Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Looking back when it gets unbearable

Lately, the burden of a great many things that feel extremely unjust has been keeping me low. The barrage of bad news, always. Teaching in person when we are not equipped to do it safely or well, not compensated for all the risks we have to take and the extra time it takes to change everything we do, looms ominously. Having to re-apply for a Fulbright grant because the one I was chosen for may not happen due to pandemic but policy won't allow us to fulfill the grant any later (plus, they already have me on provisional status because my parents were Korean nationals when I was born in the US, so I've already had to jump through an incredible number of hoops), is another downer. When I was away, it was easier to tolerate. Given less than a week of time and space, I made this teapot, my best. I wove other things, not even all pictured here. And finally gave my rhododendron drawings homes in lots of books. Today is painful, so instead of being present, maybe it helps to return to the past.
Last year, I met Claudine Latron in Lille, France. Her converted garage studio is where she makes paper, books, artwork, and moulds. She was generous, gentle, a font of knowledge and quiet energy that makes all of her work possible.
After spending a month making books using this structure, I realized I didn't appreciate it when I saw it in person at John Gerard's studio. An American who was wise enough to get out of this country many years ago, he makes paper, artists' books, and so much more—including running a papermaking supply business in the German countryside, picturesque and calm.
In the Netherlands, I visited Peter Gentenaar and Pat Torley, who each make remarkable handmade paper artwork. He does the colorful sculptures like what you see here, and she has an amazing method of pulp painting that allows the most deliberate detail.
The mouldmaker who made my trip possible by hosting me, meeting me at the airport and showing me the train system, and taking time out of his busy life to drive me around Belgium and all the way to his teacher's widow in England, is Serge Pirard. If only I had not been so careless and erased all my photos from England, I would show you those as well.
Serge even arranged a little side trip on our way into the Ardennes, to visit Pascal Jeanjean, a French papermaker working in Belgium. Aside from making impeccable handmade paper, he works hard on creating watermarks for his custom paper. This is a wax mould for one.

I had not edited my photos from this visit last year!! I wish I had gone through these hundreds of photos immediately but each day I was so tired that I would just upload to my hard drive and go to bed (except that fateful night in England when I didn't, and then accidentally took other photos over them. Not sure I'll ever forgive myself for that mistake). This was a new camera, I hadn't practiced enough, and things are out of focus! This is what I get for not wanting to just use a phone camera. Oh well. But these mistakes are a little easier to live with now that time has passed and I marvel at the fact that I could travel so easily. I miss that.

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