‘Salad Days’ of summer

Posted:  Sunday, July 9, 2017 - 8:45am

Al “Big Al” Cohen has been going to Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts’ Salad Days event for a few years. The owner of Wiscasset’s Big Al’s Super Values and Big Al’s Fireworks Outlet joined hundreds of others in Newcastle Saturday for this year’s installment.

He said the makings of his salad were all good. “And it’s nice to support a local nonprofit. I think this is a great place that the world doesn’t know about,” Cohen said.

The plates attendees picked were theirs to keep. Kurt Anderson made this year’s. Salad Days’ 2006 artist Patrick Coughlin helped event-goers register Saturday, including first-time attendee Cheryl Young of Bath. There with niece Elena Malis, Young said she heard about the event from Fogg Art Restoration in Wiscasset. She gets her framing done there. The owners know a lot of good places to go, Young said.

The 500-plus plates sell out each year, volunteer and past Watershed board member Jane Gleason said. Asked about the turnout, as a line formed at the event’s outset, Gleason said, “I love it.”

The line had newcomers like Young and longtime attendees. Round Pond’s Sarah Matel has been bringing son Teddy, 17, since he was about 12. They collect the plates, she said.

Mimi Brett of Heron Island, South Bristol and Kelly Shaw of Auburn were first-timers. Strangers, they got talking thanks to Brett’s goldendoodle Barnaby, 1, and Shaw’s labradoodle, Gus, 16 weeks. Gus will grow as big as Barnaby, Brett said.

“You meet great people when you have a dog,” Shaw said.

Many brought their dogs. Some brought babies. Up from Boston, Nicole and Sam Aquillano had daughter Rafaela, who turned 2 months old Saturday. Nicole picked a plate with a cat on it, because she has a cat. Asked about his choice of a plate with a monster, Sam said, “because I have a little monster.” He smiled and motioned to his baby girl in her mother’s arms.

Andrew O’Connor, 7, of Minot also picked out a monster plate; grandmother Dianne O’Connor, a bird one. She loves birds, she said. Her grandson was picking out another ceramic piece inside a truck from the nonprofit Pots on Wheels. POW was also giving event-goers wheel time.

“You just rocked out an awesome cup,” POW’s Jeffrey Lipton told Washington, D.C.’s Gaura Buchwald, who had never thrown. On the eve of Salad Days, Buchwald watched an online video of a potter at work. “When you see someone that really knows what they’re doing, it’s magical,” he told Lipton.

“It’s mesmerizing,” Lipton agreed.

Buchwald’s uncle George Mason is one of Watershed’s founders. Making the cup was very cool, said Buchwald, a member of the world-traveling, ancient to modern music band Hanumen. Being at the wheel was meditative, he said. “It’s like you had to be off somewhere and let (the cup) grow.”

Lipton enjoyed helping Buchwald. It’s fun getting to see people experience something for the first time, he said.

Mike Cinelli and Rachel Donner attracted an audience for their ceramics demonstration, one of five featuring a series of artists. As he worked, Cinelli discussed his approach to color. He said his inspiration comes from comic books and retro science fiction magazines. “They had a lot of limitations on the colors they could do, so they went for high contrast color schemes ... They just went for what was really intense,” he said.

That’s why super heroes tended to wear blue, red and yellow and villains, purple or green, Cinelli said.

Cohen had his salad at one of the long tables under a tent, where many had theirs. Others picnicked on the lawn. Isaac Beaulieu, 3, of Turner held a bottle of lemon lime soda in his right hand and reached for a green olive with his left.

Sister Amaya, 2, held a plastic fork as long as her forearm. The plate in front of her had an assortment of foods, including pasta, peppers and three eaten watermelon slices. She picked up a chickpea and showed her mother Celina. Amaya’s brother Kyle, 15, smiled as his sister tried the bread.

Brother Brandon, 11, was there, too. Their mother tries to get the family to Salad Days every year.