Hello oyster lovers! Hello wine lovers! Hello art lovers!
I love these things, too. And I want to create a place for them to live together, to get to know each other better. I want to share stories and images of the amazing people on shellfish farms, in vineyards and in studios around the world.
I love me some oysters. I lived in Seattle for almost 20 years, and had the privlege to get to hang out with some oyster old-timers there. Oyster Bill Whitbeck taught me to shuck so you don't disrespect the bivalve. I got to help Jon gather crisp, fresh white wines, and judge the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. Charles Finkel of Pike Brewing Company taught me that dry stout is also an amazing, and traditional, pairing with oysters. I got involved in Slow Food, and got to listen as Bill Webb, who established Westcott Bay Sea Farms, talked shop with Bill Taylor, as Taylor Shellfish began to grow in the early 2000s.
For years, while walking the beaches of the Pacific Northwest and San Juan Islands, or after sharing a dozen oysters at the shellfish farm down the road from my house on Orcas Island, I saved an oyster shell here and there, sometimes carrying one with me as a talisman for luck in my travels from one beach to another, giving me the feeling that all beaches are connected by the same water, that there was hope in the face of whatever anxiety I was feeling at the time.
All this came during a time of a lot of climate change in my life, from a divorce, a new job, new relationships, and new struggles, I was blocked creatively. I was a writer who didn't write.
So I bought a small black, hardback sketchbook, and started making simple line drawings as I commuted on the Washington State Ferry from Orcas Island to San Juan Island for work.
For one thing, I had a bunch of these cool shells hanging around, and loved to look at them. I felt they would be an easy thing to start with - just a simple line drawing. How hard could it be?
These little ghosts taught me a thing or two. As I looked at them closely and drew, I could see how they, in life, created their homes one prismatic, calcitic layer at a time. I discovered a fascinating world of tiny barnacles that lived symbiotically with them. A subtle, but complex color palate revealed itself in different types of oysters from different bays, depending on the source of their spat, their nutrients and environment. I found drawing them to be a contemplative way to forget my daily anxieties, which eventually became part of my self-care and daily sacred ritual of gratitude and change.
Drawing oysters gave me a way back to myself, to rediscover why I felt the need to make art.
And then I lost the book.
I left it on a ferry somewhere, or on a shelf or table somewhere. A shell washed up on some other beach.
Such a throwaway project, to just become calmer by making little line drawings, suddenly became very important. I realized how much the process had helped me, changed me.
And then I built a house. I mean, nailgun-and-nails, framing-and-insulation, built a house. Along with 8 other homeowners, we built 9 houses over a year-and-a-half. And when it was done, when I emerged from the 7-days-a-weekness of the process of building and working, the first thing I wanted to do in my new home was not to write, it was to draw oyster shells.
This website is an experiment in finding the threads of connection between all the things I love and want to support and encourage in the world.
I believe art heals. And I believe that people who love art, wine and oysters, have the power to do more than just eat, drink and be merry. I think we have the power to change our surroundings for better - our water, our soil, our communities and our souls. Thanks for giving me some of your valuable time as I tell some of the stories of oysters and the wines who love them.
Yer basic bio:
That's me, Shannon Borg, the fingers behind this website. I'm a wine writer, wine educator and author of The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines, and Chefs on the Farm: Inspired Recipes and Lessons from the Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts. My articles on wine, food and travel have been published in Seattle, Washington Tasting Room, Wine Press Northwest, NW Palate, and other magazines. I have also written a few eBooks on wine and a book of poems, Corset (Mountaineers Books).
I finished Level-I certification with the International Sommelier Guild, and have worked in the wine business in various capacities, including managing a wine shop in Seattle, and as cafe manager and sommelier for Doe Bay Cafe on Orcas Island. I currently work for the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, writing about the San Juan Islands, and pinching myself periodically.
I consult for small businesses who need help with social media and marketing, wine lists and staff wine training. I also teach wine tasting, wine 'apothecary' and wine and food pairing classes. So if any of this stuff is of interest to you, or you need an oyster drawing in your life (and frankly, who doesn't?), give me a shout!