Monday, October 31, 2011

Working through sadness

This is some more e. e. cummings on my "weekend work": thick paper yarn knitted into what will eventually (hopefully) be a big(ger) knit book. Librarians and other people who see my knitted books always ask me about my choice of scale (small) and mostly I don't think about it the way they do. In that I don't like to design my work way out, only a teensy bit. I let my hands do the work.

But these days I have been trying to train new habits, or at least try them out to see how they fit. I have regular pockets of sad time, getting used to not having Ben in my life anymore, and re-read a quote yesterday about the best cure for all sadness: to learn something new. I always sign up for classes after a breakup, and it has been fascinating to witness my resistance to listening to my new teacher, because I am so used to NOT designing and NOT spending a lot of time planning something out before I dive in with the intense hand work. I finally relented a little and was given permission to start carving my blocks. It's funny, since I am compulsive about planning certain things (like my life and days) but can't stand planning other things (like cookie recipes, trips, and image/color separation of images).

Today, I am already an hour behind the regular schedule. But I'm still hopeful that I'll get most of the list checked off by nighttime.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hunker down

[Warmer days.] Rain is shifting to snow; they're confused with each other. It's one of those days where you roast things in the oven partly to cook food but mostly to have the oven on. Greyness keeps me inside, but for a moment I ran to the library and ran back, and caught a poem for the day:
seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

--e. e. cummings

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dim, dimly

[From Tuesday, a choppy day on the water.] Today's plans were waylaid, but in a good way, since I got more time to rest and work. Writing is still chugging along, a surprise but also a comfort. I thought about what both Terry Tempest Williams and Susan Tweit wrote, about the importance of journals. It made me bolt up in bed at 1am, turn on the light, and dig through a corner of storage devoted to all of my old journals and sketchbooks. I nearly pulled a muscle trying to dig out the ones I needed: from Korea.

[Last night.] While digging, I browsed through selections of other journals from way back, and was amazed: history repeats itself. I'd read myself writing the same thing over and over again, these doubts I had about myself, the observations that other people would make about me (whether or not their opinions were welcome or invited), and then the inevitable run I'd make to my sister, who would always reassure me that I was just fine. This morning, I read more work by Glenn Omatsu, which confirmed the fact that history repeats itself, where he talks about the corporate war on the poor in the late 1970s and how it affected civil rights movements.

It's all very disheartening, especially on a rainy day, but all the more impetus for me to continue mining my recent past, making choices about how to spin it, how I am writing and rewriting my own history in hopes that it serves a greater good. It's not just about the papermaking, but I'm grateful that papermaking woke me up and that I get to write about working in water on rainy days.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

10,000 words, 10 hours

I think that's how much I've written so far. Slow and steady. I forgot to mention that last night, Susan Saladoff, the director of "Hot Coffee," the film that my sister edited, was on the Colbert Report last night. You can watch the interview online, where Susan was able to give a lot of good info on what tort reform really is (I love how she says it should be called tort deform). I've been reading about Asian American activism, and have been thinking about how to do activist work beyond the obvious methods. Then I think of my sister, who is now cutting a documentary about how corporations don't pay taxes. How she doesn't get totally depressed is beyond me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Calmer

My head was still going a million miles on a short walk today, but the wind boxed my ears and I finally came down. On the way home, some milkweed. Always makes me happy.

Real work

Yesterday, I started a new writing regimen and new work schedule. It's hard, but it feels good to know I can do it. I'm hoping that in a month, I will get stronger and more accustomed to the structure. Meanwhile, I just got a comment on my jiseung video that made me laugh. People seem to think that it's a "how to" video, rather than a quick intro to the craft. I have noticed the hits on it climbing by the tens of thousands and have no idea why. It's a little stressful, frankly, and people keep subscribing to my channel. I wish I could say, "I'm not adding more videos any time soon!" It's amazing how thirsty people are for how-to's; it creates the challenge of sorting out my feelings about giving away instruction just because people expect it in the days of "free," immediate, and ubiquitous information.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Whizzing + contemplation

The color change is slower than usual. I have been thinking about things, nearly getting big thoughts together and in line, only to lose them again while running around, either via mind distractions or my legs.

