Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Milkweed mania

I never got past this much cleaned fiber (and will probably combine the left side with the cleaner right side, only to get enough to get the vat going).
I had even considered driving home last week with all of the stalks to process, but didn't. I felt the weight of them not stripped heavier each day, and started to strip as soon as I got back. Dry stripping felt endless, so I steamed and stripped in a rush before heading to a great ramen place last night in Battle Creek with friends.
But that was kind of ridiculous for the state the stalks were in, so I went back to dry stripping today and finished in just under three hours (after stabbing and scratching up my hands and fingers a bit in my haste).
This is the rest of it. After Velma shared a great nettle video with me last week and noted similarities with milkweed, I realized I've been approaching dry stripping all wrong for years. Once I stomped on each stalk with my foot and split them lengthwise, it went so much more easily. The survivalist folks do the same when splitting dogbane for cordage, as they are trying to preserve all the length of the fibers.
Two cooks done today: dry stripped and steam stripped of the uncleaned fibers. Tomorrow I'll cook the cleaned ones and hopefully start hand beating. I am REALLY itching to pull sheets, though I so appreciate all this fiber prep time. It's all a necessary part of the process and provides a lot of time to think and improve each step, plus appreciate all that it takes to do this work.
I had considered doing this for a while, and the trip home was the perfect chance to grab a worn duvet. In ripping and cutting it apart to soak (and beat on Friday), I was glad that I did it, because it's so threadbare! I'm happy to have used and worn it so well; it and the silk blanket inside served me admirably over many years and homes. I'm excited for it to enter its next life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quiet milestones

I originally thought that I should spend my decade turning birthday at a cemetery because I did that the last time. Then my tooth hurt enough to make me scared enough to rush home and see the dentist. A good excuse to take care of things, see the beau, sleep in my own bed, and relax (though really I was running errands every day—amazing how many things you end up having to do when you are no longer nestled in corn fields). I got one major surprise that will become real in the coming year or two, and will be the big work for this chapter in my life.
I did some jiseung and methylcellulose coating, as those are the easiest things to do on the road. Thought about the next steps for other pieces while putting in all kinds of maintenance orders (amazing how the natural direction for human-built structures is into decay and disarray. Sometimes I wonder why we ever bothered).
Made new tiny ducks. There are three other ones (bigger than these, on copper stands) that are now on sale starting today, running through Oct 22, at Still Point Gallery—meaning you can get a discount! Also, the Hand Papermaking art auction goes live today! Though I'm back in Michigan after yesterday's drive, it's already time to head next week to Tacoma for the Standards of Excellence meeting of the Guild of Book Workers. I shipped my hanji today for my demo.

Also, now that I've been reading and thinking more about tools and making, I so appreciate Jeff's post today about critical looking. This is something most people are NOT taught to do anymore. Thank goodness it's not completely lost.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Whizzing back and forth

I've only taken one solo walk on the trails since going out with the Nature Center director to look for milkweed. My bad, but hopefully I'll get back out again soon.
Tried to embed this in hanji, and technically everything went okay except that the watercolor used for the clothing bled into the rest of the post. Also, no one is convinced that the clothes should be trapped in paper.
A new one.
Instead of using water bottles filled part way, the scraps of pond liner from the vat work great to dry the bal with slight weights (evens it out).
Started this for the auction coming up at the end of Oct at the GBW Standards of Excellence meeting.
A very fun experiment!
The next experiment (something I've wanted to do for a while): start with a circular base but go slightly square.

Done this morning!
My social life this week was very very busy. Lots of driving to nearby cities (each about an hour away, either east or west). I did Ann Arbor mid-week and had a great time. Friday, Tim and Pati drove us to Kalamazoo to see Shawn's opening at the book arts center. We saw one of Tim's old moulds, in great shape! Made in 1995.
Shawn's show was fabulous and showed all different steps of making some of his books, especially the trade edition of Welcome to the Neighborwood.
Because I don't get to see him enough, I drove back on Sunday to take his fall blooms class. SO FUN.

Black eyed Susan! That was just the first of five.
I was really tired by the end but so pleased. Always take class with him if you can!
The pro: part of his show in Kalamazoo right now.
Learn more about Shawn here. Today in my paranoia about a tooth, I decided to rush home to see the dentist. Rush isn't quite right, as it's almost 4 hours to get home, but I trust my dentist and there's no other way to get there in time for an early morning appointment. Time to get back to the house and pack for a quick break from Michigan.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

