Wednesday, May 15, 2019


I have about three weeks until I travel again and have been stymied by my own mix of backlog, a bodily need to Do Nothing, and spring desire to be out in the world (while knowing I have to be alone working because that's what the work requires). It took three weeks to make gampi paper after prepping fiber, embarrassing. As underbeaten as the fiber was, it felt good to be back in my element, and the bad fiber prep forced me from a hanji setup to a western setup with my new refurbished British mould. More discoveries!

Being home for a bit means that I can get back to the grand and already fruitful experiment of teaching jiseung to a 10-yo. She is catching on quickly and I am realizing that in this particular relationship and family dynamic, I can teach in a totally different way, which is freeing. I'm on the cusp of a lot of change and it's probably why I feel like a tangled mess of hair lately: too many transformations fighting for attention. Trying to cultivate the patience to comb out one bit at a time instead of cutting it all off.

Also, I love the theme of the show I'm part of in CT.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

One day, one installation

I had been worried since February about pulling off this new piece and had booked a hotel room in Columbus in case I couldn't finish it in a day. I did, thanks to fabulous new gallery director Cat Sheridan generously staying past closing to let us finish. Migiwa was also installing her amazing work, and provided the solidarity of another person hammering a million things into the wall. We arrived at the same time and finished at the same time, whew! I was able to cancel my hotel and drive home (white knuckling the final bit through torrential rain) because being able to sleep in my own bed is a rare luxury these days. Boundless Installation from Aimee Lee on Vimeo.

Here is a 14-second time lapse of what took me about seven hours. See you at the opening on Thursday, or the free workshop on hanji thread I'm teaching next Wed!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Back on campus

Last week was my residency at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, my beloved alma mater. This is the board outside the art library, which I visited twice to deliver some books. The purpose of my visit was to teach workshops about hanji, from fourth graders at their elementary school, to older students (sixth grade through college), to the entire public at the museum.
Aside from a little rainy patch in the middle we mostly had good weather. I don't think the campus was as pretty when I went to school but it has been 20 years since graduation (time flies!) and I think landscaping is higher up on the priority list than it used to be. Also, I probably notice this more than I did as a student. I am always amazed by how much I took for granted then.
The theatre has gotten a brand-new fancy addition, and it was a relief to see that the construction that I had lived through over several years in the winter is finally over.
I finally got to see the show about Asian American art and artists that included my work, which was a treat! There were lots of other great finds as always, plus old favorites. Again, it takes time (at least for me) to understand how important these pieces are when you meet them at a young age and then visit them over time.
Even more exciting was the show during the museum Community Day that featured the artwork of the four fourth-grade classes that learned not only joomchi (pictured here) but making cherry blossom pieces with ink and tissue paper, and bamboo ink drawings.
The education staff here is incredible and really devoted to creating and sustaining quality programming. They mounted and hung this entire show (which was something like almost 100 kids times three pieces per student).
Yesterday was lots of fun at the museum, where over a hundred people came to play with hanji and learn joomchi techniques. One participant said, "You should do this every weekend!" Again, it's impossible to know from the outside how much time, coordination, work, energy, and resources go into what looks like a simple three hours.
The walls around us were full of art, and I was SO enchanted by this Native American peace pipe made of walrus ivory with carved animals on top and illustrated with the drawings that I love of hunting in Alaska.

Tomorrow, I drive to Columbus to install a brand-new piece for this show that opens Thursday (I'll return for the opening).

Next week, I teach a free drop-in workshop in Columbus on making hanji thread.

After that, the next gig is a week-long artists' books workshop in Cleveland for anyone interested in learning structures, content generation, basic mark-making and printing techniques, and paper decoration—if it fills. Sign up now if you want it to run!

Hoping to get some sleep in July.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

August class in Boston, print auction now

[Serge and I had fabulous road trip snacks through Belgium, France, and the UK last month. We celebrated Easter early and these were easily the best chocolate eggs I've ever had.]

For anyone interested in a four-day class on hanji in Boston, I'll be teaching at MassArt in early August.

