Tuesday, November 26, 2019

One last push

This is the time of year where it's easy to panic: the end is in sight and yet I am unprepared! If I could only do what I liked, I'd play with paper honeycombs all day. But instead I need to prepare for one last performance this year, making paper for a radio show.
Last week, I went to the airport to see my pieces (the black and then the maroon after it, apparently leading to Concourse A at Cleveland Hopkins. I never fly out of this concourse so I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been told to go here) during a reception.
The two sheet cakes actually each had the image of the show card on them: one for the solo artist Walter Grossman, and one for our group exhibit.
I was pleasantly surprised by how efficient and thoughtful the event was. The show also included city employees, and it was gratifying to see cops, water and utility workers, and so on be recognized. It's likely the most inclusive show I've ever been a part of, and that felt good.
An 8-yo made that mallard drawing! There is an entire youth gallery section in a very public area of the airport. I learned a lot about the art programming and was glad that I made the drive to attend—usually I think it's odd to go to the airport if you're not traveling or driving a traveler, but this reminded me that many, many people work at the airport, so our experiences are very different.

On Wed, Dec 11, I'll be part of a local radio show's community tour at the Beachland Ballroom, presenting my papermaking alongside musicians, dancers/choreographer, a poet, and a storyteller. We'll each perform for five minutes before being interviewed, and the edited version will broadcast the following week on WCPN at 9am on Dec 18. The live event is free to the public! Here is the FB page, and here is the invite info.

Thursday, November 21, 2019


Jean is a constant source of inspiration and it seems like she was doing one thing with mushrooms outdoors while I was inside busy on my second set of them (the first is in Oberlin for my show).
I saw shiny red pomegranates at the market last week or so and had to save skins for future dyeing. Now that I suspect that former brittleness of paper that I dyed with these skins years ago is probably due to the industrial soy milk that I used, I want to test them again with only alum.
After wanting to make honeycomb paper with my paper for YEARS, I finally sat down last night to do it. Part of the delay was not remembering where I had stored my glue bottle for several weeks. I still do this a lot, today being the search for my hammer. The other week I had left the gas on my stove for a while after heating up soup. Even while cleaning it and standing right over it, I didn't see the tiny flames because the sun was streaming in at just the right force and angle to disguise it. I can't tell the future, but I'm fairly certain that this is how I'll die.
This morning I experimented with the glassine scrap honeycombs. Then I got distracted searching for my hammer to drive pins and needles into wood to put my mushrooms somewhere else to hang out.
This week has been full of spreadsheets and online orders and talking with different vendors and comparing prices and imagining the future. It's always wonderful and terrible when equipping a new paper studio. This is a space I've worked in for years, but with rented equipment. Soon, another college will have a sweet papermaking outfit in an old gym shower. When I get tired of crunching numbers, I get back to paper in my hands.

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.