Friday, May 29, 2020


I heard that on a Jungian podcast the other day and since then, my sense of days has only deteriorated! I woke up today fully convinced it was Saturday (it's Friday). I dreaded doing laundry, wondered why people's schedules were the way they were, and couldn't remember how my mom's day at the hospital was (because she hadn't yet worked it). As you can see here, I also can't see very well and probably it's because I haven't had my eyes checked in years. Healthcare in this country means no vision is covered. I can't wait to get to Korea next year so I can take care of all kinds of medical appointments.
I tested my slippery elm papers (the brown ones) after using up all of Velma's little flax papers. Truly at this time, the smaller the better.
I was finally able to see a dear friend yesterday while distancing at other ends of her porch. She had a stash of dyed silk fabric that she let me sort through and take home, and last night I promptly started to sew a pincushion design by Youngmin that I had been wanting to make for well over a month.
Sewing with silk on silk was a big treat, so much easier than paper and paper. I didn't have any batting to stuff it, nor many of the other materials people use to stuff pincushions. But I noted one thing on the list I happened to have in my basement for wood projects: steel wool! I didn't do a good job stuffing it and closing the bottom evenly, so it's lopsided, but I still love it.
I almost stopped drawing my rhododendron once I hit the two-month mark, but then I started to notice the buds at top of each set of leaves getting bigger and bigger. Or even extra buds. From my table, I couldn't see, but when I got close I saw that they may indeed be getting ready to actually blossom! They've never done that since I've moved here but if I can witness and document it, that would be awesome. I feel like I'm recording a pregnancy.
Also in my listlessness, I branched out to a few other plants. After doing the same one for months, it's interesting to see how different it feels to draw something new. I see these plants all the time but I haven't developed the same kind of relationship. This is about all I've been able to do, so completely stymied by any work that requires the computer (remember when most work didn't require one?). Hoping to get one last big manual project done this weekend, but I'm not making any promises.

An interview I did for a couple of book arts students in California went live. I think I wrote all of that in March, but most of it is still pertinent even if it's messy.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Still no head

Still very low but I finally managed to take a bunch of scrap hanji cords to make another one of these. I didn't even have the energy to go outside to pick weeds to stick into it. The day before I had taken bark thread from various demos over many workshops and wove a tiny button.

But grateful for other people's words. Michelle wrote about her walks in Maine. I've been attempting daily walks in the face of my seasonal allergies and even got enough energy yesterday after eating two donuts to plant flower seeds all over my border and in pots and planters. This morning, I dipped into the wonderful words of Pema Chödrön, where she talks about Milarepa (I had read about him at the end of grad school when my bodyworker told me stories and taught me to meditate in this particular tradition):
Milarepa, who lived in the eleventh century, is one of the heroes of Tibetan Buddhism, one of the brave ones. He was also a rather unusual fellow. He was a loner who lived in caves by himself and meditated wholeheartedly for years. He was extremely stubborn and determined. If he couldn't find anything to eat for a couple of years, he just ate nettles and turned green, but he would never stop practicing.
The rest of the story is the lesson, but I was struck by the idea of eating nettles for years and turning green! I ordered more nettle tea because that's what I do for my allergies. It's a lovely fiber for textiles and paper, but I've never been fortunate enough to work with it. The tiny book where I read this story is a treasure; I dip in daily because it's set up so that you can open it to any page and each morsel is so helpful. I recommend getting for yourself and people who could use it—the gift wrap alone is incredibly sweet.

Now, back to writing, because I've told myself that if I write today, I can walk to the shop later and get another donut.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

What is or not going on up there

I made this last week I think (my sense of time is eluding me, it already feels like at least a month ago but it wasn't). This is definitely how I feel these days, my head is not right / not present / has been replaced with something else entirely.
But I am grateful to have received a few relief grants. One in particular is related to a residency I had been looking forward to but of course can't attend this summer. Oak Spring Garden Foundation has been particularly generous in providing our stipend to us even though we can't attend this year. The contract asks for a presentation and new work, so I made a book, my first during quarantine.
The covers and straps are made from two different types of milkweed paper, and the pages of harakeke. I had made the milkweed paper at home and the harakeke paper in Australia a couple years back at Barb Adams' beautiful paper studio. The structure is from the wonderful Interlocking and Woven Book Structures, one of my favorites because it allows single sheets to lay flat and requires no glue, only paper straps.
I had made the book a while back when I was re-practicing the structure and it turned out to be exactly right for rhododendron drawings. Lots of plant life in here.
This is the sketchbook I've been drawing in since about late Feb or early March. I use both sides of each page and weight the book every day after doing wet drawings (with interleaving glassine) to try and keep it as flat as possible over time.

