Thursday, May 17, 2018

Digging out

I'm finally feeling a little more hopeful about being able to get good work done at home. I keep moving around my numerous sawhorses and door blanks and vat pieces to rearrange work surfaces as I learn the limitations and potential of each given space + how well I can work in each. I wish I could have concrete window well bits like Angela does at home. But I still haven't been able to deal with any of the landscaping (to solve water problems), so this is still far from reality.
The rhododendron has been unhappy since I arrived, but the Japanese maple leafed out to be the most beautiful thing on my property! This will be good motivation to get up early and work in the front room when the light is best.
Yesterday I released two of these from failed embedding in paper and made four more so I could include them in an edition that hopefully will be done in a couple of weeks. I realize I may only have physically started to put it together now, but it has been years in the making.
Rough sketch of one spread that will obviously be my favorite.
And another one later on. So many wheels finally turning! Just in time, as I have less than a month until I travel around the world.

Friday, May 11, 2018


To spare us all the boredom of what is going on in my house-addled life, I thought I'd look back on past mid-Mays. Last May, I was working in NYC and visiting David Reina's shop to conduct interviews for my book research.
Two Mays ago, I was getting ready to go to PBI (where my dear friend Velma will soon be teaching, alongside so many other beloved colleagues). Before leaving, I was able to look at Shanna's knife prototypes (see? Even before I knew the second book would be happening, I was getting nerdy about tools).
Three Mays ago, I was dealing with large hanji vat repairs, watching a new hanji vat by Julie being born from a distance, and looking at the wood pieces meant to wedge into my large hanji bal teul.
Four Mays ago, I was getting ready to transplant hibiscus seedlings, hanging out with the mayor of Cleveland while demoing papermaking at an Asian festival, and getting ready to teach at Penland (this October, I return to teach a week-long papermaking class!).
Five Mays ago, I was still living in New York but happened to be in Cleveland for big vat training and teaching. It's a relief to look back and see how much I've been invested into the paper world all this time. Often I feel I work enough because I'm caught up in endless admin. Right now, I'm still working on my milkweed book. To be reasonable, I should probably not expect to have it ready for sale until I return from Tasmania/New Zealand next month, but who knows? Anything is possible.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Way back

I forgot about my Oberlin lecture last month as it happened immediately after my move. Here I am with a couple of the students in the Book in East Asia class, the East Asian Studies librarian Runxiao (with the lovely brooch), and our wonderful Special Collections librarian Ed. A little bit of hanji in the foreground, and Professor Ann Sherif behind the camera.
Here is the newest plant (laying down) with the first two as my guides. The second two are in Australia for the "Beyond the Seam" exhibit that opens later this month. I also dropped off a new duck to Still Point Gallery, where I got to meet Grace Chin, a local jeweler. Such a lovely afternoon.
Though I am still consumed by the house, I am slightly calmer (emphasis on slightly!) and am trying to get back to doing a little work, my work. Fortunately, after my Oberlin lecture, I was able to see both the fabulous Rembrandt show at the art museum, as well as an amazing show of Japanese prints from the collection. The print above is Blue Jar (1965) by Mabuchi Toru (1920–1994).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Life changes

Oh, my. Like Velma says, it's too easy to forget to blog these days. Here is the view of the house and lot across the street from my first house. This alone would be enough to take over my life (which it has).
That garage disappointed me after moving in because I realized it's not dry at all (I bought the house in snow season). Below grade, and grade is not even doing well (that shady spot to the left is a swamp). The evergreen next to it will be gone soon, along with a giant silver maple behind the whole thing. Let's not even start with the driveway.
I have been 100% derailed from work but have tried lately to weave a few rows at a time so that I can stay 1% sane while researching and calling for estimates for one thing or another. All of this was thrown to the wayside after a big loss in my beloved's family. I never knew how exhausting the emotional toll would be, but am grateful for the time that I can make available. The days include lots of stress eating interspersed with staring out the window to see the birds living in a tree branch and rabbits chasing each other on the lawn, and considering buying tools like rakes and shovels but not actually doing anything at all. Ready to lay down again!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

