Thursday, August 15, 2019

Up and down the east coast

Last week we were finishing up the papermaking class in Boston. Ellen is holding the board so that Gunta can brush the pressed sheet onto it to dry.
This is probably where I'm showing how much color is in the water after soaking onion skins (generously donated by Gunta), before cooking. It's all on top of Michelle's bark lace in progress where the screen is being used as a weight to keep everything from flying since the fans were on all class to mitigate the heat (she is at far right).
Ania did a lot of bark manipulation and loved getting into amate.
The clothesline to dry dyed papers and thread was way too close to the fridge but it's all about making do.
Jesse had already ordered a Swedish bobbin winder I think; most of these students got the hang of it even though it was clamped to a not entirely stable surface.
Molly is practicing with a cookie tray of sorts, practicing the wave formation with just water.

Since I got back to NY from Boston, I've done a lot but pretty much none of the work that I "should" be doing (administrative, grant writing, syllabus revising). Tomorrow I drive back up to teach for a two-hour slot, though people can come at any time to drop in and learn joomchi at the Fuller Craft Museum. Then I'll brave Friday afternoon traffic to attempt a visit to view Korean objects at the Peabody Essex Museum. I'm afraid I won't make it, given how congested it will be, but I'll try! Otherwise, seeing these beautiful lacquered hanji cups will have to wait until December.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Lovely summer Boston days

I knew from the moment I got my entire class in the room that it was going to be a fabulous, wonderful group. Here I am with Ania, Ellen, and Gunta. We did dinner after Day 1 so we all bonded early.
I taught cord making on Day 1, too, so Molly came on the next day with her hair done the way we make paper cord.
A very happy group even though the classroom is sweltering.
Today they'll see how the dried sheets look. I have to rush off to class now; it is a great delight.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Calmer currents

This cooler week was such a blessing. I really think that heatwave almost did me in. Here are the last few sets of tip-ins for my book. Thank goodness a friend told me NOT to do this for every single spread. Each is a different dye or pigment.
I took the previous dummies and used those prints as my templates to cut out each bit. This one I had to do a lot because I only did 9 in my first session and had to do the 10th the next day.
This is the hardest one but once they're done it's very satisfying. Thank goodness for tweezers.
This is the smallest one and good in both directions. An easy start if I work from the back of the book, or a welcome finish if I work from the front.
The covers took a while to construct, all from persimmon-coated hanji. You can see some is much darker than others, some much crunchier than others. It's funny how you make these things not knowing why and years later they let you know what they would like to be.
Those are the four spreads with the tip-ins. I was surprised by how patient I was with this part of the process, gluing and drying under weights. I usually never want to wait and then things come out cockled.
I started sewing with silk thread but it wasn't quite right. Then I went back to the linen thread I did on the first dummy. Still not what I was looking for. Then I finally got the right touch with the pineapple paper thread that I spun years ago. Was it six years ago? It was just the right weight. There's one drum leaf on the bottom, a different structure, my liberty with a variable edition.
Paper thread is too precious to throw away so these will wait for the next project. There are a couple gold threads and a needle in there as well since I used gold for all the covers. That was a challenge, even with pre-pierced holes, because the gold paper wrapped thread kept coming apart as it traveled through the crunchy persimmon covers.
And of course, more offcuts from cover construction! I didn't think I'd finish this edition before I left but I knew I wouldn't want to have to do it when I return so Present Self is giving Future Self a big gift. Now I can try to get this other edition done, which is big, as I usually don't try to do this many in a year. Fingers crossed I can do it during my final weekend before endless driving east.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Rough waters

I am frantic now trying to figure out the best way to edition two brand new artists' books before I leave in less than two weeks to teach in Boston. Here are the five dummies (the final one hasn't been bound yet) for the biggest bear of a book. Nothing has been quite as right as the very first one, but translating pencil scrawl and drawings to a computer and then back out again has been very, very challenging.
I had typed the text for the second dummy (the first I always do longhand) but friends preferred the handwriting, so I inked it once. Then I scanned, had to manipulate all the images to pull out the background, and re-set the text. I also had by then inked and scanned and manipulated and dropped the drawings themselves. Because I thought I wanted a different structure, I went to a machinemade paper (horrors, I know! But I had to test it). That meant re-sizing because I couldn't stand wasting so much paper to get the square-ish size based off of my hanji screen.
As expected it felt very sterile on the machinemade paper and too small. So then I had to resize the pages again. Also, the text was way too heavy because I only had a thick pen nib at home during the heatwave and didn't want to get more. Lesson: just go and get more! Because then I had to re-ink the text with a new pen.
And I thought the drawings were the hard part!!! They were not. I'm at the most difficult place now, where I'm pretty sure what I need to do but it will require one last big tweaking of the digital file and test print run. My printer loves to grab and crumple my paper, so I have to prepare for the worst. Everything else in my life feels like the worst, so all I can do is control are these pages, ink smears and all.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Scattered post-its

I tried to write down a bunch of different tasks that I have weighing my mind down onto post-its, and then onto a bigger sheet of paper. Trying to focus on only one to three on a given day, but it's hard when the general contractor calls you out of the blue and you have to drive to the site immediately to answer questions for the subcontractors. But at least there is movement. A year later than I wanted it, but movement for the studio.

