Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September Eve at Saltonstall and all is well

Everything (besides the really annoying admin loose ends that we are all frantically trying to tie up so that we can hurry up and BE here to do whatever we like) is perfect here. I drove in yesterday and it was a messy, tangled-up drive (b/c I refuse to do things like plug in the GPS, or write down directions, or pay attention, AND there was a big detour at the end), but I was still the first to arrive.

This is sunrise on the main house, which houses a fiction writer (Caron), poet (Brooke, still in transit), and photographer (Daniel). Plus common space, kitchen, dining, etc.

This is my new home and studio for the month. Ryan is downstairs. It's big and airy and there are no less than but probably more than twelve windows in my space alone, plus the glass door to the back patio. I saw bluejays this morning when I got up at 5am and out of bed at 5:30am and what a day it has been.

The huge spiderwebs in the meadow were gorgeous. I saw one and was so proud of myself but then noticed they are EVERYWHERE. Fields of webs, nearly.

And then I noticed the moon in the sky after putting my mail into the box across the road.

Here's part of my studio. I made four or five books, organized, disorganized, and hopped around a million projects. I probably undid 100 hanji cord offcuts. It was amazing to get up so early and work all morning. But then I had to do admin in the afternoon, which was not fun. I'm trying to finish some up now and took Benadryl to help w/my hay fever, but I'm still draining.

The last resident must have left this in the studio; LOVE IT. I went to town today w/Caron to run errands, get gas, change my voicemail to say, "I have no cell phone reception! Leave me alone!" and see Ithaca Falls. I'm thinking I have at least one more day of lotsa admin before I'm in the clear. It's so beautiful here and the vibe is right on, so it is painful to do the admin, but at least I reserve mornings for my work. I can't NOT make art when the birds are so chirpy. It's impossible. Also, did I say that the people are fantastic? And the food...killer. Don't be surprised if I disappear completely from bliss.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dig and unearth

I had the perfect last outing on Friday with Jeannie and Robert. I had gone to NY Central Art Supply to talk w/the paper buyer about carrying colored hanji, and then we stopped at B&H (not the photo place) for soup at the counter. Mine was the perfect cold cucumber soup, to get us through the evening: we hit the Folk Art Museum, MOMA, and then took a couple of buses (Robert's first time on NYC buses!) to the Rubin. The exhibit of female artists at the folk art museum was very satisfying; I love going there. The Lee Bontecou show at MOMA was not what I hoped for. Then again, maybe nothing will top MCA's retrospective of her work years back. The Rubin was the biggest treat, since I still hadn't ever been, and I was happy to introduce it to Robert. We walked to Dojo afterwards for a yummy dinner, and I was thankful for Jeannie's native New Yorker tour and positive spirits. I'm hoping Robert has a safe trip back to Belfast, and then Bangor, while I pack today for tomorrow's drive to Ithaca.

Yesterday, I had dinner with Barbara, my orchestra teacher from 7th to 12th grade. We talked about all sorts of things and sat by the river while I tried to fight the exhaustion from going w/mom to the Korean sauna early in the day for a scrub and beating (aka massage). I think I'm too old for that kind of bodywork--too many things embedded deep in my body that are not going to get worked out in an hour, and that's fine. Jeannie recommended scanning this clipping about a reading group at the public library that I used to be part of. I think it's funny that most of my face is washed out. I need to pick up this book again b/c I don't remember any adventures of Little Bear.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I should take breaks and do jumping jacks

I love this picture of a picture in the hanji museum in Jeonju. Tam was just emailing me yesterday about how she feels like I am moving more towards a rural existence. Or at least away from a super urban one. I don't know why that surprised me, but then I look at this and I think, "I wish this still existed in the world." Back when everyone would get together and steam and strip bark together and there was a LOT of dak harvested and you just Work Hard.

