Thursday, April 29, 2010

I walked home alone at night even though I'm told not to

Oh, the admin has gotten out of control, as has my cookie-eating habit. Which must stop; I feel an infection coming on from my eating-like-a-starving-artist ways. Cutting back on wheat, pronto. But I wove two more little fellas today before heading to the Josh Ritter concert (part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival).

The first time I met Josh was in a breakout orientation group in some dorm at Oberlin. We had to do a terrible ice breaker where you take the first letter of your first name and find a word that describes you that also starts with that name. Jolly Josh, Kind Kiwon, and Anal Aimee are all I can remember--I don't remember who else was in the group. 15 years later, he is still very, very jolly. The new material is superb. He was nonstop. The crowd was surprisingly tame and polite. I totally cried. There's not much to say b/c it has been said a million times, but I absolutely love that he works so hard, is still so true to his voice, and is still so in love with what he does. I listened to him a lot during my first official residency in Nebraska four years ago, and it was amazing to see where we are today. Tonight, both in Belfast.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great news from Korea

This is my favorite picture from my field work in Korea of Jang Yong-hoon, the father of my hanji teacher. He's watching the beater. I got an email from my teacher today, with the official news (I had known about the unofficial news for months but no one had filled me in yet)!

His father has been selected as the new National Intangible Cultural Property holder in hanji making (that's property No. 117). Wohoo! They have moved their Seoul retail shop to a bigger location and have already expanded many parts of the mill. This is when he helped me set up the vat for my "swamp thing" hanji.

[A rare smile from this septuagenarian. Old pics from my time at his mill here.] Hopefully this will help the Jang family continue a 4-generation-long tradition of fine hanji making. I am such a cheeseball that I couldn't help but make a tiny video to remind the world of what a skilled papermaker he is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Oh, a good studio day is priceless.

I worked on joomchi tests to make hanji yarn; Amber and I have been scheming for a while and I am excited about how things are turning out.

I took a comic I had made for another purpose and documented, and then turned it into yarn. I love recycling everything.

This felt so yummy. All 260 feet of it.

So this, along with a hank of the big spaghetti pile, means I am amassing a decent stash of samples to teach. It was great to work hard on a Sunday, when the studio was totally empty. Lisa stopped in and invited me to go hang out w/other artists but I haven't showered since Thursday and was still on a roll. The pics are here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Off day

When I saw these during my first week here, I thought they were really trees that the botanic gardens had somehow forced to grow like this and thought it was a terrible thing to do.

But today I finally walked through them and realized they're NOT trees, or wood, at all!!

I had gone on a walk this afternoon to shake some depression and went to the Ulster Museum for my third visit, this time to force myself to walk into, and stay at, a video by Willie Doherty called "Ghost Story." I had stepped in twice before but it was so dark I was afraid I'd walk right into someone or something AND it was creepy so I hadn't lasted long.

But Fiona had recommended it, so I went. It's looped seamlessly and disturbing: both very obviously and very subtly. It is beautiful in some ways, but mostly haunting and sad. Especially the part where the narrator questions if the earth soaks in the dead (during military massacres) or if somehow the landscape becomes charged in places where people have died, so that people in the future can sense such tragedy.

Near here, four benches are dedicated to four people. Three are women (one is a Martha Graham namesake) and one is a man. I should say, "was," since they have all passed.

I have no idea what this game is but that was going on here while over in another part of the park, actors in black were doing some kind of outdoor performance. I tried a new exit and route out, and happened upon Deirdre and a bunch of kids, and then kept walking.

Some of the housing areas around the university are positively bleak, all the houses being identical, and nearly every building with a "to let" sign on it. But I liked this, which was on the left side of


Friday, April 23, 2010

Like when the battery goes into the dangerous red zone

I am surprised by how exhausted I am. I got goodies at the market this morning and bumped into Peter and his daughter on the way. Turns out she and her brother were the children I met at the opening last night. I had a good day in the studio: two new balls of paper yarn--the easier, faster type to make. I went out with Fiona and her friends to the pub and maybe it was the Guinness. Or maybe it's just Friday: the start of my fourth week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Calm enough to be lonely

Weaving this, done.

Nuff said.

Weaving two more gourds, done.

I've taught myself plenty of lessons while weaving, which is great, b/c I now finally understand how to finish my pieces properly.