I was so happy to see Melissa on Friday and get some hang out/set up time before her CBA class started. She gave me brilliant gifts of paper and tools; it's such a treat to not be asked, "What do you want?" and simply be given exactly what it is I need.

I feel like my admin head and studio head and writing head and relationship head are all not quite cooperating. There is so much to figure out and shift, about the impossibility of constant balance, about the reality of constant change, and about how to live while friendly with death. So, all of those heads have been over the moon while reading these past few days. Terry Tempest Williams is an amazing gift to us. I wanted to share so much from Refuge, but why don't you just re/read it instead? To get bits like this:
The site adjacent to ours has already been excavated. Larry informed us that they had uncovered a burial: an Anasazi woman, approximate date A.D. 1050-1200.

"But what was unusual about this site were the objects we found buried with her--three ollas, corrugated vessels used for carrying water, and several large balls of clay. You could still see the palm prints of the person who had made them." He paused. "She was wearing a turquoise pendant. We believe she was a potter."

"And where is she now?" I asked.

"We reburied her."

I feel like a potter trying to shape my life with the materials at hand. But my creation is internal. My vessel is my body, where I hold a space of healing for those I love. Each day becomes a firing, a further refinement of the potter's process.

I must also learn to hold a space for myself, to not give everything away. It reminds me of the Indian teachings of Samkhya:
If you consciously hold within yourself three quarters of your power and use only one quarter to respond to any communication coming from others, you can stop the automatic, immediate and thoughtless movement outwards, which leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, of having been consumed by life. This stopping of the movement outwards is not self-defense, but rather an effort to have the response come from within, from the deepest part of one's being.
--Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where I wish I was

Someday, I'll also have a bamboo forest in my backyard. Today was a long day in town, but wonderful. I visited Robbin in her beautiful home and studio, which keeps changing and getting more lovely (the fig trees are HUGE!) each time I visit. The neighborhood has changed so much, or at least their block. Unbelievable, gentrification.

We had a delicious lunch, as always, and it was a rare treat to spend so much time with her. I felt this compulsion to help her, since I used to work for her, and was so grateful for the mentoring she continues to do for me. We talked about the lack of awareness and research in injury prevention in papermaking, how you really can have everything you want in life as long as you are clear about what it is you want and are patient, massive life changes, making work in the world versus networking in the world, weaving paper, and so on and so ON. To feel the changes in both her and myself were fascinating. Plus, it was a beautiful day.

Then I went to prep for class and it turns out we are at full enrollment! Two more women signed up, and it will be a really nice group. I was completely hung up about trying to design a print that requires the least amount of carving work possible. I will definitely be the exasperating student, which is funny after our afternoon talk about the need to work hard. I'll get over it soon enough; I probably needed time to resist myself for a bit before I do the right thing, or simply go into competitive mode when I see myself falling behind everyone else. Oh, the joy of working amongst people again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Muddling along

I am still unprepared for class tomorrow. I need to have a drawing of the print I want to make. Eh. At least I think I finally got the faux mechanical drawings done for the article I drafted last week, so I am free to draw now, sans ruler! I'm feeling antsy about older work I made that is all rolled up; I'm tempted to slash and bind into big books--lighter versions of Anselm Kiefer's. I keep forgetting that he's still alive and not that old, and found out about a film about his process that hopefully I can see someday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shopping and ABBA

