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What Ceramic Casting Slip Can Tell About The Effects of Development On The Water Supply, That Our Political Leaders Won’t Say


Today there is a cloud of topics floating around in my head and I am wondering which is the starting point of this story and so I begin in the present where I am pondering how to begin. 

I started writing on Medium because I have a mission to preservmy family's historical hand-crafted ceramic art and design business into the future. My motivation for doing so is simple, or at least it was in the beginning. My mission began with a love for the work process for which I am very grateful for having been given such a life but such a life also makes me an outsider and so I understand the need for places in society where the outsider finds a home. Our business has provided that to more than a few outsiders throughout its history which began in 1952.

Right now the business does not have a physical form and so it has receded into its primordial beginnings where its philosophical content and meaning are its form. The material forms that the business produces can readily be created anew because the body of molds exists.

In its present incarnation our business has become a spiritual manifestation, as in the Mists of Avalon, a book I should reread to find out if it has the same metaphysical effect on me the second time around as it did the first time. I can’t adequately put into words what happened the first time I read The Mists of Avalon. The effect can only be described as occurring on another plane of reality. The Mists of Avalon is written from the perspective of a pagan culture during the days of King Author’s Court. The pagan culture is receding into the mists of civilization where it no longer has a physical manifestation and has devolved into a pure spiritual manifestation as Christianity takes root in the material world.

If Andersen Design still had a physical presence, I would not be writing as much as I do now. Writing is non-material in comparison to making ceramics from the raw materials of the earth and mixing those materials, using our own original recipes into casting slips, glazes, and decorating colors. Ceramics is of the earth and writing is of the air. Writing is thought, the root origin of everything. To be or not to be is the question to apply to my original life mission- to preserve a unique business that truly took a different path, and marched to the beat of a different drummer, into the future.

Beginning with the earth Photo by francois-olwage-unsplash

So here I am in the material world, writing beingness into being. I have my voice. How effective can a voice be in affecting events in the world of things? My hometown rulers must think a voice can be very effective since my comments in my local newspaper are frequently deleted or messed with in some other way. I described one such incident in this post. Local interference has slowed a bit since I openly comment in the newspaper about its occurrence, to which the moderator perpetually blames Disqus.

Comment interference in my hometown newspaper is just one event in a series that takes place on and offline, starting with the first blog post that I posted many years ago in which I reviewed an act recently passed by the Maine Legislature. I am a free voice in a centrally controlled state wherein those who fancy themselves to be the ruling classes believe that they control everyone and everything that goes on within their domain of power and do not realize that there are boundaries to their own domain as if the entire state of Maine is one big corporation and everyone in Maine is subservient to the corporate hierarchy. Central management has convinced many that this is a condition of their survival, if not advancement, and quite frankly has created a culture of subtle subservience.

Here is how I feel when I am approached by one of the state speech supervisors, telling me such things as “You have to stop writing about the JECD!”, a local spending organization with pretenses of being an economic development organization, that quickly shut down at the onset of coronavirus. What nerve! I think — who does she think she is to tell me what I can write about! She is not my editor or my supervisor! The fact that she steps in, uninvited, to represent the interests of a local so-called economic development organization, testifies to the case that the local organization is not really a local organization.

Slip-cast ceramic sugar and creamer in hand-painted blue-green striped by Andersen Design. Photo by Mackenzie Andersen
But today things have evolved and I, as a representative of Andersen Design, have more than one special role to play in representing a locally generated community of the people and by the people, but also in representing the state of the local water supply.

Water is an issue that should come first and foremost. I am glad to say that our new State Senator is advocating for a constitutional amendment that makes it a priority to protect our environment, but that is just a step that needs other levels of support. It is a legislative tradition in Maine to ignore the Constitution at will until they suddenly support it as a matter of political convenience. It takes a village, as they say. Voices are needed to stand up and speak for environmental concerns at crucial moments such as the case today as my home town is entertaining an economic development proposal cloaked as a school, The forty-nine million dollar school system proposed for a peninsula which has neither the youth population nor the financial resources to support it, would require increasing the population on the peninsula, with a water supply that is qualified as “most at risk for new development” by state water quality standards.

