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Bella Bennett

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Advice, thoughts and regrets from some members of the class of 2013, after a year away.

From left, Jacob Lawrence, Isabella Bennett, Erin Sullivan and Sarah Thompson — Photo by Michael Cummo

After 18 has been following the lives of four 2013 graduates as they made their way for the year after school — in college, developing a video game, traveling. This collection features the last dispatches from Jacob Lawrence, Sara Thompson, Erin Sullivan, and Bella Bennett. Next month, we’ll introduce the next After 18 group.

So, Summer is Finally Here!

By Jacob Lawrence

I’ve done it. I walked into my first year of college, independence and freedom and made it out the other side and best of all I did it all on my own! Okay, maybe not all on my own: there were the two or three calls home for some advice on living alone including how to properly do laundry. Also, thanks to my discovery of the amazing invention that is delivery food, there were about 15-20 calls home for money. But besides that it was all on my own.

Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence

Growing up, one of the most common things I had ever heard about college was that it’s where you “find yourself.” When I was young, the naïve me heard this and thought “but I’m not lost. How can you find yourself?” When I finally was old enough to understand what it meant I still didn’t pay it much mind. I was in high school and thought that I had already found who I was inside and out and I was comfortable and secure enough (as secure as a teenager with acne could be) to be happy with who I was. It has been a full year since I first set foot on campus during orientation; and as I think back to whom that Jacob was, the musician, student, and athlete who thought that he was already on top of the world, and compare him to the one who just finished school this year, I see two completely different people on two completely different paths.

As I think back to all the good times I have had over the last 10 months, I can really see how most of them, even the bad ones, have changed me and taught me important lessons that I can use to improve my life. For example life lesson #1: learn to budget your money. Take it from someone who is lucky enough to have the #1 ranked food service in the country, you will get sick of the food in your dining hall; not to mention there’s always a trip or a concert coming soon and if you call home to mom once every three days asking for money, she will eventually tell you “no.” So make sure that when those times come you’re financially prepared. Lesson #2 is that college is one of the only times where you are not only exposed to an infinite number of opportunities, but you can take advantage of them at your leisure. So in my opinion, you should join all the clubs and take all the trips you can to find what you really like. I personally found happiness in my fraternity. From youth groups to community service to sports teams I have always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, so a fraternity to me seemed like the best thing for me and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join one. I love my fraternity brothers and I would do anything for them.

So here I am, sitting at home on one of my rare days off from work and there are two things on my mind. The first is that working three jobs this summer is the worst idea by far that I have ever had in my life. And the second is all the awesome things that I have set up both socially and academically for myself this coming year. I have set my schedule with fun and engaging classes including a public speaking class which I’m super excited for, not to mention that I’m done with class at noon on Fridays!

In addition to excitement about my classes (which my mother and father will be happy to read about) I’m also planning snowboarding trips for the winter and my fraternity is planning a trip to Canada in the spring. I can say that without a doubt my freshman year was the best year of my life so far. But I think sophomore year and every year after this will be even better.

(Past dispatches here.)

Still 17

By Sara Thompson

(written in late June.)

Sarah Thompson
Sarah Thompson

I’ve been back on the Island for one month. I still don’t know what day it is. Nor did I really know in Portland. Though, in Portland it was wake up and go to class at 8 am, four days a week and then slave away in the studios for the next three and repeat. With self-discipline, I pulled off my overly ambitious projects while wandering Portland every now and then seeking a new coffee shop to spend hours in, reading about science of course.

On Island, my concept of the day is far worse. I know what day it is when my alarm goes off at 7:20 in the morning on Sundays. Sundays I show my work at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals. Starting in July, I’ll know what day it is twice because I’ll start showing my work on Thursdays.

Being back at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and seeing everyone bright and ready to start the season is calming and refreshing. Dozens of warm, friendly artists came over to me to ask of my artistic adventure 3,000 miles away and especially to see my new pieces of jewelry from the new techniques I’ve learned while I was away.