[The basket I finished on my bday: hanji coated in coagulated kakishibu and kon'nyaku.] Just when I thought I'd get back into hyper work mode, I got a spa day today with my mom and Terttu. They have a lot in common, my mother having immigrated alone to the U.S. when she was 22 and Terttu when she was 18. The former reminds the latter of her own mother, since our moms both love ABBA and shopping, which we experienced today. I love going to the sauna with people who get it--no freaking out about everyone being naked, or the hot tubs, or the steam sauna, or the cold tanks, or the Korean food afterwards and heated floor naps. I mailed a package to my grandmother today, and thought about how she and my mom have always had a very difficult relationship. I could have easily gone that route, but I spent years in therapy + a year in Korea to work on understanding the relationship. It's not perfect, and we have our ugly moments, but I'm reminded again of what Chela said years ago: going to Korea would be all about dealing with my mom. So prescient! In that sense, then, all of the hanji research is just a large and happy byproduct of a much bigger life change. For which I am grateful.

BTW, I am looking now at Chela's new work and want it all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drawing straight lines

Terttu shot this. Isn't she the best? She got all five family members in the shot, even though the men were outside during the singing and candle wishing. A walk to the river, friends and family, cake, potato chips, lobster, tea, wine, apples, berries, Korean food, reading, journaling, a library trip, noticing a big milkweed patch, spotting tame wild animals, deer and wild strawberry sightings, sifting through old photo albums, drawing, a fave TV show, a nap, yoga, meditation, whew! I never thought it was possible to get that many Things I Like done/eaten in one day, so yesterday was pretty special.

But now it's Monday, and after leftover bday cake for breakfast (and b/t bfast-lunch, and after lunch), I had to get to work. I watched "The Snowman" and did some preliminary sketches for my woodblock class, which was pleasant enough. But then I started my attempts at mechanical drawing, except not really, since I refuse to do them to scale. I used to be really good at this, in middle school, but I don't have any of the right tools now. I spent all day on ONE drawing and have this fear that after doing all of them, the editor who requested drawings and work plans (we had no work plans last year in Cleveland; we made it up as we went along) will reject them. But I like to think it's good for me to draw these all, anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pleasant things

Hanji samples that never made the cut. This is the "wrinkles" batch being tested: first they got coated with methylcellulose yesterday. Then I methylcellulosed several into larger patched pieces so I can make slightly larger images.

And these are the tests: unsized hanji vs. methylcellulose as external sizing. Is there a difference? Yes. Will it be enough to hold up to multiple print runs? Good question. Won't know for a while. But I'd prefer sticking to MC since the other external sizing options are all substances that insects love to eat.

The colors are changing slowly. My mother predicts slow color change but drastic leaf loss. We shall see. Today I jumped onto a train to have a sister afternoon/evening. We met at the art supply store so she could get me birthday gifts: woodcarving tools! Then a walk, frozen yogurt, shopping, and a Korean dinner. She got me a bday cake plus very exciting candles. Leave it to the Koreans to make such lovely things. We'll see each other again tomorrow with the rest of the family and another cake. I'm glad I caught that train.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Newness

[The ones that didn't make the cut of 1,700 samples.] I've been in such anticipation for months now for my Japanese woodblock class. Tonight was our first! The group is super nice and I've wanted to study with Takuji for years. Now that I have an extra, but new, thing on my plate, I hope I will organize my time better and get everything else done. And I am less than 30 pages away from finishing the 500 pages of this Korean history book after a couple of big-push days, so the self-prescribed medicine is almost drained. Hooray!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

True warmth

Yesterday's mailbox yielded a soft package that was still warm when I opened it (it was sunny yesterday, so I assume it warmed it while the mail carrier was making deliveries). See the spun paper that wrapped the gift? So you know it was from Velma!

It came in the middle of a very productive day. An article draft done, 1,700 tiny pieces of hanji sorted and counted, a stirring draft of the speech I would have made about the merits of papermaking if I was able to, another chapter of Korean history read, and a delicious hot lunch made in the excitement of Getting Things Done. Maybe the full moon was to blame. I didn't want to go to sleep because I knew that not every day would be so productive, and I wasn't looking forward to whatever slump today would bring. But I got up to Jami recommending a superb article about single women. Today also brings a bright spot: I'm going to visit the bakery to try a carrot cupcake. If I like it, cupcakes for my birthday this weekend! If not, two cakes are already ordered for that day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stasis

That's where I am these days, which explains my crotchety-ness. Though I did sew up a blank book yesterday with scraps of both paper and thread, and it calmed me. I realized I should do something equally mindless but handful daily to keep myself sane.