But, of course, some conveniences of modern life I wouldn't trade for the inconveniences of yesterday. And I am Working Hard now, but in a very unsatisfying way: doing admin in front of the computer for days straight. I'm putting in the time now in hopes that I can work ahead a little, which means I ostensibly could have more time in the studio during my residency next month. I'm plugging away at:

1. a new website that I've intended to do for at least three years now, called "hanji FAQ,"
2. some kind of moving presentation (slide show, definitely, but voiceover? Not sure) about building the hanji studio at the Morgan,
3. a ton of submissions and big applications,
4. tardy correspondence with people in Korea, and the usual
5. frantic juggling of "where is my art when and how will it get to the next place on time??"

The few things I've crossed off of my list don't seem to make it any shorter, and many of these this are open-ended, making it hard to force completion. Also, so much of the work is writing intensive. I'd rather be doing cartwheels (or trying). I love writing, but I could never write full time. NEVER.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Forever and ever

If only! I just spent the morning doing website updates, which always leads to small crises of identity, or at least doubts about how I am presenting myself to the world. I finally updated my statement, which was a year overdue. There is a whole new section on joomchi, which includes work from the not-too-distant past that was never properly photographed until now. Stefan reassured me that I am not his most difficult client, but even I was surprised by how NOT straightforward it is to shoot a roll of paper art. I kept asking for back and front lighting, and he'd say, "You're trying to show two completely different things," and I'd be like, "Why can't I have it all?" Even though it's a drag to light each one, since each requires a different amount of transparency vs surface texture and color, you can definitely tell which ones were shot as floaters.

We also shot the piece going to Cleveland for the Morgan's Open House silent auction on Oct 2, an old favorite from last year's touring circuit, and the tiny book I made with Chela's text and images. I also have a new site in the works that I started this weekend, but that's under wraps until it's further along.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The people you thank in a speech

I'm still going a million miles a minute (but stopped briefly this morning to figure out that I lost almost 10 pounds in Cleveland--shocking) and have already caught up with a bunch of people in Manhattan. Today I see Robert from Northern Ireland and also do a shoot with Stefan, which is sorely overdue. But before time all rushes forward, I wanted to send a shout-out to the people who made the hanji studio at the Morgan possible, whether through funds or time or energy or expertise or driving me around or brute force or anything else I could think of:

Anne F. Eiben
Robert M. Eiben, MD

Eleanor Anderson
Thomas Balbo
Marcus Brathwaite
Stephanie Brewer
Spencer Cowan
Melissa Jay Craig
Jim Eiben
John Entsminger
Kevin Kelley
Susan Kelley
Bo Kyung Kim
Cameron Kowall
Emma Pavlik
Andrea Peterson
Steve Prokandt
Lauren Sammon
Bruce Taylor
Jon Thompson (T&T Tools)
Tony Trausch
Robert and Susan Zimmer

46 Individual Donors (through Kickstarter) who funded my residency

Also, the Morgan did a really sweet box on their website if you scroll all the way down, showing my completed checklist for the studio. I'm hoping to get back soon!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

R&R (not the military kind)

I made it home yesterday without tears, or missing flights, or bad traffic, or any of that. I got up and packed, cleaned, stripped sheets, and got myself to the Morgan to draw Tom a map of a good place to get hanji in Seoul and bid farewells. And even do a tiny tutorial for Marcus about grain direction in paper and bookbinding. There was a little gift exchanging and I loved that Stephanie asked for a photo. I also left them no less than nine mix CDs, which have mostly been a big hit.

I had to say goodbye to Susie and Bob, my perfect hosts during my stay in Cleveland. I know it's ridiculous I don't have a picture with them, or even with Tom, but all four of us were out to dinner for sushi this night and it was lovely. I wish I could say I get to rest up but I'm leaving in a few hours for more meeting and greeting, which will last until I escape to a quiet residency soon. I dreamed about hanji last night, and had a delirious sleep.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Closing up shop

I'm about to go out w/my hosts for a final dinner, and hope to crawl into bed immediately after that b/c I am way, way behind on sleep. So much so that I can't even begin to address the work I have to do. All I can do is stare at the screen and yawn. I managed to get myself to work, pack everything up, ship things home, and load the rest into the car. I said goodbye to Jeff, who is on his way back to Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, saw John wet vac the emptied hanji vat, and peeled away the last of the paper that I left to dry yesterday. No less than ten mosquito bites, but soon I will be far away from those hungry, hungry ladies.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The days run into each other

