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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I was in a rut today in the studio but kept working through it, making postcard-size joomchi pieces to clear out hanji scraps that have been making me insane since last summer, when I cut them into triangular pieces. Triangles are NOT my shape. I'm also amazed at how much admin I have to slog through these days. I thought yesterday and today about how uninspired I have been, but how it is inevitable in a place that feels so divided, that IS so divided by actual, physical divisions: walls, gates, empty lots, fences, do you inhabit a space like that and not have your mind shut down?

So I will be taking a day trip to Dublin very soon, and maybe a countryside trip next week before I take off for England. I was even wondering if I should take a ferry to Scotland but that might be overreaching. If nothing else, I should try to catch a film at Queen's Film Theatre. And good news on fundraising: I've passed 50%! There's still a ways to go, and time feels like it's picking up speed, but this is heartening.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


[Josh Ritter lyrics that felt particularly apt for this city carved up by walls.] I feel like I'm finally back in my body somewhat--I went to the Polish market and got some more substantial protein (I've been sorely deficient for a while) and was delighted by the guy there b/c he said, "if you have questions, I can do my best to explain." Since I was pretty obviously NOT someone who reads Polish. So I asked which pickles were sweet, since I hate sweet pickles. Thank goodness I asked, b/c the only sweet ones were the ones I would have pegged as not sweet! Anyhow, I have been buried in admin, somehow, and am still digging my way out. Susan Byrd sent me her new blog, where she has so generously uploaded her articles on shifu that she has written over the years. Brilliant; a huge service to the community.

[One of my fave drawings from Dr. Sketchy.] Today, Inga picked me up and took us to the Linen Centre in Lisburn. Not very exciting but I can tick it off the list. The very exciting part was lunch and an afternoon with her and her husband in their AMAZING home. Seriously, it was like a total playground for artists. And that's what both of them are. I cannot even begin to explain how gorgeous and fantastic it all was: the inside, the outside, the art, the decor, the colors, the wallpaper, the white carpets, the sliding doors, the commitment to making an incredibly inspiring living and working space. It was like being transported to another world. I did not feel like I was in Northern Ireland anymore. It was the first floor I was happy to be sitting all over b/c they are like me: no shoes in the house!!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Festivals galore

This road is closed off through election day (May 6) in case of dissident attacks--this is where the guys in black robes and white ribbons and wigs go to work.

I saw this on the way to meet new friends at the Festival of Fools and had to shoot it.

I got to town early and there was a perfect seat to watch this show, so I saw a magician from Australia after knitting a bunch.

After running into the mall to use the bathroom (mostly for hot water and dryers: my hands were freezing), I went back out to the same site to meet Inga and her husband and friend to watch this guy, half of a British duo with

this guy. I don't know which is Jones and which is Barnard, but they had started out the gig in suits.

After hot chocolate, we caught the last half of Rob Torres from the USA and an audience member. Then we walked over to Harlem Cafe for good seafood chowder, lovely ambiance/decor, and gorgeous windows. We peeked into Ulster Hall and then headed back for one more show.

The last guy we saw was Dansko Gida from the Czech Republic, who had a FABULOUS soundtrack. It's amazing to see street performance these days: everyone uses an iPod or portable computer for their music. But regardless, it was great fun despite how schizophrenic the weather has been for the past two days. Today was sun and rain and warmth and cold on and off like a switch. Yesterday was the same, only with heavier rain when it rained, warmer sun when it came out, and HAIL. I also realized last night why I sleep so little here: it gets dark LATE and light EARLY. It was a much-needed day off, and I was able to talk to Ben for the first time in over a month.

Today I went to the studio after all the shows and my right hand started to freak out (likely from too much weaving), so I called it quits early. I'm hoping it will calm down soon b/c I am useless w/o it, and will hopefully catch more shows tomorrow. Inga said it was hilarious that I am in Belfast now, b/c it seems so culturally rich since there are a bunch of festivals that fall right around the bank holidays in May: film festival, fools festival, and Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival...I've been to events for all three, three days in a row! I highly recommend spring for jaunts to this fine city.