From skydivers and high-elevation climbers to musicians and fine artists, the UNH community is teaming with people who fill their time away from the university with their passions.
Digital prepress technician and juried printmaker Bill Mitchell has been creating color-rich serigraphs since 1983. Dr. Gladi Porsche, associate director of clinical services at Health Services, sews intricate, award-winning quilts.
Marty England, CIS documentation assistant, is the lead singer and songwriter for the band Pondering Judd. Co-workers Rosemary Raynes, Katie Makem, Erika Brown, Sharon Andrews and Kathy Horrigan all have roles in the community theater production of "Lucky Dollar - Private Eye, The Musical" this weekend at the Bow Lake Grange in Strafford.
When Bill Mitchell isn't working at UNH as a digital prepress technician, he's immersed in his passion: serigraphy.
To the artistically challenged, that translates to silk screen printing, but Mitchell's works are well advanced of what you would see strolling by the T-shirt shops at Hampton Beach.
A juried printmaker with the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, Mitchell has been creating color-rich scenes of the New Hampshire landscape since 1983.
His passion for serigraphy began when he was a studio art major at the State University of New York at Oneonta, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1979. He drew his inspiration from the works of Alex Katz, Josef Albers, Andy Warhol and Richard Estes. He continued his study of serigraphy for a year as a diplomat student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. His artist affiliations include the New Hampshire Art Association and the Rochester Print Club.
"Right off, I was really in love with the medium. I was drawn by the ability to print with solid colors. Serigraphy is more like a painter's print-making technique," Mitchell says.
"It pulls my ideas together of transferring my paintings to prints. My prints start off as a painted sketch, where I put my ideas together. Then I decide number of colors I'll use and where colors will be placed. It's really planned out," he says.
His first piece 20 years ago was a landscape of birch trees in the winter. Since then, Mitchell estimates he's created more than 100 prints, most of them landscapes. His many hiking and skiing adventures with his wife and twin sons are his inspiration.
Many residents may even own one of Mitchell's prints: In 1996, the Bank of New Hampshire commissioned his purple-mountain "View From Indian Head" to use on its ATM card.
"We live in a wonderful state, and in my spare time, I enjoy our scenery," he says. "I'm interested in the way light falls on objects and color. There's so much to paint out there."
Mitchell explains that instead of using a screen for every color in a serigraph, he uses the traditional screen printing technique of working with only one screen. He then brushes on a block-out fluid on the existing color, so that it does not appear when he adds the second color. The next sequential color is then printed on top of the previous until the edition of that print is finished.
"When I'm done, I'm done. There's no turning back. Sometimes you wish you had made more prints, and other times, you have too many," says Mitchell, who works out of his home studio in Dover.
His work appears in numerous galleries, including League of NH Craftsmen Shops in North Conway, Concord, Hanover, Meredith, Wolfboro and Sandwich; Exeter Fine Crafts, Exeter; Bluestocking Studio, York Beach, Maine; Taylor Kumminz Gallery, Portsmouth; and The Old Print Barn, Meredith.
To learn about Mitchell's works, visit www.mitchellserigraphprints.com.
Keep looking at Dr. Gladi Porsche's quilts, and you'll see the story she has told through her masterpiece unfold before you.
Some are obvious. The mustard yellows, dark rusts and chocolate browns evoke the fall season in "Keeping Autumn With Me." The palate of blues and sea greens weave waves into "Storm at Sea," a quilt she made for her daughter, Ingrid.
Then look closer. Notice the different shells -- scallop, crab, cockle, conch, nautilus and sand dollar -- quilted onto "Storm at Sea," surrounded by a swirl of patterned fabrics. In her landscape quilt, the contours of the rocks and the rays of the sun are accentuated by fine needlework that creates the sense of a painting.
"I find that quilting is one of the ways I relax and relieve stress," said Porsche, associate director for clinical services at Health Services.
Although she's been sewing, knitting and embroidering since junior high school, Porsche didn't find her current needleworking passion -- quilting -- until eight years ago.
"I totally fell in love with it. I bought three books to teach myself. I wanted to be authentic so I decided to hand piece together the 20 squares of the quilt. After about five, I wasn't sure quilting was for me," she said.
She put it down, but picked it back up after friend encouraged her to assemble the quilt using her sewing machine. Three weeks later, the quilt top was finished.
"After I taught myself how to hand quilt, there was no turning back," she said.
She's completed 13 quilts, most of which she displays in her Lee home. She's never sold any, although she has entered several in quilting competitions and has a box filled with ribbons for her efforts.
