Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Pacing for preservation

I started making mushrooms after seeing the twined ones in Salem last month. I HAD TO. I figured out after the first one (to the right) that the stem always has to be a little wonky to work. Easy enough to build in the curve on such a skinny stem. I'm trying to do small pieces and work more slowly to learn to pace myself because it's hard on my hands, fingers, neck, and back (and probably eyes).
This must have been the start of #4. Last night I finished #5 after spending WAY too much time doing admin (as a desperate attempt to catch up after being out all morning and a good chunk of the afternoon). It was good to see Serge on this side of the pond since my trip to Brussels, though I wished that there was more to show him here than my Korean and Japanese papermaking tools (not many sights to show).
Started #6 last night and am turning the cap this morning but then the roof guy came to look at my damage from our mini-tornado on Friday. I was glad to only have lost power for a minute that night but it was way worse for other people. I was ALSO relieved that I had spent all of my time and heartache and money on removing two huge and sick trees since moving here. Those would definitely have come down all over the place; tree crews were out from that night for days.

Monday, September 02, 2019

The privilege of seeing

Lately I've been thinking about how I have never felt that I see enough art. Or enough of anything at all, really. I've always felt that way as a creative and as a person. Part of that is because I'm a homebody (it's so much easier to stay home and read...) but another piece is that I live in a not very sophisticated region. Here is the inside of a museum in a region that is more culturally developed, though there is always room for improvement.
This is a metal book by Olivia Parker, a photographer I had never heard of but was so grateful to learn about. She has done insanely lush and often hilarious images of books but what I loved about this piece was that she was learning to work with metal. She seems to always be pushing herself to try new things and it takes her to fantastic places.
This is a terrible snapshot but these photos are gorgeous. That tiny book in the glass case is the one photographed in the second from the right on the wall. Here are more photos in this series.
This is from the area mostly for kids but I loved it. Ania said these were the slow animals that got killed. It's never fun to see them all laid out this way but this room reminded me of the lab at RISD where students get to draw from life, whether plant or animal or mineral, alive or dead.
I always love a woven gourd. This was in a room of the Yin Yu Tang House, whose existence in Salem itself is a marvel.
Back home, I did this to rest and recover from my first day of teaching in the semester. I went to a college that had fall break (and was ridiculed for it because most schools do not have fall break), so the idea that I have to teach every single week from now until Thanksgiving feels harsh. No one makes fun of spring break. Why not a break each semester?
I had put this off until last week: replacing the screen on a phone that was pretty new when I dropped it. I took it to two different repair places. The first took it and then called to say they couldn't find the replacement part so they gave it back. Then I waited almost a year until the phone was older and the part would be less rare, and the second place said I could get a brand new phone for the cost of the repair so they refused to do it. The idea of throwing it away when I knew that only one piece was broken made me crazy (I also hate planned obsolescence, so I didn't want to upgrade sooner than absolutely necessary). So I ordered the part myself and did the repair at home. I definitely broke a piece off the motherboard but don't think it was a crucial bit, and I removed a screw but couldn't figure out where it went back, but it works!! An excellent exercise in empowerment.
The less fun part of coming home after road trips is dealing with the car issues that arise. I had to go to the shop twice because the car came home with a new noise after the repairs, and have to go again this week to re-do a seal. There's more work to be done but I have to wait for a paycheck before I'm willing to tear out half the engine to access the spark plugs (poor car design!). While waiting, I did the Ivan Brunetti exercise of timed drawings. Much easier to draw cars when you're surrounded by them.
Another massive bit with coming home has been more deliberate conversion into a full working studio because the studio building has been so massively delayed. I have wanted a real bookcase ever since I moved (my last apt had built-in shelves so it wasn't an issue for years). This one is frankly too small for most of my books but it gave me an excuse to get paint all over myself.
If you had seen the mess that was there before (including my usual cardboard boxes as furniture), you'd understand why I am filled with joy every time I pass this part of my living room. There is still so much to be done downstairs with the actual papermaking setup, but this is a liberating start. This is another reason I take in so little art and culture, because there is too much to do at home. I bought this home because I live in a region where I can afford it, even if it's harder to find the things I'd like to see.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cool nights

I turned my house upside down for about 24 hours, looking for these Chinese papercuts. Six of them were taken from the group for a small edition of books.
For the prior edition, I had to cut the original dummy apart, which I don't think I've ever done after bridling. Here are the pieces of the binding after surgery.
The cutest couple at the Fuller Craft Museum! They came to visit and do some joomchi on my Boston trip #2 (thanks to Lisa for sharing the pic).
And thanks to Philip for this picture from his collection of woven and lacquered paper objects. I'm wrestling with my syllabus right now since class begins in a week and I was shocked by how cool it got last night. It's real back to school weather.