And to support Manhattan Graphics Center, the place that gave me space and time and instruction to explore printmaking in the heart of NYC, look at the amazing prints available on their online auction (which ends April 30).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

From here to Houston

When I returned home from New York to Europe to New York, I was delighted to see the sedum I had left buried in snow returning to say hello. That was as heartening as the welcome home bouquet of flowers (that is somehow still doing quite well over a week later).
I only had a few days to prepare for my trip to Houston and wanted to build a new student sugeta. I decided to go longer than usual, which made a really nice sheet size (especially for making books) and meant I didn't have to trim the brush holder mat at all.
After a six-hour flight delay (and a live Margaret Atwood sighting!!), I arrived in Houston and got myself halfway decent enough to attend the opening of a fabulous exhibit at the Asia Society (my host). This is a detail of a wall piece by Prince Varughese Thomas about American soldiers killed in the Iraq war.
The biggest treat was being able to see a bunch of Beili Liu's 2D work in person. About 13 years ago, I lived on the farm where she built an amazing piece in Nebraska and have followed her career with admiration. This is a detail from her wind drawings.
The next day, the fantastic Asia Society curator Bridget (who masterminded and coordinated this entire adventure) shuttled me back and forth to the Glassell School of Art, where I was to teach a papermaking workshop in a printmaking studio. Yes, that old chestnut! In the evening, I gave my lecture to an engaged audience and then was treated to a marvelous sushi dinner.
In the morning, I walked over buckets of cooked pulp (I had spent six hours cooking it the prior day in my lodging, praying that no one came to complain about the smell) and teaching props. The class focused on fiber processing, bark lace, and making paper. Bark took over quickly.
Though paper and print are a great combo in real life, their studios are not always compatible. But we managed well and I was delighted with the combination of students. They were curious, hardworking, and eager to learn. I only had four vats and couching stations, but they were able to share graciously.
The only thing we had no shortage of was windows on which to board papers. The other richness of this visit was being in an incredibly diverse city. I was delighted to be staying near a Hawaiian cafe, where I ate five days in a row. Too good and too convenient not to!
One of my students is a conservator at the MFA (the museum that is affiliated with the art school) and she got me general admission as well as a ticket to the Van Gogh show. I was amazed that only a few weeks ago I was in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh museum where they had empty spots for the paintings that were on loan to this show. I couldn't have planned it!
This is a snapshot of the Anish Kapoor piece in the sculpture garden of the school as you walk to the museum. On Sunday morning, we were getting into a class rhythm when suddenly a security guard came and evacuated us. I left everything behind (phone, wallet, sweater, etc.) and told students to grab some cooked bark on the way out. We had assumed it was a drill or burnt toast, but we were out there for a LONG time. Fire trucks arrived, ladders went up to the roof, and thank goodness my students had something in their hands to work on.
This was the view once we got back into the building: the rooftop yoga class couldn't get onto the roof during the fire evacuation, so they set up right in the courtyard.
Last month and this month confirm what I've been seeing for a decade: bark lace is infinitely captivating. We are so fortunate to live on a planet with such incredible plants. Yesterday I flew back home wanting not to get on another plane for a long time. I also am looking forward to not resetting the time for a while. Jumping through setting the clock back in the US, two different time zones overseas, setting the clock back in Germany, and another time zone in Texas all added up. I have one week before the next gig and can't wait to wake up knowing where I am.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Final bit of teaching in Germany

Bark lace everywhere! I made this for Andrea.
 She wanted to learn to make paper at home, so we did.
 I unraveled this mat to prepare making a student sugeta for her.
This was all after we had a workshop at her studio with her colleagues.
I didn't intend to use bark at first but then we had so much from prepping for papermaking. It always deepens the experience of working with paper to work with the bark that makes it.
This was my desperate attempt to weave a bit (this was the smallest piece of wood I could find).
Back at home, Andrea's husband rigged a little press that worked great!
Of course I looked at Gutenberg bibles as we were just across the river from Mainz.
Backyard papermaking is always a treat.
After almost a month abroad, I packed up for the final time in Europe and flew to NYC. I had a photo shoot with Stefan, and this was the last piece I had made before I left home in early March.
After a few days with family and friends, I got home Sunday. Still jet lagged, and about to change time zones again: I lecture in Houston on Friday, and teach there on the weekend!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Research trip: Final Belgium, Germany

