Monday, May 31, 2010

Another bank holiday, another Monday

The penultimate Monday. Dragging in the morning, but had a nice lunch and walk with Lucinda (and very disappointing chocolate milkshake made from vanilla ice cream). I got to the studio and was so unable to work in the heat upstairs that I shoved together three chairs in the communal area downstairs, lay down, phoned home, and then napped as best I could.

After sitting with Lisa and talking for a while, I finally cooled down enough to actually get four new pieces started. I'll do the second layer once I get back (it might even have to wait until September but I'm hoping the summer), but it felt good to finally push through some stagnant energy and also hanji that had been laying around for so long. Then an opening of 1st-year MFA students, and a lovely dinner at Fiona's that Allan made. Yum. I also got suggestions for gifts to bring back, and places to do final traveling. But for now, more sleep!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Long lovely weekend

Shooting in Belfast, explosion in Derry, but all was well in my bubble of sweet artist friends and circles. Yesterday, I made cords and watched a great talk on suburbia, then ran errands and met Fiona to do a brief recording before doing a few things in the studio, like making hanji yarn out of inked paper. Then more errands, and off to a Eurovision costume party! Wow. Talk about politics. The food was amazing, complete with flags from each nation, and I met lots of interesting people. By the time Germany won, the last train back to Belfast had already left, so I stayed over in the big beautiful bed again, but only for about 5 hours.

Today, I got a ride to the station, knitted the whole train ride, and nearly ran home (since buses only run once an hour on Sundays) to make sure I was presentable for a day with Bridget and her partner. They picked me up for a family visit to a wonderful country cottage, gardens, and grazing land for cows and sheep. Lunch was delicious and we took a walk afterwards--both hot and cold, depending on the wind and sun.

Then we visited Nendrum Monastery's remains on Mahee Island and got to see lots of Strangford Lough on the drive. Pics here.

On returning to Belfast, I helped grate beets for dinner, and Bridget and I went to get a movie ("Sherlock Holmes") and ice cream for pudding (the word for dessert). I loved that at both the country and city homes, we were burning fires to stay warm. It was a perfect, laid-back day, except for the running on very little sleep part. And the coming home to do laundry part. But I'm hoping to sleep like a rock tonight.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Desperately seeking travel

Today I got up, showered, talked to Ben, and then booked it to the bus station to catch a bus to Derry (pics here). I had wanted to go for a while, since it's a walled city, and had never been breached. I was gleeful on the bus ride there, since it was nearly empty, early morning, and I got to nap. When I arrived, I was not surprised to see how tiny the walled area was, and visited the Tower Museum. After walking the perimeter of the walls and fighting my desire to jump a bus across the border, I went to see the Bogside murals and visit the Museum of Free Derry. That was incredibly depressing. They have a looped soundtrack of the events of Bloody Sunday on, constantly. I can't imagine what that is like for people who work there. The man who sold me my ticket and showed me around lost his younger brother that day. I thought of what Rob said yesterday, which many people have said over and over: this is NOT a post-conflict area, since it is NOT post. I was in a building that displays bloodstained clothing, bullet-ridden clothing, and a nasty letter from loyalists calling a murdered Republican man a cunt. I'm not sure, besides, "never forget," what purpose this serves. I'm not sure, either, why this isn't called a war museum.

I rode home on the stifling upper deck of a full bus, but got a little bit of a nap before walking from the station to the studio, getting inky again, and then going to the Golden Thread for an opening. I have been spoiling myself with bus rides home instead of walking, but I had to get to the store before it closed to get decent groceries to cook myself a nutritious dinner. I'm only now recovering, but know that there's little rest in sight. I'm only about 10 days away from departure, which makes me suddenly want to hit the road every day...the upside of my bus ride home was that I walked right into Belfast's Critical Mass! So I videotaped their launch--cyclists who gather to ride together every last Friday of the month.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A big rainbow after the big rain

[Bangor, two evenings ago.] I am amazed by how tired I still am. I got my hands and nails dirty today in the studio working on a sudden spurt of ink-grinding energy, after having bumped into both Lisa and Fiona in the street downtown. I had a lovely lunch with Bridget at her uncle's restaurant and then tea with Rob across the street at Black Box. He gave me a tour of the art college, which was fun, poking into studios that have been transformed into gallery spaces for the upcoming openings next week, and then gave me a ride home after we got caught in a downpour. At least there was a great view of a ginormous rainbow from the car park.

