Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Slow grow

More marigolds appeared! Seeds sown in July and very intermittently watered. Good to know that these work while the other seeds totally failed.
Over two weeks, I worked on a new set of ducks for a commission. Here's a review of the paper show my ducks are in, in Columbus.

I tend to make more than ordered so that I can choose the best selection for shipment. These are going overseas as soon as I can make more copper stands. Under the fabric full of chickens (from Youngmin) are lots of bamboo splints from my trip to Korea that already feels like it never happened. Funny how that works.
I also sowed these seeds in July and while the zinnias came up quickly, the flowering has been the slowest of them all. One poked out to say hello in the last day. After talking yesterday to Velma about how it's okay to only get a few plants out of many, many starters, I feel doubly grateful for this one pink face.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Time and change

Working on ducks while listening to this far-ranging and deep story about the UN Conference Against Racism that ended only days before this day, 20 years ago, by a brilliant journalist that NPR was so lucky to have, Shereen Marisol Meraji. Tears, for sure.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Testing tech

I hastily scattered marigold and bachelor's button seeds in July before I left for NY. Clearly the latter failed utterly and as of last week I think I have one tiny marigold. I definitely don't expect a real yield for dyeing but it's always great to see which plants can survive my neglect.

This is mostly a test to see if the new subscribe by email button will work. I could not deal with any of that while in Korea so I am slowly getting to it now. What else? A few more rhodie books are available from my dealers now, the coffee grounds from *$ are actually working well to dissipate the kimchi smell from my fridge, and registration is open for my fall Asian Paper Craft class at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Still buried by life but grateful for it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Round and round

This may be the longest I've gone without posting, because I was so unreasonable with myself when booking my schedule before I left for Korea and while away. Too many obligations, no down time from a very important trip, and then lots of zoning out while visiting family for the first time in a while. Right before the fall semester began, I was able to have a visit with a friend in Sandusky of all places, where we visited a merry-go-round museum. This is a diagram of the first likely amusement ride, people on swings going around on a wheel together.
Included in the price of admission is a ride on the central carousel, which is in the middle of an old post office. I was going to get on that little horse until I saw the weight limit would require me to saw myself in half to get on.
So I mounted this one instead, which turned out to be the lead horse. As my friend said, this ride was completely worth the price of admission. As soon as it started, I had this rush of all worries and regular life disappearing instantly while getting flooded with a sense of innocence and childhood I haven't felt since I was last on one of these. And back then, it didn't mean as much because there wasn't so much crap to wash away while whirling in a circle. We even got wooden pennies to drop into the box before climbing on.
I never thought of all the fantastical creatures that normally were on these rides but they are wonderful.

In a separate corner from this was an ostrich, and assorted other animals.
They even had horseshoes?!
There were two blocks of wood that looked like this, complete with disembodied hands working on the piece (and both sets of hands of course had wedding bands on the left hands). There's a guy in the back who makes stuff as well. I thought about my grad school advisor who as a side job would restore pieces like this because she was an expert painter (they require many layers of musculature and so on before even designing the surfaces). Once she earned enough money doing that, she would quit and live on that money while making art. The cycle began again when she ran out of money.
They have real organs as well for the music and this one they can play for you at request. It almost seemed louder than the one on the ride.
A couple more, with elaborate decorations and painting.
As soon as I returned from Korea and then New York, I had to deal with very stressful and invasive home repair projects. My garage door finally had enough so I gleefully replaced it and wondered why I didn't do it sooner (still learning as a home owner when it's better to pay a lot of money upfront rather than piecemeal over time). Should I have asked them to leave the almost new torsion springs that I had paid for them last year? Probably. Did I? No. Does the garage have a zillion other major problems? Yes, but I can't replace the whole thing so this is it for now.
The most pressing issue started my last week in Korea: a leak in the kitchen ceiling. When I got home, it had stopped, but when I finally got home for good from NY, it started right back up. Fortunately, the plumber came out the next day and right where the leak looked the worst, he smashed a hammer into my ceiling and there it was. A failed fitting. But because of a weird re-routing of the water upstairs, we put in a new line and cut off the old one and then there were two holes in my ceiling plus yanked-out trim. Thank god I was smart enough to buy a house near a friend who is extremely handy and good natured, so he came over to help patch the holes. We still have several more visits left to get it all done to the point where I can use my entire kitchen, but I'm relieved that it's not a job that requires getting home insurance involved.
That, on top of getting my first ever lawnmower and learning how it works (battery powered), has kept me from being able to officially apply for occupancy and move into my studio. Still working from home but I would barely say that. There is so much I want to make and do but instead I have to keep my house from falling apart while starting fall semester teaching. Which feels harder than ever, because I am so desperate to have my time to myself.
What goes into these little books? Still sorting it out but relieved to have gotten this far. That's a big step from what I thought was going to happen to them last year. If you want to learn more about manipulating paper like this and in other ways, and are local, I'm offering a museum class in Cleveland (search for "Asian Paper Craft"). For the first time, a class over four weeks, very leisurely!
This is how I have felt for a long, long time. Not sure when it will let up. I'm fairly certain the only way to change it is to change how I am thinking about it. I also feel like I am in a years-long process of weeding away things I don't want to do anymore. But certain contracts were signed a while back so I have to honor those. Trying to be patient about glacial change as the world seems to be crashing and burning all around us.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Making hanji in NY

