belong to.

After all, this style maven, Iris,  has been around since well, practically a century!

Iris, looking much more restrained that her trademark self, but gorgeous just the same.

I loved the film and Iris for several reasons. First and foremost, this woman is not afraid to look different. How many people can you say that about? Secondly, I love her because she loves accessories, much like myself only with no restraint, which I cannot say about myself. But most importantly I love that Iris was a late bloomer. She really came to be everything she is now famous for in her 90s! She and her husband seemed to have had an endearing relationship and she thrived with his support.

The other reason why I wanted to share this film with others, is her comments in the dialog about her choosing to look her age and not being afraid of the aging process.

I recently had several conversations with my friends as I photographed them wearing my work for this website, and so many of us are apologetic about our very human selves. Our hands, our ears, our skin’s wrinkles, our skins colors and age markings, none of it seems “right” or “photogenic”. But if we can all just remember that we are all human before we are any kind of reproduced version of our selves, aren’t we all sort of miraculous and unique? Let’s just run with that idea.


Plant forms, seeds (plant ovaries), flower forms and more!

Botanical forms and imagery have long been a part of my work, and landscape has been at its roots.

j.e. paterak studio jewelry and botanical inspiration
Studio as laboratory

Given the chance, I can wax poetic about the role of plants on this blue marble we call Earth. We cannot exist without them, which is the simplest reason to revere them.

Being an artist, it is of course the beauty and grace of form that gets to my core. My curiosity and quest when I go out into the world is unceasing. Numerous threads of inspiration began this summer, as I adventured and explored some enamel techniques I had only admired from afar.




Penland experiments in progress
Penland experiments in progress

Enamel is a pathway back to using color in my metalwork. I do not want to reveal too much as this work is really in its embryonic stages, slowly forming in my mind as I do not have the kind of time I will once I am back at the bench full time. Soon. In the meantime I am following threads finishing pieces that have long been in process or have been in my psyche. I am engaged and happy at the bench with small breaks of walking observing nature moving into quiescence.

Bear in mind while you wander and observe along your paths, that plants, in addition to giving us food, energy, shelter, beauty, also hold secrets, secrets we may not even know.

I am in love with the fact that new scientific discoveries are still made every day! This is fantastic news because it gives me hope that someone is going to discover something that will finally change the destructive course we are currently on. Buckminster Fuller said that he believed there are invisible structures that we cannot perceive. I feel I have observed some of nature’s notations on structure and it relates to sound and form. As artistic inspiration it is a wonderful thing when something can capture your curiosity and take you down a path. I am following a path, curious to discover where it leads. Wonder.

I may come back and add some links to this post and embellish it further but in the mean time I will just add a few images of plant forms I find fascinating, enjoy.

sundew at HVNC bog
sundew at HVNC bog