Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stepping forward and back

Our chiritori station, where we pick the cooked bark before beating. Yes, it seems like there is way MORE bark inside the tray (on top of a light table so you can see the dark bits more easily when the light is turned on) than inside the white bucket, where the picked bark resides.
I float the bark inside the colanders and then transfer the dark bits to the tray and clean bits to the bucket. This was a solo day when my standards kept slipping as I went along because I just wanted to be done with it. The warm spell made the fiber turn in a whole different way. It's interesting to smell the difference between fiber turning slowly in cold, cold weather, and the same fiber turning right away in a day or two in warmer weather. So that's the Japanese kozo. I forgot to shoot over the last few days because of the papermaking, but it's very green. Also, lots of flocculation issues with chemicals fighting each other (retention aid, sizing, PMP, PEO). But I got a handful of nice sheets even amidst the chunky ones. Things never go as fast as I'd like, and we keep meeting roadblocks, but I'm still feeling optimistic about the whole project.
I like to go to the Chinese grocery nearby for produce and banh mi and snacks. This guy greets me every time. Do you see his gourd? Love it. This week I went to a very intense yoga class and hopefully I will get back in shape and not end up looking like him. But being happy like him, yes!
Here is Liz at Zygote giving us a great tour/talk. My students acted just like children who embarrass you would act: blank stares when asked about things I've taught them, making me look like the idiot. Sigh. But it was great to see them so attentive for once, and I wish we could have stayed longer. We had a van not show up so we were late, and then one carload of students never made it from Zygote to the Morgan, but I suppose that's how things go as we get late into the semester. Good news: I've finally booked my travel and hotel for Convergence! When I get the energy, I'll break out all the classes I'm teaching that week (four in six days on jiseung, joomchi, and artists' books).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cold to HOT

It has been a busy, busy week, but also highly productive because I set our production goals at 50 sheets a day, and put the burden on me to pick up slack. Which is great, as I very much need to move around and start to lose the winter sedentary body that I've been dragging around. Here are very poor images of the green, blue, and yellow pigment tests after teaching my apprentices how to pigment fiber.
Today was VERY exciting because we finally plugged in our new heat dryer from U of Iowa that Julie so kindly delivered last weekend and it gets hot! Hot enough that the familiar steam comes off of the paper once you brush it on. Of course it has hot spots and we need to eventually replace the screws with stainless ones, but this is a great option. I was disappointed with myself for being too tired last weekend to rescue the Japanese kozo cooked in wood ash lye—I let it sit in the cooking liquor for too long before we rinsed, so the final paper is too soft. Sigh. I know better, that you can do everything right but get one step wrong and there goes your lovely batch of paper.
At least our tororo is enjoying the sunlight. I wish I had more time to talk to them. I'll go in tomorrow to rescue the Thai kozo (less of an issue because it never cooks down enough in the first place), rinse, pull more sheets, and pick more Japanese kozo before hand beating. The warm weather makes me nervous. The pressure is on!
I pulled over 50 sheets yesterday with the Japanese kozo on my Japanese sugeta using the folded edge technique rather than threads to separate. Ivey and I dried these all morning and then tried to visit the Cleveland Flea, but it was a traffic/parking nightmare, so we visited Zygote instead and then Superior Pho, before returning to load the big drybox. I would have done it yesterday but knew people would freak out by all the noise with our first opening of the year (and a gallery talk today).
Speaking of noise, the garage door guys came today to start work on the new door. This one will be history very soon (anyone need metal to scrap?). Yesterday was warm enough for Tom to pull out the outdoor furniture so that he and Kirstin and Ivey and I could have lunch in the garden. I made a salad for all because it was a salad kind of day and all of us women were making paper. All of that wore me out but last night's Zygote benefit and Morgan opening were great, especially because I was able to carpool with friends. Today was too hot for my liking (shaking fist at global warming for taking away true spring) but I know it's nothing compared to what is actually to come! No time to waste; hoping to make paper every day until the swelter and bugs arrive.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Returning to the known