In the meantime, so much writing and computer work going on! Other people are staying busy as well: check out Anne's and Michelle's Rhinoceros Project—they are very close to meeting their goal (they need about 3K because a matching donor will take care of 5k). Happy weekend.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Artist dates

Okay, I survived yesterday's massive crankiness. I called a friend in a panic about how I'd never finish my book and she mentioned how she liked that I was taking myself on Friday dates to museums and so on. Though I have a schedule that doesn't exactly follow mainstream business hours, I do find that my Friday energy is wild and harried, not easily tamed, and unwilling to buckle down to do work that I can knock down easily on Mondays. I'm so glad my friend reminded me that I had started to address this problem by not forcing myself to work on Fridays in a mainstream way. This was part of a light installation under a bridge in downtown Cleveland that I saw with an artist friend who invited me last week.
That Friday, I went to see a show that closed the following day, of three local artists. I did that on the way to visit friends way out west who have invited me numerous times to their home along the Vermilion River. I didn't take pictures there because I wanted to be present, and also because our hike to the river was extremely muddy and slippery (thank goodness for papermaking because it means I have the best waterproof boots). I met their dog, two cats, and a whole different way of living—things like sitting on a covered porch listening to the river in the middle of the woods and watching hummingbirds be extremely territorial.
Thanks to my friend's reminder, and to my efforts to walk more, I decided to do an early morning date today. For the first time since I went on an actual date six years ago in the middle of the night to an art installation (lots of artists require darkness to see their art), I finally returned to the North Chagrin Reservation. It's huge and I don't know my way around but almost immediately found the site of the date, only to be welcomed by a magnificent heron flying up from the water.
I want to have one of these! Once I find landscapers who can fix my major garage flooding and ponding issues, this is the goal.
It is always a joy to be welcomed by milkweed. I'm plotting a self-styled Michigan milkweed residency this fall.
I tried to stay off of the paved trails to find the ones that wound through the woods. All I wanted was to be surrounded by trees, protected by their canopy (it's going to be a scorcher today), and that's what I got. Even though later I heard traffic noises, the loudest noise when entering the woods was the birds. Later I diverted to this bit of Buttermilk Falls and recognized the slate formation from my visit to my friends along the river.
Though I know this is good for me, a balm, I had always avoided doing things like this because I was so conflicted about driving my gas-burning car almost twenty minutes each way to get to nature. I'm relieved that I finally did it, as will be all the people around me today.
Yesterday I had to do some things at the studio building to prepare for contractors in the bidding phase, and was horrified to find the weeds taking over the lot completely. But it reminded me again of how silly we humans are to think that we could ever keep nature at bay. A pot of rice is on the stove for tonight's potluck and I am deep into wild Friday time.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The wheel

I've been in hamster mode all year, I think. I know this because I've made very, very little artwork, and because my eyes hurt often from computer time. It is necessary (though the more I work on the book, the farther away it feels) but it's hard. I should use this picture to practice looking away to see faraway things, like the bird gourd habitats in the distance.

I'm beat! Herb speaks directly to the things we have to do but can't humanly do alone (I can't stop trying, which is why my eyes hurt and there is no new studio output), even as more is demanded of us in the outside world. I keep trying new things, new schedules and routines, but I don't think I can do it all. Right now, I focused on health: sorting out the right exercise, physical therapy, sleep patterns, nutrition, and so on. That takes a huge chunk of time and energy away from writing and making art, while my website migration robbed me of the last few months and counting. Today I sat down to write and all I could do after writing half a page of how much I didn't want to do it, was to scrawl "DRAFT" all over the top of the next page in lots of colors.

I should be excited about the books that showed up at my door yesterday, a volume on papermaking that includes my essay about two toolmakers of almost 20 that I've interviewed. Three years ago, I had an idea. I didn't know at the time that my grand idea would behave like kudzu. I've been alternately productive and paralyzed througout the process because it has gotten so big. Yesterday I read fascinating accounts of one person's great-great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War even though most of that narrative will not make it to the first draft. I feel honored that so many people have been willing to share their lives with me but the responsibility is heavy. What was I thinking?!
But the new book is lovely—read it if you can! A friend yesterday said that it sounded sad, and I laughed, realizing that this is indeed mostly for insiders: "papermaker's tears" refer to the drops of water that accidentally mar the surface of a freshly made sheet of paper. What you see on the cover is someone who intentionally dropped a bunch of water droplets onto paper. Otherwise, I'd be really sad if this was my paper and I ruined it like that. Usually there are only a few "tears," but it's enough in production to mean you can't sell it as a first. All that to say it's not a sad book. It travels to Eastern Europe, India, Japan, NYC, and more. Time for me to travel upstairs for a nap.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Slowly is the fastest path

I couldn't help but pull up these Perth zoo pictures from my first adventure in Australia two years ago, after seeing the creatures that have become Velma's neighbors. I'm not sure exactly why we think these animals are slow but they do remind me of a certain constancy that is both real and not about the cycles of our lives.