The Falcon sculpted by Ian Peter Andersen in a white glaze falling over the natural brown slip. Photo by Mackenzie Andersen

The reason that I have a special perspective on the state of the water on the Boothbay Peninsula directly relates to the fact that Andersen Design has always made its casting slip from raw materials. It was during 2016, the last summer that we occupied our old homestead when we were no longer able to mix casting slip using the local water supply, which we had been doing since 1958. 

That summer when we tried to mix casting slip, during that time when the local water had gone from Adam's Pond to the usual summertime source, Knickerbocker Lake, our casting slip which should have a viscosity equivalent to chocolate syrup, had instead the viscosity of a cookie batter.

In ceramics, deflocculents are used to adjust the viscosity, and very little is needed to do so but that summer no amount of deflocculent would bring the viscosity of the slip to a measure where it could function as casting slip. It took us a while to arrive at the unprecedented thought that the cause of our problems could be the local water supply but once we tried mixing a small batch of identical materials with water from a different source, the problem was solved. The test batch of the slip made with a different water supply made a perfect casting slip.

Flocculants are used in cleaning a water supply. The only explanation for the inability to mix a perfect casting slip using the local water supply is that there were massive amounts of cleanser being added to Knickerbocker Lake. Why???

Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake currently meet state water quality standards, but both are listed on Chapter 502 of the Maine Stormwater Law as “Most at Risk from New Development” and on Maine’s NPS Priority Watersheds List. Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake Water Shed Protection Plan published 2015

That summer there were two major construction projects underway (at least). The Botanical Gardens was constructing a large parking lot in the local watershed and a tree was planted in the middle of our main throughway. A road that was perfectly fine where it was, was moved to create an intersection that could be fashioned into a mini-roundabout the tree, that happens to be situated across from a former one-way street going roundabout our local commons with the new country club expanding aggressively behind it, making inroads into the roadway that was once the Commons roundabout.

I am of the opinion that neither of these projects should have been built. The parking lot in the watershed had been rejected by the town planners until the Botanical Gardens sued the town. The town immediately caved as Boothbay is not a political climate where anything can beat money. The cost of contesting the lawsuit could not be justified by a potential threat to the watershed. The Garden hired experts who reported that with new technology there is no problem. This year the Botanical Gardens is lobbying for botanical gardens to be included as an approved use in the watershed district. Then all the public can do is hope that honor and ethics will prevail at the Gardens and that they actually know what they are doing and care more about the watershed than for the profits they make from big crowd events.

The tree that was planted in the middle of the road is surrounded by stonework which gradually levels out onto the road. The graduating steps of the stonework are so close in color to the road that one can easily drive over it as it thins to almost level with the road. This is a small blessing in the event that there is ever a traffic mishap on the single-lane roundabout. Otherwise, the roundabout is a dysfunctional in-elegant road design that does not get any better with time. The curves of the new infrastructure are cramped. One feels a sigh of relief once past the new section and back on the older section with its smoothly winding country curves.

There was no particular reason for installing the roundabout. Politicians made much to do about a four-way stop that was out of the traffic flow of the main throughway. They portrayed the four-way stop as very dangerous, “because some drivers speed through it”, but I rarely experienced traffic at that intersection. On the other side of the Commons, there is an intersection that is very busy at times but nothing was done to address that intersection. Instead, the roundabout was installed where the Commons road joined the main throughway and a road leading up to the country club. By placing a roundabout in the middle of the road, the traffic patterns were changed, as if as a grand entrance to the country club, the roundabout created a new traffic flow going to and fro in the direction of the Botanical Gardens to the country club, obstructing the traffic traveling on the main throughway, where there is the highest volume of traffic.

The redesign of the traffic patterns expresses a political message that underscores today's political wealth divide. The travel to and from the Botanical Gardens to the country club is granted status to interrupt everyone traveling on the main way. The message is that folks doing their daily business must wait for or else barge into a parade transversing between the dominant financial powers. But in the case of drivers, they aren’t so subservient.


