Saturday, March 24, 2018

Student = Friend = Teacher = Colleague

I've been grappling for a while with how we support each other in the art / teaching / papermaking worlds that I inhabit. For my entire working life as an artist, I have never been under the wing of an organization or institution (meaning, no permanent contracts, no income I could count on from year to year). Yet, I learned about art inside of old academia, where professors have tenure and can store as many books as they like in their offices and are obliged to write you recommendation letters until one of you dies.
To my past teachers who have been generous of their time and expertise, I am forever grateful. Because they were in the position to be so generous (or because they chose to make the sacrifices that enabled them to be generous), I became this person I am today. Even when I was much younger, I loved turning to elders (not my parents!) for advice, and always wanted to pay it forward when I could. Even before I knew I wanted to try teaching, I was profuse in my advice to people who asked (and didn't ask) for it. One of my dearest friends today is someone I met when I was a grad student and she an undergrad student. She was so talented and eager to learn that it was natural to teach her. She won scholarships and admission to a prestigious graduate program, moved to NYC, paid her dues and became a tenure-track professor in her field. Never once did I begrudge her my time and assistance—likely because we operated in different art fields.
We are so accustomed now to instant and "free" access to knowledge, but when I started, that was less common. I would get emails out of the blue from time to time, but after I began to carve a very specific place and expertise for myself, emails from strangers came on a regular basis. Some were harmless, others more aggressive. Many expected me to give extensive advice and guidance just because, and I began to learn when it was okay to take my time, be measured in my responses, or not respond at all. Certainly, I also made inquiries to others, but many had stable incomes and jobs that encouraged that kind of advisor-ness, the behavior of an expert. No one was subsidizing my time when I answered questions, provided international travel tips, pointed them in the direction of resources, connected them to colleagues. Years ago I started a folder called "inquiries" to keep track of each time someone asked me for something. Here are rough numbers:

2008: 3 inquiries (I started the folder late this year)
2009: 5 inquiries
2010: 15 inquiries
2011: 16 inquiries
2012: 53 inquiries
2013: 110 inquiries
2014: 85 inquiries
2015: 123 inquiries
2016: 68 inquiries
2017: 113 inquiries
2018: 25 inquiries (so far)

No, this does not include when friends ask for help. That's different.
There are people very close to me who insist that I charge money to give out this knowledge, and that I protect my intellectual property. I don't know how to begin to approach that (or maybe I do but I don't want to / don't want to make time to). People charge for less in a zillion other fields. I remember in college when an ex-boyfriend got a job as a "consultant," something I had never heard of. He explained that it would be a way to make a LOT of money before he went to med school to become a doctor. While I absolutely believe that I possess information that is worth a lot, I haven't monetized myself in the way that I could have, should have, or shouldn't have. Mostly, I'd rather spend my time learning more, experimenting more, communing more with organisms that don't talk like humans (or with humans that I love).
This is all to say that I am really proud of a past student/mentee, someone who approached me when I looked like someone in a position of authority. We met in my temporary office on a college campus, I advised her, she invited me over for dinner, and we stayed in touch for the last 7 years as she went through the process of applying to grad school and other opportunities, including a Fulbright research grant to Korea. Last weekend, she set up her very own hanji vat and taught students in San Francisco. For a while, I've wanted for someone else to help shoulder this responsibility of hanji evangelism, and it's really happening. In fact, she is also selling hanji that you can't find anywhere else but Korea—the flying bird above is made of hanji her business partner in Korea sourced. It's beautiful to see her interpretation of not only hanji making, but making a living from it and sharing it with others. When do I finally introduce her as a colleague, and not someone who once was a student?

I've had so many teachers and am fortunate that a few became friends, sometimes even students. But the hardest piece is leveling the field to become colleagues. One often forgotten aim of teaching is to create a new field of colleagues, but it can be difficult because it often takes a long time—not only for the student to establish herself, but for the teacher to acclimate to a new kind of relationship. As I settle (more on that soon) and attempt to be more rooted, it's important for others to start flying.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Chasing time

I can't believe the way that things have taken off in the last less than two months to transform my life. I'm in a big, big transition, or pivot point, or whatever. It means that I keep forgetting to do things and never get close to getting my to do lists done in a given week. But crunch time is approaching, with a dizzying number of applications coming due. Thank goodness I have the best photographer ever, so I can just mail art to him and have him shoot, and mail it back. I LOVE this new bundle of work. Pure delight, fun to make, and so satisfying to live with. There are a couple of new ducks, too.
Last week I went to Michigan, after a big schedule change threw me into a bit of a last-minute rush to change driving days, find a new place to sleep, and so on. I was in Ann Arbor to install this show.
They all have amazing natural light along a bank of windows with southern exposure (oh, poor natural dyes. I bet these will all get washed out by the time this exhibit ends in June).
It's in a hospital! Just west of the cafeteria.
Almost all of my best best work is in it, and I was glad to have a relatively easy and fast install. Open cases, arrange art, close cases.