Another hanji vat has been born, this time in upstate NY at Women's Studio Workshop! Woody built it to my specs and of course improved it because he has been making stuff forever: equipment, tools, jigs, and so on. This liner is so much more manageable than the one I have back home so I learn every time someone builds a new one. Last week I had a lovely class; here is Amanda at the vat.
We lost a lot of enrollment because of positive Covid tests but the remaining students were excellent. Megan is weaving with some paper thread and Marissa is spinning more. I was so glad that my family was able to drive up in two batches the day before I started to teach as we hadn't seen each other for a year and a half. The itty bitty baby I saw a week before lockdown is now running around and we are all older.

Megan cast this lovely bark lace bowl out of cooked paper mulberry bast fiber and used it to hold her hanji scraps from the week. I'm glad to be back with my parents now and have been intentionally staying with them more than going out (for many reasons), which is a big change from my usual behavior in NY. But I had a nice group show up for my online talk on Wed, which you can I think see here for a couple weeks before it is posted online.

Sunday afternoon Eastern Time, I'll offer a 1.5-hour demo-based jiseung workshop so you can see the steps from cutting a sheet of hanji into strips, cording it, starting a circular basket, and finishing it. You don't have to prepare anything as I recommend you watch first, which will give you a sense of what is going on, and then I will provide the info for what tools/paper to order.

Have a safe weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

About to leave home again

So much had changed when I got home. The weed jungle, the thousands of dead ants in my basement in mysterious piles that keep multiplying alarmingly, the mysterious leak that is hiding so that I can't fix anything while not being able to use a kitchen cupboard, and the missing maple trees that the new neighbor cut down along our property line. I had always felt mixed about them because they dropped so many trees and so many birds pooped in the driveway but trees always provide shade. I had to do something to block the western exposure so I took my new stash of colored hanji from Mr. Shin and covered up my door. There's a flap at eye level so I can freak out anyone who comes knocking with my eyeballs.
True unfocused snapshot of all the knives (aside from the commercial ones) that I came home with from Korea. I shipped six and flew with one. The left six are all for bamboo processing and that means I probably can't use them for a long time because I have to source bamboo first. The right one is for bark scraping but was made off of a "bad" knife, so I'll find out eventually how well it works.
These were my big late splurges before I left Jeonju and I love them. My students next week in NY will get to take a closer look as they are already packed.
Wooooo! That black one, a hapjukseon, was more rare and for rich fancy folks, used to block the sun. Both made by the only national ICPH of fan making.
I have been struggling since getting home with the usual re-entry, which has been compounded by feeling for the first time that coming back to the US is not so great. I have been going to Korea since I was so young that I don't remember that first time. Never annually, but each time I would come home grateful for things we have here. When I was in Korea this time, in theory I missed things like clothes dryers but when I got home, I thought, these are so wasteful and now all my stuff has shrunk. Things have changed so much with Korean development and American decline that I marvel that I've been able to witness the tables turning in my lifetime. Somehow through the haze of jet lag, I managed to finish this edition of 10 for the Jeong project. Old indigo-dyed hanji that I made, new persimmon-dyed hanji that Mr. Shin made.
I also a commission that I knew I had to do now or else next month would become insane. Getting back to these...as my friend Helena reminds me often, I am only grounded when my fingers are busy.
She has been an enormous help and guide through my ups and downs in Korea and also the same when I returned, as I had to negotiate some sudden decisions about job offers and how to shape my future. After I finished the work for hire, I had taken apart a weird thing I wove before I left and turned it into something sweeter. Working more freely, this one came just as quickly but with so much more room to breathe. This is a bad translation of the Korean word that comes to mind, yeoyu 여유. It's like having space and time, being more relaxed but not out of laziness. For the first time, I also feel deep sorrow at feeling this language slip away so quickly as I don't use it daily. The comfort is that when I go back, I can slip it on again, and that even for a short time I was thinking and dreaming in Korean.
I've already forgotten why I was posting, I think there was news. This entire year or more I've felt so strongly that I've created such a weird life that it's not comprehensible or understandable. Even to those closest to me, when I say, "I'm working," they have no idea what that means. I remember vaguely being a child and knowing that what I wanted to become was something I'd have to invent, as I didn't see it out in the world.