Several quilts are in various states of assembly at one time. Porsche is working on five and picks up whichever one appeals to her at any moment. Whether she's laying out a new quilt on her design wall, sewing the quilt squares, linking the squares together, applying appliques or quilting a nearly finished piece, there's always a project waiting for her.
"I'm getting to the point where I will have more tops than I have time to hand quilt," she said, "so I recently bought a new sewing machine to learn how to machine quilt, though I will always have special pieces I will hand quilt."
Hand quilting provides Porsche an almost meditative time to think. "I really do it for the sheer enjoyment. It's a creative challenge and a stress reliever. There was a study that said quilting may lower your blood pressure," she said.
Traditionally, quilting has provided social, artistic, and economic opportunities for women, and today is no different.
Porsche is a member of the Cocheco Quilt Guild and regularly enters its "challenge quilt" contests. Contestants are given one or more pieces of fabric and told to create a quilt that reflects a particular theme. For example, Porsche's challenge quilt last year required her to prominently use swatches of a yellow fabric in a quilt that reflected a children's book.
Her entry was a whimsical piece representing a favorite childhood book, "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
She also meets with a smaller group of women from the guild who live in Lee, Durham and Madbury. This smaller group provides opportunities to quilt together as well as exchange quilting techniques and advice.
Porsche tends to follow the styles of traditional quilts, but she designs most of her patterns and uses bright, patterned fabrics. "I like patterned fabric because it adds a lot of texture and interest to the quilts," she said.
While she has used 100 percent cotton, she has started looking at how to incorporate silk into her quilts. "I haven't gotten to the point of using it. It handles differently than cotton," she said.
Her passion is oriental-style quilts, and she recently purchased pieces of silk kimonos she found in San Francisco. The pieces are sitting in a room filled with boxes of fabric, all separated by color or style, ready to be incorporated into her latest creation.
Using pieces of a garment in a quilt is reminiscent of the history of quilting in America. Prior to the industrial revolution, many quilts made by pioneer women in America were utilitarian, pieced together using scraps of fabrics from worn pieces of clothing.
For those who want to learn how to quilt, Porsche recommends they assess their needleworking skills. People with experience sewing probably can teach themselves, but those with no sewing experience might want to take a beginner quilting class, she said.
"Join a quilt guild. It's a great way to meet other quilters and get support and advice," she said.
Porsche will display all of her quilts at the 21st annual Cocheco Quilter's Guild show Oct. 19 and 20 at the at the Rochester Community Center in Rochester, as part of a "Meet the Quilter" exhibit.
Marty England can't read or write music, but that's done little to stop him as the lyricist and lead singer of the band Pondering Judd.
A documentation assistant in CIS, England, 35, has worked at UNH for five years. When not writing and editing CIS' "Signals," you can find him jamming with his band, writing new songs or poetry, or watching a Red Sox game.
"I've always looked at my job as a means to supporting my music. Now, I really like my job," England says. "UNH really allows you to do your own thing without being intruded upon. It has given me a lot of opportunities that I didn't realize existed."
England has been playing guitar since 12 and writing since 14. He's been in several bands, but feels most connected to Pondering Judd. "We produce roots rock. Pondering Judd is emotionally stirring and it taps into basically every sense."
Other bands of the root rocks genre include the Counting Crows and Wilco. However, England's most recent songs lean more toward traditional folk music.
Pondering Judd formed in 1993 as the band Grover, but changed its name to Pondering Judd after learning about a Boston-based band also named Grover. England proposed the name Pondering Judd after receiving a letter from a friend named Judd.
"In this one paragraph, he basically said the true passionate thinkers in the world are those who can take their childhood with them into adulthood and keep that same kind of innocence. He signed it 'Pondering, Judd.' I put that on my refrigerator and one day, it stood out to me," England says.
England writes all of Pondering Judd's songs, drawing his inspiration from bits of conversation and memories of his childhood. "I'll write something from start to finish and not realize exactly what it's about," England says. "The things that I've tried to force over the years end up being crappy songs, so I kind of let the songs come to me."
"Sometimes I'm just noodling around on my guitar," he says.
England will bring basic chord arrangements to the band and let them create their parts. "We just kind of leave each other alone in the creative process, and that's worked really well."
"Our music is pretty simple. If you make it too complicated, I think it goes over people's head," he says. "Most of our songs are three- or four-chord songs. If you're playing five chords, you're showing off. People pick up on the honesty and integrity of our music."
England received a 1995 Spotlight on the Arts Award for best male vocalist, and the band has been recognized a number of times. Earlier this year, the band released its third full-length record, October at Our Heels, which is available locally and online at www.ponderingjudd.com. The band has released four records.