I am astounded by the amount of work on my plate these days. Mind boggling. This morning, I started edits on a memo for Ben, and then rushed to class (almost leaving the house in bath slippers while making a phone call) and let everyone know that I'd be rude at some point to hang out w/JL, who was driving through on her way back to Bowling Green--we had been in Korea as Fulbright researchers together, so it was really good to catch up and compare notes on how difficult re-entry was for us, and how unexpectedly long it took for us to get into the groove back home.

We made the most brilliant sampler of pop-ups in class and even though I missed three structures while having bubble tea on the sofas outside with JL, I am still delighted with what I learned and even more happy that I got to spend the weekend with Shawn. It's always inspiring to be with someone who is super smart, capable, pulled together, articulate, and hilarious.

Though I barely had the juice left for it, I set up to pull more hanji, really bark-y stuff, but it wasn't very successful. Marcus was helping and I felt so guilty for not doing it all right b/c I was so tired. He even offered to do everything the way it should be done since he was not in a lazy mood, but I couldn't be bothered. He and Tom and I were all trying to troubleshoot some repeated holes we're getting in certain parts of the sheet but the humidity and mosquitoes were all over me. I tried a quick and dirty press and dry, but it was getting too dark to have much success.

But I was able to leave with enough daylight to find Treva's house and visit w/her lovely family for the last time--a kind of Sunday dinner tradition we had this summer. Her girls loved the pop-ups, of course. Now, back to edits.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I didn't quite get enough sleep after my whiny panic about my mis-dated photos for the last 6 weeks, but still made it through the first day of Shawn's workshop today pretty well. We did almost 10 sample pop-ups for our sampler, and I'm excited to have such a tidy collection by the end of tomorrow. I did have to run out to take care of various Morgan-related tasks, but mostly got all of the instruction.

I somehow managed to miss the mess of cleaning up after a massive rainstorm that flooded the basement and other portions of the building, and skipped pulling hanji b/c we are trying to figure out why I'm having such bad formation problems in specific spots. I suspect that the braces need to lay flat on the back crossbar, so there was a big debate on whether we should epoxy or glue or screw or nail. Since I was unsure that the current solution will be the solution, I stayed in a/c and re-dated photos while hanging out before a whole herd of us went to Larchmere Tavern for dinner. Hopefully tomorrow I can pull the last batch of sheets after we say goodbye to dear Shawn.

The longest day ever

It's 1am and I am trying not to cry after finding out that I had set my camera improperly and it was forward dating all of my photos since I've arrived. The worst part is that I can't do batch date changes in flickr or iphoto w/o it screwing with the times, and I like to have the time stamp accurate. So I have to manually change thousands of pictures. At least, I think it's over a thousand, since I have to do it twice. Though I may break down and just let flickr screw the dates. And since I set the camera for July in June, it is all off by a day since those two months have different amounts of days. It makes me hate my camera for randomly making me set date and time for no reason, for having a calendar that has months of different lengths, and for having names that correspond to numbers. Anyhow, I give up and will go to bed after I write this instead of manually changing photos until I really do cry. I took Tom's Iowa kozo today and did bark lace, which I should have done BEFORE my class but hey, it'll be great for the next class.

Shawn arrived, which was delightful, and we went out for a nice lunch to catch up. After I peeled off a bunch more concrete paper, he helped me beat my last batch of fiber (I hand beat in the a.m. before he arrived) while I pulled more sheets. Eventually, Marcus arrived and I had promised him a lesson, so I taught him to pull sheets. He was great! Shawn also did a little. Both of them are SO GOOD at taking direction. I am really excited about exposing these interns to hanji since this is probably the first time ever that young Americans have made hanji, in the U.S., or probably in the world for that matter. The opening started and all the guests were hovering around the vat so I was doing double duty and ended up doing a lot of talking about the process and explaining my hanji samples that were still hanging from class and not getting to eat or drink. Marcus was willing to stay late, so we went ahead and pressed and dried the paper and I gave him a brief joomchi lesson.