I was able to see my publisher, visit my Albion friends, meet a new artist, and worry a lot about my current situation (it involves where I live). It was great to see everyone, though I wish I had more time with them. Meanwhile, I'm way behind on inventory even though I'm making ducks as fast as I can. They keep flying away to collectors and shows!

If you're in Ann Arbor, you can visit my exhibit through June 10.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Hello, Fredonia!

I've been completely sidelined by sudden major projects that are all consuming, but wanted to share the joys of my trip last week to western New York. My entire drive, about 3 hours, was in heavy rain. But once I got there, I realized that was much better than what was to come: a real snow storm! The rain turned to sleet and then wet snow right about when Tim picked me up for dinner before the lecture.
He had to clean the car off after dinner to get us to the lecture hall (which is twice as big as what you see here). In the art program at Fredonia (part of the fine State University of New York system), they require students to attend the openings and talks by visiting artists, which is a great way to get bodies in the building, especially in inclement weather.
An Oberlin student 11 years ago drew a picture of me while lecturing. This Fredonia student did something similar (the duck is fun, right?). Very sweet.
Tim had to clear the car again after the lecture to get me back to my lodging. I was glad the next day that I didn't have to do anything or go anywhere until dinner. I worked until I got hungry and was not looking forward to how thick the snow blanket on my car would be. I couldn't deal with it without breakfast, so I waited until late afternoon to shovel (it wasn't that bad because I had plenty of time, the sun was out by then, and it had warmed up).
I walked on the street as the sidewalks were not cleared to get some tea and food on campus. That quiet in the morning after a snow dump is wonderful. Classes were cancelled because of power line and fallen tree damage, not because this region is unaccustomed to snow.
I walked over to the art building to see the renovated paper/print studio, which I had seen a few years back. I love their view of the trees and generally all the windows in the classrooms.
Now the beater has its own room, which helps a lot with noise. They'll get new filters soon for water, and have a new Reina drybox as well. Tim had a great tip for waterproof trays under and in the presses: dog kennel trays made of stainless steel! Nice size, good price. After poking around the art building, Tim introduced me to three art students who were going to lunch with me. They were smart and motivated, fun to sit with for a long leisurely meal.
After a great dinner with Peter, Barbara, and Tim (who did a fantastic job curating this show), we headed to the opening. This gallery is gorgeous and I feel so fortunate to be able to exhibit here, alongside friends and papermaking artists.
Bridget's work, all watermarked.
Tom's piece along the back wall, Peter's huge and thoughtful pieces on the long wall.
Another gallery shot, with Radha's books in the cases (along with my smallest dress).
I didn't take pictures until most everyone had cleared out (and didn't see the lovely spread outside the gallery until it was time to go! Guess who ate cookies for breakfast on the drive home the next day?). You can see my dresses and Tom's castings—he was generous enough to drive my work when he delivered his.
There was a lovely shelf for my ducks. I know they wanted more big ones, but those are going to another show next week in Michigan. I can't make them fast enough because my body says I have to pace myself.
I assumed that no one was going to come from out of town because of the weather, but Ani surprised me by coming down with her partner (they got a Subaru, so this was no big deal) from Buffalo. We met at Haystack a few summers back on a residency and she was there the entire time as I made my first batch of ducks. Her work is FABULOUS, and it was fun to catch up and hear what she was up to.
Peter alongside his work and me alongside mine. We had a great time at the opening and I was really happy to have made this trip. I wish all my work gigs could be like this, low stress and easy travel with so many friendly faces.

The show is great, so visit if you can!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Scale exhibit

