Thursday, April 30, 2015

What is actually happening now

Yesterday I had lunch with Charity (we visited Zygote, too, which is always fun). Afterwards, I saw Tom out in the garden with long pruning shears and asked if he wanted help: we worked on clearing one side of the fence line of trees and vines so that the fence can come down now that we finally have the deed to the next lot. He did most of it but have scrapes and soreness to prove I did something. Kirstin has been watering the seedlings on the ground in flats: more tororo, and indigo. Garden expansion very soon!

All about the latest hanji dress

In 2008, I was in Korea doing Fulbright research and met a teacher in her 80s who showed me how to fuse paper to paper. She provided colored hanji and white hanji and had me make six sheets of this joomchi process as my initial "homework." The paper shrunk slightly down to 22x33" and the next steps were: back it, make a garment, have a famous person model it, and then hand over the clothes and photos to my teacher. Like old studios in various cultures, whatever you make under the master becomes the master's work. I only got the first step done, and then left the sheets with my aunt so she could return them with my apologies for not finishing all my homework. Above is the hanji on the left and iron-on interfacing on the right.
This is after the interfacing is fused, not quite wide enough for the entire sheet, but serviceable. In 2014, I was back in Korea on a different grant and my aunt happened to uncover the paper—she had never returned it! I brought it to Jeju Island to see my teacher, now in her 90s, bedridden, with enough dementia to render me a stranger. It seemed counterproductive to return the paper and I brought it back home in December, determined to finish some of my homework.
I went to Bolt and Spool for thin interfacing and a manageable pattern. Debbie was super helpful and gave me good advice on all of the initial steps while pulling out simple patterns. I spotted one called "Washi Dress" and asked, "What about that one?" My initial attraction was to the name: washi means Japanese paper, which is the center of my current research report after going to Japan last November on a different grant. The pattern was named after the fabric design, which was named after washi tape (colorful tapes made with washi, which seem more popular than the paper itself...a big sigh from the papermaker here). I thought it would work well with the idea of making a hanji (Korean paper) dress! Above, you see the biggest flaw in my construction, which I couldn't work around: the back had to be constructed from seamed sheets.
After all the hanji was backed and cut, I used my mom's sewing machine during a trip to NY and did my best to follow instructions. I am not a dressmaker, so there was a lot of running back and forth between the sewing machine and the computer, searching for things like, "what is staystitching and DO I HAVE TO?" I did almost everything by the pattern, which was a great lesson! All the things I hadn't realized that I had been curious about throughout my life, in relation to how clothes are made, became really clear and mostly fun.

The front is constructed more elegantly than the back, with three panels on the front skirt to compensate for the limitations of the paper dimensions. For the most part, the seams coincide with the pleats to reduce distraction.
Getting it back to Cleveland on a plane was slightly nervewracking, because it's not easy to iron this: not because it's paper, but because of the joomchi-ed pieces on the dress. I put it in a garment bag and then the overhead compartment; the plane didn't have a closet.
Shirring was so fun! I kept the seam out of the photo so that we can pretend it never happened.
Home safe! I took it to the studio a few weeks ago when a bunch of book folks were in town for a gathering, and was surprised when the chairperson, from Iowa City, said, "Hey, is that the washi dress?" She had bought the pattern but hadn't made the dress yet!
People always marvel at paper dresses and always ask, "Can you wash it?" I could, but it would never look the same. I don't make paper dresses to wear them, especially warm weather dresses. Paper is such a good insulator that I work up a sweat whenever I wear this dress or my paper scarves. I like the idea of making clothes (and everything else) out of paper, and seeing how cloth-like paper handles. Sometimes it acts more like paper, sometimes more like fabric. The interfacing definitely helps with strength; there is no way I could have sewn this without backing, and even with it had a few tears—no surprise, given how thin the paper was.

