Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunny Monday

The smaller bal (screen) works like a dream, and my first batch of paper came out wonderfully...while still damp. When I peeled them away today, they stuck like crazy to the shiniest surfaces, which I suspect comes from the gampi content. The gampi is too soft to start with, was probably cooked with too much caustic, and then beaten in a hollander. So this recipe needs to be tweaked. But at least sheet formation is great, and our new teul (frame) works great.
Charity watered the tororo on Saturday, and then we rotated the table so that the ones in front could get a little more light and less direct heat. I think it worked to some extent, because when I checked on them today, some that refused to come up were finally poking out.
I realize now that because these are plants, I feel fine constantly posting images of them—unlike my niece, who is a person that belongs to other people, so I can't flood the internet with pictures of the cutest baby ever (of course I am biased but I think that she ranks up there in objective cuteness). I am so excited by these babies! But today I realized that we will come up against a problem: the gallery season begins at the Morgan on Friday, and I don't think we will be allowed to leave them in the perfect south-facing window under the heater. I worry that if they move to a less desirable location, they will fail. But we'll see what the verdict is later this week on forced relocation.
This Madagascar Labradorite was my splurge yesterday before I embarked on five to six hours of taxes. I cooked and rinsed some Ohio mulberry (regular mulberry, not paper) today, which smelled even better than a regular kozo cook, and wonder if I will be able to keep myself from picking out all the bark before prepping it for a tiny batch of local mulberry paper. In the meantime, I have been looking at apartments almost daily. Today, I will have gone to three cities before, during, and after work, and I can't wait for this part of the hunt to be over.

If you have a TV, tomorrow will be the national broadcast of the documentary that my sister edited, on PBS! Town Hall airs on Tuesday, April 1 at 8pm.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Taxes are finally done! I hope this predicts a positive, productive week ahead.

And milkweed is aggressive.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

More baby tororo

Day 2 of sprouts, the only decent photo, though you can't see much of what's going on (my head under the plastic.
 Day 3, when Charity came in again to help water.
Kirstin and Mason joined us to gawk.
Day 4, when I worried about them getting TOO hot and steamy in there and basically cooking. I can't quite tell if some sprouts are yellowing, and certainly not all have come up, but I love watching them lean towards the sun. Today I'll check up on them again with Charity.

We call the tororo hibiscus colloquially, even though it's been reclassified since (Abelmoschus manihot). They'll grow, we'll transplant outdoors once they're stronger and we don't risk frost, hoping to resist any critters (which is less of an issue in the urban environment but we still have them!), and as they grow flowers, we'll pinch off the flowers as they go to send energy down to the roots. In the fall, we'll dig up the whole plant for the roots, to clean and freeze in storage until we need it for formation aid. Which is that gooey stuff for Asian papermaking that distributes fibers evenly in water, increases the water's viscosity to allow more time to handle the slurry while forming the actual sheets on the screen, and disappears once the paper is dry. We get it from pounding the roots to wound them, and from those cuts, they will ooze a clear mucilage.

And then hopefully some of us will not get rashes from chemical formation aid on our arms!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Baby tororo!

I know that this is a terrible, out-of-focus picture. I'll get better ones tomorrow. But after at least 24 hours of self-doubt and frustration, I got the best news today from Charity upon arrival: she was watering the tororo and saw some sprouts! Suddenly, all the stress went away and it was replaced with sheer joy. Babies! It's amazing to feel a part of something bigger, of other people all over the place doing the same thing, like Susan in Colorado.

Speaking of nurturing babies, if you know of anyone interested in being an intern at the Morgan, applications are due April 18!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Too much sweet

I have gotten horrifically lazy and have resorted to not cooking all of my food from scratch. Unfortunately, most prepared food has way too much sodium and sweeteners, and then I feel icky. Last Friday, I went with a friend to an event for the upcoming Gay Games, and WHOA lots of food. I'm still in catch-up mode but got some free time over the weekend to have a nice leisurely dinner with Tony and get an itty bitty tour of the west side, look at a few apts because I have to move again in about a month, and run a thousand errands in a grand attempt to avoid sitting on my butt work.