In fact, after declaring that the four-way stop was excessively dangerous and so it needed to be replaced with a merging roundabout in the middle of the main throughway, commenters in the local newspaper took the attitude that if anyone didn’t like the new obstacle in the roadway, it is because they are scardiecat drivers, unlike themselves, hotshots who dauntlessly speed in and merge anywhere, without hesitation, something to be aware of, when you are the driver already traveling on the tiny roundabout. It is no wonder that the cars going to and fro from the Harbor aggressively claim the right of way over traffic already on the roundabout since the main way has long been a straight unobstructed road, and that is the way it should be today, were it not for politics and money.

If some drivers treat the roundabout as if it were the main throughway, as it has always been, and do not stop or slow down for anyone traveling from the other direction, I treat the intersection of Corey Lane like what it ought to be, as well, and if I see a flow of traffic traveling toward the roundabout, I wait for them to pass before entering, indulging in my fantasy that I am traveling on a normal, sane, road. Of course, the hotshots would call me an old lady driver but I don’t care. I have nothing to prove to them. It is they who have something to prove to me.

The worst transition is in making what should be a normal left-hand turn from the newly rerouted Corey Lane. Traffic going towards the Harbor looks like it might be making a turn onto Corey Lane until it doesn't. The tiny curve around the roundabout is forced and uncomfortable to drive on while one has to determine whether the cars coming from the Harbor are going to drive onto the roundabout without waiting for the cars already on it, because, after all, it should be their right of way, as it would be with sane traffic planning. Insanity breeds insanity.

Although it would be difficult to establish that these two projects were directly responsible for the excessive amount of cleansing agents dumped into Knickerbocker Lake in the summer of 2016. the agents of each project were directly cited as increasing the threat to Adams Pond and Knickerbocker lake in the report published by the Boothbay Region Water District in 2015:
Two large developments in Boothbay could further stimulate Boothbay’s seasonal and year round population growth and increase development pressure on the watershed. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a 270-acre attraction established in 2007, located partially in the watershed, received over 100,000 visitors in 2014. The Gardens plan a doubling of facilities and estimate visitor numbers will increase to 160,000 yearly by 2024. The Boothbay Harbor Country Club, also partially located in the watershed, is undergoing a major renovation under new owner Paul Coulombe. Coulombe is investing $30 million to establish a PGA level course, new clubhouse, cottages, spa, tennis courts, swimming pools and other amenities. Development associated with these major attractions coupled with the already above average growth trend in Boothbay increases the likelihood of watershed development and the NPS threat to the Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake. Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake Water Shed Protection Plan published 2015

Our business was damaged in 2016 by one useless and one wreckless project. Had we had been able to stay on our former property, we may not have been able to mix ceramic casting slip for our business in the summer when the Town is on the Knickerbocker Lake water supply and the Town leaders would not care unless we sued them but it would be hard to establish the direct cause of the excessive flocculents dumped into the water supply.

The Maine Legislature is partly responsible for the obstruction constructed in the middle of the road at the Boothbay Town Center. The Maine Legislature, ever in love with the cash flow delivered by “public-private relationships” has set up funding for infrastructure projects as a public-private relationship on a first-come-with-the-most-money in hand basis. The private developer is granted authority to oversee the infrastructure design. That is how our town came to have a tiny cramped roundabout placed in the middle of a formerly unobstructed main throughway.

If one is serious about prioritizing environmental protection, it will take more than a constitutional amendment. It will require a systematic reorganization of Maine statutes to that priority. As long as any private developer can buy the right to redesign our road systems causing needless havoc on the water supply in the process, our environment will not be protected.

And so I am going to leave it at that today, except to say to the people of Boothbay, look before you leap, look a gift horse in his mouth, and remember that the big mouth promoting the forty-nine million dollar school is the guy who brought us the tree in the middle of the road and forced us all to drive around it.

Originally published on Medium April 3 2p21 11:00 am


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