Saturday, December 31, 2011

Candy says goodbye to 2011

I had a wonderful shoot yesterday with Stefan, the best photographer ever. After ending this year with grueling months dealing with horrific service from the service sector, I was grateful to spend a morning with someone who knows his stuff, is highly skilled, and is a good human being who knows how to communicate professionally. It was so satisfying to watch him sit at the table, twisting each of the lids on these funny baskets (that he called candy), making sure everything was just so.

Though I haven't been able to stop complaining about this year, the graceful gesture would be to pause and recall the good in all the muck. I lived on two coasts, tried on academic teaching, taught nine workshops (one across the border in Canada!), presented live in two museums, visited Cleveland twice (oh, how I love those trips), placed artists' books in new collections, was honored by my alma mater, drafted my book, studied a new technique, and made art without a studio. I survived living with a naughty rescue dog in one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., surgery, car rentals, and the arc of a relationship that went from a war deployment to long distance to cohabitation to dissolution. I made delicious pizza, cupcakes, arugula salads, and chocolate pancakes. I managed to book myself well into late 2012 with more adventures. Most importantly, I made and strengthened friendships with people I love dearly, who have been the key to keeping me afloat this year. And probably all years.

I suppose if this is the worst year I've had a long time, in some ways I am blessed. Thanks for journeying along!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hanging in there

I've been having an awful time lately battling demons but am going through work to choose pieces to bring to my photographer tomorrow to shoot. None of these prints will go, since at this point, I consider them all proofs. I never editioned this piece. I only figured out on the last day of class that I could eliminate the background entirely and make my life easier. I printed these on dry paper, hanji I made from Thai kozo in Cleveland.

This is on low-grade washi, easy to print on. I had tried to shade on top in the background w/a brush that was for green paint, only to find that someone had used red paint and not rinsed it off.

Here, I shaded the bottom of the background but the darker green paint was clumping so it's mottled.

This is on hanji by a Korean master. Nice results but very hard to print onto b/c it flops over when damp and registration goes crazy. By this week in the process, I was very sad when a piece of the background block chipped off and left a blank spot right between the legs at the crotch.

The same passes, only on washi. If you want a proof (they're all different and quite imperfect), let me know and I will give you an address to mail an SASE.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Still blank

I want to carve and carve but haven't figured out what this one will be yet. But I have made a few more pieces this week and even got messy and stinky with kaki today. Anytime I get to wear a work apron is a good day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For later

I hope that someday, I learn to appreciate the 'holiday season' at the ends of years. I still find it to be full of unwanted distractions and work/flow delays. This season was better in some regards and dreadful in others, but I did learn something while exercising to a talk radio show on Christmas (unwittingly--someone else had turned on the radio. I don't turn on radios this time of year): people go through all the trouble of cooking and decorating and traveling to people's homes to try and stave off the cold and depression of the dark days. THAT made sense to me. The rest of it is where less savory forces got us off track.

I also realized that though writing made me crazy, it provided some serious stability and good practice in wrestling with my mind. Now that I'm in between edits, I feel even crazier than before. Funny how I miss the medicine.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I've been very moody lately, and bored in that "I have tons of work to do but don't want to do it and have a good excuse not to since it's that time of year" way. So I ran out today to nail down some elusive gifts for family. I ended up splurging at Habu, which can't be helped. Especially the big hank of paper yarn I had used years ago, but this time dyed a deep indigo. I figured that I would be nowhere near an indigo vat for a while, so that justified the purchase. Thanks to Velma for reminding me about their annual sale!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Party in my brain

My first draft is out of my hands now, off to two trusted readers. I am SO happy to have that ball out of my court for the time being. Now I feel like there is so much other stuff to do OR a lot of free time for my brain. This, being the essential struggle between discipline and laziness. To avoid one large administrative hurdle today, I baked corn muffins. But I'll still get everything else done I need today. I'll just be full of several muffins more than if I had not procrastinated.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wrapping up

I've been sick for a while, but in a weird kind of way where I wasn't quite sure what I was. Not sick, but not well. Hopefully, once the latest infection dies down (on my eye! My eye!), I will get back to a regular routine on Monday. I managed to drag myself to my final printmaking class on Thursday, which was sad, b/c I really enjoyed taking the class. I highly recommend Takuji as a teacher, and it's not just because he didn't yell at us (one of my classmates mentioned this, and I thought it was funny, since I rarely take classes with teachers who yell). He knows his craft in and out, has been an active artist for years (he got a NYFA fellowship this year, which is a big deal!), and is great at explaining and demonstrating things to both groups and individuals. He's quite perceptive and skilled at making the rounds when we work and catching us before we make enormous mistakes. Or, watching us make a big mistake and then asking us why we did what we did (usually, because we weren't listening to him).

I'll pick up the last of my prints next week and then curate them. Hopefully there will be one or two decent ones. And hopefully I will now have the energy to push through and finish my last batch of edits before holiday mania swallows my desire to work.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's not getting any faster

Edits are one thing that I cannot speed up, no matter how hard I try. After lots of out-and-about distractions necessitated by holiday season, I'm on page 164. 60 pages to go!