The truth is that I only made two pieces of jewelry while I was away at Oregon College of Art and Craft. I had no new work at the Memorial Day shows. Modestly, I shared with the other artists that I’ve taken a big step in my metal career as I’ve begun to branch out into the world of sculptures. Some readers who have followed my writings I imagine are thinking, of course you make sculptures! On the other hand, the busy weeks of the festivals, I’m cranking out 15-50 pieces of one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry pieces. It’s a completely different change of pace. The new direction I am taking has caused me to reflect deeply on it, especially when I wrote the articles for this paper. The opportunity the MV Times has given me is extraordinary. This opportunity to write for After 18 (I’m still 17…) has allowed me to share with readers not just: “Oh, I go to art school.” Rather, “Here, I want to share with you my process: what I create, how I create it, and why I create my pieces.” My sculptures, in particular, are pieces that come from deep within me and resonate closely with me. They are both part of my artistic and intellectual nature that drives me to create and to learn about the universe around us. My sculptures have allowed me to marry those two natures to share with others to interact with them so that they appreciate my craft, but also learn something new. Writing these articles has allowed me to bring viewers along of the process, and hopefully, learn many new things or a different perspective.

For the summer, I am taking a break from my sculptures and fully throwing myself into my jewelry work. I missed making jewelry. I missed painting with molten glass enamel and creating hundreds of settings. My wrists may disagree, but it’s good to be settling back in. Arriving on Island, I wasn’t quite ready to start designing; I strongly believe that you cannot force creativity. I wasn’t ready. My summer project was to build a website. However, at my first Artisans festival this season, I was approached about wholesale orders.

Wholesale. Oh boy. More on that later.

Needless to say, I avoided jewelry and slaved on my website, sara-thompson-metalsmith.com.

I made something that’s not made out of metal. My website allows me to share with viewers both branches of my work — jewelry and sculptures — and have a shop built into the site. Viewers can learn about my enameling technique and handcrafted jewelry while seeing what drives my sculptures and how I made each one.

One part of the site that is being updated is my series section. A year ago I started a Black and White series. In this series, I am exploring the power of contrast. How does different amounts of black and white with the safety of grays affect the overall feeling of the piece. I enjoy this series the most, in addition to that I wear mostly black and white and that it is my best seller — some pieces sell off my neck!

Fast forwarding to this week, I finally felt creative, very creative, 18 hours straight of creativity (with only two cups of coffee, mind you.) After feeling not my greatest, I forced myself into my studio only emerging to get more mapp gas (gas for my enameling torch.) I ran out of mapp gas, twice. Within this creative Monday, I started two dozen pieces. My wrists were and are not happy. Tuesday followed with an overly productive day as I finished the last solderings on the settings, set the enameled pieces, and began the polishing process. It was only a 12-hour productive day.

My two new series are enameled-focused. Enamel is a kind of powdered glass that is fired to create a glossy surface of glass. I have nearly 200 colors, but I mostly use two dozen. Traditionally enameling is done in a kiln; however, I torch-fire mine. Torch-firing allows more variables to affect the glass. I enjoy torch-firing because I can then paint with the glass while it’s molten to create truly unique pieces. One new series, titled Growth, ecompasses single bright colors against a white background. The colors are swirling up from the bottom as if they’re growing vines.

My other series from the concerning overly productive Monday was a result of working with the enamel in a new way. I think I might glass this series Glass Pulling, though I’m not sure yet. I was literally pulling the glass. I began to ball up the enamel while it was molten and work with gravity to pull the enameling as if it were mozzarella cheese. This results in creating thin thread-like glass enamel that I then place onto the main enamel piece. It’s a difficult but is enticing me to trying glass blowing as soon as I can. (I wrote a research paper on the thermodynamics and molecular physics of glass blowing. I’m not sure if other art students loved it as much as I did.)

The last three days I have pushed out two dozen new pieces and it’s not even fourth of July yet, nut that will be the rest of my summer- happily creating in my studio and reading multiple books a week while upsetting my wrists. I’m settling back into my groove. I look forward to meeting new faces at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and creating close customer relationships as I share with others my artistic processes.

I’m on the Vineyard until say August 31. August 31 is my last Artisan Festival for the season. Then I have to go back to Portland to start my second year in my BFA. I’ll be learning new metal techniques such as casting and electroforming while starting another studio concentration in wood working…because why not make functional art?

Past dispatches here.

Learned a lot

By Erin Sullivan

The past year has had its ups and downs, with Driftwood’s Kickstarter being fully funded, switching out artists, personal endeavors with moving and the (not so) shocking revelation that every college isn’t going to accept me simply because of my experience with game development so far…and in the end, I wouldn’t have done or wanted it any different.