I'd rather do that kind of thing, one-on-one with good students, than come home late to a demanding inbox. But I guess I have to have it all.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nothing ever goes as fast as I expect

So much for pulling lots of hanji today: I pressed and dried yesterday's batch. Not bad.

It was a miracle we could even dry in this humidity--I decided to give up my time and dry as much as possible on the heat dryer that is weird but works, slowly. But this meant that I could finally send off the rest of the rewards for my Kickstarter donors, so I can say that I am officially DONE with my end of the deal on that!

I tried to beat in between and later in the day had Stephanie do some more beating while I went outside to pull a bunch more concrete paper. She takes these great photos of me goofing off while working.

Tom's brother came by and had gotten him some fast food, which is SO not Tom's diet, and he tried to push fries on us. We refused but the male interns did not.

It's been busy these days with at least two guest artists, hanging the show for tomorrow's opening, pulling sheets for an order, and getting as much done as I can w/the hanji studio before I clear out of town. Tonight I went to Seoul Hot Pot for a good Korean dinner with Katie, and then saw "Love in the Afternoon" with her at Playhouse Square. In the mornings, I have been writing an article about my jiseung teacher. Tomorrow is my last day before Shawn's workshop this weekend. Eee!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Concrete paper

Today I learned from yesterday's experiment and left a patch of the ramp un-papered so I could actually roll the dolly back down.

I also hand beat a bunch of dak, so I'm going to be very sore tomorrow. I pulled more hanji with the stuff I beat and it is coming out nicely. Tomorrow morning I'll press and dry, then beat and pull some more. If I have the energy to get through it all.

Today was also a miracle day: no mosquito bites! Also, the current resident artist from Kalamazoo scrubbed and oiled the Vandercook so that you can actually crank it like a normal person and not like Hercules. So, a big improvement to the print shop!

I cast this on a brick for Susan. Nanette came by to see me and get a little tour of the place and my usual mouthful on hanji; it was SO good to see her again. It's been three years and I always love seeing my former teachers. I probably won't make a trip out to Oberlin this time around, so I'm thankful that she came out to visit.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Like running with cars

I am still way behind on sleep but managed to start writing that article this morning and then had an amazing lunch with Becca and her team. I met her over 10 years ago when I worked in symphony administration, and knew her as an executive headhunter. Turns out that she also is a fiber artist and runs a whole other amazing business. I walked into the office and saw all these fiber pieces, knitting at the cubicles, and knits and yarns all over the place. Then she took me to their warehouse area and it was like a whole other magical world. I can't even explain how amazing it was to look at needlepoint letters, thinking about how I am printing wood type onto knitted paper...I am only sorry I didn't find all of this out earlier b/c she works only a few blocks from where I live right now!

Then I came home and finally got the pictures from my workshop online, and then rushed to work very late. The pulp is already starting to turn in this miserable summer weather, so I tried to pull a bunch of sheets small and thick out on the ramp near the garden to get it dry. But I fear they will stick to the concrete. I shall find out tomorrow. A mosquito bit my neck and then Susan took me out with her husband, John, and Tony to Korea House for a wonderful Korean dinner. Life continues to overflow here.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Am I falling behind? Or just not caught up on sleep?

This morning I drove east to a very, very fancy boutique and splurged BIG time on a lovely dress as a reward for building the studio and teaching the class and surviving it all. I ran errands and then got to work after lunch to start pulling more hanji for my donors. All the sheets parted this time! So I have learned my big lesson, which I had intended to learn BEFORE the class, but we had run out of time to test my theory. Everything works if you do it the traditional way.

I got to give Alex and Lindsay a tour of the Morgan and show them my work to distract them while I finished drying hanji. Then we went out for a good Vietnamese dinner and then I drove home and did more errands. There is SO much left to do in the next week and I will do my best to get it all done. I'm behind on uploading pictures, but will get to it...soon, I hope!

