Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I meant to share

Finished these books yesterday, in the sample book pile! Yesterday I enjoyed the recent story on Home of the Brave, touched by that idea that all humans have to make sacrifices if we are to move forward together on this planet. We won't, but it doesn't hurt to try.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dyeing, light

The heat makes it hard for me to motivate but I did manage to do some more dahlia dyeing on several different kinds of paper (washi, hanji—with two separate fiber batches—, and lining paper donated by a conservator). I was very proud of myself for figuring out a way to rig a clothesline at home. Works well! Don't know why it took over a year to figure out to use the door hinges that way.

Still a whole batch of loose ends to tie, but optimistic about more ducks to come.

Friday, July 24, 2015


This was going to be a sibling of a beautiful, completely lopsided gourd that I had seen in Santa Fe over 3 years ago. The original was made in Korea out of paper, lacquered black, with a metal tube at the end to drink out of.
Less than halfway through, I realized I had to practice more ducks, so now it's a mashup of the gourd and a duck. I left the beak open so in theory (after this is coated), you could try to fill the thing through the mouth and drink it that way.
This week, I have been trying to take back my time so I can do what really matters to me. Not sure how successful I've been, but there have been a couple of yoga classes, a few glasses of wine, a walk to the bookstore, and dinners out with new and old friends. While on a trash run in the middle of lots and lots of purging, I found the most delightful gift in the mail! Richard sent his homemade jam from California. What a perfect way to end the week.

p.s. - I just noticed that Paper Book Intensive (PBI) posted its teaching roster for next year; I am crazy excited now that I get to see new and old colleagues next May!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ways of thinking

[These are paper flowers by Love, Anji. I enjoy walking by them in the 5th Street Arcades downtown.]

Somehow, I taught all weekend and took zero pictures. It was mostly because we were very busy making sample books and because it was so very hot and humid. I didn't turn on the A/C only because it blows so hard that paper flies away. I think of the humidity as oppressive, like someone sitting on top of me. But I just talked to Anne Beck, who grew up in humidity and feels like it's someone giving her a big hug. I wonder if I can try to shift the way I think about it.

Regardless, I've been sweating a lot. Many changes in store but in the meantime, I loved this article about teachers by Hilary Hahn. Lots of food for thought.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Color drench

This year's dahlia dye is outrageously gorgeous. When I saw the results that Radha's students were getting, I knew I had to test this batch. Same plants and everything, but maybe that winter dormant as bulbs in Tom's care did something. Or all the rain we've gotten. Or a better ratio of flowers to water. Who knows. It's glorious to be around, though.
As soon as someone out east saw the hanji feature from yesterday, I got a call for an order. So I worked on that today, along with seeing Pam have a great open studio session in the morning. It made me SO happy to have someone in and working in the studio. It's so important to get people inside.
Dahlia brushed 3x onto last year's sheets whose pulp was dyed in dahlia.
Stayed up late to work on a new sample book and the general lesson plan for this weekend. Really looking forward to this one and know already that I have a bunch of great students.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Extra, extra

In the process of weaving these delightful ducks, I have found that I am very one-sided. I usually only consider one side of the duck as it grows (usually the left side of their bodies)—kind of like having a dominant eye/hand/foot, that habit of seeing the way that's easiest to see. When I finish, I turn it around, only to find it's something else entirely on the other side.

It has been grey and wet and muggy, but I am embracing weather more and more as a huge player in our lives, a go-to conversation piece, and a reliable inevitability. Today, I woke up in one of the nicest ways possible: "You made the paper!" Well, it's the digital version for now, but still great. Few outlets take the time to document every step of papermaking, so a big thank you to Gus Chan of the Plain Dealer for spending a week with me in the studio during a hanji production run.

Here is the slideshow with a video at the end.

Also, I was invited to join Provenance, a platform to showcase the stories behind makers. I was working on this last night, so now we have two more long image-powered stories about hanji. YAY.

Here is the story of making hanji in Cleveland.

Here is the story of making a paper duck in Deer Isle.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Getting out

Radha taught her Islamic World papermaking class this past weekend and it went great! I showed her our frozen dahlias, so she was able to include that dye in her class. They got lovely results, totally different from our dye last year.
I like this part, where she pours water over her hand for more subtle coverage. I learned that in Korea for a different process (pouring water over fermented paste) and generally think it's one of those expert touches that makes all the difference.
Radha had these lovely samples of hemp in various forms, as well as madder and another flower for dye that is traditionally used. She is so excited that we seeded madder, so in a few years, that will be ready to go. I'm happy to have a new studio person on staff who knows and cares about paper on a whole new level than we are accustomed to. I taught interns how to letterpress over the weekend and told Radha that she is in for a LOT of work, given the state of that studio. But she's up for it!
After enjoying folk music and the Creole Joe Band (two live concerts in one night!) on Friday, I had an invite the next evening to Blossom, the orchestra's summer home, and was happy to visit for the first time. Big crowd, perfect weather, so much good food and company. My duck approves of all the tasty treats in this photo.
Watching the orchestra made me miss the days of being in that world, where everyone works really hard towards a shared goal, everyone is qualified to do the work and practices hard daily to stay on top of their game, and there's a pretty clear path out of the kitchen if you can't keep up.
To try and remember what keeps me joyful, I started this tiny duck with paper mulberry bark that had been cooked, laid flat and hammered to a surface to try in sheets, and then coated several times with persimmon dye. Then I re-soaked the dry bark and pulled it all apart to make weavers and spokes for this wee one.
Finished it last night! Re-learned the lesson that weaving damp gives much neater results. Weaving dry may be easier in some respects, but you can see how bumpy and uneven the chest is, and where I resumed weaving damp up in the head. This also proved that making small ducks is just as hard (if not harder, since my fingers don't get any smaller) as the larger version. My first bark duck is very happy to join the paddling.