Today's adventure was to take a walk. I hate to do this in this area b/c the nice place to walk is still very close to civilization (cars, planes, houses, people). But I did it despite my neuroses, and got to see my favorite bamboo fence/forest that someone planted in their backyard to increase privacy on this walkway. And I learned something! It's fall (even though we hit a warm spell). The leaves are falling. I know because I saw them fall.

It doesn't seem like a big deal but to me right now it is.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inheritance

I had a lovely dinner and conversation and walk with my friend last night, and she affirmed the thoughts I've been recognizing for a few days now about her generation and mine. I know I may sound terribly whiny. I am jealous of a generation that seems to have had a good run of it, that started with a grounding in nature and real-person socialization, and then witnessed and participated in the technology onslaught and redefinition of our lives, and even had some faith in our leaders. Mostly, I'm jealous that they get to die before things get really, really bad. It seems like our species is rapidly regressing and I miss being around people who enjoy walking outside (and I don't mean on pavement or through urban jungles) or exchanging thoughts about books they are reading or have just read, since they always read books (real books that reflect, not project, light). And the funny thing is that I don't know how I turned out this way: I grew up so removed from nature, or at least the wilderness, and am still squirmish about a lot of it. I realized this morning that it all changed once I started traveling on artist residencies. I'm grateful for the chance to have seen so many different landscapes in so many disparate locations, and for the good fortune to have been taken out of the rat races in cities. You can't know until you know.

Landscapes in China

Also! Yuan Zuo, a brilliant Chinese painter I met while we were both teaching in VT this summer, will be having a show in Beijing that opens on Saturday.

Opening: October 15th, 2011, 3:00 pm (Lecture at 2pm)

Exhibition Date: October 15th-30th, 2011

Venue: Inside-Out Art Museum

Address: No.65 Xingshikou Road, Haidian District, Beijing

Miniblog: weibo.com/insideoutartx

Sponsor: Beijing Xishan Industry Investment Co., Ltd.
Beijing Inside-out Art Investment Co., Ltd.

Media Support: Art China

Tel: 8610-6285 6651 Fax: 8610-6285 6688

Something of a true weekend

I had planned to work all day Saturday but after indulging myself at the farmers market, couldn't bear to stay inside when it seemed the whole world was outside and gleeful. So I rode into town and met my sister and her husband to dawdle in and out of stores and watch a movie, "Moneyball." Then ambling up to Koreatown for food, and home before late. All the acting like a regular person enjoying the weekend put me to bed with slight vertigo, for no reason I could surmise, but I woke up without it this morning. After lazy Sunday reading (a huge Korean history book), I took a LONG midday nap, which is uncharacteristic, where I dreamed about drying hanji. After more reading, a haircut! Tonight, a week-early birthday dinner w/an old friend, who was my teacher.

Yesterday morning, I wondered about why I am a generation (or more) younger than so many of my close friends. Was I was born at the wrong time or am I again refusing to act my age? I thought as a pre-adolescent that I'd be able to skip adolescence after reading about how terrible it was. That backfired, I actually delayed my adolescence, and now am way behind where I "should" be, developmentally. Yet for years, I have been reading about death and dying, about preparing for old age and the end of life, and I wonder if I'm again trying to skip a decade or three. I spend so much time hearing about menopause that I sometimes think my symptoms are related, even though they are most certainly not.

