Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Leaves to snow and ice

This was my Halloween activity, trying to sort through old jewelry marketing halftone blocks, test printing some. It was good to be back on a letterpress after so long.
The next day my students had a field trip to make paper.
 They were so cold even though the heat was on, as per usual.
But everyone survived and made a lot of paper since it was a smaller class and they could almost have a vat per student.
Back home, I bound together a book made of gift papers from Velma, always so satisfying!
This was an old print done on flat twined hanji years ago, which I found and then took apart and twined into something else.
And then tests for a new/old book for an application. This was the version with inkjet printed text.
This one is with pencil as text, which got too smudgy and dingy grey because the lead was so soft.
But it's always good to confirm suspicions about how a thing will turn out by actually doing it.
Now I have a bunch of info from testing the width of the strips, using pen or pencil or printer, and using different types of hanji. Meanwhile, I've been raking for the past two weeks and then the snow dumped. I unfortunately got scammed by a snowplow company (according to another plowing neighbor down the street), so I was also out shoveling the pile they left right on the sidewalk. Now I have to sort out if I eat the money from the first half of the contract, fight to get it back, or see how it goes for the next few months before switching to another service. Joys of home ownership strike year-round as there is also a mysterious spot growing on the ceiling upstairs, so I have to find someone willing to go into the attic to diagnose it as I am too scared to do it myself.

I also had a friend visit from sunny California and got buried by applications. I feel like I'm still trying desperately to catch up to a place I thought I'd be, but it may be time to give up the idea of that schedule where I'm somehow done with everything.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Nearing November

My neck and shoulders have been killing me because I keep looking down to do this work. I need to build myself a drafting table or stand but it's one of too many other things on the endless To Do But Actually Won't Ever Get Done list.
This is the final piece of major house work for the year: masonry. The old milk chute was leaking water into the house so while the masons were replacing lintels and doing other repairs, I asked them to remove this. Now I know the entire house is masonry rather than a brick veneer, and have confirmed that I have really good friends: Bill came by to assess, then returned with all of the materials to patch this hole. All that's left now is priming, painting, and coming up with a way to cover up the paint that will inevitably not match.
I know it sounds crazy but I feel like I'm still recovering from the TV shoot, getting a grip on my 'regular' life (which is never routine but I can pretend that sometimes it can be), and eating lots of junk food. The producer requested pictures of me growing up, somehow forecasting my future, which is nearly impossible. My parents were very good sports a few states away and combed through all the old family albums. This one was obviously in an oval frame and faded, but one of my favorite art class pics. I am only noticing now how ingenious this table shape is. My classmate ended up becoming a doctor.
This image I vaguely remember and yet I have no idea what I am doing. Seriously, what am I doing? My childhood memories are vague and mostly involve laying on the sofa reading books voraciously, but I recall that when I was outside I usually sat on or low to the ground, inspecting things like buttercups and thistles and ants, even though I was (and still am) very squeamish about bugs.
According to my mother, fall is when your hair falls out more. Even if this is true, I also think that according to my friend Pati, this is the time of my life when my hair will fall out a lot. I've had a lifelong habit of running my fingers through my hair and pulling out the loose ones (the idea being that if I get them all, they'll stop falling out on my clothes and on the floor and on the plate of brownies I offer to guests). I have many plans in store for things to make and do and so on but mostly it is transitional time again, wearing more clothes and having a variety of slippers for cold floors while being less springy to jump out of bed in the mornings.

Friday, the first day of Nov, I will give an artist talk at 4:30pm at Kendal at Oberlin for my solo show (where I will be presented with an award).