Erin Sullivan
Erin Sullivan

I’ve learned a lot from my time outside of school, mostly life experiences — things you can’t really experience in the classroom or in a lecture hall. If I had been in school, I don’t think I would’ve picked up on a lot of those lessons, I probably would’ve been too distracted by classes and work and ignored the real problem, only to run into it again later on.

Driftwood, while helping me stay motivated and busy, which in a sense has kept me happy, has also made me equally frustrated and angry at times. Spending the past two years on it, and only having so little to show for it, at least in terms of how much of the game is actually completed, or how much art is done is unsettling to me. Although I’ve learned over the months that work that involves a lot of people will always take time, there’s a reason studios take months and months to get games done. Quality takes time.

But…things are getting better, both for the game and myself. This fall I’ll be attending Becker College majoring in Game Design, and my basic plan is to finish Driftwood during my first year of school, and work onwards, using my connections and friendships at the school to start another long-term project.

Driftwood itself has had a few changes, for the better, in the past few weeks. We’ve changed our artists, so we have a more consistent style; we’ve managed to acquire a background artist, which helps a lot with making the semi-fictional world the game takes place in more believable. (Basically Martha’s Vineyard in 10 or so years.) Simply put, the game takes place in a world where the Charter School has converted into a full boarding-high school, with dorms and all the like around the campus.

A fictional boarding school at the Charter School.
A fictional boarding school at the Charter School.

I recently attended the 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduation, and it made me realize how much time had really passed. Just a year ago I had been standing on that stage, and it didn’t feel nearly as long as a year, but…time is relative. It’s just a thing humans made up to calculate when the best time of year it would be to plant crops, or when they could hunt migratory animals that move about between winter and summer.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at is that “time” passes quickly. Each day rolls into a week, and each week rolls into a month, and eventually, a whole year has passed.

Use your time wisely, and enjoy yourself.

Nothing gold can stay

By Bella Bennett

The final dispatch!

One of my favorite (yet entirely un-optimistic) sentiments has always been Robert Frost’s “Nothing gold can stay.” This year it meant a multitude of things for me. While my year of travel and adventure looks glorious on paper, it’s been somewhat more turbulent in the family department. We’ve felt the heartbreak of both cancer and Alzheimer’s, and I’ve begun to understand how magical the gift of family is. It’s the worst thing in the world to be helpless when a loved one’s health is threatened.

Isabella Bennett
Isabella Bennett

Before I left last summer, a good friend of mine told me, “the struggle is real,” and Ben Dwane, you were too right. However, I’m learning now to pick my struggles, as they have a tendency to grow quickly in number — similar in my mind to a population of poisonous spiders, which undoubtedly reproduce more quickly than I’d like to imagine. Unfortunately most struggles can’t be squashed as a spider can, and I’ve learned instead to attempt to balance the struggles I face with moments of fun and joy. As my past articles have revealed, I’ve been very lucky with the amount of joyful memories I’ve made over the past year, and I’d say that for the time being, I’ve thankfully tipped the struggle scale towards happiness instead of despair.

The past year, however, has taught me that time is a thing to be cherished. I don’t mean time as a measure of length, but instead as a measure of significant moments. While I struggle to pretend that everything is normal as my grandmother, who is one of my most inspiring role models, now forgets my name, I realize that while I don’t have more time with the woman she once was, we did have many great moments in the past — reading and writing stories, exploring nature, and just being together — and those times were a beautiful gift. I hope that I will be able to find the value that I do in those memories, in present moments, and that I will remember to always be grateful for what I have in front of me at any instant. I hope that everyone will. While some things have deteriorated, other glorious things have begun, like the lives of my brand-new twin cousins Lilly and Mira, and every moment that I spend with them, I feel lucky, because through my grandmother’s illness, I have learned the value of the moment, and I cannot thank her enough for that realization.

Bella Bennett and her grandmother.
Bella Bennett and her grandmother.

The past year has been a big growing year for me (I went from 5’6½” to 5’6¾” !) In all seriousness, I feel that I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I think that honestly I’ve recognized quite a bit of this growth through writing, and through these excerpts into my life especially. Writing for The Times has been a very positive and productive experience for me, and I look forward to writing more articles throughout the rest of the summer. I hope that everyone has a summer full of family, sunshine, happiness, and love.

