The Shan-Tea Art Shanty Project

Here we stand over solid ground, the taste of tea still lingering on our toungues.  The final weekend brought the Ukuladies, The Roe family Singers, a performance by the Shan-Tea's own Johnny Heartbreak and the Broken Teacups (opening for super-stars Cheetahs Vs. Monkeys) as well as bearded three-year-olds, Gunderson-residence vandilizing and teacup trades for chile, poems and drawings.

Our crew now scatters across this still-frozen contintent; off to create magic by other means, search for that elusive elixir elsewhere.  Our thoughts will turn often to the frozen waters and cornerless home that became so dear to us.

A hearty Thank You! to everyone who came to visit, trade for teacups, watch performances and sip tea with us.  Your presence made all the difference.
My dear friends. A short note to say, that despite my absence from the ice of Medicine Lake my heart is still warm at the thought of you.
I thought you all might like to know what I've been up to since fleeing our wintery home, you see, there was a very important matter that I had to attend to. I hope you will all understand.
Whiskey calls.

Tah tah,
Earl Grey Beard
The snow lies deep over these frozen waters.  The wind blows, the lights flicker, and crew members disappear into the horizon.
 Johnny Tea and our captive, Itea,  join myself, Oolong John, in song as we say goodbye to the Earl.  This vast and snow-bound landscape can be as lonely as anywhere.  I hunker down, turn towards the hearth and kettle, brew a cup of Earl Grey in honor of my friend and cohort.

Second half of the program features an interview about the art shanty project with Elaine Tin-Nyo, Tom Risotti and Amber Phelps Bondaroff on KFAI
Much News to report, from Shanty town.  Our Tea-Pot has become a veritable gathering place, hosting many a meal, sing along and tea party. 
Photo shoots, late night gatherings, un-expected visitors with hand welded kettles, brown paper packages tied with pink string, curious head wear/tea-cozies.
Slips and slides, radio interviews, sauna's and deja-vu's.
Saag paneer on the wood stove, 22 for a fish fry on the wood stove, Canadians!!!,tea cups, tea cups and more tea cups,  Viking ball, thanks you packages, nose flute choirs, stand up bassists, 12 musicians piled into a shack.
Half time shows, gyrating pelvises, songs that rhyme with "Beard,"  and lots of scones....
The third weekend of the Shanties takes the project to a new degree of activity.  After last weekend's slush-capade, thousand of stir crazy Minnesotans poured on to the frozen lake.  The Shan-Tea was forced to hire a tea-cup-wearing bouncer, to regulate the crowds.  Our Saturday morning began splendidly with the delivery of some most amazing packages.  Home baked cookies from the prairies and a curious  array of head gear from the southern kingdon of Pu-ehr left us salivating and scratching our decorated heads.  (thank you your royal highness and foreign tea correspondant Princess Pu.) 
The Shan-Tea was strawberry jam packed full of performers and musicians all weekend pushing the capacity of the Shan-Tea to new limits, while also allowing Oolong John and myself a little time to explore our neighbourhood on the ice.  
On Saturday, Minneapolis' "I like you" proved that you can get a five piece band with an upright bass in a 12 foot yurt and still have an audience.
Sunday morning we were greeted by a choir of nose flutes hailing from Wisconsin. "Harry and the Night Crawlers" (all 12 of them!) put on an un-believable carnival of nose flute-ery, foot stomping and beautifully brewed tea songs. 
The Shan-Tea turned opened its doors to puppets, and the later part of saturday and sunday were host to a shadow puppet show all about the history of tea. (Sorry to all that couldn't make it in, we had a line up out of our handle both days!)
A healthy dose of  costumed competition was supplied to shanty land by visiting artist Tom Risotti, who introduced the game of Viking Ball.  Much running and grunting partaken in, complete with beards, tunics and hockey sticks. Also featured , by popular request, was a re-enactment of All the Bearded Ladies, featuring the official "All the Bearded Ladies" remix, a new set of glitzy onesies, and more strategically placed beards.

