Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Oberlin Reunion papermaking open house

This has been in the works for over a year (and in my general papermaking life, many years): a Reina beater! I had gotten affirmation in 2023 that if the right beater for the right price came up, Oberlin would get it. The library always comes through on these kinds of things, so when I heard about a beater that was exactly right, all the gears went into motion and now it's home! Gena, Ed, and Taylor came for its inaugural run. Gena takes care of all of my logistics for the January class without complaint, Ed is the mastermind behind the entire studio/class/me doing anything at Oberlin + being a huge part of the Book Studies Program, and founding the letterpress studio, and Taylor has taken care of all of my last-minute, "Oh no, I forgot xyz chemical/fiber, can we raid your lab for more?" needs. He had taken one of my classes years ago and then set up a sweet little paper studio that he generously allows students to access.
After they helped me load the beater with BFK scraps and cotton linter that Taylor kindly soaked and donated, we did some quick bark lace making while the beater ran. All of the timing worked out perfectly for Ed to pick up the beater out of state, and deliver it down a half flight of stairs, so that we could test it to confirm all is well and then use the pulp for a papermaking open house I offered during Oberlin's reunion weekend. I was already going to be in town to speak on a panel, as it was my 25th reunion and the other panelists' 50th.
The beater worked great, which was such a relief after all of my previous beater drama. I went several days ahead of time to make sure we'd have pulp for European sheets and left the fiber for Asian sheets in the fridge.
Sunday morning, I had to drive to the panel site to set up my artwork display, then to the studio to start setting up and to get Michelle started with beating fiber, and then back to the panel auditorium to set up my AV. After we finished, I had to pack up my art display, get back to the paper studio, and make sure we were ready for the open house. Thank goodness I had pigmented the fibers before the scheduled time, because after one young person came for a quiet tutorial, we were mobbed.
We had two vats set up for European-style sheets in two different colors and dimensions.
Michelle is SO GOOD with kids and in general with all of this public interfacing. All of these studio shots are by Haoyuan, who thankfully showed up to say hi but had a camera to document. Once we opened the vats, I told him that he also had to help with papermaking because we had so many people inside at once.
I was so glad that the kids wanted to do both types of papermaking, but was not prepared to have shorter students!
I love this family shot!
James also visited and even brought me a paper cicada—he's an expert folder and Oberlin alum, and teaches all kinds of origami inspired work. It has been fun to see him through the years since he is local and also teaches in the winters when I'm on campus.

I was worried about being able to accommodate so many people but fortunately given the schedule, we only had to run for an hour. Michelle and Haoyuan stayed to finish up fiber and clean; I am so grateful to have dream students who make these kinds of events possible. He recently received a giant prize that goes annually to a graduating STEM major senior who works across disciplines. When we met in early 2022, I had encouraged him to declare a Book Studies minor. Along with taking my class, he taught calligraphy classes and helped research Chinese books for the library. Now he's off to be a lab tech in Boston and I know he will continue his creative work because it's integrated into his life. I met Michelle in 2020 in my Jan class and she has been dedicated to making paper ever since, incorporating it into many projects as a double-degree student in studio art and music composition, and has been the best assistant I could ask for. Thank goodness she is staying another year; I don't look forward to life after she graduates!

This is also the last time I run back-to-back weekend studio gigs. Still recovering but glad they all went well.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

May Atrium event: bark lace

Two weeks ago, I performed a four-hour public event that was a demo at the museum that repeated whenever someone showed up and asked, what is this?? It involved so many meetings where little was actually accomplished (this is the contrast between people who get paid regardless of what they do, and me, who had to log into meetings that could have been handled in a few emails).
The other major time suck was prep. Making bark lace seems easy but usually someone has cooked the fiber for you already, which is most of the work. I also spent hours rinsing and sorting into at least eight different grades (too soft, too hard, very long, very short, no good for lace, etc.). I also panicked and cooked a second batch that was overkill. But I thought, what if hundreds of people come? They did, but they didn't all use the bark.
Betsy came with a gift that was PERFECT for my outfit: a hand-woven scarf! She was over the moon that she psychically brought the exact right color. My friends are so good at making sure that I am presentable. I was so touched that almost ten people that I invited came all the way from Oberlin.
Besides bringing lots of art to hang on screens behind me, I also set out tons of resources: art, books, samples, and new written material I spent so long on even though nobody reads anymore. I'm such an old lady, why do I waste my time like this?
Part of these events always include objects from the museum education collection. They pulled wonderful samples of material that people used before paper, like palm leaves,
pith "paper"
bodhi leaves
and kapa.
I didn't have time to for a bark lace panel at my station, which was is why I did NOT need to cook, rinse, and sort four dry pounds of paper mulberry bark (though I was also doing it so that I would have bark left over for the following weekend's event).
I gave up on doing a big panel and instead made smaller samples, including bark grids to explain what was going on downstairs in the show with my bark dress jacket.
This was another "Thank goodness for Michelle!!" day. She did all the heavy lifting at the demo table where people worked on one big panel of bark lace. After picking up Haoyuan, another star Oberlin student, and setting up well before the event, I asked for and got a tiny lunch break, but she worked the entire public event without pause (I also forget she is half my age, which helps!).
She did such a good job helping passersby fill up the panel! Many meetings were about, "Can I get two pieces of plexi or wood to cover each table?" and then waiting weeks and weeks to get an answer. Much of my prep was anticipating all of the things that a location could provide for me, but not trusting that they would. Down to old rags, I brought everything I might even imagine I would need. Also, when you bring art and books in and out of a museum, everything has to be checked in and out, so everything needs to be packed in a way that makes it easy to pull out and confirm against a checklist.
Lisa took this picture (low res b/c it went from iPhone to Android). We had 420 visitors over 4 hours. I felt my throat go halfway through, maybe even sooner. I often think I need voice training to survive the sore throats I always get when I start teaching, since I live alone and while I do talk a lot on the phone, this incessant repetition of information is a whole other game. After going out for pho with Michelle, I headed home and collapsed but couldn't sleep, and eventually later in the night started to make more bark lace. Every day after that until I took the bark to Oberlin, I made more lace and thread. This is the consequence of prepping too much fiber!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Downs and ups