Year one comes to an end.

Bella, back in Italy after freshman year. — Photo by Brian Temple

After 18 is an ongoing series written by four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the third from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College. Bella studied in London during her first semester. She just finished her Freshman year at Skidmore’s main campus, in Saratoga Springs, NY. This was written on June 10.

I don’t think that I think like the majority of other people do. Planned things seem to sneak up on me. I am a day-to-day thinker. In fact, I am more of a thing-to-thing thinker. My journal is full of daily to do lists, and because I seem only to have the capacity to think about the events of the current day — and usually one at a time — none of these to-do lists are ever checked off. This was an okay strategy to get me through this past week of finals, but after my environmental studies final, I walked out of the classroom and back to my dorm (which I actually had the forethought to pack up at midnight the night before as a study break) and realized that I could actually leave at that very moment. It is really weird to walk into a room that you have lived in for an entire semester (for most everyone else it has been a year now, but again, I’m the one who spent freshman year in London) and see white walls where posters and tapestries used to hang. It’s eerie.

Venice, then back to the Vineyard.
Venice, then back to the Vineyard.

So as I was lugging the last of my belongings out to my car, I realized that I could make the last boat. Until that moment, I really hadn’t had a spare moment to consider coming home, and I became really excited. I had planned on staying at a friends’ house in Western Mass to break up the drive, but I finished my last final early, and contrary to common thought that the boat is an inconvenience, the thought of racing down to Woods Hole and catching the last ferry seemed a glorious adventure.

So after I threw a few final things into the back of my car, I left campus. That is a weird feeling on its own. I’ll likely never set foot in that room again, never live with my roommate again, never shower in that grey cage again. Bummer. Regardless, it’s a pretty jarring thought. So, being of the completely technology reliant generation, I typed “Martha’s Vineyard” into my GPS. “Martha’s Vineyard Ferry,” popped up, and I clicked on it and hit the road. Three hours into singing  along with the radio and glaring at rude drivers (most of whom also looked like college students) I got off at my designated exit.

But…this was not 495, this was exit 10A…to Rhode Island. My preset radio stations from home, which had only just started playing, began to fizzle into white noise, and subconsciously I began to wonder exactly which route I was taking. After about forty-five minutes of Rhode Island traffic and other fun things, I started to really doubt my choice of destination. When the GPS reported that I was ten minutes away from what was supposed to be Woods Hole, and I recognized nothing, I finally realized my mistake. I’d chosen the New Bedford fast ferry as my destination.

Awesome. Luckily, I still made the last boat!

After that roundabout journey, being home was incredible. But again, kind of jarring. It’s weird to finally learn how to live (and drive!) off Island, where there are two lanes on the majority of roads, and come back to meandering dirt roads. However, I only had two days to enjoy the beauty of the buds that were just beginning to burst into that soft green spring foliage that I so love. Saratoga had yet to even bud when I left, and the day I got home, I knew I’d miss my favorite seasonal activity; biking down from Chilmark through West Tisbury the day after all the leaves have come out. I love the first day, because each leaf is still so tender and soft, like a luna moth’s wing. However, I am not missing this glorious reality for anything short of amazing either.

I am currently back abroad. It’s been such a wild semester. When this series began, I wrote my first article from the sloping hills outside of Caccamo, Sicily. Now, I write to you from a hotel room in Venice; where water laps against the side of the building just two stories below, and the constant sound of boat traffic lulls me to sleep about six hours before I even consider turning in. The water is nothing like the clear, salty sea that sorrounds our beloved island, but the city is incredible.

I have only been here for two days, and already I feel both acquainted and attached to this city. I have also noticed something quite intriguing. As I am sure that you know, there are no cars in Venice. Not one. And, while pudgy Italians are quite rare, I have yet to see a single overweight local. I presume that these go hand in hand, thus providing me another reason (beyond my environmental enthusiasm, which I expressed in my last article) for me to ride my bike everywhere this summer. I know that I can feel contempt for the chains of bikers that line the sides of the roads in the summer (and never fail to make me late for everything) but nevertheless, lets all make a little pledge to be slightly less irritated in the future. Biking is good for the world and as we all know, for better or for worse, the waves of tourists swell larger each year, and we must be careful not to give our athletic visitors love taps as they explore our lush and endlessly beautiful home.