Yesterday, I drove to Elyria to attend the opening of Scale, a group exhibit at the Stocker Gallery curated by Nancy Halbrooks, longtime professor at Lorain County Community College. I had no idea what a huge affair this would be! Outside the main gallery space was artwork by Rhodes Rozman (whom I had met years ago when she was a papermaking intern) and Tyler Heganbarth, alongside a public and collaborative piece to its right.
People were welcome to add to the sign that indicated the show around the corner, encouraging a lively exchange for the entire duration of the 4-hour opening. You can see Rhodes' mother, Susan, in the long coat busy adding to the piece. Susan runs Fiddlehead Gallery in the Larchmere neighborhood of Cleveland, a longtime, passionate advocate and resident of the area.
Also outside the gallery is a case of artwork by artists in the show as well as selections from the Joan Perch collection of Russian Miniatures. Nancy conceived this show as not only a way to feature artists we don't always get to see in the region (and managed to represent every decade from artists in their 20s to their 80s!), but as a valuable teaching exhibit. You can see Gene Epstein's and Amy Fishbach's work, and a couple of my dresses. There was so much more of Amy's prolific book art inside cases in the gallery; I wasn't able to shoot it all!
Upon entering the main gallery, Jan Zorman's striking string drawing greets you. I talked to her about how challenging this install was, and admire her commitment to making it. I used to constantly imagine installations that required tons of rigging from the ceiling, but often scrapped the ideas because I knew how difficult they were. I always loved Fred Sandback's work whenever I encountered it, but it's even more satisfying to know the artist—Jan was the curator who gave me my first solo exhibit in Cleveland years ago!
On the other side of Jan's work is a lovely niche for my paper dresses. Nancy said that hanging the large hanbok and a couple of other larger pieces helped act as anchors to install the rest of the show. I do not envy her and her installation team, but am glad they managed so well: 16 artists + an existing collection = a TON of work to display in a cohesive manner.
Looking past my work, there are fantastic miniature ceramic pieces by Diane Marrapese, plenty already sold, and the large and ambitious ceramic and enamel work by Brinsley Tyrrell.
These two wall pieces are enamel on steel, though you could easily walk by assuming they were paintings on canvas. Brinsley also did the ceramic sculpture in the corner, as well as a few others in the show.
This one was one of my favorites, by Stevie Lee Tanner. A printmaker (and the new printmaking tech at the Cleveland Institute of Art), she creates painterly landscapes and renders them even more desolate through manipulation of the mulberry paper they are printed onto.
I met Stevie as well as her husband Ryan Craycraft, whose large drawing in charcoal you can see in the center. They offer a full-circle story of artists who grew up in the area, went to LCCC, went away for a while to get more experience and training, and then returned. Ryan now teaches at LCCC and helped hang the show.
This gallery has gorgeous floors. In the case: Amy's books, Russian miniatures, and one of my small hanbok. The large portrait is by Tony Trunzo, and the white balloon tethered to an 8-pound weight is by Blake Cook. The smaller paintings and tiny but intricate graphite drawings to Blake's work's right are by Russ Revock, with Dennis Long's large canvas and wood piece to the left (another of Dennis' paintings is behind the balloon). The colorful tag drawings to the very left are by Catherine Rozmarynowycz.
Gallery shot from another end
I loved the title on this pair by Diane, "Pete and Repeat".
More of her ceramic pieces, miniature and not, are on the pedestals to the left. There was so much to see that I recommend multiple visits, or a long chunk of time to enjoy everything. I walked around the hallways to see student work and thought about Nancy's legacy as a teacher and art dept coordinator at LCCC: she has shepherded an enormous number of students through this program and encouraged them to achieve beyond what they could imagine at the time. She has nurtured a wide community and given so much of her life to teaching, while also making her own art (her show is still up in Oberlin). This kind of dedication is not for the faint of heart, and I'm grateful to be in her large orbit.

Scale is open through March 23 and even features a series of four talks given by the artists. Visit if you can!

Monday, February 19, 2018


This was my second lei of the trip, gorgeous, from the Center for Korean Studies. My first was from Ned, a fantastic historian retired from teaching at the University of Hawaii, and it was incredibly fragrant. I'd sleep with it next to my pillow and wake in the dark, which was fine. Jet lag in this direction is fine (it's coming home when it's a bear).
After all the official work was done, Ned and Kamaile picked me up at the hotel and took me for delicious dim sum lunch while sightseeing.
With Ned, whom I met in Chile when we were invited to a Korean studies conference in Santiago. I am really grateful to him for making this trip happen. It's rare to meet such a good planner, generous and relaxed even while juggling a million things. He and Kamaile really welcomed me into their home and family, which made me feel like I was enveloped in a big hug the entire time (plus the hug of the wonderful humid air and water all around).
I don't even remember where all of these shots were exactly, but we saw whales blow and breach in the distance at one of the places we pulled off the road.
After most of the trip on Oahu, I ventured alone to the Big Island because I wanted to try one other island before going home (my last Hawaiian trip, 13 years ago, was only on Oahu). Here is Rainbow Falls, very close to the B&B where I stayed.
By then, I had gotten a cold, but this is the best place to be sick. Not just the climate, but the many options for hot soup, made it such a treat. I had Thai soup, then Korean soup with noodles, then Vietnamese chicken soup with noodles, and then Thai again, with noodles. 
The big reason for flying to Hilo was that I wanted to visit Volcanoes National Park. WELL WORTH IT. Here is near the end of the road that you can drive; it's blocked by lava flow and after that you have to hike (but I was not well enough to hike. Even if I was, I probably wouldn't have because I'm that kind of tourist).
Lava flow that come downhill (you can see it), and then right there at road level. There are tons of pull off points and I wanted to stop everywhere.
This is the big attraction, the still steaming and erupting one. I inadvertently hiked too much to get from the visitor center to the museum, but I'm still glad I did it. Amazing how quiet it is, beyond the wind. And how you can go from these desolate craters to rainforest so quickly. I was sad to leave but am now motivated to figure out good ways to return. In the meantime, there are always pictures.

Thursday, back to work: an opening for a local group show that looks at scale.