Stefan shot my new editions, which you can see here (first 8 pictures). In New York I saw my high school English teacher and when complaining about my grantwriting workload, she said, So your work is like a cancer researcher, where you go from grant to grant? I never thought of it like that, but grant cycles are pretty endless. I will be trapped under a few big deadlines for the next month+. Here we go!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Up and down the east coast

Last week we were finishing up the papermaking class in Boston. Ellen is holding the board so that Gunta can brush the pressed sheet onto it to dry.
This is probably where I'm showing how much color is in the water after soaking onion skins (generously donated by Gunta), before cooking. It's all on top of Michelle's bark lace in progress where the screen is being used as a weight to keep everything from flying since the fans were on all class to mitigate the heat (she is at far right).
Ania did a lot of bark manipulation and loved getting into amate.
The clothesline to dry dyed papers and thread was way too close to the fridge but it's all about making do.
Jesse had already ordered a Swedish bobbin winder I think; most of these students got the hang of it even though it was clamped to a not entirely stable surface.
Molly is practicing with a cookie tray of sorts, practicing the wave formation with just water.

Since I got back to NY from Boston, I've done a lot but pretty much none of the work that I "should" be doing (administrative, grant writing, syllabus revising). Tomorrow I drive back up to teach for a two-hour slot, though people can come at any time to drop in and learn joomchi at the Fuller Craft Museum. Then I'll brave Friday afternoon traffic to attempt a visit to view Korean objects at the Peabody Essex Museum. I'm afraid I won't make it, given how congested it will be, but I'll try! Otherwise, seeing these beautiful lacquered hanji cups will have to wait until December.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Lovely summer Boston days

I knew from the moment I got my entire class in the room that it was going to be a fabulous, wonderful group. Here I am with Ania, Ellen, and Gunta. We did dinner after Day 1 so we all bonded early.
I taught cord making on Day 1, too, so Molly came on the next day with her hair done the way we make paper cord.
A very happy group even though the classroom is sweltering.
Today they'll see how the dried sheets look. I have to rush off to class now; it is a great delight.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Calmer currents

This cooler week was such a blessing. I really think that heatwave almost did me in. Here are the last few sets of tip-ins for my book. Thank goodness a friend told me NOT to do this for every single spread. Each is a different dye or pigment.
I took the previous dummies and used those prints as my templates to cut out each bit. This one I had to do a lot because I only did 9 in my first session and had to do the 10th the next day.
This is the hardest one but once they're done it's very satisfying. Thank goodness for tweezers.
This is the smallest one and good in both directions. An easy start if I work from the back of the book, or a welcome finish if I work from the front.
The covers took a while to construct, all from persimmon-coated hanji. You can see some is much darker than others, some much crunchier than others. It's funny how you make these things not knowing why and years later they let you know what they would like to be.
Those are the four spreads with the tip-ins. I was surprised by how patient I was with this part of the process, gluing and drying under weights. I usually never want to wait and then things come out cockled.
I started sewing with silk thread but it wasn't quite right. Then I went back to the linen thread I did on the first dummy. Still not what I was looking for. Then I finally got the right touch with the pineapple paper thread that I spun years ago. Was it six years ago? It was just the right weight. There's one drum leaf on the bottom, a different structure, my liberty with a variable edition.
Paper thread is too precious to throw away so these will wait for the next project. There are a couple gold threads and a needle in there as well since I used gold for all the covers. That was a challenge, even with pre-pierced holes, because the gold paper wrapped thread kept coming apart as it traveled through the crunchy persimmon covers.
And of course, more offcuts from cover construction! I didn't think I'd finish this edition before I left but I knew I wouldn't want to have to do it when I return so Present Self is giving Future Self a big gift. Now I can try to get this other edition done, which is big, as I usually don't try to do this many in a year. Fingers crossed I can do it during my final weekend before endless driving east.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Rough waters

I am frantic now trying to figure out the best way to edition two brand new artists' books before I leave in less than two weeks to teach in Boston. Here are the five dummies (the final one hasn't been bound yet) for the biggest bear of a book. Nothing has been quite as right as the very first one, but translating pencil scrawl and drawings to a computer and then back out again has been very, very challenging.
I had typed the text for the second dummy (the first I always do longhand) but friends preferred the handwriting, so I inked it once. Then I scanned, had to manipulate all the images to pull out the background, and re-set the text. I also had by then inked and scanned and manipulated and dropped the drawings themselves. Because I thought I wanted a different structure, I went to a machinemade paper (horrors, I know! But I had to test it). That meant re-sizing because I couldn't stand wasting so much paper to get the square-ish size based off of my hanji screen.
As expected it felt very sterile on the machinemade paper and too small. So then I had to resize the pages again. Also, the text was way too heavy because I only had a thick pen nib at home during the heatwave and didn't want to get more. Lesson: just go and get more! Because then I had to re-ink the text with a new pen.
And I thought the drawings were the hard part!!! They were not. I'm at the most difficult place now, where I'm pretty sure what I need to do but it will require one last big tweaking of the digital file and test print run. My printer loves to grab and crumple my paper, so I have to prepare for the worst. Everything else in my life feels like the worst, so all I can do is control are these pages, ink smears and all.