Next year in April, I'll be teaching a weeklong intensive in San Francisco, hooray!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The real thick of it

Since the Milkweed Residency, I've been tending daily to prep for every step of the process to film. In my newly dry garage, I sorted black milkweed from the greener stuff that needs steaming. The pot is filled with trimmed ones ready to steam.
Inner cores to discard after stripping steamed stalks. I should have brought these to my TV shoot but the car was outrageously full. There comes a limit, even if it isn't rational, to all the little things I was willing to shove into the car of a full papermaking rig + an entire solo show.
This represents a LOT of work: harvesting, trimming, steaming, stripping, and scraping. In the end, only half a pound for 14 thin translucent sheets. But lovely.
The non-scraped batches after cooking, being rinsed.
Beating in the basement to prep. I froze one of the darker batches so it wouldn't be AS stinky a week later for the shoot.
Finally set up and used my new drybox! It only took two years...or more?
The janitor cart is my new paper studio investment: the post goes up top, where I'll eventually drill a hole to drain into a bucket below. Keeps the floor dry and is easy to move around.
What else have I been doing? Interviewing Jim Croft over a couple days when the weather was gorgeous. I wish last week's weather repeated itself this week but alas, we had a storm front move in.
Like me (and probably most papermakers), Jim keeps all of his handmade paper offcuts. He uses this to make "barf board," heavy board that he can use for sturdy book covers. I make more hanji.
Once I was finally pushed to my deadline, I cut a beating stick into mushroom stands (it was scrap wood from a couple years ago in the wrong grain for the tool's purpose, works much better this way with needles stuck into it to help these wee ones stand up).
Yesterday, I drove to Oberlin to hang my show. Robert, who is in charge of the gallery, did a wonderful job as always. I loved his idea of a black & white wall here.
These are the long walls but there's also a corner with all of my larger woven things, plus books and dusters, and then a glass case of more woven things like small ducks, mushrooms, and plants.
After hanging the show, the PBS crew and I went to lunch and then to the farm at Oberlin. With their help along with Nick, the farm director, I was able to set up and strike my entire hanji getup in four hours. Nick and I walked the property to look like we were foraging and then I pretended that I was cutting down milkweed. I skipped the actual steaming but had pre-steamed stalks that I stripped, and then we set up the hot plate to cook (well, re-cook already cooked) stripped fiber. Then, a makeshift beating station to beat the fiber. Then sheet formation, couching, pressing, parting, and brushing onto boards. All this in the garish afternoon light, but better that + 70-degree weather than attempting the same today in the cold, rainy, windy weather as originally scheduled. I managed to unload my car after the hour-long drive home and even rinse the cooked fiber, as if this weeks-long prep had never happened.

Today I got up before dawn to swim, then freaked out that the goggle imprints would still be on my face for my sit-down interview. I was long-winded and zombied out from lack of sleep, and tried to talk over my growling belly once we passed the lunch hour. It was a delicate dance given the lighting (we wanted clouds, not sun) but hopefully all my imperfections will not be too glaring in the final cut. They stayed to document my show while I picked up dried paper on boards at the farm. It's a miracle I stayed awake on the drive home, though I crawled into bed at 4:30pm and stayed there until my birthday dinner. Well fed, gifted, and loved, I'm hoping now for real sleep before the crew arrives tomorrow morning for a home studio shoot. Halfway done!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Mainlining milkweed

