Sunday, July 08, 2018

The final work vacation before vacation's end

I am trying to get all caught up so I can feel good about getting back to work at home tomorrow. In case you thought I flew all the way back home and then stayed home, HA HA HA. I got home the night of the first day of July, and could barely unpack before leaving the next morning for Ann Arbor. I went to pick up artwork from a show that had closed so I can open a new one in a couple weeks, to get more of my books from my publisher, and to meet a very important papermaker. Above (and the next two pictures): an exhibit of Japanese miniatures at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Fortunately, my dear one was the driver for this trip, so I didn't have to worry about being behind the wheel of my car in my jet lagged state. His alma mater is in Ann Arbor, so he was delighted to plan this trip, because his old college friend was the one who made the VIP meeting possible: his late mother was friends with Laurence Barker! I was very excited to meet him, after having read his articles and seen his art and known his name in the paper world. Laurence, who taught printmaking for a long time at nearby Cranbrook (and set up papermaking there, the first such studio in the country in an academic setting) was wonderful and shared lots of great stories and details from his long career and fascinating life in the art and paper worlds.
It's also always a pleasure to see my publisher and catch up with her latest research, which is remarkable. I can't wait for her to publish it though I know there's lots more to do before we get a book in hand. She and I had returned to the U.S. from overseas work journeys on the same day.
On the way home, we stopped at the Toledo Museum of Art and of course visited the glass pavilion (that was kind of the whole point). This award-winning piece was hand cut but actually broke the first time and they had to re-make the whole thing in time for the 1904 World's Fair.
There's the picture of a man polishing the punch bowl. This show even had dresses and a parasol made from spun glass, which are apparently too heavy to wear anymore or display upright. The glass cuts the thread that has woven it together so it's quite delicate.
What I liked best were the ancient pieces of glass, which may have been the medium in which marbling began. I've been slow to get back to a full work schedule but have also been reminded that it's okay not to do that! Even though I only have two weeks before the next trip. I'm hoping to get back to the important work ASAP: making new art.

Cali jewels

It felt slightly over the top, but I agreed to a hanji event at Caltech for the night after I arrived back in the U.S. (after a New Zealand to Australia flight, then Australia to LAX). My flyer is in the top right corner here.
I'm so glad I did! I saw very little of campus and probably none of the rest of Pasadena, but what I saw was GORGEOUS. I can't believe all of these genius students and teachers get to work and study on such a beautiful campus.
I kept looking for similarities between the plants in SoCal and down under.
The architecture is stunning, and I love all the colors and textures. The landscaping is also incredible and it was so nice to walk by scented blossoms.
This is one of my favorite buildings, with tile work that feels so subtle to me. Apparently when it was built, it was considered way too out there, so they didn't do the same tile pattern on the other sides of the building as originally planned.
This is where I stayed, which was so lovely and comfy. I also spent most of my downtime talking to Velma in the shade while looking at the building and finally wised up to stand around barefoot in the grass to get grounded.
My hosts at CWC set up a gorgeous spread outside the lecture hall with fresh flowers, Korean tea and cookies (flown back a day prior by the wife of the person who got this whole thing rolling), and refreshments.
They have a turtle pond that I didn't know about until later in the day. Taking advantage of the hot midday, they come out to sun themselves. I love the way Cali evenings cool down.
This was the side of the tiled building earlier. I didn't take my phone in to see one of the newer buildings, with an art installation inside and architecture that refers to the destruction of the atom to create more energy. I love that a lot of the old architecture was preserved here, and wondered if the students appreciate it at all. I assumed that places where people study such hard sciences would not be so gorgeous, so this was a wonderful treat for 24 hours.
I got to see two old friends in SoCal, one that I met in nursery school and the other in kindergarten. Frustratingly, I got into a taxi at LAX to meet one friend and the cab driver smashed his car into another vehicle just minutes away from her house, so that's car crash #4 in the last three years that I've been in (with four different drivers). Agh! It wasn't as serious as #1, though serious enough to start the rounds again with massage, acupuncture, PT, and a doctor's visit. I know what to do now and finally have the network of practitioners that I trust who can help. I need to research rituals to get rid of my bad juju around cars.
I got to meet four new kids (new to me!) of these friends and hang out in beautiful weather. This may be Laguna Beach but I've already forgotten (the first ocean pic definitely is).
This is in San Clemente and there were so many people out, including lots of them fishing on the pier. It was so nice to relax with old friends and catch up. I had eaten SO much down under and was trying to cut back, but people here are just as generous, so I was stuffed silly again.
I ended the trip the way I had started, right near the water. Looking at the pictures makes me want to swim but I know it's cold (as was the sea in Tasmania). I got to fly back to the middle end of a heat wave but home is still home even when it's hot.