I really was too tired to blog

I'm up after sleeping HARD, and I am still exhausted, the kind where I've spent every bit of physical and mental and emotional muscle I could muster in the span of two days, but after doing that every day for five weeks (and yesterday morning I got my period, and was bitten fiercely by mosquitoes, the worst batch of bites in days). There's still more to come, and this may be the hardest week left: I have lots of hanji left to make to send to my donors (WHAT WAS I THINKING when I came up w/these rewards?! What seemed like pie in Korea is like a 10-course meal here with nothing but a bunsen burner and a spatula), an article to write, and people to meet. I have things scheduled every single day until I leave. My inbox has gone rampant w/o daily weeding, which always makes me nervous.

But everything turned out well, I think. It's impossible for me to be objective so maybe someone else should make the call. Each of my students came and found me before leaving to thank me and I felt compelled, of course, b/c I am me, to give away things to each of them: hanji I made during the weekend that came out a little more intact than theirs, an ink stick, an artists' book, some hand-beaten dak, and so on. I got some very helpful suggestions to improve my teaching for the future. I had never thought of it until now: I learned what I'm teaching in Korea, in Korean. I'm trying to teach it in the USA, in English. A lot gets lost in translation, especially if I didn't know the English words to begin with. I explained one to a student yesterday: in jiseung, when my teacher explained how to know when to increase by adding cords, he said that "you feed the children rice when they're hungry."

I also came home to the sweetest card and a chocolate bar from my hosts to congratulate me. It's the same card I see every day at the desk I work on at home, and I had noticed it the first week I was here, b/c it is a quote that Ben would tell me often. They had given it to their youngest son when he graduated high school: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I know, go to sleep already

I will. Today went great. Students, interns (one brand-new one! New to me, but he's worked here before), staff, dinner cooked by a student's husband, weather: all fabulous.

Friday, August 06, 2010

I was only human today

Last night, I foolishly stayed up late to finish The Mysterious Benedict Society. I mean, I knew it would have a happy ending, but I wanted to have it done so I wasn't in workshop tomorrow wondering if the kids completed their mission. So I had a late start today, but that meant I was able to hop off the Rapid at Shaker Square and get a lift from Tom, which was much nicer than the way I usually commute. I had burned a bunch of music to get me through today, and got to work right away scrubbing pots, rinsing kozo, and so on, when Jala showed up. She was a great help and we rinsed, started two new pots of Korean dak, and assembled six sets of couching guides. I taught her how to use the chop saw and did my lecture about how women have to work harder to get well versed in power tools and woodworking but how important it is to do it.

This is the most beautiful cooking stirrer ever. I told Tom I didn't like the long-handled metal spoon he had, and that I wanted something more like a 2x2, so he found this round wooden piece and sliced two angles off of one end and now it is gorgeous. I feel badly that I've made his new stove and pot (the taller pot is old) totally caked in cooking juice but oh well.

Julie and her husband arrived after lunchtime even though I never ate lunch today, and she varnished all of our new guides. I liked her right away, and not just b/c she did a lot of work for me cheerfully. She even beat three loads of Thai kozo. BIG HELP.

Here she is holding the ladder for Jim while he rigs rope for a vat that will be underneath: I didn't want to build new 2x2 frames for the smaller vats, so I asked Tom if we could just hang rope from the ceiling beams. He works w/wood and drills so he thinks one way, and I used to swing on trapezes, so I think another way. Jim helped me with a big clean of the studio and I was going to stay late when I realized: better to go home and get to bed early and rise early, than to go to bed late and rise early.

So I'm off to bed.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I can't remember anything anymore

Emma cut 200 long threads and 200 shorter ones to prep for couching. These threads will part sheets. But for one-time use only (poor Emma)--that's the best we could do for now. Tom has 28 huge spools of this thread so as long as we have people willing to cut them, we're good to go.

Lynn shipped this Korean dak to me all the way from Korea last month. I started soaking it today and will see how it cooks up tomorrow.