There is something going on in every corner of the wood shop where Serge works. This deckle is the mate for the mould he was working on our last day in the Ardennes.
Here it is, bound for Cleveland once it's clad in brass. These are the copper strips being hammered onto the wove facing, that was sewn onto the backing (which was sewn onto the ribs).
It was especially precious to see his goddaughter walk right into the shop to watch, ask questions, and help. Her family astounded me: when I came downstairs in the morning, I expected zombie kids in front of the TV for Saturday morning cartoons. Instead, they were sitting around the dining room table, which was covered with paper, glue, tape, crayons and pencils and colored this and that, furiously cutting paper snowflakes and building paper boxes. My heart was bursting to see that some kids still play this way today. Of course I could not resist showing them how to make a book out of a piece of paper.
After taking leave of my most generous Belgian host Serge, I took three trains through delays to get here: the Eifel, beautiful volcanic mountains that provide the name to John Gerard's papermaking supply business, Eifeltor Mühle.
He has a gorgeous home and studio, separated between wet and dry spaces in an old converted barn. He showed me a bunch of his many artists' books, using handmade paper to convey his fascination with language, as well as numerous collaborations with other artists and writers.
Though he does not think of himself as a toolmaker, he has designed and now sells a bunch of useful ones for papermakers. Here are his older white oak beating sticks, alongside the current maple one that.
This is his three-piece press that assembles in five seconds (you provide the hydraulic jack, made of galvanized steel.
One of the few production papermakers who remain, he was serious about building his studio to suit his needs perfectly. This included raking the wet floor so that all water goes to the front of the room, where the floor drains are. So very few paper studios actually get this right (usually because of budgets + contractors who think they know better)—it was a JOY to see this floor working exactly as it should.
And even better, a proper home for the squeegee! After visiting John and his assistant Jeannette, I was sad to leave the beautiful countryside so quickly, but was glad to see Andrea and head to her home.
After not being able to spend more than one or two nights in one place for the first half of my trip, it has been an absolutely luxury to be here near Frankfurt, not having to pack my bag every night. I finished our two-day workshop today and then we had a nice walk along the Rhine. Saw swans and storks, and heard the latter on a huge electrical tower with at least three big nests. Spring is here for sure it seems. My students were wonderful and each day we walked to a local cafe for lunch. The kozo is cooked for papermaking in a bit, but we all need a rest for now.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Research trip: Belgium & the Netherlands

Yesterday, Serge and I finally found the chocolate pizza in the frozen section that he was telling me about!
This was the pattern in the basement of the public library in Amsterdam that screens the bathrooms from the storage lockers. I love being in a place that allows lockers, as I live in a country that is too terrified to be practical.
At the very top of the library is a glorious view of the city, and the day I left was bright and sunny.
The Amsterdam trip was a last minute gift to myself, to have a moment where I didn't have to be taking notes or thinking of good questions to ask. I love the pavers used for streets and sidewalks because it makes repairs a lot easier than tearing up the road.
I only visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum (left and center), which was too much for  a day but I don't regret trying.
This room of an elaborate and huge dollhouse reminded me of paper drying lofts, even if it's really just a linen room.
Aside from a bowl in another room, this was about all they had of Korean pieces in the Rijksmuseum, but that makes sense as it focuses mostly on Dutch culture and history (and really hammers home how incredibly wealthy they were, and the access to other places they had because they were such excellent sailors).
The city trip was after I had a beautiful visit with Peter and Pat in their home and studio. It was great to finally meet these important paper artists and see their work in person.
The research bit was about Peter's beater, though of course the life's work is all connected, which I had first seen two years ago in Vienna. I got to see one in action and the other at rest with its wonderful bedplate and all.
In Brussels I had a visit to the Magritte Museum, which was much more interesting than I had expected. It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised.
I also visited their musical instrument museum, which was very thorough. I was interested in the lacing on these drums, and fascinated to see so many bagpipe-type instruments made from animal skins from many different parts of the world.
On our drive from Brussels into the mountains, I saw the disposable gloves at the gas station. I'm more used to seeing these for mixing food in Korea rather than for diesel fuel.
Serge has been an amazing host (here he is sewing the facing of a wove mold that will be shipped to Cleveland). He has an insane amount of info on many topics besides English mould making, his specialty. He was especially kind and forgiving this morning when I did the worst thing possible: I erased all of the photos from our trip to his teacher's widow in England. !!! I am still horrified by my carelessness. He had taken time off of work, arranged the visit and booked lodging, drove from Belgium through France through the tunnel to Maidstone, and then did the reverse commute. He can at some point return to re-scan these images, but what I did was horrible. I saw them on one drive, didn't put them onto my other drive, and then formatted the first drive. One minute they were there and the next, gone.
This is the marvelous loom that he bought from his late teacher, Ron Macdonald, in action. It's a gorgeous machine. We are now on our second trip into the countryside and return tomorrow to the city so that I can repack for my final country on Sunday: Germany.