Where was I? Last bits of NZ

I'm back home but only now have the wherewithal to finish up the rest of my trip sharing. Here is Mark, using the other side of his bandsaw blade that he has sharpened with a grinder, to slice up old bed sheets that he finds at second hand stores. It took him a long time to figure out the best way to do this quickly. Many papermakers would appreciate this kind of repurposing, as cutting up rag is one of the least fun parts of prep when working with fabric.
This is his 20-lb beater, where he has already loaded rag and harakeke. He likes to add some of the latter, always, to strengthen the rag sheets.
He took a break to show me the patch of harakeke down the road, and showed me the baby leaf flanked by the parents, then the grandparents, and so on. Of course you only harvest from the outside leaves, the oldest ones, and he says a prayer before he begins harvesting in the same spirit as the Maori ask permission to harvest.
Here are three old washing tubs repurposed to chunk up his harakeke, that would have already been cooked at this stage.
This is the contraption he made to cut the long leaves into workable lengths.
When I got up my final morning, this is what I saw (well, the morning after that we all had to get up at 3:30am to get ready to head to the airport. I can't believe Jan got an entire breakfast ready, as I told her not to—at least not for me! She said it was okay as long as I had one tiny spoonful of porridge and one frozen blueberry). I was still jet lagged from Melbourne/Tasmania time (not to mention American time) so I had been sleeping late during my stay, but of course Mark was up at 7am because he was excited to get back to papermaking. Can you imagine moving from one house to another, having some random lady come stay with you from Cleveland, and then beating 22 lbs of fiber to pull sheets right away?
Mark likes to harvest his colors from the land. These get ground up into pigment that he uses on his paper in a painterly way.
This is his 2-lb beater, one of his early machines, and it has been chugging along for 20 years or so.
[You can tell I'm still tired because I'm not fixing the order of this to make more sense in sequence.] After the teeth in the washing tubs that he installed chew up the harakeke, it empties into a holding tank to drain, and then into an old washer where he spins the excess water out. Then it goes into the beater.
He was figuring out different ways to make paper for his flower installations, and this is the latest version, pulling 11 at a time, rather than pulling one at a time in old mesh moulds where he needed lots of volunteers to help. These are the medium sized shapes for the flowers, as he layers them all to get dimension and color.
My final night I went through Gin Petty's A Papermaker's Season, which is a book I so covet. Of course I went straight to the milkweed bits. She is AMAZING, something of a national treasure, especially in putting this book together to share her immense knowledge of papermaking from plants. Her handwritten note to Mark was in there, and it was nice to see the connections between these people who live so far away but do similar work.
By lunch, Mark had probably pulled all the sheets he had screens for, which would be 110. In the afternoon, some were already dry.
This is the size of the DHL box that he ships all of his little Critters in, and they fit snugly.
These screens are drying against circus tent poles, from his son, who manages circuses. He had abandoned one after the big earthquake as it was a terrible time for everyone's businesses and lives, so Mark got the poles: lightweight and perfect to prop screens against.
Grateful for all of the time that these artists/builders have given me throughout this long drawn out project! This is definitely the furthest I will have to travel for an interview and I'm glad for the opportunity. Now, time to go over notes and photos and the strategy for interviewing the North American and European folks.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Kiwi hospitality