The beard rules here in shanty town.  With chilly temperatures and a need for alternative non-monetary currrencies,   the beard has become not only a facial accessory, but a personal system of measurement, an item of trade, a verb, a blanket, a money pouch, an educational tool, a topic of poetry and song ("you load 16 beards, and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt..."), and a dear friend.  Stay tuned for the official DIY Beard kit to be posted on the website in late February, and you can custom make your own custom face covering mind altering beard.
Some Shan-Tea related media snippets that have recently been brought to our attention:
A photographer named Tom Nelson recently stopped by to take this amazingly detailed interior shot of the Shan-Tea. Thanks Tom. Amazing.

"All the Bearded Ladies"
A post performance re-mix of the Beyonce track courtesy of Brady Clark (of the Dance Shanty)
No words to explain, just listen and be prepared to be amazed. Thanks Brady!
Second weekend on the ice.  Tea brewed, cups traded, arctic pets stuffed decorated and sewn, skates worn, slush traversed, dances danced, jigs played, socks soaked, dried by the fire, and then soaked again, friends welcomed and bid adieu.  Medicine Lake was subjected to an un-seasonable thaw, causing slush to dominate this weekends events.  The soggy weather had an un-deniable thinning effect on the crowds of visitors, but many still made the traverse across the slush moat surrounding shanty town, and were greeted with high-fives, warm soup, and blazing wood stoves to dry their sopping socks upon.

Short time much loved crew member Aliya "Lady Red Rose" Bonar got to work helping visitors stuff, decorate and create histories for dozens of three legged arctic animals, and the pets weren't the only one's going Brrrrr.

Another much anticipated event of the weekend, the Second Annual Art Shanty Ice Capades Performance: Tea For Two or More on a Frozen Lake, went off without only a couple spills, a lively band and a finale featuring an amazing  display of pyro-technics.  Thanks to all who donned a one-sie(Aliya Red Rose, Dance Shanty John Each, Coleen kaBlam!, Darjeeling "Clem" Thompson,  Oolong John and Earl Grey Beard) and our amazing on ice band, Sean, Davey and Frieda, who froze their finger-tips but didnt stop playing, until the slushy soggy end.

On Monday we sadly bid adieu to the lovely Darjeeling Clementine, who, despite shameless begging,  marriage proposal logs and various threats, hopped on a bus back to Montreal. Au revoir Clementine A la prochaine!

We, Oolong John and myself, now get ready for the next domestic week of yurt living. As temperatures drop here in Minnesota, so does the size of our crew. However, having housed or held captive many expected and un-expected guests over the last couple days, I have no fear that the tea-pot will remain less than half full. 
First week of domestic life on the ice, the yurt is getting homey as we settle into our tiny temporary home.
The Shan-Tea saw two birthdays this week, Oolong John rang in a new year with two cakes and a pie,  a hearty hoe-down a bucket of soup and a bucket and a bearded rendition of  "all the single ladies." Shakin' their chang thangs...

Shelves went up, came down and went up again, tables constructed, kitchens re-modeled, hoe-downs hosted, hearts warmed, re-warmed, repeat. 
Breakfasts, communal and three hours long, mending circles, cribbage and cake decorating, whip stitchin' patchin' & darnin.' ' Ice rinks shovelled, sloshed and frozen, ice capade routine practiced, skates tied and sharpened, in preparation for the next weekend of on ice festivities.