Special thanks to Bolt and Spool! They had asked me to write a blog post about this dress back in February and I said okay, but not until I finish my other writing. After seeing Debbie yesterday to show her the dress, I felt guilty for not writing it, so I figured I'd post it here. Also, I'm still not done with my other writing. But you can read more about joomchi in Chapter 8 of my book, Hanji Unfurled (with pictures of making this very hanji, before I even knew I'd see it again and turn it into a dress). And no matter what, the washi report will be done in less than a month and free for the public to read!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Some time in March during a Sunday frantically cording hanji, I heard this interview about a new vegetarian cookbook. I was totally fascinated by the science behind things and though I never buy cookbooks, I knew I wanted it right away. My beau got it for me that day (the only other cookbook I had was given to me by a friend, and it was for vegan food! I learned a lot from that one, over 15 years ago). I've been bored by my cooking at home and thought that if I got a better grip on making things tastier, I'd be happier and a better host. I still haven't gotten through the whole book but already have some favorites. I've been doing two to three new recipes each week. Last week I finally got around to napa cabbage and white mushroom potstickers.
This was one of the very first recipes I saw and knew I wanted to do: samosas! I made the first batch for Yuko, and even though the filling and dipping sauce were perfect, I messed up the rolling out and stuffing of the dough, as well as the final frying, so I was disappointed (but gladly ate up the rest of the filling sans skin). I told Mimi about my samosa adventures and she was curious, so I told her I'd try a new batch to feed her lunch today! I made the filling on Sunday night, the dough on Monday night, and spent the morning Tuesday (today) rolling out dough and stuffing smaller versions of the first attempt.
I also decided to bake them, which was what I wanted to do the first time, but ran out of time. So these are shiny and brown from egg whites on top before they went into the oven. A bunch split open, but because the filling is fairly dry, it didn't make a mess. DELICIOUS. Mimi and I were very happy. In case you're wondering why I seem to only feed my Japanese friends, it's because I don't have a dining set so I am limited to guests who are comfortable sitting on the floor.

Though my relationship with food is not always healthy and this is a distraction to keep me from other work at hand, it's terribly satisfying. I'm still obsessed with paper—saw an interesting piece about spirit paper in Hong Kong, updated for contemporary times! Let's see if I can edit this report on Japanese papermaking on a jolly full stomach.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Nostalgic for teamwork

Mason announced this week that he's leaving the Morgan, so suddenly everyone whipped into action to get stuff done in his last two weeks. Julie had started the team last weekend and after I did a little more sanding and scraping away of silicone caulk, Tom trimmed the replacement oak for the seam to fit the front and corner. 
Julie and I had done a run to the hardware store when she was in town and found some heavy duty marine sealant so Mason got it ready to go after Tom brought over his compressor and two nail guns.
We first put the sealant into the cracks, and then put the wood over that, and then more sealant over the wood. What we had hoped would be a nice clean job ended up being more Pollock-like, but Tom says it gives the vat character. Battle scars, right?
Then we clamped the entire front edge while the white goo sets up.
I'm paranoid about adding more weight to the unsupported front edge of the vat, so I always stay back a couple feet. I was especially grateful that someone recently dropped off a donation of cotton clothing, which have become my smock and work clothes.
We nailed the new trim, Mason followed with a round punch, and Tom with a pointy punch, to make sure that the heads sunk before covering it all with sealant. Only one nail went all the way to the outside (past the trim, the plywood, and the extra caps on the outside of one-inch wood).
Then we squirted a little more white to the outside seam of the vat. Not the most beautiful sight, but far better safe than sorry. Once this all sets up, we'll re-seal the parts that we exposed. I was so happy while we were working together on this, especially after reading about how so much "teamwork" these days in the workplace involves people meeting as a "team" but then actually doing most of the work alone in front of a computer, so they don't feel that connected. This was the opposite, and reminded me of the heady early days when we first built this vat. Mason wasn't with us then, and he won't be around to see the liner for this thing later, but he has been great to have around for the last few years!

Also, as I muck about in endless edits for my report about apprentices, I was fascinated by what Joanne Kaar has been unearthing: documents of apprentices, indentured for years. And this, ceramics master/apprentice models! Funny how once you focus on one tiny thing, it's all you can see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tiny town inspiration

A bird that flew into the Morgan this past weekend during the midwest chapter meeting of book folks. It flew into a window trying to get out but eventually found a real opening. It was great to see old friends and colleagues and meet new folks in between scrubbing buckets, buying myself pastries almost daily, and the usual trying to stay on top of work.
Today, I took Pam to Oberlin to see the senior show of two of my students from my papermaking class. She had seen Sarah Rose's two pieces in the Morgan's current juried show and wanted to see more. What a treat! These are pieces of hanji that she had learned to joomchi from me, hanji that I usually use for weaving.
Upon closer inspection: lots of embroidery.
Here, too, but a little more subtle.
Lots of different kinds of stitching.
This was her biggest series and I wish she was standing next to it for scale. They're all made of paper that starts the size of the far left sheet (waxed and burned), and then treated with various dyes and inks and wax and knives and so on. If anyone wants life-sized paper art, it's all available for sale.

I need to figure out better settings for my camera phone; the colors and details are washed out, but you see the work.