We had a little shoot outside for fun while the morning was still quiet. This reminds me again that I need a new camera. Which also means a new computer. Which explains why I'm avoiding all of it (because I also need dental work! But can't seem to find anyone so far in this town. I keep hearing, "I have a dentist, but I can't recommend him/her." Yikes).
After some tedious admin that goes hand in hand with the Eastern Paper Studio, I finally got to pick some Ohio mulberry but had to stop myself from doing the whole batch or I knew I'd never get around to papermaking. I only had a cupful of clean bark but it makes lovely, lovely paper. It's quite white, which surprised me. But then I remembered that our kozo is quite yellow/green.
This is the hydrated mulberry (not paper mulberry! Just the stuff growing wild in the back that Tom has us harvest. I remember trimming these trees with Juan in November, and it yielded us just about a half of a dry pound)—clearly, the unpicked batch. But still lovely. I beat the picked batch more than this one and of course got spatters all over my coat.
A new volunteer spent at least five to six hours separating dried black bark from green bark and I dumped all of that hard work (black bark) in the garden today. I pulled a few more deckle box sheets and ... OH NO!! I just realized now that I blotted them with the mulberry paper, loaded the latter into the drybox, but totally forgot to un-blot the rest! Sigh. This is what happens when I try to do too many things at once.
Dinner was at Felice with a lovely local couple. I completely splurged with food and drink and dessert and though I love living close enough to walk, it was eerie to be walking as the only person in the street on the way there. I've been stressed out lately, mostly about things completely out of my control, so it was vital that I pulled sheets today. I know that it's good for me, yet I don't do it enough. Everything gets solved when I'm really working, or at least the trash gets taken out in my head (apparently, the brain literally takes out its trash while sleeping, so I need more of that, too). Looking forward to more of that as we go into serious production. My goal: 50 sheets/day, 3 days/week, for 7 weeks. That gives us just over a thousand sheets, half of which will not be good enough for sale—this is optimistic. But that leaves 500 as we proposed, by the end of May.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Down to the bone

I'm beyond exhausted. I don't remember what happened last week aside from days where I'd wonder what day it was and what happened the prior day while accessing big black holes devoid of memory. Oh! I know: I finally chose a new apt, put down a deposit, and delivered the executed lease today. I was delighted to end the daily viewings of potential homes, and now only have to worry about transferring utilities and all of my belongings. Three more weeks and I finally get to feel at home! Praying for no more smoking neighbors.

I also saw a bunch of wonderful friends both from out of town and locally, weaving around my extra teaching for the week (a high school field trip and a teacher training). Lots of great food, trips to Little Italy, sunshine, and hugs. A couple of my college students got into the student art show and won prizes, so that was nice to see. I was bummed that the Morgan missed a really important grant deadline, but I can't police everything. The big goal for this week: more sleep! And paper/art making!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunny Monday

The smaller bal (screen) works like a dream, and my first batch of paper came out wonderfully...while still damp. When I peeled them away today, they stuck like crazy to the shiniest surfaces, which I suspect comes from the gampi content. The gampi is too soft to start with, was probably cooked with too much caustic, and then beaten in a hollander. So this recipe needs to be tweaked. But at least sheet formation is great, and our new teul (frame) works great.
Charity watered the tororo on Saturday, and then we rotated the table so that the ones in front could get a little more light and less direct heat. I think it worked to some extent, because when I checked on them today, some that refused to come up were finally poking out.
I realize now that because these are plants, I feel fine constantly posting images of them—unlike my niece, who is a person that belongs to other people, so I can't flood the internet with pictures of the cutest baby ever (of course I am biased but I think that she ranks up there in objective cuteness). I am so excited by these babies! But today I realized that we will come up against a problem: the gallery season begins at the Morgan on Friday, and I don't think we will be allowed to leave them in the perfect south-facing window under the heater. I worry that if they move to a less desirable location, they will fail. But we'll see what the verdict is later this week on forced relocation.
This Madagascar Labradorite was my splurge yesterday before I embarked on five to six hours of taxes. I cooked and rinsed some Ohio mulberry (regular mulberry, not paper) today, which smelled even better than a regular kozo cook, and wonder if I will be able to keep myself from picking out all the bark before prepping it for a tiny batch of local mulberry paper. In the meantime, I have been looking at apartments almost daily. Today, I will have gone to three cities before, during, and after work, and I can't wait for this part of the hunt to be over.

If you have a TV, tomorrow will be the national broadcast of the documentary that my sister edited, on PBS! Town Hall airs on Tuesday, April 1 at 8pm.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Taxes are finally done! I hope this predicts a positive, productive week ahead.

And milkweed is aggressive.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More baby tororo

Day 2 of sprouts, the only decent photo, though you can't see much of what's going on (my head under the plastic.
 Day 3, when Charity came in again to help water.
Kirstin and Mason joined us to gawk.
Day 4, when I worried about them getting TOO hot and steamy in there and basically cooking. I can't quite tell if some sprouts are yellowing, and certainly not all have come up, but I love watching them lean towards the sun. Today I'll check up on them again with Charity.

We call the tororo hibiscus colloquially, even though it's been reclassified since (Abelmoschus manihot). They'll grow, we'll transplant outdoors once they're stronger and we don't risk frost, hoping to resist any critters (which is less of an issue in the urban environment but we still have them!), and as they grow flowers, we'll pinch off the flowers as they go to send energy down to the roots. In the fall, we'll dig up the whole plant for the roots, to clean and freeze in storage until we need it for formation aid. Which is that gooey stuff for Asian papermaking that distributes fibers evenly in water, increases the water's viscosity to allow more time to handle the slurry while forming the actual sheets on the screen, and disappears once the paper is dry. We get it from pounding the roots to wound them, and from those cuts, they will ooze a clear mucilage.

And then hopefully some of us will not get rashes from chemical formation aid on our arms!