After an unusual night of complete insomnia, I got a ride with Tony to the airport in the dark and wee hours of the morning to fly to New Zealand. The South Island has less than a quarter of the population of the whole country and Christchurch really suffered after its two big earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. But I'm not here for any touristy things, only for research. Here is one of Mark Lander's pieces hanging in his workshop.
Two of his beaters that work outside. Both are full right now, one with rag and one with rag + New Zealand flax—known as harakeke by the Maori. It's not related at all to the flax that is in the Northern Hemisphere. Misnomers run rampant and it would be nice to restore the names given by the original keepers of the land. Anyhow, this is Mark's main material and he makes beautiful paper with it.
Here are two of his floral wreaths made of paper, and you can see the harakeke big sheets hanging like gauze. He originated lots of methods of making huge paper, with his biggest sheets measuring 10 meters square (almost 33 square feet).
He creates pigments that he paints with from the earth, getting a wide range of colors, all from the area. Using local materials is important to him, and he also always asks for a blessing before harvesting his plants.
He taught himself piano and has this gorgeous grand in the workshop. Janet, his wife, is behind—can you believe they allowed me to come and stay right as they finished up moving?! After having moved to a new house only months ago, I have a hard time believing I could have hosted a stranger from another country right in the throes of it. They are so kind and generous, and Jan has been cooking up wonderful meals for us throughout.
The day after I arrived, they were kind enough to drive me around Christchurch to see bits of the city, including the earthquake ruins. This church has shipping containers stacked up on the other side just to keep the whole thing from falling down.
This is the famous cardboard church made to temporarily replace another that was damaged, though it is now permanent—also created by a Japanese architect who had done similar structures in Japan after natural disasters.


Part of Mark's hospitality is that he sews up these wolf onesies, complete with hoods and tails, so that guests can climb into them and stay warm. He's been sewing since he was a kid. Amazing!
After seeing buildings, we drove through Sumner, a lovely seaside town, and up an old volcano rim to see stunning views. I was so busy gawking that I didn't take pictures of the eastern shoreline but we did jump out of the car to look at the harbor.
Jan is down there amidst the tussocks (after we came back down, on the way home she rooted around on the ground behind her old garden to find the last of the feijoas so that I could have a taste. A gorgeous green fruit). What a beautiful drive, which they would do on bike and foot. The weather has been stunning for my entire visit down under. Only tomorrow will be cloudy and potentially rainy, but I'm grateful for all the sun throughout their winter solstice and beyond.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Melbourne in a jiffy

Melbourne was my "time off" when I scheduled zero teaching, no work, and only time and space to explore and relax. Here is the tapestry workshop.
There wasn't a ton of Korean art in the NGV but this hanbok was more interesting than it looks in this not very good photograph (I think for sure I need a new camera, but I don't want to carry a real camera around).
Women were rowing on the Yarra River as I crossed Princes Bridge. I walked a bunch that day but was not particularly productive. I did find a Korean place for good soup, though, so that's not nothing.
Barb was incredible! She picked me up, set up papermaking from plants that grow in the area, had Gail come over to join us for show and tell + papermaking + a delicious lunch (more soup! I love soup and winter is the best time for it), took me to a shop for local artists, showed me her brilliant garden, cooked me dinner, and drove me home.
It was chilly so they filled the vats with nice hot water. It was almost like spa papermaking. Barb has a perfect home setup with foolproof couching stations, tons of moulds, a lovely screw press, and the perfect floors and light. What an inspiration (the second wood floor paper studio I've worked in. I want one very badly).
THEN, she hand delivered the dry paper to me the next day when I was out. Amazing! I was really touched by how generous and warm hearted she is.
I had kumquats from her garden, delicious, and admired her chair along with so many special touches. Lots of ideas for home, though of course their climate is different from mine.
The last day was a visit to Colleen and Brian. See a theme? I love this and wish I could do the same to my utility sink in the basement, but that's really not a wise use of my time.
Ilka pointed out the eyelashes on the other alpaca (you can't see her head). They're both pregnant.
Anne, Colleen, Ilka, and Brian around the special onions that grow up and then fall down, only to root themselves from the head that becomes the root, and grows again. What a smart plant!
This is how textile folks travel: Ilka's spinning wheel, gifts that Brian dug up (New Zealand flax, those onions, and woad that grows like a weed), and so much more. We had hot chocolate at the theatre in Castlemaine before scattering again. The entire time, Anne cooked the most delicious meals. Tony was kind enough to wake up earlier than he had to so we could share a cab to the airport: he to Tasmania, and me to New Zealand.