After being on a roll in the studio and having lovely chats with Fiona, I went to three openings, including this one at PS squared, where I had positive interactions with two children. The boy and I stood inside the soundproof room and I taught him to listen for the salt (salt was pouring from a hole above onto the ground in a huge pile, the weight of the artist in salt).

Published with friends

This week's HAND/EYE is a paper issue, and I am delighted to be featured. But more delighted to be in the same issue as Velma, who wrote a beautiful article on her work. She was the one generous enough to even let them know about me, which I wouldn't have known if I hadn't been in touch w/her during the whole process (which started last week).

There's also an article on me in the new issue of Korean Quarterly that came out today, but I haven't seen it yet. More later!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I have been swimming in admin, coinciding w/the cold weather that keeps me home w/the heat. I decided today to walk south and get more greenery before heading to the studio today, and made a return visit to the Ulster Museum. I was looking for this trade union banner that Deirdre told me about, b/c she found it so interesting that Eve is covering her face, though women had a huge role in industry here. I also got postcards of my fave painting there, a portrait of Francis Stuart, by Neil Shawcross. And stared at it for a while.

I went into the tropical portion of the botanic garden, which is probably a good place for people who aren't used to the climate here but like warmer, humid, GREEN places. I wandered around the university quarter and tried out a new post office before heading uptown. I stopped by the gallery at Queens Street to see the new exhibit, which nearly made me blind.

I made a detour to photograph this sign that I had seen from a bus (but it wasn't my stop so I couldn't jump off). I'm almost done weaving my piece, though I'm frustrated with some mistakes I've made on it. I had to leave early b/c I was so overwhelmed by the residual shit smell from my shoe so I came home and got down to business: thick lemon bleach, boiling water, q-tips, patience. I hope it all turns out b/c I'm gunning for serious studio time tomorrow before I hit some openings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Starting to groove

I enjoyed meeting Peter at PS squared and seeing the brand-new installation there done by one of the graduate residents at Flax. I had gone in having both hope and fear about exhibiting there at the end of my stay, but it probably won't happen until well after I have left this residency. Which was a relief: the thought of being here and producing a show would have set me over the edge.

He asked all these questions that almost stumped me because of their simplicity ("what does your work look like?") and we talked about ALL sorts of things, but all circling back to my process. I had forgotten that the way I work is not the way everyone else works, nor is it a given that I will always work this way. I am a traveling artist--I work on the road, and don't have a home studio. This means a lot of things, and one given for me is that I always consider my site before, during, and after my stay: its location in the world, its history, its connections to things that I already care about. Beyond the research I do (which I have come to LOVE doing), I always bring things to keep my hands busy, since my hands do a lot of thinking for me--or at least distract me enough to think. And after all that "hatching" (as Velma puts it), the work comes.

I also hung out with Lisa in her studio and saw her fabulous work and talked about LOTS. I like that her vision and aesthetic are clear and consistent, and how dedicated she is to her studio practice. She even offered for me to use her little tabletop platen press if I need. It is astonishing all of the treasures people have here. I did sketchbook work, fascinated by how Peter had seen my paper in a way I had never considered it--which is why it is so important to interact with new people, new eyes. I also wove and wound the skein of silk-covered paper yarn that Amber had sent to me into a ball. On my way out, I bumped into Deirdre and her performance artist friend Kristof, who walked w/me back to City Hall. Todays treats: riding the bus to and from downtown, a mini apple pie, a brownie, and groceries. I think I'm finally getting the hang of living here, w/o all the drama.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Surprises at every turn

These are the strips of hanji I had cut down on Friday morning. Each strip had been twice as wide but I decided to reduce width to have a thinner, more elegant cord. But cutting this thin by hand w/a paper knife is not something I like to do often. Thank goodness that part of it is over.

I did a lazy morning plus laundry and when I finally got ready for an afternoon walk, I got the rudest surprise when I saw what looked like shit on alternating stairs (they are carpeted). Indeed, I had inadvertently stepped in shit at some point this weekend and only found out as I tracked it around the house. AGH. People are very bad at cleaning up after their dogs here, which was not fun to experience first hand. I rushed to the studio to drop off these fabulous pieces from Amber's kids and pick up knitting needles, a pencil, and my sketchbook. I was rushing out but then saw someone at the computer and met Dierdre, who was trained as a painter but does sculpture, installation, and performance (which she all considers painting). She had some great advice and insights and she works at the gallery down the way so hopefully I'll see more of her very soon. Outside, we met Alastair, who has been a longtime member of Flax and is a renowned performance artist, originally from Scotland, trained in Chicago, and based in Belfast but works internationally. We talked about the danger of getting "branded" as a certain kind of artist making a visual hook, and he was very sweet and gave me some ideas for other people/places to check out in the city. Lisa came down, too, and after seeing her site, I want to check out her studio (it's across from mine, in the corner)--I will have to be more aggressive since she seems a little shy.