However, before the season really picks up, revel in the unwinding of the buds, the opening of the flowers, and the buzzing of our fantastic Bumble Bee population for me! In the mean time, I’ll attempt to uncover the secrets of Venice and I’ll be sure to let you in on a few in my next piece! A presto mi amici!

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Bella Bennett with Argent Alija and other students on a hiking trip in Dorset, VT. — Photo courtesy of Megan Macomber

After 18 is an ongoing series about four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the second from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College and just completed her first semester in London. Bella has just started her second semester at the Skidmore’s main campus in Saratoga Springs, NY.

While Bella Bennet 2013spending your first semester of college abroad is in no way traditional, it is probably the best way to spend that awkward transition period. In fact, (don’t tell Skidmore) but half the reason I picked this school was for the opportunity to spend my first semester in London. And honestly, I grew more than I can probably comprehend. During my semester, I kept a travel journal, detailing all of my highs, lows, successes, stresses, self-deprecations and self-realizations, expressed through poetry, prose and doodles. It also contains leaves from all over Europe, pictures from various brochures of castles and other historic sites that I visited, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs from the Rugby World Cup Semifinals and the musicals “Once” and “The Lion King,” and a hoard of other precious scraps. While I’d love to continue on with this, there simply isn’t as much to do in a traditional college setting.

Thus, in my new journal I decided to instead write a few lines every day, beginning with “College is…” detailing what defines my college experience each day. Looking back over the past few weeks is already entertaining. While I won’t condemn you to all of my momentary and often dramatic thoughts on college life, a few of my favorites are:

BellaBennett-happy-in-hat
Photo courtesy of Megan Macomber

“College is…”

“Still not knowing how to spell January,” (I only got it right this time because of spell check.)

“Growing mushrooms..” (During a field trip to Radix sustainability center in Albany, we were given bags of saturated straw, shown how to add mycelium, and instructed on how to grow Oyster Mushrooms inside of our dorms. If I don’t get in trouble with campus safety because this probably looks really bad, I promise to give an update on their success!)

“A halfway house to real life.”

“A place where stoplights exist!” (Probably the most jarring of all adjustments.)

“Incredible peers.”

“Roasting apples over the open fire.” (I borrowed a few apples from our gracious dining hall and joined the outing club on an incredible hike into the backwoods of Vermont, where a quarry exists within a cave. At this time of year the quarry is frozen, thus creating a private indoor skating area. For those of us who haven’t yet mastered the art of balancing on two blades and looking graceful, there was also a bonfire, upon which we roasted everything within our backpacks. I recommend roasted apples; they’re like apple pie without the pie!

“Falafel-less.” (If you’ve been to London, you may know that spoiled feeling of a) being in London, and b) being surrounded by falafel bars and Indian restaurants.)

“A heated indoor riding ring!” (Horseback riding in a t-shirt when you know that its actually negative five degrees outside is a beautiful privilege.)

“Choosing red or blue.” (No, this does not have any gang association; artsy kids simply tend to settle on the red side of our spaceship-shaped dining hall, while sportsters overwhelm the blue side. Apparently it’s always been this way, and being the indecisive person that I am, I enjoy switching back and forth between the two sides and checking out the general characteristics of both sides. On the red side, you’re far more likely to have a conversation with a stranger, while on the blue side you’ll get a head nod or a smile. Everyone is kind regardless of which side of D-hall (the affectionate and somewhat provocative nickname for the dining hall) they chose, yet the blue side is more team oriented and awash with Skidmore apparel while the red side is full of color, creative clashing and flannel. What really says something though, is that it is only my third week here and I already feel completely at home. The community is spectacular, no matter the divisions over dinner.

Basically, my college experience is redefined everyday by the people I encounter, experiences that I have, and the constant influx of knowledge imparted by truly wise professors. Together, these forces obliterate my perceptions of right, wrong, policy, power, etc. almost daily. The knowledge on campus is endless, so what you get out of college is really what you put in. This means that I cannot maintain an informed opinion for even a day without becoming aware that I am again uninformed, and because every day presents moments that can be approached as challenges or opportunities.

For me, college is perspective. I’m glad to report: the glass is spilling-over full with optimism.

Read Bella’s first post from London and Sicily.