I'll start with the bad news. My worst nightmare is taking shape: 11 new books that I mailed to my dealers stopped being tracked once they got to the Birmingham distribution center and have been MIA for a couple of weeks. I tried not to think about this huge loss but on a walk this morning realized that I have to start processing it. I know it's not like when your loved one falls off a bridge and they haven't recovered a body and you keep hoping but also dreading the likely outcome. But these books were in the works for YEARS, made with paper I cannot replicate.
I could go on and on but I won't, just sharing some images of the ones we may never see again (but if you do....or if you know postal inspectors in Alabama...). It's not so much a money issue (though of course it is) but that I can never make these again, which is why they were so special in the first place.

I had even thought of sending this one separately since it was a request from an overseas library years ago. My friends have sent a lot of sympathy tinged with, you should have known better than to trust USPS. Some I can try to remake in different guises, three I held back the extras of an edition of two or three, but the best work is gone. If it was theft, I don't even know why, it's not jewelry or cookies. Recently while swimming, I reflected on losing a batch of books and materials years ago from a show in Baton Rouge that was shipped but never arrived, and I never remade or replaced them (the show exhibited both the tools/materials and the art itself). Maybe somehow I knew it was going to happen again.

Onto nicer things! After a number close to 20 years, I got to see Joseph. He was on a residency during sabbatical, and we got to eat good tacos and bad ones, visit my museum show and the print fair that was on concurrently, and talk shop—along with as much as we could fit in between his studio time. I so missed this kind of interaction and relationship, and it made me wonder if I needed to leave town to be somewhere where I don't feel so alone. Our fields are tiny (though they are adjacent to bigger ones), and on one hand I wanted to be somewhere that didn't have what I have to offer, but on the other hand it's lonely and exhausting.
An even shorter sojourn was when Jeff zoomed through town on his way to teach at Paper Book Intensive. We haven't had a long hang since 2017, so we had tons of catching up to do. I was only able to take him to a nearby golf course turned public park for a walk after all of his driving, and feed him dinner that I couldn't eat (due to prep diet for my first colonoscopy—which was clean! Glad it's over for 10 years). But he showed me some of the very cool tools and objects that he was taking to his students, and of course he brought a beautiful gift made of pear wood + superb well water from his cottage studio in upstate NY that is now repopulating my gut. He also had found an incredible breakfast place for the next morning on his way to Michigan that I had never heard of. Again, this connection made me wonder if I'm in the right place, and reminded me of how huge the inheritance of pandemic is.
More wonderful news: Oberlin's library acquired a Reina beater to round out its papermaking studio. I could not be more excited to meet it next week and am so thankful to some of my favorite people, Bob and Ed, who made this possible. I had been waiting for over a year to find just the right one and am so thankful to Ed for going way above and beyond his special collections librarian job to transform our capacity. If everything goes well, I can run a papermaking open house on campus on May 26 using pulp from this machine.
No one's faces are in this image, but after months of delay due to health issues and work and whatnot, I was able to finally dine with friends on the Anatolia patio. You'd think that if I ordered a platter built for two and a salad to boot, that I would have plenty of leftovers, but instead I ate everything. Was that a stupid idea, of course! But it was delicious.
The show opened almost three weeks ago; prep and celebration were all consuming.
Ingrid did the ikebana for the opening, inspired by one of André Kim's looks inside, and it was stunning as always. She started the flower fund to provide fresh arrangements year round for the museum and has been a huge support to me in the process of launching the show.
Sooa and Darnell, co-curators of the exhibit, started a private tour before a lovely reception where I was able to meet a wonderful folks, including one of the designers, Lee Jean Youn.
The director of the Gyeonggi Province Museum arrived in full regalia and was a huge hit during the subsequent MIX party. This collection loaned two rotations of garments recently excavated from a 17th-century tomb, which contained at least 100 pieces of clothing. This is the first time these clothes are being exhibited in the US, and they are stunning. I can't wait for the July rotation!
The three looks on the left are by the late André Kim and the one on the right is by Lee Jean Youn, who was inspired by the former.
Everything but the rightmost look is by Kim, and you can see the connections between pieces....
...here are Lee Jean Youn's stunning embroidered gowns that depict Korean architecture, sewn by hand onto fabric made of silk warp and hanji weft. My dresses are made from the bark that makes hanji, which was printed onto the hanji itself. So you move from the paper mulberry material in the first gallery to the same plant fibers, made differently, in the last gallery.
