Haystack has been tremendously important to me, a refuge and source of inspiration, a safe place to recharge creatively. I have been a resident there four times. My  first visit to Haystack (full name: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts) was shortly after I graduated from college. It was  like bursting out of a box. Part of it was being released from the mundane responsibilities of daily life- shopping, cooking, etc. All those things were taken care of, freeing the residents to devote themselves to creative productivity.

It’s on Deer Island, Maine, disconnected from the mainland, a world in itself. On my first visit there were about 60 attendees. The teachers brought their significant others, and many of those significant others turned out to be luminaries in their own fields, giants in humanities, dance, music. They would put on spontaneous performances combining several disciplines. I remember one that featured a John Cage recording randomly interspersed with readings of unrelated text. It was a disconnect of art and music, but at the end it strangely made sense- all this disorder, somehow making order, a great lesson of not being afraid of nonsense.

Textile designer Jack Larsen was one of the instructors, and head of the weaving department. He was hysterically funny, and would periodically  wake everyone up in the middle of the night, leading a parade through the compound, singing and making music on pots and pans.

The combination of creative freedom and isolation from the outside world was too much for some attendees. There were nervous breakdowns, especially among  younger fragile participants, and Haystack eventually raised the age requirement to 21.