All over the place

I can't believe how quickly time has flown since coming back from Chicago and moving to a new house. My first! As in, one that I own. I am woefully behind in terms of when I do the adult things in chronological time but here I am on this roller coaster, already having hit the highs and lows in less than a week of actually sleeping in my little brick building. Before the movers came (since I did many loads myself, not trusting anyone else with my paper, artwork, and whatnot), I was able to go to the opening of this wonderful show at Praxis!
The show features work by Pam and Yuko, two dear friends who make beautiful work using paper, thread, textiles, silk, carrier rods, and so on. They were part of the handful of friends I have here that made me want to stay rather than move away.
I have to remember to not obsess over house things (whether large or small, like standing water or pretty curtains) because the whole reason I did this was to be able to have the space to make more art, to WORK.
These two have a really regular art practice while juggling work, family, health, and life obligations. I have to remember that if they can work so diligently, the only reason I can't is because I am making too many excuses for myself. So, after I take the trash out to the curb (very strange behavior to me; I have almost 100% of my life used communal dumpsters), I'll turn up the heat so that I can do something productive that is NOT related to the structure all around me.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Chicago via hanji

This past week I took my last road trip until June (miracle of miracles! To have over a month at home is something I haven't experienced for almost two years). It was a return to Chicago and packed with goodies, like the recent Kerry James Marshall mural on the side of the cultural center, which Shawn was sure to route us by on the way to catching up. He made me feel slightly less panicked about home ownership, given he's been at it for a while.
I saw him the day after I flew in and got started with a workshop, which included a little of everything: joomchi, thread making, and jiseung cords. There are Danny and Myungah rolling in more tables. I love that this classroom (and others at SAIC) has a built in long ledge.
Korean mills willing to make the donation provided a bunch of hanji, so we had lots of options to play with. This is how things were set up when I thought we'd have about 18 students.
I was wrong! We had a LOT more students, across majors, grad/undergrad, staff/faculty, and so on. It was a wild two hours, packing in tons of info and techniques, and lots of fun. I always forget that there are more people in the world who don't know about hanji than those who do. Right away, the questions came over and over: where can I buy hanji? I also keep forgetting, because I make it and know where to buy it, that it's not as easy to source as other common art materials for students.
After studio visits and lunch the next day, we had a tour of the fiber facilities, which includes a paper studio shared with another classroom, made possible by the mighty Andrea, who was my first paper teacher and continues to teach and inspire students in Chicago and beyond.
There was very little time for anything outside of work, but my hosts were wonderful and I enjoyed the views before running over to see Eric, having a final lunch with Myungah, and then paying a house visit to Melissa. The perfect mix of old and new friends from all walks of life, from barely being out of toddlerhood to just a few years ago. Walking in a city where I lived for 3 years made me wonder if I never really inhabited it, reminding me of the last thing I forget often: how conversations sound with places you've been or lived, then leave, and then return to. Certainly I am focused on the people that I meet, but there is so much to learn from taking in how places evolve—since people have such a big hand in that as well.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Community paper studio open in NYC

Last year, I helped Dieu Donné as they were preparing a new community studio, a place that artists who already know how to make paper could rent on a monthly basis. It's finally up and running! Includes access to a 2-lb Reina beater, a powerful hydraulic press, tools (like moulds by Bob Walp), materials, and discounts on other goods and services that DD offers.
If you are interested in becoming a member/renter, contact Sarika at and read more about the studio here. If you want to sponsor a NYC papermaker, I'm sure they'd be happy to entertain your generosity. These kinds of spaces are hard to come by, even in big cities, because they are such specialized studios. A ton of hard work and expertise went into creating a space amenable to creative paper folks, so I hope it can sustain itself over the long run.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Next week: Chicago bound

Though I had hoped for a respite from the "one or two weeks home - on the road - repeat" rhythm (a very jarring rhythm), this should be the last trip until June (when I do penance for staying home for a couple months: a monster trip to two states of Australia, New Zealand, and Los Angeles). So, for my final spring business: Chicago! I'm happy to return to SAIC to talk and teach about hanji. The public lecture is on Wed afternoon, and I am most most most happy that I get to see two dear friends in between the hustle: Shawn and Melissa!