I realized yesterday that I feel most at home and calm while in transit, just sitting on a bus or train or airplane. So I may indulge in a day trip tomorrow. I'll see how I feel tomorrow, and then either trek north or just head to the studio.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Done and free to unwind!

I saw this while killing time before my talk. Yesterday I had to ask Inga and Andy at dinner what "mushy peas" were on the menu at Jamaica Inn.

But after all that stress and the nightmares and worries about being polite yet conveying my experience here honestly, it's over!

Today's talk went well despite slight technical issues. This is always my first slide for talks I do about my work.

I also do a magic trick every talk when I talk about hanji: peeling a corner of a sheet of paper to show that it's really two sheets in one. This means I always have to have a stash of laminated hanji. Hopefully after a summer in Cleveland, I can restock w/my own hanji again.

Big thanks to Lucinda for taking pictures during the talk. Tomorrow I get to meet a printmaker for lunch and mentor an artist doing the graduate residency at Flax. But tonight, it's all about feet up, tea in hand, and release.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Return from holiday

The Korean section of the V&A is quite skimpy. It's just a hallway, courtesy of Samsung. But at least I got to see these embroidered rainbow pieces from wedding garments that I had seen years ago in a book. Yesterday's flight to Belfast was slightly delayed but otherwise, my travel was uneventful and easy. Michael had taken me to Hampstead Heath, bid farewell, and then I joined Ilga and her husband and son for a huge picnic. The weather in London was insanely nice, and I expected it to be much cooler back in Belfast, but it's warm and sunny today, too. It was weird coming back to the house b/c I am only used to it cold. Now it is emitting strange house smells with the warm weather and all the hot air is trapped upstairs. The laundry dried in a snap this morning on the line.

This is a chair, 'honey-pop,' by Tokujin Yoshioka (concertina-folded paper, no. 125 in an edition of 300). I just re-drew some Inuit carvings on ivory into a notebook to take to the studio this week. Tomorrow I do a lecture, and two days after that, too, so I need to be working hard now that I am back in town. But that week away was the best gift I could have given to myself. I saw five friends, met people important to them, ate remarkably well, had comfortable beds, was pampered, and had both the country and city mouse life with no drama. Very thankful for all of it. Only have pictures of the country b/c London--well, why take pictures when it's all been done before already?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Real baby steps

[Wood sculpture by Park Chan-soo at his exhibit at the Korean Cultural Centre UK.] I've been having a very unlike-me schedule in London, staying up late, getting out of the house late, eating dinner late. But tomorrow will be the last bit of it all before I fly back to Belfast and get back to work. Yesterday was the Tate Modern, British Museum, and "Scaramouche Jones," a one-man play at theatredelicatessen.

[Seal gut.] Today was lunch w/a friend and an afternoon park and dinner date w/another friend and her baby girl. I haven't seen either in years (and this was my first time meeting the little one). The highlight of my day was sitting in the park as Lis exclaimed, watching her daughter walk. Those were her first steps ever!! I grabbed my camera and got a little bit on video since she persisted for a while, working hard to get her balance first in down dog, and then upright. She looked like a tiny dancer.

Then I met Michael at Angel and headed to the Lyric to watch "A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky." Tomorrow will be a picnic and then the adventure to the airport. I have a lot of work to do but hopefully will be better equipped to get it done after all of this. I've been lucky and feel like a pampered princess.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sitting pretty to mad dashes

Holiday in the Lake District was wonderful and exactly what I needed. I had a beautiful bath, tons of good food, endless tea, fresh rhubarb from the garden, walking, swinging, a bonfire, and a visit with a huge swan. Among other wonders.