Our latest crew member, the Lady Red Rose arrived late last night from Delray Beach Florida.  She rang in her birthday by waking up on the ice, and we are ever so pleased to have her! Hooray Aliya! Happy birthday.
The Shan-Tea officially opened its doors to the public, at 10 am Saturday January 16th 2010.  Much time spent beautifying, arranging and shifting square blocks in a round yurt, we were ready for the hoards of thirsty Shanty visitors, and served up over 7 gallons of tea....
The weather was warm, and having a pot brewing on the wood stove at all times got the temperature in the yurt up to an uncomfortable degree, but, we persisted, in brewing,  and were met by many cheerful faces and well considered trade items.  (Thank you everyone who participated in the tea cup trade, Oolong John traded hand made tea cups for, pomegranate lemon muffins, strawberry jam, tea cup collages, a smuffler (a fleece face warmer) Japanese artwork, recipes, songs, secret hand shakes, macaroons, more tea and tea cups, and a steaming knitted tea-cup...forgive me if I am forgetting anything everything was great!)
Never an idle moment in our tea cozy, Saturday we hosted a couple of hoe-downs, (for trade in tea-cups) and  I, Earl Grey Beard, entertained with portraiture on sugar cookies in between tea brewings.  I got the opportunity to gaze into the faces of many fine visitors, and in exchange, received information about Minnesotan authors, playwrights, an Italian lesson, a pencil drawing and a German poetry recitation. 
While the trading took place inside, Darjeeling Clementine busied herself bejewelling the shorn beard of her dead lover outside, and we were joined on Sunday, by the delightfully shrill voice of pirate lady Lapsang Souchong Teasong.
An old feud was re-kindled with shanty neighbors the Gundersons, (a family of spies that moved into the area.)  The fuel of our feuding being one woodden mace and a kitchy ceramic cat (both with various magical properties.)  After much beard pulling and face washing in the snow, we came to terms and settled the score with a lively game of Cuube (the age old viking game played by knocking over blocks with sticks in the snow, courtesy of our Scandinavian friends at the Nordic Immersion Shanty.)  It was a close game, but the Shan-Tea won fare and square, and I am pleased to announce that the Shan-Tea is now host to both the magical mace and the curious cat. 
On ice building: We leave the cold concrete comforts of the Soap Factory on Monday evening.  After late night transports, ratchet strap mishaps and run-ins with the law over mis-used bus lanes, the Shan-Tea arrives in pieces at Medicine Lake.  Safely stored by the shore over night, bright and early Tuesday morning , on ice building begins.   Lapsang Souchong Teasong (Soozin Hirshmuegle) and Lord Lipton (Morgan L'Argent)  join the  build crew.  The floor goes together without a hitch, and ice co-ordinator Eric hauls out the platform with his serious plow truck.
We get lucky with warm-ish weather, only one drill bit snapping in the cold.
The khana walls transport remarkably well, and more friends arrive in the afternoon, to help raise the walls, and tie off remaining intersections with sliced bicycle tubes. (Thanks Linse for all your wonderful slicing!)
Next Step: Doorways
The doors on traditional Japanese tea rooms are small and visitors must duck and humble themselves upon entering.  The Shan-Tea is equipt with two doors. First one is weathered and latch-able, the second, curtained and measuring 5'2".  The edges of the wall latch into groves on the interior door frame, and we drilled holes half way up, to feed through the red tension band/belt, that holds the whole thing together.  (Thank you Morgan for the ingenious wooden buckles.)
Trying to get it up:  All hands on deck for the erection.
 We are faced with near disaster upon putting up our roof poles.  The central ring (tono in yurt talk) is of utmost importance to the structural soundness of a yurt.  Two circular boards, separated with wedges of wood act as the main support for the roof, while keeping  the roof poles in their designated places (the spaces in between each wedge of wood.)  With many patient arms holding the tono in place, we soon realize that modifications will have to be made, to keep our roof in place.  Feeling slightly disheartened we trudge back to the Soap, to re-wedge the roof ring.  Lets try again tomorrow.
Second try works like a charm.  With the modifications to the tono, the roof goes up smoothly and safely.  We are joined by our dear friend Brown Beard, who demonstrates amazing feats of balancing on our sturdy roof, to drill down the plastic roofing.


    A collaborative project between Kelsey Nelsen and Amber Phelps Bondaroff, for the 2010 Art Shanty Project, on Medicine Lake Minnesota.