Even though I got a late start to the day, I was determined to meet half of my goal, which was to walk to South Belfast, through the Botanic Gardens, across the river, through Ormeau Park, and back home (the other half was to find a cafe and do some work, but the shit foiled me. Plus it was nicer to meet the artists at the studio). I managed to follow the route Fiona showed me through the park but got a little turned around in the neighborhood. But I made it home and am ready to prep for my meeting tomorrow morning. As for this: the Belfast Wheel really is leaving! How weird and kind of sad.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today, I made paper

I have no pictures (b/c I was SO busy), but I really did. This was the only one I managed, on the train ride home. Can you see the tiny fibers left between my fingers from repulped hanji? I got to Seacourt Print Workshop at about 10:20am and met Robert, who is in charge. I had found out via email about this experimental papermaking weekend they were hosting. I had intended to go yesterday and today but opted for the causeway yesterday instead. Today I was excited to ride peacefully along the coast to Bangor. I brought some tools, chemicals, lunch, and two containers full of hanji scraps. They were leftovers from jiseung clippings and pieces I've recycled. It seemed like a tiny bit, but I spent the ENTIRE morning standing above a narrow bucket of scraps and water, unraveling each cord bit by hand (otherwise they would just clog in the blender). One woman walked in and said, "that looks boring," and another said, "that is truly a labor of love." Both, perhaps. As tedious and back aching as it was, it felt good to have my hands in water, finally doing something to these curly bits that I had been accumulating for months.

I met five women, who were all doing fun projects. A couple had been to Pyramid Atlantic so they had some papermaking experience. Robert has also been, and he has visited the printshops in NYC as well. They have an incredible array of programming and even have a gorgeous Clymer Columbia press and I don't know how he stays on top of all the work. I loved the vibe there--it was down to earth and friendly and everyone works in multiple media. And get this: I met someone who knew about the North Country, the Adirondacks, and even Fort Drum!! Inga is a fiber artist who actually would love to move to Canton. She had been there when I was living on base, an hour or so north of me! Insane, this tiny world.

After lunch, I finally pulped my fiber, which made a nice big vat. I even got a private room: the screen washout section for screenprinters. I set up directly in the sink, which has always been my favorite setup: no fuss, direct access to water and drain. I had been trained to mix PEO 24 hours ahead of time, but today I just went for it and whoa, it worked way too well. I only made ten sheets but the fun of it was doing three demos for the other artists to show them how to make a modified sugeta (much easier to travel with than a western mould and deckle) and do eastern formation. I only had four pellons so I would constantly blot and transfer to newspaper, which was conveniently slightly bigger than the size of my paper. I didn't have a lot of time, so by the time I got into a rhythm it was time to clean up. I donated the rest of my pulp to interested parties, rolled up my damp sheets, and got into Inga's car just in time to make the train back home.

I am a little zonked from getting my period today and dangerously high levels of MSG (why did I think Chinese takeout could be better here than back home? At least I can put this on my list of "never do again" experiences here). But it has been an incredibly fulfilling weekend, even if I can't properly articulate it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spent in the best of ways

This is the first image of me in Northern Ireland that I didn't take.

The beach at Portrush. I touched the water but not with my feet.

Portrush town hall. Apparently this is a popular tourist town.

I was still eating my ice cream cone when we got into the car.

The rest of my causeway pics are here.

My legs are sore from climbing. I met Lucinda this morning and she drove us up the coast (treacherous but gorgeous) to the Giant's Causeway, a world heritage site. Stunning views--lots of rounding a corner and being wowed. Reminded me of a trip to Honolulu years ago, the deep dips into water. Lucinda found a hermit crab in the water amidst the basalt hexagons and we were lucky to beat the crowds. We drove to Portrush, walked along the beach, saw people on the amusement park rides, ate lunches she packed, and got yummy ice cream before driving back and stopping at the Dunluce Castle--beautiful ruins.

My first published self-portrait not using Photo Booth. I don't know how I did this since I was hiking up very steep steps at the same time. Here are the rest of the castle pics.

