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.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cool nights

I turned my house upside down for about 24 hours, looking for these Chinese papercuts. Six of them were taken from the group for a small edition of books.
For the prior edition, I had to cut the original dummy apart, which I don't think I've ever done after bridling. Here are the pieces of the binding after surgery.
The cutest couple at the Fuller Craft Museum! They came to visit and do some joomchi on my Boston trip #2 (thanks to Lisa for sharing the pic).
And thanks to Philip for this picture from his collection of woven and lacquered paper objects. I'm wrestling with my syllabus right now since class begins in a week and I was shocked by how cool it got last night. It's real back to school weather.

Stefan shot my new editions, which you can see here (first 8 pictures). In New York I saw my high school English teacher and when complaining about my grantwriting workload, she said, So your work is like a cancer researcher, where you go from grant to grant? I never thought of it like that, but grant cycles are pretty endless. I will be trapped under a few big deadlines for the next month+. Here we go!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Up and down the east coast

Last week we were finishing up the papermaking class in Boston. Ellen is holding the board so that Gunta can brush the pressed sheet onto it to dry.
This is probably where I'm showing how much color is in the water after soaking onion skins (generously donated by Gunta), before cooking. It's all on top of Michelle's bark lace in progress where the screen is being used as a weight to keep everything from flying since the fans were on all class to mitigate the heat (she is at far right).
Ania did a lot of bark manipulation and loved getting into amate.
The clothesline to dry dyed papers and thread was way too close to the fridge but it's all about making do.
Jesse had already ordered a Swedish bobbin winder I think; most of these students got the hang of it even though it was clamped to a not entirely stable surface.
Molly is practicing with a cookie tray of sorts, practicing the wave formation with just water.

Since I got back to NY from Boston, I've done a lot but pretty much none of the work that I "should" be doing (administrative, grant writing, syllabus revising). Tomorrow I drive back up to teach for a two-hour slot, though people can come at any time to drop in and learn joomchi at the Fuller Craft Museum. Then I'll brave Friday afternoon traffic to attempt a visit to view Korean objects at the Peabody Essex Museum. I'm afraid I won't make it, given how congested it will be, but I'll try! Otherwise, seeing these beautiful lacquered hanji cups will have to wait until December.