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ADIRONDACK LIVING: Peace of the mountains inspires artist in Keene

February 2, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

KEENE - Emma Silverstein is a potter, bassist, drummer, singer and a ballet dancer, but a better word that sums up her multifaceted talents and personality is artist.

Silverstein, 22, of Southbury, Connecticut, works at Craigardan, a nonprofit organization on Hurricane Road in Keene that provides residencies, community classes and workshops for different art forms such as pottery, culinary arts and agriculture. She works as a potter and is currently making 150 dining sets of plates, bowls and cups for Craigardan's benefit dinner in the spring.

"Coming out of school I was just looking for a place to make my work," Silverstein said, "and with ceramics, it's really kind of crucial to be working at an established organization, especially when I'm young and don't have my own property or a lot of money because the kilns and equipment would cost a substantial amount of money to acquire myself."

Article Photos

Emma Silverstein plays a Fender Squier bass guitar. She also sings, plays drums, dances ballet and fiddles around with a Casio miniature keyboard.
(News photos — Griffin Kelly)

She makes her own schedule, and spends a good amount of time throwing clay on a pottery wheel. After the pieces are molded and her hands are dripping with water and clay, she puts the ceramics in a kiln that heats up to more than 2,000 degrees above zero.

Silverstein said she thinks people are fairly detached from their objects today. Not that she's promoting materials, but rather she thinks people don't often recognize the effort and care that goes into a plate or a bowl or that people don't recognize that an object's legacy and usefulness might surpass their own.

"It's cool to think that the objects I make will outlive me by thousands of years," she said.

Silverstein lives in a house owned by Craigarden on the shoulder of Hurricane Mountain. To the North, Big Crow and Little Crow mountains can be seen. The house is down a long and slightly steep path that ices over heavily in the winter, making it difficult for some cars to get back to the road. Last time her friend Joshua visited, his Volvo got stuck, and people had to push it up the hill. Luckily, Silverstein doesn't have to worry about automobile troubles. She doesn't have a car and can walk the quarter of a mile through the woods to the ceramics studio.

Her room is the perfect size for one person. A twin bed rests by the door while a secondhand drum set resides in the corner next to Fender Squier bass guitar. A white Casio miniature keyboard sits on shelf on top of a record player she barely uses because it has only internal speakers, so the sound quality isn't the best. On her nightstand are other noise makers - bells, a mouth harp and stuff you can hit with a drum stick.

Despite playing covers, Silverstein has a distinct voice and style that makes the songs all her own. Whether she's beating a floor tom to the rhythm of a train and singing "Subway" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or playing her bass-only rendition of Roxy Music's "Every Dream Home a Heartache," Silverstein puts on a euphoric performance. When she starts, it's as if there are no other sounds.

The Adirondacks and Craigarden offer the environments Silverstein looks for in a place to create.

"This place particularly drew me because of its intersection of culinary, food and ceramics and agriculture and that's always been a consideration in my work," she said. "I like this place, too, because it's quite secluded on the top of this little mountain. So I have a lot of time to be quiet and think, or be quiet and not think."

Silverstein doesn't think the Adirondacks are a place for every artist. Some people need a lot of social interaction to fuel their work, and seclusion could stifle that process.

"It would be more beneficial for artists who are working with or for stillness or quietness or the environment because there's more earth than people up here," she said. "For a clay artist, that's perfect."

However, she also thinks being a little uncomfortable is a good thing, especially for someone her age.

"Sometimes you want to put yourself in a place where you don't know if you'd thrive or not," Silverstein said. "Go out of your comfort zone because there are a lot of things around here that are really exciting and can bring you joy. Don't underestimate yourself just because you're young. A lot of the things around here are powered by the enthusiasm of young people."



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