From the foreground, looks by Blindness, LIE, and Lee Sangbong.
I especially love Lee Sangbong's show stopper on the very left, which you can kind of make out in the video, in motion. Incredible!
I mentioned that my first dress in the show is made of bark, which is then printed onto the second dress, which is made of hanji. There was a third dress, which was made from the ghost print of the second dress. I used the last prints from that piece and made a new wearable hanji jacket. This really stressed me out but in the end, aside from my inability to properly ease an armpit, turned out well given I am not a fashion designer or tailor. It was the first time I ever did a lining, which truly broke my brain for a while. The edging on the collar and sleeves are raw paper mulberry bark.
Once all of the formalities were done, we were able to mingle at the MIX party; I had to grab Sooa for a shot before she was swallowed up by the night. I was so happy that Achala and her family visited on her quick stop through town on the way west. Foolishly, I thought that this was it for the weekend, but since there were so many guests in town, I ran two more studio visits the following day (one, bilingual), an airport run, another museum visit, and then dinner. My body hasn't been the same since but that's no surprise. Throughout this heightened schedule, I also did a huge amount of coaching for past students.
But I'm nearing the end of the laborious gigs! Monday I started to soak fiber for this weekend's museum demo/interactive event, before yet another studio visit. I was out of commission Tues and Wed for the scope, but feel fine now and so grateful to return to my regular diet of everything that was banned pre-procedure. After this weekend I'll prep two more batches of fiber and a talk for an Oberlin panel and open house. Then I can ease up on manual/scampering labor before presenting a webinar with Velma about our essays in PT2. Immediately after that I will jet to NYC to see my niece in two performances. And prior to that I will be getting as much acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic help as I can afford.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Bark celebration

First, I lack capacity now to do a separate post about my new batch of books and images. Check the bottom of this page for all new artists' books, and the top of this for a new knitted book.
Ever since coming home from Virginia in Feb, I've been grinding, whether making more books (I finished 20 in 7 weeks), going to acupuncture and other people to help with the congenital bone deformity that led to arthritis, and gobs of admin. But the big work all along is and has been prepping for the big Korean couture show at the Cleveland Museum of Art that opens in a few days, on Sunday!
Fortunately, they invited me to help dress my two pieces. First each separately had to be set to figure out where the ceiling anchors would go.
Robin, the textile conservator, is at the bottom of this skirt, and Philip, the mount maker, is in the middle above.
I think I saw four preparators in the whole gallery. This is the one you walk into at the front of the exhibit, which opens up into a larger gallery with the contemporary designers' looks. We also had the registrar, exhibit designer, and fashion curator on hand.
I think of whenever I do this, I have to do the job of all these people by myself! Sans cherry picker (and not even that nice ladder with a deck at top.
Philip is vacuuming any debris from drilling the holes (green tape marks the center of the deck below), and the deck is covered with plastic to minimize dust during install before all the drilling.
This is my least favorite part of hanging, when you have to make sure the threads are just the right length. So glad it wasn't me up there.
The hanji dress was easy but because of the nature of this bark one, there was a lot of back and forth about minute leveling. It's hung at an angle from the Korean 17th century pieces behind it in the case so my sightlines were confused.
Philip very kindly called me over when they were installing the anchors so that I could see what kind of hardware they use in the ceiling. Here, he's making sure they are screwed tight before he clears out, since we found out near the end that we needed make way for a private walk through.
I'm so gratified that these dresses have their first exhibition in a show that surrounds them with these tomb excavated garments from Korea—which are also having their first showing in the US here. The bark dress was made like this, and the hanji one like that.

I'll be at the museum during the day when the show opens this Sunday, but you can visit anytime for free through Oct 13.

I'll also be at MIX on Fri, May 3 in a brand-new hanji jacket, the ghost print of the two dresses in the show.
There's a virtual lunchtime lecture about the show, hosted by the curators, on Tues, May 7 at noon.

And I'll do a demo/interactive event making bark lace in the museum atrium on Sat, May 18 from 11am to 4pm! You can make bark lace as we work on a communal panel, or view my bark lace printed art very close up, see books and samples, and touch related samples from the museum's education collection.