Thursday, November 09, 2017

Reluctant countdown

I distracted myself from some work by deciding I had to try backstrap weaving, thanks to Sarah (and finding her thanks to Velma). I didn't have the right clamps but realized that my hanji vat side braces are just over the length necessary for winding my warp. I had made a long length of hanji twine (2-ply) in Belfast 7 years ago while unable to do very good art, sitting at home a little scared with the window shades drawn so that I wouldn't be hassled. I never had a good use for it and decided, now or never!
It's really rough and the warp got confused back there because of various stages of mistakes (I wanted to use a rigid heddle but after I cut the warp I realized it was too thick to fit, so I had to re-tie it and rearrange). I didn't have any great options for the weft in terms of my own paper thread, so I went into an old stash of indigo-dyed Habu paper linen yarn, doubled over because it's much weaker than the warp.
Trim or a belt for a new dress? I don't know. Maybe I'll take it all apart someday. Who knows. It's hard to make the continuous hanji twine, so I get very skittish about using it because no use is "good enough." I'd like to think I can work this into a new garment, though.
In the midst of this was a beautiful vat full of fiber that I had cut, steamed, stripped, scraped, cooked, picked, and hand beaten. Those things happened over a long time but I did the last four steps here, from my first week to just last week, finishing by making about 15 very lightweight sheets of lovely paper mulberry. Obviously it's more work doing it like that but then you control the end product and get something you never could if you skipped steps or let someone else do them.
Last Friday I drove west to get groceries and gas. On the way home I was so startled by the giant orange Hunter's Moon and marveled the entire time. Sadly, this is a terrible picture but it was already setting so I could only barely catch it across the street from the studio.
The following day was a long-awaited and delayed visit to Ken's place right in Albion. An expert in wood fired pottery, he built a huge anagama kiln and subsequently a smaller one, as well as the GORGEOUS studio building adjacent. It's all so beautiful. A real live case of living the dream and making your life. His new intern had arrived with his partner and brought their very own tiny house, cat, and dog! There we are walking through the mud to peek inside.
The smaller kiln, which Ken took apart so that he could rebuild, which is this fall/winter's goal.
The outside of part of the anagama, with ceramic pieces as permanent art.
The anagama!
Even watching the video doesn't properly give you a sense of what it's like inside. I love seeing all of this in this stage of my life. The big kiln makes me think of the big hanji studio I made, and the small kiln like what I'm about to build with my smaller vat. I don't have the perfect beautiful studio and loft space for visitors like Ken does right now, but it's so close to the kind of thing I am working towards. So seeing one person's reality after so much hard work and great relationships with other people in the area and other potters is inspiring because you realize what is actually possible.
My growing stash of varied hanji. My batches are small, maybe 20 sheets at a time, but it all adds up. I have been learning so much now that I have this quiet time and I get to do every step. Of course it's nice to be able to have someone else do the steps that seem the most tedious, but this way, I know everything I've done and in the end I can see why the paper works or doesn't. The magic has lasted to the very last batch that I peeled away from boards yesterday: I had a bad attitude about it from the start of formation, but then thought I could get away with it. It was a mix of mostly abaca, hardly beaten in a Hollander, plus Hollander beaten bleached Chinese paper mulberry. I knew it was a risk because hardly beaten abaca is not that nice and still lumpy and knotty. But the full day of formation went well, and then I loaded it into my press. I took pressure down like I always do but heard a strange squishy noise.

Sure enough, the entire post had blown out and the sides had come out of the edges of the press boards. RUINED! But I thought, instead of releasing pressure and starting over, what if I came down gradually and tried to part anyhow. And just like my first batch that I dropped on the floor, the sheets still parted. Granted, they look terrible, but the sheet formation gives each sheet so much individual integrity that it can survive many assaults.
I started and finished this one before my lecture Tuesday night. I had a fantastic time with a wonderfully engaged group of people who were local and also those who had traveled from afar. Special thanks to the Schleg family for making this program possible each year, in support of the late Marilyn Crandell Schleg. I installed a mini exhibit that day for this audience and finally got around to taking it down today to prepare for my next show in Kalamazoo.
Meanwhile, we are getting into the real cold with real frost. I came out yesterday and saw this everywhere.
Across the street, I saw the ginkgo tree rapidly shedding its leaves. It was like gingko leaf snow, coming down fast. This morning, the entire tree was bare and the leaves in a big circle, like with adjacent trees. I have ONE last big project I am determined to finish here but won't mention it yet because I don't want to set up failure. Time to get back to it now!

Friday, November 03, 2017

Last haul

Mid-week, I thought I'd harvest milkweed on Thursday. But the evening before, I happened to check the weather report, which called for rain. I rushed home to make a quick dinner, checked time for sunset, and drove to David's and Allie's beautiful field to harvest before I lost light and got drenched. For the first time, I thought of Robin Wall Kimmerer's words about not taking the first plant, and not taking all. That meant I got to wander more of the land, and have a different relationship to these plants. I was amazed that some were still greenish and a few pods hadn't even burst. Those that had had a lot of seeds that hadn't gotten far, so I tried to help them along.
It has been really hard this season to forgo seed silks (only because of time restraints), but what bounty I've gotten has been so welcome.
This is just a few pieces of Thai kozo mixed with bleached kozo. It's marbleized fiber! It may be heinous, but beating the tough white stuff actually brings the Thai down faster. Also, the fiber that was cooked and bleached must have been either poorly cooked, or really tought (likely the latter), because it barely comes down with hand beating.
After finding out that I got into the Smithsonian Craft Show for April, I went into a panic and cut down at least 20 big sheets of hanji to start more cords. I know this will NOT get done before I leave, but I have to stay on track for this. I'm going to have to more than double my inventory because of a concurrent large show.
Last night, I realized I had been off since getting back, and that is because I haven't been making paper. I knew my last tiny batch of milkweed would not even charge the hanji vat, so I did smaller sheets on my sugeta. Smart, since I only got about 17 sheets (most of them laminated to embed pieces like what's above). Composing books at the vat has become really pleasurable, and amazingly all of the sheets stuck to the boards so that when I came in this morning, I had 100% flat and beautiful sheets.

I finished the labels for this book, that has been sitting, essentially done, for at least a month. I have two other books that are half finished. I would LOVE to get all the books done before I go. The rest of this weekend will be hanji filled, as long as I can keep up with hand beating!