Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The real thick of it

Since the Milkweed Residency, I've been tending daily to prep for every step of the process to film. In my newly dry garage, I sorted black milkweed from the greener stuff that needs steaming. The pot is filled with trimmed ones ready to steam.
Inner cores to discard after stripping steamed stalks. I should have brought these to my TV shoot but the car was outrageously full. There comes a limit, even if it isn't rational, to all the little things I was willing to shove into the car of a full papermaking rig + an entire solo show.
This represents a LOT of work: harvesting, trimming, steaming, stripping, and scraping. In the end, only half a pound for 14 thin translucent sheets. But lovely.
The non-scraped batches after cooking, being rinsed.
Beating in the basement to prep. I froze one of the darker batches so it wouldn't be AS stinky a week later for the shoot.
Finally set up and used my new drybox! It only took two years...or more?
The janitor cart is my new paper studio investment: the post goes up top, where I'll eventually drill a hole to drain into a bucket below. Keeps the floor dry and is easy to move around.
What else have I been doing? Interviewing Jim Croft over a couple days when the weather was gorgeous. I wish last week's weather repeated itself this week but alas, we had a storm front move in.
Like me (and probably most papermakers), Jim keeps all of his handmade paper offcuts. He uses this to make "barf board," heavy board that he can use for sturdy book covers. I make more hanji.
Once I was finally pushed to my deadline, I cut a beating stick into mushroom stands (it was scrap wood from a couple years ago in the wrong grain for the tool's purpose, works much better this way with needles stuck into it to help these wee ones stand up).
Yesterday, I drove to Oberlin to hang my show. Robert, who is in charge of the gallery, did a wonderful job as always. I loved his idea of a black & white wall here.
These are the long walls but there's also a corner with all of my larger woven things, plus books and dusters, and then a glass case of more woven things like small ducks, mushrooms, and plants.
After hanging the show, the PBS crew and I went to lunch and then to the farm at Oberlin. With their help along with Nick, the farm director, I was able to set up and strike my entire hanji getup in four hours. Nick and I walked the property to look like we were foraging and then I pretended that I was cutting down milkweed. I skipped the actual steaming but had pre-steamed stalks that I stripped, and then we set up the hot plate to cook (well, re-cook already cooked) stripped fiber. Then, a makeshift beating station to beat the fiber. Then sheet formation, couching, pressing, parting, and brushing onto boards. All this in the garish afternoon light, but better that + 70-degree weather than attempting the same today in the cold, rainy, windy weather as originally scheduled. I managed to unload my car after the hour-long drive home and even rinse the cooked fiber, as if this weeks-long prep had never happened.

Today I got up before dawn to swim, then freaked out that the goggle imprints would still be on my face for my sit-down interview. I was long-winded and zombied out from lack of sleep, and tried to talk over my growling belly once we passed the lunch hour. It was a delicate dance given the lighting (we wanted clouds, not sun) but hopefully all my imperfections will not be too glaring in the final cut. They stayed to document my show while I picked up dried paper on boards at the farm. It's a miracle I stayed awake on the drive home, though I crawled into bed at 4:30pm and stayed there until my birthday dinner. Well fed, gifted, and loved, I'm hoping now for real sleep before the crew arrives tomorrow morning for a home studio shoot. Halfway done!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Mainlining milkweed

I am still terrible at using my camera (haven't spent enough time with it or its manual) but tried to capture the wonderful first day of my Milkweed Residency (MR). Pati directed it and here she is in her studio showing us some of her incredible artwork (these are books, we had already looked at a suite of prints she did over the course of a decade, and new work that is very exciting). Due to scheduling changes, Tim and Pati were hosting Brien and Jim right before I arrived and I was able to overlap with them for several hours! What fantastic convergence. I had driven over early on Monday and almost as soon as I arrived, Pati and I braved the hot humid afternoon to harvest milkweed nearby.
It was a small haul (or so I thought) and we could have gotten more if we were willing to hang out with a couple of horses but by then I was so sweaty that we took what the scale says was ten pounds and walked back home. I left it outside and trimmed some to get ready to steam the next day, and then we had to rinse off. Pati also showed me what poison ivy looks like because I'm too suburban to know the difference. It was too good a chance to have a long late lunch with the whole group and hang out before Jim and Brien hit the road.
Tim's woodpile is the most beautiful and I always always love to revisit it. Here he is with Jim, wearing the same shirts! Jim had apparently given this to Tim years ago.
Here's all of us. What a perfect first afternoon! I'll catch Jim soon as he will be coming through Cleveland for teaching and his birthday.
The next day I thought we should head out early to harvest before the scorching weather got us again. But it was too easy and pleasant to linger at breakfast and catch up. By the time we drove to Tim's brother's property that has tons of milkweed that is easily accessible, it was good and hot, though there was a bit of a breeze that we didn't have the previous day.
The first day I wanted green stuff, and the second day I gravitated towards black. Pati was a real trooper as well went our separate ways on the paths, leaving piles of stalks as we traveled.
This was the haul that the scale said was about 25.5 pounds. We could have come back for more, but I wanted to get back in time to steam the first batch and get dinner ready for our special guest.
Tim emptied a washbasin for a little outdoor station, and the batch steamed up well.
I'm sure I could have engineered a more comfortable setup for stripping bast, but I didn't. It goes faster with help! That evening we had a giant meal of Korean food. The next day was all rain, so no more harvesting, just more steaming and stripping, and then scraping. In the afternoon we went into Albion to see Anne's beautiful show and visit the art department and library. Almost everyone I knew from my residency two years ago happened to come by. It was great to see them all and it made me miss living and working there A LOT.
Since Tim had screened in the porch, it was a great place to work on the rainy days. The scraping takes forever but once I get started, I don't want to NOT scrape it all...but I really don't have time. I drove home today using back roads and didn't quite do it right so my trip was longer than expected, but somehow I thought after arriving past 7pm that I would unpack, do laundry, get ready for class tomorrow, and then SCRAPE MORE MILKWEED. Crazy, right? I should just set the stripped stuff out to dry, refrigerate more, and maybe pack some with my knife to take to school tomorrow to do during my breaks. It's always good to return home after a trip but it was hard to this place and people that I love so much. If I'm lucky, I'll get an MR every October!