Details in the footer, as always, on my site.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Student = Friend = Teacher = Colleague

I've been grappling for a while with how we support each other in the art / teaching / papermaking worlds that I inhabit. For my entire working life as an artist, I have never been under the wing of an organization or institution (meaning, no permanent contracts, no income I could count on from year to year). Yet, I learned about art inside of old academia, where professors have tenure and can store as many books as they like in their offices and are obliged to write you recommendation letters until one of you dies.
To my past teachers who have been generous of their time and expertise, I am forever grateful. Because they were in the position to be so generous (or because they chose to make the sacrifices that enabled them to be generous), I became this person I am today. Even when I was much younger, I loved turning to elders (not my parents!) for advice, and always wanted to pay it forward when I could. Even before I knew I wanted to try teaching, I was profuse in my advice to people who asked (and didn't ask) for it. One of my dearest friends today is someone I met when I was a grad student and she an undergrad student. She was so talented and eager to learn that it was natural to teach her. She won scholarships and admission to a prestigious graduate program, moved to NYC, paid her dues and became a tenure-track professor in her field. Never once did I begrudge her my time and assistance—likely because we operated in different art fields.
We are so accustomed now to instant and "free" access to knowledge, but when I started, that was less common. I would get emails out of the blue from time to time, but after I began to carve a very specific place and expertise for myself, emails from strangers came on a regular basis. Some were harmless, others more aggressive. Many expected me to give extensive advice and guidance just because, and I began to learn when it was okay to take my time, be measured in my responses, or not respond at all. Certainly, I also made inquiries to others, but many had stable incomes and jobs that encouraged that kind of advisor-ness, the behavior of an expert. No one was subsidizing my time when I answered questions, provided international travel tips, pointed them in the direction of resources, connected them to colleagues. Years ago I started a folder called "inquiries" to keep track of each time someone asked me for something. Here are rough numbers:

2008: 3 inquiries (I started the folder late this year)
2009: 5 inquiries
2010: 15 inquiries
2011: 16 inquiries
2012: 53 inquiries
2013: 110 inquiries
2014: 85 inquiries
2015: 123 inquiries
2016: 68 inquiries
2017: 113 inquiries
2018: 25 inquiries (so far)

No, this does not include when friends ask for help. That's different.
There are people very close to me who insist that I charge money to give out this knowledge, and that I protect my intellectual property. I don't know how to begin to approach that (or maybe I do but I don't want to / don't want to make time to). People charge for less in a zillion other fields. I remember in college when an ex-boyfriend got a job as a "consultant," something I had never heard of. He explained that it would be a way to make a LOT of money before he went to med school to become a doctor. While I absolutely believe that I possess information that is worth a lot, I haven't monetized myself in the way that I could have, should have, or shouldn't have. Mostly, I'd rather spend my time learning more, experimenting more, communing more with organisms that don't talk like humans (or with humans that I love).
This is all to say that I am really proud of a past student/mentee, someone who approached me when I looked like someone in a position of authority. We met in my temporary office on a college campus, I advised her, she invited me over for dinner, and we stayed in touch for the last 7 years as she went through the process of applying to grad school and other opportunities, including a Fulbright research grant to Korea. Last weekend, she set up her very own hanji vat and taught students in San Francisco. For a while, I've wanted for someone else to help shoulder this responsibility of hanji evangelism, and it's really happening. In fact, she is also selling hanji that you can't find anywhere else but Korea—the flying bird above is made of hanji her business partner in Korea sourced. It's beautiful to see her interpretation of not only hanji making, but making a living from it and sharing it with others. When do I finally introduce her as a colleague, and not someone who once was a student?

I've had so many teachers and am fortunate that a few became friends, sometimes even students. But the hardest piece is leveling the field to become colleagues. One often forgotten aim of teaching is to create a new field of colleagues, but it can be difficult because it often takes a long time—not only for the student to establish herself, but for the teacher to acclimate to a new kind of relationship. As I settle (more on that soon) and attempt to be more rooted, it's important for others to start flying.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Chasing time