New month, harvest moon

Anne's birthday is today so Friday Bille brought a cake. Friday cake is brilliant regardless of celebrations.
My first day pulling hanji was great, until I slid the post around to load the press when very tired and dropped it between the two sawhorses it was sitting on. Sideways, between boards. I was so tired that I didn't have the heart to re-beat the entire post or start over, so I decided to rescue it, press it, and see if I could get away with it.
Aside from the corner that made first contact on the floor, the sheets actually did quite well. It's remarkable how strong the sheets are and the integrity of each sheet: they would pull right out of the wrinkles, intact.
I ran out of boards so I started door drying.
Yesterday was my third day pulling hanji (I take at least a day off in between and bail out the vat each time). Now that I have time and space to just make hanji on my own without teaching or training or people coming through to ask questions, I have lots of opportunities to make improvements, take mental notes, and know what to change for the future. Yesterday I got really tired of the taped ribbons coming loose so I poked a hole in the pond liner and made a loop fixture for the ribbons. Not perfect but hopefully more elegant (and now easier to tell which side of the liner is the front when unpacking).
The other delightful project was FINALLY getting to use my yucca fiber that I harvested and cooked over a year ago. I didn't think it was going to come down with hand beating, though so many people have achieved good results that way, so after several rounds of beating with mallets, I trimmed the long strands and threw it into a Valley. Done in a minute or less with some soap suds, demonstrating the saponin levels of this plant used for soap, I was so excited to use it.
I pulled it on my Japanese sugeta even though I had beaten fibers short and it did beautifully even though my vat is too small to manipulate the sugeta properly. Not many sheets but lovely. I saved the dregs to throw into my second batch of hanji for fun.
Friday was busy, with a morning hanji lecture I gave for a world art class, and then working with students in Lynn's sculpture class. She drove them out in two groups to harvest milkweed, while rotating the other half of the class to stay at school with me to hand beat.
They got a lot of tall stems on this beautiful property that David and Allie have been restoring to a more natural habitat (going from corn stubble to grasses, tress, and shrubs). Beautiful and inspiring! I was a little sad that I didn't get to do the harvest myself because the weather was perfect (and because harvesting is often the easiest, fastest, and most fun part of the process).
I only was able to process a fraction of it that night while also coming up against a writing deadline that I've already missed. I stayed up far too late steaming, stripping, and scraping this batch, but figured I have a hard time sleeping here so I might as well work.
But doing this until 2:30am is probably not a habit I should cultivate.
I'm only under half a pound, and even then, more of the fiber is going to cook away. If I get this essay edited before sundown, I may attempt another batch tonight.
Last night I was treated to another dinner at Tim's and Pati's with two more Albion friends. I always always always marvel at woodpiles like this. I had already splurged at the farmers market earlier in the day, so I was stuffed with delicious food all day. I had hoped to celebrate the Korean harvest moon festival today in Ann Arbor but am going to skip it because I need to edit. I'll visit mid-week though, so I may head to a Korean restaurant then.

Friday, September 22, 2017

One after another

Last weekend was the Festival of the Forks (because the two branches of the Kalamazoo River fork right here in Albion).
It included a car show! I saw the sign and was so tired I didn't want to go, but then my housemate was going so I got my clothes and shoes back on to take a gander.
We also went to Marshall to visit their very lovely farmers market, and to run errands. While walking downtown, we passed the American Museum of Magic.
I can't remember anymore when I did this but it's nice to have dirty and big studio space to be able to ink and drip and dry. What comes afterwards, not sure, but there's another big seamed sheet waiting.
This week I finally got to pick out a big enough table for my hanji vat!! After phones calls and emails and the wrong table delivered, it finally arrived on the day that they also sent the plumber to deal with the floor drain that was no longer working. After we looked at furniture in the old high school building, we looked at the office of one of the guys helping us and we were so impressed by his paint swatches! He said often people can't see the color from those tiny chips, so he painted all of these paint tray liners for bigger samples.
It's not easy to deal with an entire college that uses SO many different paint colors and finishes for their many, many properties (inside, outside, etc.). It's also very hard when you have students who don't understand (or maybe care) about how to properly paint. These are samples of what happens when you don't wash the paintbrush.
Meanwhile, tiny things going on in the studio. Slow slow slow but it's hard to be motivated in all of this heat. What is with this summer solstice weather on the autumn equinox? Well, we know what's going on but it's still distressing.
Yesterday the Nature Center director finally had time to take me around some trails to look for milkweed patches and we also visited the student farm. They grow and sell to the dining hall and also sell surplus at the student center on two afternoons a week.
I knew these would probably be bad but it's hard not to wish that we could make use of these awful invasives. The autumn olive is more promising (top) than the privet (bottom) but I'm not holding my breath. I did a little batch of milkweed but was dripping sweat and hid out in the cool studio until my radio interview in Korea, and then for a couple hours after that. Today I'll try to fill the vat (it's set up!) but also get to visit a local Valley beater!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Slow going

Two weeks and finally got approval to get a table big enough to fit my hanji vat. Inching towards some progress! Here is some milkweed in the back garden of people who have become my fairy godparents here.
I got my Tasmanian oak dowel beating sticks adjusted so that there's a flat edge, which gives me two corners to help expedite beating.
Playing with knots while stuck. Not so much stuck as a bit overwhelmed by all the things I have to do versus what I want to do.
The cover is the only one done with pencil and ink. The rest are from a past session of onion skin fun. Thread is gold from Japan via Australia.

I kept thinking it had to be earth shattering but all that was necessary was to DO SOMETHING. Another long awaited book is bound, another waiting to be bound. A dress got started last night. A worm's progress is still progress. Meanwhile, LOVING Joanne's new work!!!