Monday, December 05, 2011

A myriad of full

[Another piece made last year sacrificed to yarn to knit. Feels good to recycle.] Today was big, the kind of day I used to have more often, maybe, but now more rare. I forget how much I have pulled away from the world over the years. I decided a few weeks ago to take my friend Caron (we met last year at a residency) to a Hand Papermaking party at Dieu Donne. We spent a few hours at her beautiful new home in Brooklyn first, catching up and looking at exciting things like proofs for her new book. Then we went to the party, and I was so happy to bring her to a real paper mill. They even had a vat and pulp paint ready to play with, so she did that while I caught up with old friends and acquaintances and met people I've only known by name, including famous paper people, and ate red velvet cupcakes. There were even cans of Moxie for people to take home! I don't drink soda and my bag was too heavy already so I did not partake but the idea was brilliant.

It was wonderful. All communities have their quirks, but I like paper people. They're good with hugs. After the party, I brought Caron to the printshop so I could pick up my prints and woodblocks, and showed her my print in the show that is up there for the month of December. I thought I'd go home after that, but ended up meeting my sister and her husband and his Swedish friends for a late Korean dinner. I haven't done a lick of edits today but am plenty energized to tackle them tomorrow.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


I thought I could edit all these pages by tomorrow, which I told Velma yesterday. If I stuck to it for hours and hours, maybe, but instead, I started carving late at night.

I get sidetracked so easily. It's just too fun, making things.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Not attracted to the treadmill

Or my manuscript. Both editing and exercising were left out of today's equation. Not intentionally from the start, but as I started doing other things, that's what happened.

The banana was for scale; the closest thing around was a fruit bowl. I'm putting it away before I'm tempted to knit away a day like I did yesterday.

Terttu said she wanted one of my paper necklaces but I only had half of one and half of another. Then I figured out I could combine.

I was half-heartedly practicing shading and forgot I was supposed to be testing my new homemade baren until I cleaned up. I fooled around on textured hanji and on scrap calligraphy paper. Last night after class, I forgot to bring my blocks home because I wanted to carve more this weekend. This was because I was brain dead and tired from all the printing.

And then I made a full panel comic on the rest of the textured hanji using the prints. That was fun, and well worth everything I didn't do today. Maybe my body is sensing that I want to have more artwork with the "2011" label and that's why it's all pumping out now. I'm not complaining; it just means I have to schedule a photo shoot soon.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Pattern changes

I feel the slowing down coming in my body, the move towards warmth and no sudden movements. I'm eating ripe persimmons with a spoon, using the fruit itself as a bowl (with very thin walls). Because I refuse to even attempt to edit 230 pages on the computer and haven't been able to make it to a copy shop, I'm doing other things. Like hanging four pieces, having white hot chocolate with Terttu, and feeling very proud of my little sister, who is editing a documentary (about corporations that don't pay taxes) that made it into competition at Sundance! This January will be her third trip there, second consecutive. While dreaming of snow powder, I'm also thinking about performance installation options for a California collaboration for next year. Which, I think, is going to be a very full year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blank for now

A big, much bigger knitted book. Nothing in it yet (not even enough pages), but it feels like a nice pillow.

Joomchi-ed hanji sewn and joomchi-ed again. Today I deal with the "do it later" aspect of these pieces: hanging. I've done two and have two more left, as I try to figure out better dowel and sleeve mechanisms.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Yesterday was full of drama, the worst kind (involving companies that don't care about customers, screw them over, destroy their property, and waste their time). So I didn't get to find a place to print my manuscript. Instead, I kept my hands busy. I hauled out the sewing machine, took apart an old joomchi piece, sewed it together again, and then joomchied it again. The jury is still out on how it holds together in its new version. I also watched a sweet video on tying scarves. SO FUN. Today, more errands, lots of knitting, and hoping the storm passes quickly (while testing new scarf knots and twists).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Paper Jewellery, the book

I had submitted to this book last year but was never quite sure I had made the cut, even though I got the email that I did. It has finally been published, but took a while to get from the UK. I like that my work is on the same page as a Japanese artist doing something very similar to what I started to do a few months ago. Meanwhile, I'm starting the cusp week (Nov/Dec!) with a strong cup of green tea, sad from the news of another death. Since this summer, I had been supporting one friend through her mother's terminal cancer battle, and reading about another. A few weeks ago, the mother passed. Yesterday, a father. This has been a long, hard year.