I am still terrible at using my camera (haven't spent enough time with it or its manual) but tried to capture the wonderful first day of my Milkweed Residency (MR). Pati directed it and here she is in her studio showing us some of her incredible artwork (these are books, we had already looked at a suite of prints she did over the course of a decade, and new work that is very exciting). Due to scheduling changes, Tim and Pati were hosting Brien and Jim right before I arrived and I was able to overlap with them for several hours! What fantastic convergence. I had driven over early on Monday and almost as soon as I arrived, Pati and I braved the hot humid afternoon to harvest milkweed nearby.
It was a small haul (or so I thought) and we could have gotten more if we were willing to hang out with a couple of horses but by then I was so sweaty that we took what the scale says was ten pounds and walked back home. I left it outside and trimmed some to get ready to steam the next day, and then we had to rinse off. Pati also showed me what poison ivy looks like because I'm too suburban to know the difference. It was too good a chance to have a long late lunch with the whole group and hang out before Jim and Brien hit the road.
Tim's woodpile is the most beautiful and I always always love to revisit it. Here he is with Jim, wearing the same shirts! Jim had apparently given this to Tim years ago.
Here's all of us. What a perfect first afternoon! I'll catch Jim soon as he will be coming through Cleveland for teaching and his birthday.
The next day I thought we should head out early to harvest before the scorching weather got us again. But it was too easy and pleasant to linger at breakfast and catch up. By the time we drove to Tim's brother's property that has tons of milkweed that is easily accessible, it was good and hot, though there was a bit of a breeze that we didn't have the previous day.
The first day I wanted green stuff, and the second day I gravitated towards black. Pati was a real trooper as well went our separate ways on the paths, leaving piles of stalks as we traveled.
This was the haul that the scale said was about 25.5 pounds. We could have come back for more, but I wanted to get back in time to steam the first batch and get dinner ready for our special guest.
Tim emptied a washbasin for a little outdoor station, and the batch steamed up well.
I'm sure I could have engineered a more comfortable setup for stripping bast, but I didn't. It goes faster with help! That evening we had a giant meal of Korean food. The next day was all rain, so no more harvesting, just more steaming and stripping, and then scraping. In the afternoon we went into Albion to see Anne's beautiful show and visit the art department and library. Almost everyone I knew from my residency two years ago happened to come by. It was great to see them all and it made me miss living and working there A LOT.
Since Tim had screened in the porch, it was a great place to work on the rainy days. The scraping takes forever but once I get started, I don't want to NOT scrape it all...but I really don't have time. I drove home today using back roads and didn't quite do it right so my trip was longer than expected, but somehow I thought after arriving past 7pm that I would unpack, do laundry, get ready for class tomorrow, and then SCRAPE MORE MILKWEED. Crazy, right? I should just set the stripped stuff out to dry, refrigerate more, and maybe pack some with my knife to take to school tomorrow to do during my breaks. It's always good to return home after a trip but it was hard to this place and people that I love so much. If I'm lucky, I'll get an MR every October!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Cusp of joy

This is the final mushroom count for now (including the one in progress) because I have to rest my hand/body. I got carried away and believe it or not, the tiny olive one sent me over the edge. Underneath is hanji that was dyed with an exhausted cochineal bath and then overdyed with osage orange, which I tried the first time. I had no idea it would be such a BRIGHT yellow. While combing through an old printmaking bin, I found the woven hanji piece that was dyed with cochineal and then sent through an etching press. I tore it away from the base sheet it was printed onto and then overdyed with osage orange because I didn't want a pink piece.
Because I had to rest from making mushrooms, I did a few more loose weavings with paper thread. Three are already part of a new piece and hopefully will be ready for my solo show that goes up in a couple weeks (WHAT?! I need more time!).
Unexpectedly, I finally found a contractor who gave me a reasonable quote and plan for preventing garage flooding so I can set up studio things in there. Note the electrical wire that was never laid to code. They hit it while digging because it was so shallow. I'm nervous and should have wrapped it or something before they filled in this entire ditch with rocks, but it's a little late now. Someday in the future when I have energy to dig through rocks, I'll uncover it and figure out what to do.
This was a very welcome piece of mail, a lovely letterpressed award from a show that I am so happy to be part of, All Stitched Up. I never get exhibition awards, so I was especially touched to get the news.
Now that I teach all day Fridays for the semester, I had to move my artist date days to Wed. I went to Oberlin to assuage my autumn nostalgia for campus life. My final visit that day was to the art museum, where I saw prints by Yukinori Yanagi (as well as some other fantastic pieces).
From a distance, it was what I thought it was representing but it was even more meaningful than I realized.
Kevin Greenwood, the Asian art curator at the museum, has been putting together excellent shows and I was glad to get a look. Speaking of Asian and Asian American art, Youngmin and Steph are having what I know will be an amazing show together in San Francisco. On Monday, I head to Michigan for my Milkweed Residency! I am over the top excited and can't wait to see friends, both human and milkweed.

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.