Almost as soon as I landed in the American South to begin teaching a couple of weeks ago, my mom managed to get a text to me (hard in the mountains with almost no reception) to let me know that my grand-aunt had passed away in Korea. My father (she was his aunt) left almost immediately to pay his respects and I was sorry I could not join him.

Lee Hee-ho was an incredible person who changed the course of our family, not only through her marriage to Kim Dae-jung (who would eventually go on to become the president of South Korea in the late 1990s), but her example. I was only able to meet her a handful of times in my life, especially once she became Korea's First Lady, but read her two books almost 20 years ago and so admired her ideals, values, and commitments. Not only did she devote her life to her country, but she received and pursued opportunities that were rare for women in her culture at the time. She studied in the best universities in Korea as well as the American South and was a tireless advocate for women's rights and peaceful reunification of Korea. [Above is her wedding photo. Seated at her side is my grandfather, the polyglot patriarch of the family who inspired respectful fear. Next to him is my grandmother and in front of her is my youngest uncle.]

I remember examples of her calligraphy in our home and how a simple image of her making hanji alongside a Wonju papermaker made it possible for me to visit his studio. When our parents were able to visit her in the U.S. after her lengthy house arrest, they came home with beautiful gifts from Korea that she had selected. I still have a silk drawstring pouch from her and felt like she truly cherished and appreciated Korean art, through practice as well as patronage. Her choice to marry an opposition party leader made my family a target for oppression, but she did it even against their wishes. Eventually, her sacrifices became our greatest pride.

My grandparents passed away before and soon after her tenure in the Blue House (Korea's version of our white one), so this generational loss feels especially final. I wonder about leaders today, if they could even hold a candle to her faith and devotion to causes she knew she would likely not see completely fulfilled in her lifetime. If not our leaders, then I hope our ordinary people will be able to stay the course.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Home from Folk School

I'm so glad I was able to finally experience the folk school after hearing about it for years. After the first day or two of rain, we had pretty beautiful weather. I especially love these gourds for nesting birds that are in different parts of campus.
There is art in the dining hall as well, including the new fabric banners above, weavings, a large quilt, stained glass, wood carvings, instruments, and so on. If only I had found the fruit bowls earlier in the week!
Mouse Town is not far from the studio I was teaching in. I've heard that it was even bigger before but that it looks curated, with less objects. There's even some ceramic cheese lower down against the side of a big wood shed.
The one accurate prediction from a friend was that it is beautiful. Aside from the natural beauty of the mountains, the landscaping was pretty gorgeous. My roommate taught the Greek cooking class, so she also clued me into a lovely herb garden across from the cooking studio. Campus is very walkable, but I was so focused on my class and didn't get enough sleep, so I never made it to all the studios. Of course I visited the brand new book & paper studio, but then ended up catching up with a colleague I haven't seen in years, so I never made it to the nearby woodturning and something else studios.
I had a lovely group of ladies in class who were so good about helping each other. The studio was just the right size and easy to work in. I had totally overestimated how much hanji we'd need, but hopefully in the end, everyone was satisfied with what they learned. Here's info on what I had planned.
Pattie was my hero, having booked me to sub in for a teacher who passed away this year, and took excellent care of all of my needs (from bringing me melatonin to driving my suitcase here and there, and showing up with whatever tools and supplies we needed). She's a very skilled basket maker, so twining was no problem for her. This is her first jiseung piece, a double-walled goblet.
Once I mentioned the steganography of shifu (writing a message on paper, slicing it into a continuous strip, spinning into thread, weaving into cloth, sewing into clothing, and clothing the messenger with it just to reverse the entire process by the receiving party), she got right into a birthday gift for her grandson. This is the message on gorgeous washi made just for shifu, after she sliced it.
Here is the thread she spun from the paper.
And the start of her weaving for him.
On my last morning, I walked out to the gardens that sustain the cooking class and probably some of us in the dining hall.
I hadn't seen any dogs on campus but dreamed about one after I got back home. Between exhaustion, I enjoyed myself, especially by being in a community of warm, friendly people. It's a beloved institution for good reason. Speaking of communities of people, an amazing author wrote about me here. I highly recommend his most recent book, The Adjunct Underclass. It came into my life at exactly the right time and helped me understand seismic shifts in our culture that have led to today. I feel much less alone, more informed, and inspired again to make the best of my life given the circumstances.