I can't believe the way that things have taken off in the last less than two months to transform my life. I'm in a big, big transition, or pivot point, or whatever. It means that I keep forgetting to do things and never get close to getting my to do lists done in a given week. But crunch time is approaching, with a dizzying number of applications coming due. Thank goodness I have the best photographer ever, so I can just mail art to him and have him shoot, and mail it back. I LOVE this new bundle of work. Pure delight, fun to make, and so satisfying to live with. There are a couple of new ducks, too.
Last week I went to Michigan, after a big schedule change threw me into a bit of a last-minute rush to change driving days, find a new place to sleep, and so on. I was in Ann Arbor to install this show.
They all have amazing natural light along a bank of windows with southern exposure (oh, poor natural dyes. I bet these will all get washed out by the time this exhibit ends in June).
It's in a hospital! Just west of the cafeteria.
Almost all of my best best work is in it, and I was glad to have a relatively easy and fast install. Open cases, arrange art, close cases.

I was able to see my publisher, visit my Albion friends, meet a new artist, and worry a lot about my current situation (it involves where I live). It was great to see everyone, though I wish I had more time with them. Meanwhile, I'm way behind on inventory even though I'm making ducks as fast as I can. They keep flying away to collectors and shows!

If you're in Ann Arbor, you can visit my exhibit through June 10.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Hello, Fredonia!

I've been completely sidelined by sudden major projects that are all consuming, but wanted to share the joys of my trip last week to western New York. My entire drive, about 3 hours, was in heavy rain. But once I got there, I realized that was much better than what was to come: a real snow storm! The rain turned to sleet and then wet snow right about when Tim picked me up for dinner before the lecture.
He had to clean the car off after dinner to get us to the lecture hall (which is twice as big as what you see here). In the art program at Fredonia (part of the fine State University of New York system), they require students to attend the openings and talks by visiting artists, which is a great way to get bodies in the building, especially in inclement weather.
An Oberlin student 11 years ago drew a picture of me while lecturing. This Fredonia student did something similar (the duck is fun, right?). Very sweet.
Tim had to clear the car again after the lecture to get me back to my lodging. I was glad the next day that I didn't have to do anything or go anywhere until dinner. I worked until I got hungry and was not looking forward to how thick the snow blanket on my car would be. I couldn't deal with it without breakfast, so I waited until late afternoon to shovel (it wasn't that bad because I had plenty of time, the sun was out by then, and it had warmed up).
I walked on the street as the sidewalks were not cleared to get some tea and food on campus. That quiet in the morning after a snow dump is wonderful. Classes were cancelled because of power line and fallen tree damage, not because this region is unaccustomed to snow.
I walked over to the art building to see the renovated paper/print studio, which I had seen a few years back. I love their view of the trees and generally all the windows in the classrooms.
Now the beater has its own room, which helps a lot with noise. They'll get new filters soon for water, and have a new Reina drybox as well. Tim had a great tip for waterproof trays under and in the presses: dog kennel trays made of stainless steel! Nice size, good price. After poking around the art building, Tim introduced me to three art students who were going to lunch with me. They were smart and motivated, fun to sit with for a long leisurely meal.
After a great dinner with Peter, Barbara, and Tim (who did a fantastic job curating this show), we headed to the opening. This gallery is gorgeous and I feel so fortunate to be able to exhibit here, alongside friends and papermaking artists.
Bridget's work, all watermarked.
Tom's piece along the back wall, Peter's huge and thoughtful pieces on the long wall.
Another gallery shot, with Radha's books in the cases (along with my smallest dress).
I didn't take pictures until most everyone had cleared out (and didn't see the lovely spread outside the gallery until it was time to go! Guess who ate cookies for breakfast on the drive home the next day?). You can see my dresses and Tom's castings—he was generous enough to drive my work when he delivered his.
There was a lovely shelf for my ducks. I know they wanted more big ones, but those are going to another show next week in Michigan. I can't make them fast enough because my body says I have to pace myself.
I assumed that no one was going to come from out of town because of the weather, but Ani surprised me by coming down with her partner (they got a Subaru, so this was no big deal) from Buffalo. We met at Haystack a few summers back on a residency and she was there the entire time as I made my first batch of ducks. Her work is FABULOUS, and it was fun to catch up and hear what she was up to.
Peter alongside his work and me alongside mine. We had a great time at the opening and I was really happy to have made this trip. I wish all my work gigs could be like this, low stress and easy travel with so many friendly faces.

The show is great, so visit if you can!