Friday, May 17, 2013

Outrageous riches

Oh, my. I had no idea what treasures were in store for me when I went to meet a textile conservator at the Met who specializes in Korean hemp and ramie.
I brought samples of my own, hanji and barks and the like. But I was so amazed by what she had done in her fieldwork that spans almost 10 years. She knows a hemp farmer in Korea who is trying to develop a market for hemp paper (you can see that below, both printed and not, to the left of the woven piece of fabric).
The stiff sample in the lower corner smells strong, starched with soybeans. This kind of material used to be widely prevalent in Korea but has fallen to near oblivion because it is so labor intensive and expensive. Of course it is women's work.
There was so much to talk about, so many notes to compare, overlaps and divergence in research, all in a small office where I sat next to lots of pins and needles. It amazes me how people do this conservation work full time but are also so devoted to their own research.
Straight: Korean ramie before removing the epidermis. Wound in a circle: Japanese hemp samples. She asked me how I make a living and I said I don't, really, in a way that makes sense to 'normal' folks. I used to think in my 20s that there had to be another way to make a living as an artist that was not 1. selling art through gallery representation or 2. teaching. Now I realize that, aside from the 0.001% of artists who can make a living solely off of making their art, there are only two ways to stay afloat: 1. working a job that is other than making your art or 2. having a patron (or more). Her concern was that if I go in direction #1, that I will not be able to keep my passion at the forefront of my life, and that she might call me in a few years and I'd say, "Oh, I don't do that [hanji stuff] anymore."
But I had a good back and forth with Tam yesterday and she seems to think I'll keep it front and center. I hope so. It's an uphill climb but isn't everything, at least everything that matters? Then I came home and was thrilled to get even more beautiful samples in the mail, this time from Susan Byrd. Four shifu samples, by her and by a master. Her book will be published this year by my publisher and I can't wait! This was the perfect way to start my work weekend, inspired.


  1. All so beautiful! Including the conversations.

  2. Anonymous12:05 PM

    wonderful "stuff" - all of it and the best part is other people that understand - both your passion and circumstances.

  3. great, oh great stuff, great exchanges!


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