Which makes this post by Charity, one of my wonderful apprentices, so apt. Note in the wood shop picture that Tom is smart enough to wear a shirt as smock, but not me (hooded), so now my coat is free of gasoline but has waterproof wood glue stains. I'm hopeless!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


From Tom's collection, a big beautiful burden basket. On Tuesday, I saw old baskets from Pam's grandmother, beautiful handles and so sturdy even after years of use. I saw gorgeous big gourds there, too, and then I did a double take when I was leaving the Chinese grocery the other day and saw a gaudy big statue of a man with a potbelly and a gourd strung around his waist.
I set out all the paper that the apprentices have been making for what I thought was going to be donor cultivation. But of course the meeting was postponed to next month, after I had set up this entire display. Sigh.
This is a drum full of plastic bags in the printshop where I teach. My students kept thinking it was a trash can so I had to throw a piece of wood on top, and then stacked phone books over that for good measure. It wasn't until today when I realized what it actually used to be! Amazing. If it was empty, I would have crawled in. These days, I'm barely making it through each set of 24 hours. Too much work! But once I get these writing deadlines out of the way, at least the glued to the computer part will feel slightly less onerous.

Monday, March 17, 2014

About my publisher

She is wonderful enough to deserve a separate post. Here is a great interview with Cathy Baker about The Legacy Press.

Pockets of transition

I am very happy with how the persimmon dye took on the first gourd, and am still deciding how to treat the second. I am amazed that I was even able to carve out the time to finish them, and equally amazed that I found the time to nearly finish a marvelous book about Julia Parker that has become a huge inspiration, just in time (thank you, Velma, for the gift of the book and the spirit behind it!).
In the meantime, we have finally started to assemble the bal teul (frames to hold Korean papermaking screens, like a mould) for the Morgan & Friends. I took Charity and Ivey to Tom's wood shop on Saturday and we are hoping that the waterproof wood glue that I picked up last week does the trick (also I have to now figure out how to get waterproof glue out of my coat, which I only just got gasoline out of. I will never learn to wear work clothes, will I?).
Melissa's teul is on the left (Tom left the hand holds long, which I want to trim, but we will leave it up to the owners of the hands to decide) and the prototype is on the right.
The weather has been a big tease lately, but it's still colder inside the Morgan on lots of days than outside. After lunch, we took the regular mulberry outdoors to stomp in an attempt to remove more 'black' bark before we scrape.
Here is the batch from last fall's harvest. This will make a different kind of paper and it's not first priority at all, nor do I imagine it will be part of the production line, but I am just terribly curious.

What else? We'll start tororo-aoi seeds this week, and Seth came by last week for a quick but important and helpful knife sharpening session. We produced some small but lovely sheets of paper made from purely Morgan kozo, picked by hand. I think that is the first time the Morgan has ever done that, which is why it's such a boon to have such excellent apprentices. We're back to training at the big vat and the sheets are getting better. Everyone is able to start the entire process from scratch, so I don't need to stay and supervise, which is the heart of the goal: for me to eventually walk away and still have everything operate smoothly. We're still a long ways away but I love seeing how well everyone is getting the hang of the process.

I'm also trying very hard to get better at the work life balance, which included going to see Pam's show (and splurging on some art! Though some wonderful pieces have already been sold), making salads, going to a birthday party that was more social than work, and taking Sunday off. It was so thoroughly off that it felt like a vacation, and involved two naps, a ton of reading, and admiring the full moon through the clouds. It's all part of the feeling that winter is finally ending, though its claws are still deep into us. The light helps.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First priority even if it's not supposed to be

I've become very skilled at avoiding admin in favor of weaving. It's gotten so bad that last night, I was so tired from teaching and training that I crawled into bed at 7:30pm. Of course, that meant I was wide awake at 3pm. Which meant that at 4am, I turned on the lights and started to weave.
This first one got kakishibu treatment from the inside because I need to coat the inside somehow. That was a lot of fun, and I left it hanging over my kitchen counter today.
You can see the collar mark from the rubber band, but it still needs more coats, and I will probably add kon'nyaku and/or rice paste as well because there are plenty of holes. The mini one is coming alone, the goal being to have the top of the gourd tilt over, which means a whole different way of approaching lopsided.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The side track is the important one

I shirked most of what I meant to do today (mostly a bunch of admin, yuck) and instead started a new gourd. I mean, I started it last night and then brought up the walls today. My hands are screaming but then I gave them more screaming material: impatience + unrealistic expectation that one hand could hold so much weight + lack of oven mitts = ow ow ow, hand burned on the oven rack! I hope this is the third bad thing so I can move on already with my March accidents (1. gasoline, 2. scraping side of car against pillar while parking, 3. burn).

But amidst not feeling at my best in my body or at work, I am heartened by how The Work has been rippling. Sammy was one of my students in Denver back in 2011 or so and now has new joomchi work, a show at a Boulder museum, and is teaching joomchi! Bill, another former student, is also teaching joomchi in town at the Morgan. This was part of the long-term goal to spread the wonders of hanji—I wanted others to get intrigued, invested, and interested in falling down the rabbit hole. The best part is that I end up with more friends and colleagues, and more places to point to when people ask, "What do you do with this paper?"