We cooked 6 lb of Thai kozo today and got the stove REALLY dirty. But it's cooked through and through.

Cameron has been working on these moulds for days and days now and has done a great job. He's gone into super hermit-in-the-wood-shop mode, which is very good for him. I am jealous, b/c I would love to hole up in a quiet wood shop and make stuff.

Instead, I get to do touch ups and filling and scraping and sanding and routing, and then get to varnish all six of them. I ALMOST made it through the day w/o mosquito bites but got three all at once at the very end. Tom beat a bunch of kozo for me and I know that a lot of other things happened today but really all I can remember is putting my head down on a table in Tom's gallery next to the wood shop in despair about how I'm going to get all this work done in time. Tomorrow, I have to be superhuman.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Heavy air

The 88-lb bale of Thai kozo arrived today. So did the 2 lb of kozo from Andrea via Peter and Donna, who taught a workshop at the Morgan today.

We finished a cook of Melissa's kozo leftover from her class (left) and stuff she left for us (right) on our snazzy new gas stove. Steve came in to take care of all the wiring and stuff for both the stove and the heat dryer, which I'll test tomorrow. It would be great if it worked, b/c that would speed up drying somewhat.

Cameron has been working NONSTOP tooling new moulds for us--they're all Korean-style, designed by Tom, and look fabulous. At least, I hope they do. He's been in the wood shop working on them so I don't know how it's going but he told me in writing today that they will get done tomorrow. He made these couching guides for me as well and routed out something that looked like a mystery to Tom and me but then he showed Tom that we had it all upside down and really he was teasing me by spelling my name completely wrong.

Yesterday I had coached Stephanie at the vat. This morning I helped Tom, and when Jim came in, I snagged him from his western vat of abaca and he spent a good long time making hanji. I loved that he had already studied my videos and that he is patient enough to just stick with it. He was dealing with a very hard vat: almost no formation aid and very little fiber. But he was a trooper. He even started to look like a Korean man at the vat.

Tom helped me load the press and then I started to dry sheets all over the available table surfaces. The rest I left, since I was so NOT in the mood for tons of manual labor. Susan reminded me it was the humidity. Plus, the new stove gives off crazy amounts of BTUs and raises the temperature perceptibly. Lee MacDonald also happened to stop by with his wife Anne Marie and son Cooper, who were on their way east on a college tour. They liked Oberlin and I pushed it hard. It was kind of crazy to have so many big paper people in one building: Tom, Lee, Peter, and Donna, but that's the kind of place the Morgan is.

I lucked out tonight, too: Tony was going to take me to Little Italy for dinner, but we took a detour first to the Art Museum. I had never been, but tonight happened to be a night they were open late. We even saw Marjorie, another board member and education director at the museum, giving a tour. They have a great collection and I loved seeing art by locals, including a lot of Oberlin faculty. I thought of Melissa, too, when I saw a piece by Masumi Hayashi. There are so many circles being traced and closed here in Cleveland.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Back to work

I had a good solid night of rest and got to work, ready to fill that vat. I got a funny email about how a picture of mine from the Belfast Marathon is now part of some Belfast guide online. If you click here and mouse over "Belfast Marathon," you'll see the pic.

I wanted to be sure also to document some of Melissa's sketches that helped us figure out how to make things more easily with the materials that we have.

[This was after Tom took off his sparkly red kids' sunglasses.] I wrote up a press release for this hanji studio, since we are making history. We are! And then got Stephanie to wipe and rinse the vat before we filled it w/the mysterious pulped sheets of kozo.

There is still a lot to work out, but at least we are at this stage of working it out. I only had two interns today and wanted them to work, so no pictures yet of the actual sheet formation. I also found out that Alicia sold another one of my books, so that was good news.

I was even able to make Ben a card and a book to mail separately to Afghanistan tomorrow during my morning commute. Cameron was hard at work tooling new moulds for our million and one bamboo screens from BB&B (thanks to Melissa's detective work), and Tom came straight to us after his trip to and from Chicago in two days, just in time to receive our new gas cooking stove. Tomorrow we will find out if the thing works!