Now I am in London, and exhausted from running around: the V&A, National Gallery, lecture and exhibit at the Korean Cultural Centre UK, and all sorts of other things in between. Then Michael made a delicious Korean dinner b/c I was homesick for the food. A perfect way to celebrate: I've reached my Kickstarter goal, as of today!!!! The last bit of it all came while I was unable to be online, while on holiday. LOVE how things work when you finally stop working.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tree swings

And these aren't even the best pics. The sun is out now so I have to go out to play. I saw a rainbow this morning while writing in a window seat. I swing every day. It is beautiful. Internet is slow so I am so happy to have an excuse to be away from it. Travel in England is so pleasant and easy compared to back home. I am delighted to be here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Final push before holiday

I got up before 7am today to shower, do laundry, iron, make 50 cords, and cook a very well-rounded brunch after all of the work. Then I rushed to the Ulster Museum to see this giant clam (I was a little disappointed. I thought it was going to be GIANT, being the largest specimen in the world or something like that).

Then I shopped for tights in case it gets too hot in London to wear pants. Well, also b/c I'm only bringing one pair of pants so they might get too gross to wear every day. Then I got caught in the rain and was somewhat soaked when I got to the studio. But I had a mission: make an edition of 10 books by the end of the day. Ben also reminded me today via email that I have to make art, not drown in admin. He said, let everything else slide: the work is the most important thing. That was a good kick in the ass, and it worked!

Last night, I had been unable to fall asleep b/c suddenly I was being inundated by ideas and visions for work. Not surprisingly, they came right before I have to leave my studio for a week. But better than them coming right before I leave for good, I suppose. This book was one of the ideas. I had started it in CT at my last residency last summer, so I had a dummy.

But the final piece is 100% hanji instead of mixed, and has no loose parts, and can be opened to hang if desired. It is super simple: an accordion, no separate covers, and all the text is hand-penned. Even the colophon (that was the worst part, but I edited it down as much as I could). It was a big push, and I can barely see now, but I did it: 11 books (varied edition of 10 + 1 artist proof). Numbers 1 and 2 are gift wrapped in dyed hanji and hanji cords and ready for my hosts in England.

Just for kicks, I photographed my pile of stuff that I've made here thus far. Some of it is actually stuff I brought but most of it is new. There's more, but not in the pile (I bunch them up and then cover them w/hanji to protect them from the sun). I'm bringing enough hanji to make 90 cords, paper yarn to knit, and my computer. I am very bad at taking vacations, right? But my justification is that I have two talks immediately when I return, so I have to prep them on the road. And I would LOVE to have the "busy work" of the knitting and cording DONE so I can spend the last two weeks here making the things I wanted to make out of them.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Tonight's mission: a good night's sleep.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

All at once, a downpour

I was so tired of this scrap of hanji that has been following me around since October and then I realized I could cut it up to make yarn. Now I love it. I rushed myself to the studio today, and was amazed that it was empty until 1pm! Soon after I arrived, a guy from the lens factory downstairs came up to tell me that the gate lock had broken and that he had to get a new lock and key and we would then have to cut new keys for everyone in the studio for night/weekend access. I knew this would NOT be fun news for the studio manager. But it was a good conversation; he said the building was old and creepy, and the area sketchy at night. I liked that he was honest about all that. He talked about how small the country is and how the last two summers of excess rain caused flooding and the land couldn't take it. He also said that there was nothing wrong with being an American, and that was nice to hear, of course.

I made 20 cords, had lunch, and prepped colored ones. Then I had a nice mentoring session with Helena, one of the graduate residents, where I remembered how much I'm able to run at the mouth. I hope that the info was useful to her, though. I was too cold to wait more than half an hour for my next session, so I left to avoid the rain forecast for later in the day and caught a bus home. I'm in admin zombieland, but am blown away by the support I've been getting for my hanji in Cleveland project (I am getting closer and closer to goal!), and was happy to see my work in OTI Magazine (scroll down to see three images) in their poetry section.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Clams open with a little heat"

That's what Elizabeth just wrote to me. True--I was complaining about being the uncooked kind. Today I took my version of a day off: a phone call with Ben, lots of home cooking, only leaving the house to get groceries, making 60 more cords of hanji, watching TEDTalks, napping to Josh Ritter songs, getting thru my admin list, mailing postcards, making more lists for my upcoming trip, meeting the nicest cashier I have ever met in this country (and I told him so), and tea. Now I'm onto homemade stew. I think tomorrow I will be nice and fresh for the studio.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I saw this on the sidewalk passing the university. It seemed very appropriate. I have been totally up and down today. I can tell that I'm struggling b/c of how much I am eating. The mail came earlier than expected, and Maria's package was amazing: chocolates from NYC. The note was even better: "for those miserable days...know that you have friends who love you." The timing was spot on b/c I had just finished my last bit of chocolate and it was indeed starting out as a miserable day.