England's musical influences come from songs of the 1960s and 1970s, and his three older brothers. "In third grade, our teacher went around the room and asked who everyone was listening to. The kids were like, 'Muskrat Love by The Captain and Tennille' and I said, 'War Pigs by Black Sabbath.' "
He listened to everything, including his father's favorite artists Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. "When we were kids, we used to just roll on the floor and laugh because we thought they were so humorous. They had all of these twangy guitar parts that we were sure were written purely for amusement purposes. Now, those are all the records I have on disc."
England also is influenced by today's folk-country artists, including Lyle Lovett, who taught him not to take life too seriously and to surround yourself with good people who will make you sound better.
Now in their mid-30s and early 40s, band members still have dreams of hitting the big time and going on a world tour, but after nearly a decade of Pondering Judd, the primary reason the band is together is for the enjoyment of playing together. "The radius of miles that we'll travel to play now has dropped down as we've gotten older. But I can see Pondering Judd playing together in 20 years," England says.
"We go through our trials and tribulations together. We eat together. We drink together. We share our lives together. It's not just a group of guys who get together and bang out songs."
When Rosemary Raynes and Katie Makem asked co-worker Erica Brown if she wanted to be part of their community theater production, she thought she'd work behind the scenes.
Instead, she and four of her co-workers will take the stage in the Lakeside Player's production of "Lucky Dollar - Private Eye, The Musical."
Brown, a library associate at UNH's Physics Library who plays Pandora Sugarland -- "an unusual client...she can pay" -- initially planned to work in costuming or lights, but was talked into trying out by Raynes, an administrative assistant in physics, and Makem, the department's administrative manager.
"I actually landed a medium-sized part. I was very nervous at first, but then the more I talked on stage, the more relaxed and comfortable I became. I just kept reminding myself that the audience was made up of my friends, and they wouldn't laugh at me," she says. "I like my character -- she's flirty and fun, and a little bit mysterious."
Raynes and Sharon Andrews, a business services assistant in Printing Services, have been involved with the Lakeside Players for several years. Andrews' mother, Nancy Hill, is directing the play.
Like Brown, Kathy Horrigan, supervisor in library services, didn't have acting plans when she first inquired about the musical. "Initially I thought I would just go and see if they could use ushers for the show. I was nervous and actually refused to sing for the director, Nancy Hill. But she cast me anyway, for which I am thankful," she says.
"Lucky Dollar - Private Eye, The Musical" focuses on unlucky Los Angeles detective Lucky Dollar. After more than two years without a client, Lucky meets Pandora Sugarland, who tells him a strange tale about her strange boyfriend who may or may not be dead. What ensues is a hilarious spoof of 1940s private eyes that introduces the audience to a cast of goofy characters. Raynes plays The Kimono -- "caution advised." Andrews plays Mrs. Mintworth -- "rich, famous and batty." Makem is The Chanteuse - "amateur night is cancelled." And Horrigan is Florence - "Lucky's Girl Friday every day of the week."
For several of the women, this isn't their first time on stage. In high school, Brown played a strict teacher in "Happy Daze" and did technical work for "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Andrews, a Lakeside Players board member, has performed in the musicals "Hello Dolly" with the Garrison Players and "Moonbeams" with the Lakeside Players. "I find acting to be a little uncomfortable, but it challenges me," Andrews says. "This show feels fun. I tell people it has a Prescott Park feel or quality."
Raynes has performed with the Lakeside Players in "Harvey," "Night of January 16th," "The Christmas Carol" (directed by her husband and son) and "Deckchairs," which was challenging because she and Nancy Hill performed five 15-minute plays. She is a member of "The Not Ready For Serious Players," and also was in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" with the Garrison Players.
Horrigan's acting career started in junior high and high school, including a role in "The Music Man." As a UNH student, she received course credit for the Durham Summer Theater where she had roles in "Damn Yankees" and "The Devil's Disciple."
But for Makem, this will be her first true acting experience. Not only is she contending with first-time jitters, but she comes from a family of professional entertainers -- no pressure there.
"My father is an Irish singer and my brothers have their own group. I have always shied away from the spotlight so it is tough for me to put myself out there because I feel like I have to live up to the family name. I just try to have fun and give the best performance I can," she says.
The women have enjoyed performing with their co-workers. "We often greet each other at work by our characters' names, discuss costumes, and practice lines together. Songs from the show are very catchy, so one of us is always humming one of the songs," Raynes says.
"I don't entirely know what this experience is teaching me since it's not over yet but I do know that I have learned to just go out on stage and try something," Horrigan says. "The beauty of play rehearsals is you really do get second chances."
Performance of "Lucky Dollar - Private Eye, The Musical" run Sept. 6 to Sept. 8 at the Bow Lake Grange in Strafford. Info: 664-5557.