Oh, I remembered—

1. The studio building has passed building inspection! Now, time to apply for occupancy.

2. I got a grant to start a paper/dye garden there as a public art project, gathering kids from the school district and city to be part of the design and creation process, to learn how urban gardens can transform commercial spaces.

3. I got my second Pfizer shot this morning! RELIEF.

4. Next week I'll teach a hanji class at Women's Studio Workshop; they made a hanji vat!! SO excited to see old friends and meet new ones and share some of my new research.

5. The following week, online lecture on Aug 4 about hanji (new research), and then an online jiseung workshop on Aug 8 for Dieu Donné.

6. If you miss those, I'm doing a combo talk/demo on my work and jiseung for Minnesota Center for the Book on Aug 18.

7. I made beautiful grilled cheese sandwiches last night. Busy fingers!

Most importantly, I'll finally see my family in the flesh in just a couple days for the first time since last March's lockdown. I've never not seen them for this long, nor been away from home for so long. Today I replaced air filters in my car and see that the rodents were having a field day inside. Back to packing!

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Looking back: final days in Korea

At the national museum in Seoul, I was so curious about how well bamboo planters can work, and so unsurprised by the roots poking out.
I was delighted to be able to see Jeong-in one more time (and even one more time after that! In a surprise book gift drop off) at a book arts show in Seoul at the Korea Foundation gallery. She's so good about documenting me in space, and has been a dear friend for years. The kind you know you can always lean on.
I intentionally got off one bus stop early on the way to the gallery because I was so early and figured it would be more interesting to walk. I hadn't eaten properly either so I went into one of the underground subway/shopping areas and took a lap before sitting down to some tuna kimbap (which would be one roll plus soup and kimchi, which all come out immediately, for 4,000 won. That's under 4 US dollars, and this is not a tipping culture. I will miss the instant, delicious, affordable food!). Then I made my way to the gallery up the fancy staircase.
My understanding of this show is that it's a mashup of the winners of the latest Dutch book design award (given to books published anywhere, but designed by Dutch folks) and Korean books. It would be a stretch to call them artists' books though a very few are. The awarded books are on the long table that is designed to look like an accordion book. There are also large photographs of some of them on the walls as you enter and throughout the gallery.
I spent the most time with this book, by Henk Wildschut, called Rooted. At first, I had kind of skipped over it, but then when I went back to actually read what was going on, it felt so of this time and every time: how humans create home in temporary places by building gardens. In this case, refugees living in extremely harsh landscapes where water is scarce.
The Korean books were then placed in designed spaces around the rest of the gallery and clearly not the focus of the show. Some cubbies were more clever than others. I was mostly annoyed by the constructions like the one at left, where you can take the book out of its hole but then where do you put it if you want to read it and it's a big heavy book?
Some books are literally shoved into a corner and then others given a bit more room to breathe.
After I went down this wall from the corner, I was so confused by the constructions that I assumed the HVAC unit on the left also housed a book!