I wanted to check out the Crescent Arts Centre so I walked south today and also tried a Korean place (not really Korean, but the closest thing I'll ever find here) for lunch. I walked into three totally packed post offices, so I headed to the studio and forced myself to work. I fell back on making a book, and it was amazing how soothing that was. I had made the covers weeks ago but never had the balls to do anything with it, so today was that day. After eating a second lunch.

These are the dried flowers that came w/the chocolate. Most were crushed but I was able to salvage a handful of buds. I decided not to push too hard, and left the studio at 5:45pm after making 10 cords. I realized that one VERY good part of my day was NOT walking my normal route (which I kind of's ugly and congested), so I decided to cap the day by walking the morning route, even though it was out of the way. I love walking through the Botanic Gardens and Ormeau Park, and I was almost home, wondering why I didn't do this more often, when I saw why: a gaggle of boys kicking a ball in the street. I braced myself, and even though it was only one boy who did the "I only know how to vent my discomfort with your presence by mocking whatever language you speak that can't possibly be the language that I speak" nonsense, it completely deflated me. That downer led to eating two dinners.

But I had another nice chat w/Yvonne in the studio today, and Lisa recommended getting art supplies in London b/c this city is barren in that regard (I take this for granted, easy access to basic supplies). I also know that the doldrums are temporary, and necessary. Eleanor is less than an hour away, and will spend the night, so that may help shift my perspective.

Not being afraid of the dark

St. Patrick's Park, right next to St. Patrick's Cathedral, in Dublin (but that building is not it).

The park beside Belfast Castle.

I had a strange night in bed: fears about the ultra-right-wing trying to topple anything good and humane in the US, impending war in Pakistan, bad dreams about a former classmate dying on a plank of wood in the ocean. But I'm taking a slow morning, waiting for a package, and grateful for the bits of sun here and there even though temps have dropped a few degrees. In the meantime, I'm psyched about a new Projects & Causes section of I AM KOREAN AMERICAN. Mine is here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Another castle, but not a balm

Why not visit another castle today? I am still feeling very blocked, so I walked to the studio and then mapped the route to the Belfast Castle. I knew it would be far, and on the way, I bumped into Lisa, who said I was going in the right direction, and to take a bus on the way back.

The walk was fine on the way there, and the park was super lush. Gnats galore. The castle interior is not interesting b/c it's refurbished, and the grounds are hilarious b/c they redid them in a feline theme (the tiling in the right corner of the photo is of a cat). I was just glad to have climbed up to a place that the tour guides tell people to ride to.

But I should have taken Lisa's advice on the way back. I walked to the studio, but I was a puddle by the time I got there, after over 9 miles of walking on a bad ankle. What I learned today: I complain a lot less about everything when I am alone. After eating a big lunch, hydrating, and sitting, I got back to normal. I still felt wholly uninspired so I decided to Photoshop some more things, but I think it hates me: even on the Flax computer, it crashed and burned. I had to reopen it at least five times.

I decided to throw in the towel early, around 3:30pm, but bumped into Yvonne, the new temporary studio holder downstairs. She's from Dublin and was lovely to chat with. I realized I was saying, "I don't know," constantly and she kept saying, "sounds like you need a break." I think that my issue is that I don't feel like it's appropriate for me to appropriate any of the history and conflict here to make work. It's not my story to tell, and though it affects me as someone temporarily living in this city, it's not for me to work out. I think about how papermaking has no tradition here, nor do Koreans, and though those are not the only things that drive my work, those are the two BIG things that I have been devoted to for the past few years, so I'm here feeling so very disconnected.