This last trip to Cleveland at least made me feel like an adult in a few ways: being sick enough but having to work, so succumbing to buying OTC drugs, gaining more confidence when backing out of driveways, and remembering every time before it's too late to turn off the headlights when I park the car. And, this weekend, letting myself have a weekend!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Memento mori

Last night, I went to an opening at the Irish Historical Society because my dear friends Inga and Andy from Northern Ireland were there. Inga had a piece in the show that was on the floor, partially under the grand piano (look at the first piece in "exhibitions" - that's the one). The theme was black, or darkness, and called dubh. Her fiber piece reminded me of ones I had seen when I was in Belfast and Bangor, but then I noticed these small charred-looking bones of porcelain. They TOTALLY made the piece. She carried a rusty box with her purse last night and I wondered all night why, until I asked her about the bones and she asked if I'd like one and she opened the box and they were full of them, with a little handmade paper tag tied around them: MEMENTO MORI.

These days, all days, it seems appropriate. In Cleveland, my host/surrogate mom said she was glad she didn't have to raise small children right now (her sons are in their mid to late 20s), and how sad it is to see that people don't really care about each other anymore. She has always been an active member of her street collective, a volunteer, works hospitality in a hospital, takes care of a woman with MS, and has started taking care of a stray cat that appeared when her beloved dog passed of cancer. She's a wonderfully compassionate human being, built to be a caretaker, though even she needs a break from time to time. But when my sister asked me what exactly that meant, about people not caring about each other, I said it was bigger than not helping your elderly neighbor take out the trash or giving to those in more need. It's the outrageous stuff that happens every day, like men thinking women need to "be prepared" for rape, men who are public servants. Though we've all given up on politicians, it's because they've forgotten the job they were actually supposed to do, to serve the public. I don't think people know what service looks like anymore, or feels like. Maybe we're all in denial of dying, or in morbid fear of it.

At least now I have this beautiful bone.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Early stages of attachment

[These old stories again, from 2004. They've had about three lives so far, and I'm pondering the fourth now.] You know how you get to the point in a relationship where you start to leave a toothbrush? I left my boots in Cleveland. AND my hanji screen. That's a lot of trust, but it makes sense to me. I can't make hanji anywhere but the Morgan, and hopefully the boots don't walk.

I'm not taking it personally that it rained almost my entire two weeks in Ohio and the sun came out just as I left. The weather doesn't care about me. I slept in and managed to get back into the physical self-care routine I had created for myself, and was relieved that I hadn't really lost any strength. Though it's hard to imagine I could have, after so much big papermaking. I wish there was some kind of exercise that prepares you for that kind of physical exertion, but the only thing I can imagine that would come close is farming. Now I am back to the usual mental and administrative exertion that happens as I park my ass in front of the computer. With a pause here and there to snail mail love out into the world.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Small victories

I cheated today and dried eight sheets of Morgan kozo that I made Japanese style, on the heat dryer, without pressing. I love skipping steps. They're lovely. I managed also to make one perfect blue sheet in drying, but ripped it while peeling it off the dryer. Tom got my VERY best one, the last two that I left stuck together instead of attempting to part them. So the Morgan now has a nice selection of hanji: Japanese kozo, Korean dak, Thai kozo, and two blues. I'm going home with the rest. Velma, even in the midst of her own challenges, gave me very very good advice last night, which I followed today. I cut down a TON of hanji into 2x3 samples while I had use of a shears and guillotine. I think I have almost 2,000 but have to curate them when I get home. I had hoped to do it here with a lightbox, but this is pretty good progress for a week of work. And what a week it has been! I'll be happy to get home tomorrow, if for nothing but a night of sleep and a morning of sleeping in.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A brief breather

Tom demoed a watermark on laser-cut foam for a special preview audience last night.

Julie took great pictures for me last night during my demos of Korean and Japanese papermaking. Like last year when she took my hanji workshop, she was so helpful and gracious, and so good natured. I loved seeing her with her husband, who was also a trooper, beating fiber all day and always working, heoping out. It's rare to see such a solid, healthy marriage (31 years!), so that was a treat these past days.