On the other side of the circular drawing is a quick pencil sketch of a little bird I saw sitting in the middle of my front lawn this past weekend. It was big enough to be out of the nest maybe but still shedding its down and not ready to really fly, only travel a few low feet at a time. I noticed it because mom was feeding it and then flew away. Baby started to look around and later I saw it had moved, still searching and cheeping. It didn't look like a good situation. The next day I saw it behind my house, hopping around and not looking any further along in figuring out how to fly or eat or survive.

Yesterday on the way back from the garage I looked down to see it torn to pieces on the border of the back lawn. I don't want to move it but am not sure if scavengers will clear the rest. During a walk I was thinking about how long humans now live, a less short and brutish existence, but maybe we're fooling ourselves. I'm still not able to work as I used to, but grateful to be doing anything at all.

Saturday, May 09, 2020


Last night I prepped Velma's lovely papers for today's drawings. I tested both sides, the uncoated and the acrylic painted backgrounds. I also painted the page backgrounds for a book I'll hopefully get done this week. Scaling down took out a lot of the stress, and yesterday I thought about how so many people all the time see my work in person and say, "I thought it was bigger." Scaling up is ALWAYS the feedback art students get from their professors. Sure, in some instances, but right now I'm in a big scaling down mode because that's all I can manage.

On Thursday I was in a bad mood and intended to sit down in a chair at my table, and tried to flip my seat cushion up against the back of the chair to sit on the wooden seat. In the process, I pushed the entire chair back and then sat/fell down hard, on the floor. I was stunned, amazed that I had managed to pull out my chair from underneath myself, and indignant. Immediately I called Velma to whine about my butt's landing and she reminded me about teaching kids during her special ed days. When they acted out, they went low to the floor and even took off their shoes. Her friend, a therapist who works with traumatized children, said this is a wholly natural response because the kids were trying to get grounded. I guess I needed that, too. That day it was falling on my ass, today it was drawing, and both are effective.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Beans, bags, babies

I did a real Sunday where I stayed offline, napped, had some outside time, had an indoor picnic, and tried to relax. But Monday came and I was still in a very bad mood rather than feeling refreshed. I did get edits back from one of my essay subjects and he approved of the general tone of my draft even if there were plenty of factual corrections (which I knew I needed help on. I wasn't able to keep that many generations back to the Civil War straight—too many nameless ancestors! Glad to have the family tree sorted out now). That was a huge relief. I also soaked the tiny bit of butter beans I had left and kept swapping out the soaking water, feeding it to the outside plants. Of course, because we all know how I'm to die, I put them on the stove to cook and promptly forgot about them for a few hours. Fortunately, it was the lowest flame possible and I remembered before they burned.
I threw this one together from leftover upholstery cover material because I wanted to send pictures to my mom about how to do the bottom corners of a bag. I had insisted when I saw her in March that we take her old sewing machine to get fixed, but then the lockdown began and she couldn't get it for six weeks. It came back with a big scratch but otherwise seems to be running well. On that visit, I had also left her lots of fabric scraps and mailed her even more later. I thought it would be a nice break or new hobby but apparently sending her pictures of my bags made her jealous and frustrated so she stopped to eat snacks instead. I am 100% her daughter because I also eat when I get upset.
Lavender seedlings!! I hate the idea that I'll have to choose the strongest later but for now, I am delighted. My one audible yelp from last week was when I saw the first one poking up from the south-facing bathroom window. There is barely any room in there for the upside down boxes stacked to reach the windowsill sunlight but I'm happy to cede that space for a while.
I've switched to all brush and gouache lately for my rhododendron drawings and that has been a lot of fun. Some days I don't make it but mostly every day for at least a minute or three, I get to not be in the crappiest mood ever. It's a low-grade crappiness but cumulative, so I was relieved for a slight break today in it because I found out I got another small relief grant. They are extremely aptly named.
I probably shared this last year but wanted to share again. A year ago (in April 2019), I worked with four 4th grade classes in Oberlin for Allen Memorial Art Museum programming. It was fantastic, well-supported, well-received work. I miss teaching, being close to human beans, sharing paper joy. I hope it won't be years before I can return to this work and know that my crappy moods stem from an inability to fully grieve and grasp these losses. It's nothing like the families who could not be with their dying loved ones, and different from the anxiety I feel as each day I hear from more friends about their recovery from illness, or sickness and deaths of their loved ones. But it's all related. Trying to to stay nourished, make space for it all even if my containers are insufficient, and encourage new life.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Giving to artists survey results

I promised to share the results of a survey that I made earlier this month with zero expertise in making surveys. I wanted to know how people felt about being asked for money from artists and what incentives would help them donate. I was considering reactivating fiscal sponsorship, but because that requires that I pay a set amount each month/year to a 501(c)(3) and give them a percentage of any funds raised through them, I wanted to know: how important is that tax deduction? I built this survey in a matter of minutes and only after I made it public did I see its many flaws. But everyone has to start somewhere!