On the way out, I stopped by PS2 for their exhibit of Polish design as part of Polish Cultural Week, and then got some souvenirs for a friend's kids and then figured that since I had 30 min until the next bus, that I'd stop in Victoria Square to use the bathroom. Then I saw people walking up the tall spiral staircase (my 2nd one today, 3rd one this weekend) to the observatory, so I went, too. You can see Cave Hill in this pic, the top ridges resembling a man's profile, the area I had visited today. On my circuitous way home, I thought about how I'm having a hard time working here b/c even though Belfast is like a big town more than a small city, it's still an urban area. I remembered what Velma told me when I was in Korea last year: living in a city is hard and stressful. And I am no city girl. I mean, I've done it before and love cities for plenty of reasons, but they are hard on me. So that makes me thankful that I will get three nights away, in a lake house, come next weekend.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Carrickfergus afternoon

[The view of the Belfast Lough from Carrickfergus: you can see the big H&W cranes in the distance, marking where Belfast is.] Last night I stayed up WAY too late fighting w/Photoshop and my computer, both of them freezing up. I woke up feeling too funky to hit the studio, but Jeannie saved my day by explaining that the moon is in Pisces. Translation: it's okay to take it easy. I went up a couple blocks to the fruit stand and got good produce (why I was killing myself going 2 miles further to get more expensive produce for weeks, I have no idea. Well, I do. But now I know better). After cooking a good lunch, I finally brought a blanket down to the sofa, and lay down to rest my eyes.

I'm not sure if I actually napped, but when I got up, I felt restless. I didn't want to go to the studio, but didn't have it in me to hit north Belfast. After weighing Armagh vs. Carrickfergus, I decided on the latter: it's closer, tiny, and there was a train leaving in half an hour.

I grabbed an apple and ran to get the bus. It took 30 minutes and though I had no map or anything, it's such a tiny town that it was pretty easy to figure out which direction to go to find the castle (thank goodness I know the cardinal directions by the location of the sun; this is what I was using to guide me in Dublin yesterday, too). Here's a handful of photos.

The castle wasn't nearly as beautiful as all the water and the sun and the wind and the people outside playing in the water and sunning themselves on the basalt rocks around the castle and walking on the pier and fishing. I walked around St. Nicholas Church and the graveyard that surrounds it. Everything smelled and felt old. In the castle, it was the same deal: how to fight, how to protect, how to fortify, how to penetrate, how to escape, etc. After a couple of hours, I hopped a train back to Belfast and walked home. Easy peas, and now I feel less funky.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Dublin afternoon

[View from rooftop garden of the Chester Beatty Library.] I am wrecked from a jaunt today to Dublin but hopefully it means that I will sleep through the night. Allan and Fiona drove us down and I was able to see IMMA (most of the galleries were closed for installation) and the Chester Beatty Library, which had been the two things on my list. A little bit of Trinity College, seeing the line for the Book of Kells, sitting amongst pretty flowers in the park next to St. Patrick's Cathedral, getting lost and found, walking the cow path, crossing the river, and honestly, I don't remember much else. The bus ride was kind of awful b/c 80% of the vehicle was full of rowdy teens and the guy next to me was loudly courting a girl across the aisle from him in Spanish. But now I know the visit is doable if I want to try again before I leave, and know where to get good hot chocolate. It was nice to be in a proper city and not feel like a freakish outsider, and to see so much livestock and green rolling landscape in between.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Tonight I went to three openings with Fiona and this piece was at Catalyst Arts, where junior art majors from the university exhibited their work. Stuff was all over the place, but I absolutely loved this, which was easy to miss as it was so close to the floor. Before that, we saw an exhibit at Space CRAFT, and afterwards, a show at the Naughton Gallery of Gary Shaw's paintings.

[Natural dye on hanji, felted. Tests.] Afterwards, we had tea at her very pregnant friend's home; yesterday was her due date. I've been stuck in the studio and today was hard, too. But I just kept at it. Not much getting squeezed out. As a result, I am completely obsessed with food: when my next meal or snack will be, and what it will be, and so on.

[Knitted hanji.] I did have some adventures trying to get euros, pounds, and English sterling. And looking at super touristy things to get gift ideas for departure. I'm past halfway here, I think, and the rest of the time will be a little choppy. But at least I'm not one to get seasick.