Sunday, August 02, 2015

Marbling magic

The last week has been very, very challenging. I was worried yesterday during the first day of a two-day class that I was so overwrought with work and personal crises that I wouldn't be able to get much out of the workshop. I paid to take this one not because I was gung ho about marbling paper, but because 1. Steve Pittelkow is a great teacher and a wonderful person, 2. I wanted to have the luxury of being a student with no teaching responsibilities whatsoever, and 3. I hoped this would help me in the practice of how I could do my own creative work at the Morgan (rather than being overwhelmed by how it feels like work, and not a studio where I can make art).
Not sure if it was a complete success on all those fronts, but I did learn a LOT. I also learned that I have finally matured enough to rest and break because standing on those floors in that heat is hard for me. Though of course I wished I could power on through like everyone else, I do have the luxury of coming back in tomorrow and playing, or another day if I like. And it was especially wonderful to be inept, making mistakes, and not having to be the one to be on top of myself: Steve would catch all of my errors and it was no big deal. Student luxuries!
The night before class, I decided I wanted to try and marble my last duck. It was going to be a big risk, but I asked Steve yesterday and he seemed to think it would work, so we sprayed it with alum.
Once it was dry today, we waited until the very end of class and used carrageenan that we drained from our tanks. I decided to do blue and green and dropped all the colors before Steve stabbed the bottom of the duck with two awls.
They worked as handles, and then he was careful to get the entire thing in and coated with paint.
This was THE MOST DELIGHTFUL and hilarious part of it all. It's meant to be a duck gourd, so at least now we know it can pour liquids beautifully.
Could it be more perfect?
I averaged under 20 sheets a day but learned MORE from watching everyone else work and seeing their results. I'm guessing everyone had a ton more than I did. I have probably an hour's worth of notes to transcribe, and now a huge stash of paper to play with. Most importantly, I have the ideal ending to another duck's color!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I meant to share

Finished these books yesterday, in the sample book pile! Yesterday I enjoyed the recent story on Home of the Brave, touched by that idea that all humans have to make sacrifices if we are to move forward together on this planet. We won't, but it doesn't hurt to try.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dyeing, light

The heat makes it hard for me to motivate but I did manage to do some more dahlia dyeing on several different kinds of paper (washi, hanji—with two separate fiber batches—, and lining paper donated by a conservator). I was very proud of myself for figuring out a way to rig a clothesline at home. Works well! Don't know why it took over a year to figure out to use the door hinges that way.

Still a whole batch of loose ends to tie, but optimistic about more ducks to come.

Friday, July 24, 2015


This was going to be a sibling of a beautiful, completely lopsided gourd that I had seen in Santa Fe over 3 years ago. The original was made in Korea out of paper, lacquered black, with a metal tube at the end to drink out of.
Less than halfway through, I realized I had to practice more ducks, so now it's a mashup of the gourd and a duck. I left the beak open so in theory (after this is coated), you could try to fill the thing through the mouth and drink it that way.
This week, I have been trying to take back my time so I can do what really matters to me. Not sure how successful I've been, but there have been a couple of yoga classes, a few glasses of wine, a walk to the bookstore, and dinners out with new and old friends. While on a trash run in the middle of lots and lots of purging, I found the most delightful gift in the mail! Richard sent his homemade jam from California. What a perfect way to end the week.

p.s. - I just noticed that Paper Book Intensive (PBI) posted its teaching roster for next year; I am crazy excited now that I get to see new and old colleagues next May!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ways of thinking

[These are paper flowers by Love, Anji. I enjoy walking by them in the 5th Street Arcades downtown.]

Somehow, I taught all weekend and took zero pictures. It was mostly because we were very busy making sample books and because it was so very hot and humid. I didn't turn on the A/C only because it blows so hard that paper flies away. I think of the humidity as oppressive, like someone sitting on top of me. But I just talked to Anne Beck, who grew up in humidity and feels like it's someone giving her a big hug. I wonder if I can try to shift the way I think about it.

Regardless, I've been sweating a lot. Many changes in store but in the meantime, I loved this article about teachers by Hilary Hahn. Lots of food for thought.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Color drench

This year's dahlia dye is outrageously gorgeous. When I saw the results that Radha's students were getting, I knew I had to test this batch. Same plants and everything, but maybe that winter dormant as bulbs in Tom's care did something. Or all the rain we've gotten. Or a better ratio of flowers to water. Who knows. It's glorious to be around, though.
As soon as someone out east saw the hanji feature from yesterday, I got a call for an order. So I worked on that today, along with seeing Pam have a great open studio session in the morning. It made me SO happy to have someone in and working in the studio. It's so important to get people inside.
Dahlia brushed 3x onto last year's sheets whose pulp was dyed in dahlia.
Stayed up late to work on a new sample book and the general lesson plan for this weekend. Really looking forward to this one and know already that I have a bunch of great students.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Extra, extra

In the process of weaving these delightful ducks, I have found that I am very one-sided. I usually only consider one side of the duck as it grows (usually the left side of their bodies)—kind of like having a dominant eye/hand/foot, that habit of seeing the way that's easiest to see. When I finish, I turn it around, only to find it's something else entirely on the other side.

It has been grey and wet and muggy, but I am embracing weather more and more as a huge player in our lives, a go-to conversation piece, and a reliable inevitability. Today, I woke up in one of the nicest ways possible: "You made the paper!" Well, it's the digital version for now, but still great. Few outlets take the time to document every step of papermaking, so a big thank you to Gus Chan of the Plain Dealer for spending a week with me in the studio during a hanji production run.

Here is the slideshow with a video at the end.

Also, I was invited to join Provenance, a platform to showcase the stories behind makers. I was working on this last night, so now we have two more long image-powered stories about hanji. YAY.

Here is the story of making hanji in Cleveland.

Here is the story of making a paper duck in Deer Isle.