The above graphic shows responses to the first question, and overwhelmingly most people are open to being asked to support artists financially (my assumption is that they are okay with the ask, not that they all donate—but this is a framing flaw. Also, there are many other reactions to being asked for money besides yes and no). I first asked people who are invested enough to receive an email from me each month. Unsurprisingly, they answered 100% of the time that they are happy to support artists if they are able. After a few days, I opened the survey to a book arts listserv and that is when the 5 out of 115 responses arrived saying that artists should not ask for money.
The second question gets hairy because I made up reasons that people might donate money, and allowed people to choose as many as they liked. Many people chose more than one incentive. Where I offered "none," I meant, "I don't need an incentive to donate money to artists, I just do it." But that may not be how people read it—another flaw. What I found interesting is that tax deductions are NOT the most important incentive, which aligns with my own personal donation philosophy. When I was younger I wanted the deduction, but as I learned who gets to write off what and why, it became much less important to me. Guess what people want the most? Rewards! After that, the option to pay by credit card. Then, exclusive donor access to the artist in some fashion.
The most responses after exclusive access was "Other," which I left wide open, and these are the typed-in responses. I won't even try to analyze them but you can see a big range of ideas from respect for the artist's work, donating to artists you know or only to those in visible financial need, subscriptions, and so on. After "Other," tax deductions came into play, then anonymity, and way down on the list were not needing incentives and public acknowledgement of donations.

I'll show the breakdown first of my smaller network (28 people) and then the total blob after it was opened to a larger group (87 additional people) in the order of most to least clicked incentive (# of clicks in parentheses). Yes, I'm aware that the second list contains the first, so that's also a flaw. The question was, "What incentives help you donate to individual artists? [You may choose more than one.]"

People who are subscribed to my monthly updates responded:

67.86% (19) Rewards (artwork, prints, merch, etc.)
46.43% (13) Credit card payment options 
39.29% (11) Tax deduction
31.58% (36) Other (please specify)
25% (7) Access to updates, pictures, videos, etc. exclusively for donors
25% (7) Anonymity
14.29% (4) None
10.71% (3) Public acknowledgement of my donation

The entire cohort, which now includes people who are subscribed to a book arts listserv, responded:

65.79% (75) Rewards (artwork, prints, merch, etc.)
49.12% (56) Credit card payment options 
34.21% (39) Access to updates, pictures, videos, etc. exclusively for donors
31.58% (36) Other (please specify)
28.07% (32) Tax deduction
25.44% (29) Anonymity
7.02% (8) None
5.26% (6) Public acknowledgement of my donation

I regretted the survey's shortcomings from the moment it went public, but I am still glad I tried. It opened insightful and meaningful conversations with people I might not otherwise have connected with. Also, I am not a scientist, and approached this idea the way I approach my art. I'm sorry for my mistakes but am grateful to the 115 of you who indulged me. For years, my work and thoughts have been interested in notions of what is official and not, who has authority and what that looks like, and many gradations of impostor syndrome. For sure, I am an artist. All the other identities I inhabit fall on a scale of perfectly tailored fits to Yikes Who Let Me In Here.

Special thanks to Maureen Cummins for pointing me towards Why Are Artists Poor?
Also, if you want the pdfs rather than the jpgs here, let me know!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Up or down

Yay: This was the one thing I knew was a good idea even if it meant moving a couple of doors. There was no way I wanted to move things in and out of a studio that had 2.5 steps from the back door. This is the start of the ramp I requested.
Boo: these deer... Yay: my foil is thwarting the robin that was pooping on my ledge and slamming into the window.
Yay: ANOTHER yucca! Boo: my lawn guy today took the liberty of cutting down the seed pods. I didn't know until after he left and I was confused by what was missing. The season is over for them, but all I needed was a mow. Losing this upright changes the entire feeling of the plant. Also, I had wanted to see if there were any viable seeds left in the pods to plant myself but I'll never get that opportunity. The sad yucca is in the background. I hope it comes back to life.
Yay: a new plant to draw.
Boo: cooped up inside. Yay: Velma's sweet papers. Also, a long drive yesterday to see a friend couple and get some herbs. We took a hike to the waterfall and the river and Diane pointed out all kinds of wildflowers so I learned a TON. And I love walking on slate, seeing the way it crumbles in its special way. Lots of mud and a wild dog (he's a herding mix so very intense, high energy, grabbing every stick and branch possible and running full speed with them only to knock into us or other vegetation), but a gift to get out for a bit. Driving home in snow was not so fun but cooking an omelette full of fresh chives was.