P.S.—The Morgan was awarded $12,000 from the Gund Foundation last week to support the Eastern Paper Studio! This goes towards matching our $50,000 grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. We still have a ways to go, but hooray for now!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

One day

So this one is finally done, to be a water bottle of sorts. I started it in August or so, and like the shoe, it was done in spurts. It didn't turn out exactly as I had envisioned, but it will do, and I learned plenty (partly that working in spurts makes for lots of gaps in memory, and errors). Of course, I want a better one, closer to what was in my head, so I just started a new one tonight. Tomorrow I'll set up some kakishibu to help waterproof it, though I may consider three layers: kaki, then rice paste, then kaki again. We'll see.

Today was my first day off in a while, and I got to enjoy the company of a dear friend, dress for the sunny warmer weather, shop, and do normal person things like get groceries and cook and eat and do dishes. I also watched this excellent short doc about Twinrocker, which was good timing because I've felt so frustrated by the sloth-like progress at work. Thank goodness for people like Kathy and Howard Clark, people who work hard, believe in the handmade, and have faith in doing what you love. And for people like Jim Croft, who does the same thing and shares the wealth: yesterday, I got a wonderful package from him filled with photos, the beginning of a book, paper and textile scraps, a bone tool, and a long handwritten letter. Charity said, "You always get such fun mail," and I said essentially that you get what you give.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Tiny pots of gold

Tom brought over the white developing tray that Tim suggested for picking bark, and set it up on top of a light table at the Morgan for my apprentices. Here, Charity and Ivey pick away to yield what is in that small container between them. It is looking very lovely, but we can barely keep up with processing because of these tedious steps. This is why almost no one in the world does this kind of work.
I'm still determined to do test batches, though, of kozo cooked in soda ash, and wood ash, and hand beaten, and machine beaten, and then we will go into full-scale production. Of course none of it goes as fast as I'd like, but That's Life. But to gauge some kind of progress, they laid out all of the paper they've made in the last month to inventory. I showed them samples of high-quality hanji, and also an excellent video on sheet formation around the world by the Koretskys.
What sustains me during these sleep-deprived days is the generosity and huge hearts of friends. Today, Julie's package arrived from Portland (OR) with two huge jars of healing body balm, whose ingredients include wildcrafted herbs and flowers and buds, shea and cocoa butters, Vitamin E oil, beeswax, lavender oil, and love. The last bit being most important. She also sent beautiful hand-beaten daphne paper, one with an inclusion of indigo-dyed bark lace. Hoping this all keeps me awake as I finish up 2,000 words for a publication deadline.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Drenched in trouble

Each month, I think things will get better, but really, every month is just as busy, so who am I kidding? I started my apprentices on picking bark before I left, so that is keeping THEM busy. Though I do want to scale up production, feeling nervous about our timeline.
This is what got me very behind on all of my writing and application deadlines: a mobbed table at the American Museum of Natural History last weekend!
This is when I still had the energy and time to snap pictures; I was only able to get about three bites of pizza in my face at a time while working. I never even saw the inside of the green room or the food catered for us because it was so busy!
I was fortunate, though, to have Esther (haven't seen her since our Fulbright year!) appear and volunteer for most of the day. I'm not sure how I thought I was going to man this table all by myself. It was wild!
I was also so happy to see Maria, even though we didn't have much time to catch up because I was doing my thing and she was doing hers. I stayed a little longer and booked an evening flight for yesterday so I could get 24 hours with the precious 5-mo niece. But that set me up for a horrific delay due to bad weather in Raleigh (that was where the plane we needed in NYC was coming from), so I didn't get back home until 1am. I promptly got up and left in the morning for Oberlin but had to stop for gas because I was too crazed to fill up on the way to the airport last week. Overly tired Aimee + self serve = Bad News. I accidentally splashed a whole lot of gasoline all over me and so the jacket above and my purse are now soaking in something that I'm sure will not solve the problem. I was lucky to have an extra coat hanging out in the trunk, but I was very unhappy. I haven't needed to locate a good dry cleaners in town but now I need to find one, pronto!
However, my visit to the Book in East Asia class at Oberlin was wonderful. It was SO good to be able to talk about what I care the most about and am most interested in: Asian paper/making. I showed them some videos of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese papermaking, had samples of all those, and then had them test brush and ink on an array of papers from Chinese calligraphy practice paper, hanji, Morgan Thai hanji-ish, Morgan cotton, and bristol. Somehow, I made it back to the Morgan to train Charity, and I was so tired of the fiber going bad that we made deckle box sheets to at least get it dry and in a better form to store.

Oh! My photographer (the best in the world, hands down) is going to be showing in NYC this week. I wish I could be there. If you are in town, visit!