This is a series of smaller pieces, which also include printing processes.
I think this series was my favorite (and silly me, I forgot to shoot all of them along the wall).
Sewn 'bad sheets' from learning to make paper with me.

Jana is on the left, Sarah Rose on the right. Jana's photography is on the wall behind them, but I didn't shoot it because I learned back in fifth grade that I am piss poor at photographing photographs. She also has serial work and I loved especially the clovers strewn on a table as well as big sheets of paper she hung in the windows that show up in nearly every photo. Both are graduating next month (and First Lady Michelle Obama will be speaking at commencement!) and already have the perfect summer internships lined up at photography and papermaking centers in New York. So proud of them!

Afterwards, we walked through the art museum, got gorgeous gampi paper from Ginko, and had lunch next door. It was super windy but sunny, and the perfect day to have the outing. For the last two days, I had been showing Andrew Bae around Cleveland, and the few days before that involved work and play with midwestern friends, so I already feel like it's Friday! But it's not, so it's time to get back to the grind.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bright side?

Editing my report from Japan has been excruciatingly slow, and it didn't help that I took a break to weave a basket from re-soaked kaki-coated kozo bark. I mean, it didn't help the pace of getting the report done. But it DID help me feel a little more sane and gave me another thing to do with my scrap bark. The bottom I wove while still damp, just to test.
It dried as I worked up. I needed a little container for my lip balm so I can reach for it next to the tissues. It's entirely possible it serves a different need later, but for now, right here by my side. Another unexpected but lovely surprise: May spontaneously wrote a generous and lovely post about me! I was touched. I also took a trip to a HUGE industrial resale warehouse with Pam and was amazed by all the things that exist in the world. I was also tremendously proud of her for winning a prize at the Morgan's new exhibit, which looks great and is up for a month.
Julie is in town briefly for the midwest chapter of the Guild of Book Workers meeting! She climbed into the vat with me to help sand (I only got out to get my camera but I swear I was working and you can see the chisel I left on the floor of the vat, scraping out silicone caulking). I miss having her around, and generally wish I had more people like her around: hard working, smart, dedicated, and uncomplaining about doing the dirty work. After we did this for a while, we cleaned the paper studio. It's a very "mom" kind of thing to do, but we have guests! The upside of the vat repair: there seems to be a consensus about a stainless steel liner. I just need to convince the powers that hold the purse strings to make it happen as soon as possible.

Monday, April 13, 2015

All over again

Mimi invited me last Friday to visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park so she could photograph Brandywine Falls for some work and I was all over that. We lucked out because it had been grey and raining all week but it cleared up for our outing! Though it was highly windy. Can you see the bit of rainbow on the left?
The falls were SO intense and the drop so short that I felt dizzy just looking at the rushing water head on. The volume was way up and I felt like I was at a spa with all the mist. We walked a bit afterwards on a trail and then headed home, stopping at an Asian market that I had never known about. All in all, exactly what I needed to start the weekend.
The following day, I somehow managed to finish my taxes and though I had terrible chest pains throughout and afterwards, I am now incredibly relieved. I managed to shower and rush off to SPACES for the Monster Drawing Rally! I thought of Jean when I saw these beauties on the way.
Tom was already busy (and you can see Mimi and Yuko further down the tables working the first shift of artists). I made sure to have ice cream and cupcakes before I started to draw. I only realized after I sat down that I had left half of my supplies at home in my rush, but managed to make two pieces (one being a comic about the rally and eating options that my beau snatched up instantly) in the hour allotted.
Here are a batch of Oberlin students (one took my papermaking class this January, and another of those students was in the other room, drawing).
And their professors! Kristina and Don. I was so impressed by their staff, board, and volunteers. What a fun night.
I took a FULL day off after that, which included lots of eating, laying around, reading, and driving around with the beau. I like to think I did a good job being off, but I did worry a lot.
Mostly, about this. UGH. I was horrified when I came in to see how the hanji vat was doing. Not what a girl likes to see on Monday morning. I felt like I was a surgeon trying to work on my child. Eventually, though, I stopped being so careful and just went to town trying to remove the sealed top layer of plywood that was covering up damp wood.
This is as much as I could manage before running away to breathe non-moldy air. The fan is on and I'll go in for another round once this dries. I swear that the NEXT time I make one of these, I'm going to do it right! So that this doesn't happen. Actually, it was pretty well made, but just not supported properly (causing the front to crack open and leak). The rest of this week will be more of the same: taking care of dirty work but then feeling really good once it's over. I hope!