We took a slightly different route back to Belfast and then stopped at Ikea for stuff. I got a frypan for 99 pence so now I can finally cook eggs! It was a perfect outing. I thought I was going to write more but I am exhausted and need to pack for papermaking tomorrow!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clouds can be so moody

I've been rehashing stuff in the studio, hanji that I've brought, to keep myself busy as ideas percolate. I left the studio around 3pm b/c I was getting cold and sleepy and really needed a shower. But once I got home and showered, the sun came out! Oh, and tomorrow (Fri Apr 16) is the opening for a show of artists who will be teaching at the Morgan this year! If you're in Cleveland, swing by (7-9pm) and see three of my hanji pieces.

I'm booked solid for the next three days, have Monday free, and then more work come Tuesday. I wonder if it's possible for me to be in a place and NOT do that to myself. I'm hoping that the weather holds for all of it, especially a causeway trip! Since I've heard a rumor of SNOW soon. I am not happy about that but I guess my bracing for colder weather was not in vain.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To green

After a morning of work, a burst of power walking to drop off washing machine paperwork to Erika at the office, and grabbing a sandwich, I met Holly at the train station (which is also the bus station: amazingly convenient) to take a trip to the Ulster Folk Museum! My first train ride, quiet and easy. This is the watch tower that was used to guard linen that would be pinned to the ground to bleach (they'd bleach in night air, dew, and sunlight). People caught stealing linen were executed. Hardcore! But it took so much labor to get it to this state that it definitely would be a bad idea NOT to have a guard stationed at night.

I was so excited when I saw all the willow against a building and saw the guy weaving it. Beautiful stuff, everywhere around him. We did mostly just the town and a tiny bit of the rural area. It was a lovely, sunny day, and quiet since the Easter holidays are over and the kids are back in school. I've already forgotten the dates but I think the historic stuff goes no later than 1912. They've essentially found structures and artifacts from all around Ulster that were abandoned or not used, took them apart, and moved them here to create a replica of an historic town and outlying areas. 170 acres! We didn't do the Transport Museum, b/c mostly I wanted to see things related to flax (not much--that mill is in disrepair).

But the best was the print shop. The guy working there was fantastic--as soon as he saw us enter, he did the whole "how to print" demo. We started to talk to him about various things, like paper, and he had great info. He did a beautiful sweep through all the symbolism on the Clymer & Dixon press, and how the free press is vital for the Constitution and how NI doesn't have one.

He talked about how the older newspapers printed on linen (rag) paper are still in great shape, but after cheap cotton from around the world flooded the market and then wood pulp came in and paper was made on cylinders, it all went downhill. When I said I was interested in why flax was used so much for linen but not paper, he said: you need paper when you have people who can read. Ah! Another mystery unlocked.

I wasn't good at taking pictures today b/c I suck at shooting in afternoon light, and b/c I didn't want to make Holly stop at every single cobblestone. We were chatting at one point and inadvertently walked up to a court with a case in progress! All these children in traditional garb and a judge, as well, who asked if we were the next case. Hilarity. Here are the pictures nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Consumerism trumps sorrow"

This is the memorial for the Smolensk crash victims outside of City Hall. This morning I had this sudden stroke of inspiration, revolving around books of condolence. I was doing a search online for the general term when it came up that Belfast had one that opened this morning. I immediately got my things and headed out of the studio, even though I had just arrived after a morning walk, and went to see it.

Nothing earth shattering. But of course I felt sad. More so outdoors. Elizabeth reminds me of how I am particularly sensitive now b/c Ben is at war, and it's true. I find myself fixated on disaster, death, war, and conflict everywhere. I was walking away from the memorial, thinking about how I've felt sad a lot here, in relation to learning more and more about NI's history.

[This is one half of an ad.] So to deal with my sadness, I walked straight into a store. Eleanor had recommended it b/c it has very nice food, and when I got upstairs, I saw she was right. Very pricey nice food. But I found a box of chocolate chips and got that, and walked back to the studio with a pink bag full of cookies. And then I emailed Ben to tell him about it: exactly the title of this post.

But I did get to work in the studio until a little past five, and met two more artists. I corded this tiny ball of hanji--it had been ready for me about two days after I arrived, and I would carry it with me but I was dreading the work. I finally bucked down and did it today, though my back is now very unhappy with me. I walked back home and am somehow still up to my eyeballs in work. How did I get so busy already?