Marcus and a bunch of other interns appeared last night, which was so fun. I especially loved seeing how they've bonded so tightly through working here.

The blue is still jarring, though the paper dries much more lovely than this garish tone. I worked overtime at the mill so I missed the closing of the auction, where I was outbid on everything. I finally met Rebecca Cross, another Obie, who does gorgeous fiber work. We fondled each others scarves. I also got to meet Deborah Howe this weekend, on the board of the Morgan, who was so sweet and amiable. We talked last night about group meetings of book and paper people, and how she likes them. I steer clear, for a variety of reasons, but we come from different generations in the field. My mentors and predecessors had to figure things out on their own, and created strong networks of friends and colleagues. I walked into an MFA program (by then, curricula had been developed, books had been written, a field starting to solidify and codify), didn't click with my cohort, and never developed that particular kind of community (at least, not right away). This morning, Tom said that if I went to group meetings, I'd make more friends. I love my friends and value friendship more than almost everything, but I'm not looking for more friends.

Over the years, I keep feeling a veil that falls behind my eyes when I interact with people. Maybe it became more noticeable when an ex-friend told me that I was cold. This horrified me, since I had spent much of my teens and 20s trying to be warm and huggy. But as time passed, I thought, maybe I am cold. Or, maybe I need more space than I thought I did. I hated myself for a while when I'd feel the screen come down: I'd hear myself talking and feel myself going through the motions, but I never connected. I worried that I was a fraud. I felt it last night during the demos, and probably self-preservation instincts were kicking in--maybe there is no way to survive without the shield. It has been hard to make paper amidst crowds, or even a few people, or even with one person that I like very much here and there. I like making paper alone. That's the whole point for me, just me and the mess.

I was amazed by how all of these people who were a generation older than me were still energetic and hanging out after the open house, with no signs of leaving or flagging. I left at midnight, feeling like crap, since I've been battling season-change-over-worked sickness and in the middle of my period. But even though I was completely wrung out, I stayed up to work. I've felt out of sorts since I got to Ohio because I haven't been on top of my admin, my daily ordering of my life, my compulsiveness. Once my receipts were labeled, logged, and filed, and various other pressing things unraveled, I finally felt like I could crawl into bed. But it has been COLD, and windy. I could barely breathe from congestion and then fell into a natural state of grief, crying in my exhaustion. My loss is different and less profound than hers, but I read Susan Tweit's recent blog post, and her keening resonated deeply.

I obviously fell down this entire trip on self care, trying to survive solely on drive. But I can't sustain it. I watch Tom and marvel at how he can keep working, all day, all night, every day, for years, without much fuel, with such a good heart and attitude. Meanwhile, I feel like a dried-up carrot that has been run over and is washing away in the rain. This carrot soup has another long drive back to Oberlin to drop off books and have a meeting, then back for dinner with my surrogate mom, and then a giant pile of work before tomorrow's lecture at CIA and workshop with enthusiastic book arts students. If I'm lucky, I'll muster up the strength to do one last papermaking afternoon on Monday before packing it all in for Tuesday's flight home. Today is my first day not getting wet after a week of pushing too hard. Maybe this breather will make it possible to have one last quiet papermaking session tomorrow before I'm done for the year.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Today's the day!

I know it's miserable weather but if you are in the Cleveland area, drop by the Morgan tonight for their annual open house. The art is fabulous, and I'm sure the food / drink / entertainment will be as well. I'll do hanji demos from 7:15 to 8pm and there will be binding and letterpress demos as well throughout the night.

See you soon!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Struggles and blue

I'm still completely biased towards the Korean fiber. Everything else has been destroying me. Yesterday was especially hard, partly b/c more people have gotten to town and were at the Morgan, so there was a large audience for my failures. But we went blue! It was SO unnerving to pull, but today it was better. You get used to it. Parting is not happening but I'm still learning a lot. SO much.