Thursday, July 09, 2015


[Can you spot her? Watching hanji dry.] I haven't been able to weave for a while and it makes me crazy, as it always does when I have these long stretches of not having my fingers on fibers. I listened to this tonight and was incredibly moved, especially after weeks of feeling angry and frustrated about pettiness. Of course the solution is not for me to be a foster parent or join the army or go to law school to crusade for civil rights. The best thing is to focus on ducks, if I can stay the course.

Radha arrived today. Everything changes now that we have a serious studio person! She teaches Islamic papermaking for the next three days and then dives into work. I've laid out my sample books to prepare for my class next weekend. A small bark duck body is shaping itself while I try to remember how it felt to work in Maine, cling to a bit of that industrious joy, before I have to stop for sleep and work and food.

I had a few friends over for dinner the other night and one noticed my dire lack of drinking containers (two tiny glasses that match, two mugs that do not match, one stray clay cup). He bought me a set of six glass tumblers today! Ducks, friendship, rain. I am grateful for the little big things.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Another day, week, month

Time is going too quickly! These three have places to rest for now.
She is still curious, out in the world. The gold leaf was an interesting experiment. The photos are in reverse.
Yuko gave me two sheets of gold leaf. I used one for about 10 big sheets of hanji, though really it was a test to see how much would stick to each side of the sheet, as they are all couched and pressed together with no interleaving.
Snacks are very important. Coconut cranberry, thanks to a run to Koko's by Kirstin.
I got lazy and threw in a bunch of cooked kozo into the hollander beater along with hanji scraps I had saved for about 2-3 years. Not the best idea because of the inevitable knots, but it's a texture that I like because it reminds me of when we first built the studio and all we had were hollanders.
She's on top of the stack of 41 we made from 4 pounds of Japanese kozo. I think if I pulled thinner, we could have gotten 50, maybe more. I lost some in the process.
The heat dryer is too hot at the edges so they peel away on their own.
Parting was fine and the press was just right.
I am so glad we have these ribbons after too many years of improvising with threads that didn't really work (in terms of re-using). This week, coming down from production and trying to get back to studio work, dry studio work. It's already July and no more holidays until the fall!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Vintage at five

I have been trying to search for photos from my hanji classes a year ago, with very little success. But I did find this wonderful out-of-focus shot of my very first hanji workshop when the studio was born. I just counted on my fingers, and it will be five years old this summer! Five years isn't that long, but this picture already feels so old. So much has changed, I've learned a ton, so much has stayed the same, and I still have even more to learn.

On a slow day

I finally got a few shots of the butterflies that have been feasting in the Morgan's garden this summer. They are plentiful and happy. Seems like so much more insect life than in past summers, but we have definitely had tons of rain. The kozo is also happy with rain and fertilizer.
The milkweed is especially abundant and fragrant this year and the butterflies are taking advantage on every nice day.
Tom had a handful of leaves he had pulled off some palms outside when I came in this morning. He told me to go make something.
So I did.
She wanted in.
Who's to say no? Pressing hanji right at the moment, fingers crossed for a smooth parting and drying afternoon. I'm low on energy but hoping these sheets behave.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Back to the vat

I nearly drowned in work the past couple of weeks and realized after talking to some friends that I need to correct course and get back to what's important. I'm soaking a few years of hanji scraps from weaving right now. It's only a half pound and will probably give me just a handful of big hanji sheets, but I want to experiment with a tiny bit of gold leaf.
She's helping us press almost 50 sheets of hanji that I made with Kirstin bringing up the rear (I got SO tired after over 30) today. Tom soaked Japanese kozo on Sunday, I cooked on Monday, the interns helped rinse, pick, and beat on Tuesday, and we did a bit more hand beating this morning before brushing in the naginata and prepping the vat. This is also the middle of a three-day photo shoot for the local paper. The sheets are so much nicer now that we've switched entirely to Japanese kozo for production, instead of tough and stringy Thai kozo.
Soaking to beat tomorrow or Friday. The verdict will come in once we press, part, and dry the sheets tomorrow. Thank goodness for this brief respite from the summer heat! Perfect for this quick production run.