Jeong-in inspired me with her close attention. She is an illustrator and book artist, and we met years ago during my first grant. She at the time had a studio close to my aunt and late uncle, where I stayed for a few months during my language study. She helped me so much with my research but also in understanding the artists' books community in Seoul at the time, which apparently has dissolved these days. She also connected me to my calligraphy teacher and we had lots of wonderful meals together.
This clever little book "shelf" of sorts. The book is sweet as well, drawings of leaves and accompanying text.
We talked about book arts in Korea and I wondered if more commercial printing and large editions were common in Korea over one of a kind and fine press editions because their printing industry and economy are so robust. Something you might notice that is very Korean is how very much printed matter they create. It's not as expensive as it is here to get well-designed, well-printed ephemera and books, so every artist seems to have their own self-published monograph or booklet to share, of which I've been jealous. If I hadn't been so strapped for time, I would have gotten some done myself.
My last visit to Seoul had to include family, and that is what I made the most time for. Here is my eldest female cousin (well, her hand), who essentially taught me Korean again when I decided I wanted to be more fluent when I was 20 and living with her family in Seoul. We took a little break from her very difficult job running a tangsuyuk place in a very hip neighborhood.
She had already fed me stuff from the shop and then we had lots more treats at the cafe. She even called an old friend of hers that I had not seen in years, who came by and then helped me shop for last-minute gifts.
The next day I was able to see my eldest aunt again as well as my eldest cousin (who was so good about checking in on me throughout my stay even given his busy cardiologist schedule) to welcome his younger brother and his family back from Jakarta for a summer stay. They had just gotten out of quarantine and came straight to my aunt's home. The night before, they ordered the lunch spread so that she wouldn't have to cook. The king crab is not pictured and it was all delicious. I was overjoyed to meet his kids as I haven't seen them for over seven years. His daughter in particular was so chatty and fun, his son terribly sweet, and I made them both some hanji jewelry before we had to say goodbye again.
They were kind enough to give me a ride afterwards to my dinner date to see another old, old friend that had lived in New York when we were kids, and then in New Jersey when we were teenagers, because of her dad's work. She now lives in Kuwait and had just gotten out of quarantine for her summer stay with her kids. She came out with her mom, whom I hadn't seen since I was probably a teenager! Those friendships are the best—being completely out of touch and then back together like no time has passed. They gave me a ride in the torrential rain (as monsoon season has definitely started) to the subway. But this sign on the bus was something that I appreciated: "Are you having a hard time? It's okay to say so" is the rough translation. It's a very ... non-traditional Korean thought! There were similar little signs on the bus that were a good pick-me-up right when I needed it.
Ugh, then back to the reality of having to return home: the covid test. I thought this would be a quick visit to a hospital I've never been to but I was very wrong. Just to get "registered," I had to wait in line behind 20-something people. Then I had to wait for over 40-something folks to get through the line to sign testing paperwork and get info. We all hung out in this skywalk that I had seen when walking to the hospital (thinking, "surely that won't be the line *I* have to wait in..."). Then I wanted behind another 20-something folks to pay for the test. Then I got the test! Which was speedy enough but the rest of the stuff took all morning.
Leaving the hospital I saw this bottle solution to the gutters.
And on the way to see some other dear friends, I saw this new store for massage chairs. They are really nice to lay in and have tons of settings. I can attest to that because I tried at least 3 or 4 settings during my stay with my angel host near Mr. Shin.
My final research visit (and I was SO disappointed with myself for not getting to her sooner...that was out of my own insecurity that she wouldn't remember me but of course she did) was to Professor Park Ji-sun, a noted and very experienced conservator who has done tons of hanji research and has been behind a lot of Mr. Shin's success, encourage Jae-gyun, her student, to become his apprentice.
This is what I wanted to do more research on but was guided away from it by the person I no longer speak to: screens made of grass and reed fibers. Jae-gyun himself had harvested these.
And my final guide as always was my first: Kim Bo-kyung (Beau Kim of FIDES) and her husband drove me from our lunch meeting with Prof Park (Bo-kyung also masterminded combining meetings so that we could three meet together and I could then have a free evening to pack and see family one last time) to the post office. This was a BIG job: combining over 400 sheets of paper and a wooden frame into one giant box. The packing guy was so helpful in letting us know that it was better to actually splurge for EMS premium (aka UPS) because the regular EMS (express mail) was adding a surcharge due to pandemic that made it more expensive than the top option. It arrived the day after I did!
Final taxi ride to the airport, complete with lego car made by the driver's daughter.
I lucked out again with three seats to myself, and a safety video by BTS on Korean Air. How times have changed! Time now to head out for caretaking. I miss Korea for sure but hope that I won't have to wait 7 years until the next visit.