This weekend, I spent time with my sister/bro-in-law and an old friend from grad school in Chicago. I haven't seen her in years, and it was so good to see her. I feel grateful that my friends stay true to what they believe, despite health issues, life changes, and whatever personal drama we all experience.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shaping the future

I am not a fan of the holiday season; I don't like all the slowing down, constant eating, dark days, gathering, and strange behavior. I don't like to feel like a pile of wet clothes, because it's hard to continue working at the clip that I label "fast enough." But even if this year is a bust, maybe next year will be better. Maybe I will spend less days contemplating my death and more days living my life. And I'll teach again, as soon as February in NYC at the Center for Book Arts. It will be nice to have a class not so far from home. No driving or flying necessary!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pushing through molasses

[Barens are so expensive. Here I am, trying to rig something on my own. Likely failure, but I can't not try.] It's hard to keep the energy up now that the furor of "holiday" season is bearing down. I'm in what I hope is the last 'hardest' part of the writing, but it's slo o o o o ow. I did get to go over some simple bindings today with Terttu that made me wonder what it would be like to teach private lessons in books. Would it be less stressful than teaching private lessons in violin? Probably.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tagging along

After reading Melissa's blog last night and Velma's today, I got very itchy in a baby sister kind of way and went out to get the last bits of the "golden hour" of sun and work on rubbings for a book for a friend. I'm grateful for the good influences that got me out a tiny bit.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guess and check

I had a funny conversation with my sister about if I had mis-shot in my career aspirations, and that if I had only been better at math, I wouldn't have veered off into music. I failed to get into a summer math camp (I know, that sounds ridiculous) b/c all I did was use trial-and-error to solve the problems on the application. I had a great calculus teacher, but I was awful at it. I had a fantastic orchestra teacher, and it made me want to make music with other people (even though I had a very grumpy violin teacher that made me reluctant to go to lessons and relieved when they were over). Reading this brain book made me realize I lucked out with a great violin teacher in college, who already knew everything in the book, and taught me to about mental practice (SO hard and more exhausting than physically practicing). He also promised that as long as I could move my fingers in SOME manner at the fastest vibration possible in my body, it would transfer to my loose and slow vibrato. So we practiced trills. I still have a motion-sickness-inducing vibrato, but I think if I had more time with that last teacher, I might have been able to disable the years of less targeted learning (AND the erosion of self-esteem + belief I could never get a tight, "acceptable" technique).

All to say that someday, SOMEDAY, I swear I will get back to my instrument. Or another one. And a few languages. In the meantime, I am grappling with woodblock printing, and last night I performed another comedy of errors in class. I tried to test five different papers, one guaranteed by my teacher, and the rest ones that I had made or bought in Korea or Cleveland. Well. Predictably, his paper was just fine while mine were a whole array of okay to omgwtf?? So I have a stack of potato-chip paper that is NOT going to work for printmaking, which is fine, since I learned a lot about external sizing. And stacks of other papers that are a variety of too thin, too fuzzy, too stretchy. They will all go into the "later" bin while I get back to writing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How quickly they fire and wire

I am SO loving this book that I am reading about the brain. It's kind of hilarious (and sad and typical all at the same time) that for so long, scientists considered the brain more of a machine, while now the view is shifting to seeing it more like a living creature. HELLO! We are animals! Of course our organs are like animals, too. Anyhow, Julie had recommended it to me since it offers possibilities for a recovery that has eluded her for years. Yesterday I had to keep my hands working, so I sized paper (first failing miserably and then doing a little better) and at night carved this tiny block! In line with the way that the brain shifts and learns and changes, I was amazed by how just a month ago I was quite averse to carving wood, but already I miss doing it and am itching to do more.

Silly me, in my excitement about woodblocks, I forgot to say that the PR is up now for my April class next year in Asheville, NC!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Less is more

I got to see Jami this weekend, which was a big treat, because

1. She is brilliant and funny and an excellent cheerleader. And picks places with yummy food.

2. She always greets me with books, which I forget until I see her and she pulls books out for me. And this was great timing, because I had finished my "homework reading" (AKA things I assign myself so I can learn things I imagine that I should know, rather than things I stumble upon or are recommended to me). AND they are all stories, which is exactly what I can handle right now, in between my "fun reading" about neuroplasticity and animal training.

3. I haven't seen her in forever.

While killing time before our date, I saw these worry dolls and could not NOT buy them. A schooldays acquaintance had given me a hairpin back when I was maybe an early teenager, with these glued on, and I loved it. I doubt I will lay in bed and tell them my worries, since there are too many cracks near my bed into which they could fall, but I am fascinated by seeing them now and realizing that I am more interested in figuring out how to make them. And I can figure it out now, which might not have been the case decades ago. Meanwhile, I am back to work after a few days off and away from home, and decided to forgo another residency application. It's strange to not apply to everything under the sun, to be more thoughtful about my selections, but it's good practice for a shift away from frantic behavior.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Crackles and pops

It's noisy tonight with all of this hanji coated in rice paste snapping off of the plexi that is not really restraining it. I'll experiment with it when I actually get to printing, but that may be far off. I've carved wood for two weeks and am not as far along as I'd like, but decided to stop before losing all fine detail so I can consult with my teacher first and improve my technique.

I did just have a lovely phone call with an artist who has been knitting paper long before I started, and grew up knitting scarves for British soldiers in WWII. Hopefully we get to meet before the year is out. It was a nice change of pace--I've been in a weird stuck place but maybe it's only the growing moon and after tomorrow, I'll get back to work.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Long break

At least, that's how the weekend felt, though work was still sitting in the front of my brain, the throne of stress. The respite I had was with Terttu at the Noguchi Museum. What a beautiful, wordless space.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Working, somewhat like a turtle. Writing, carving, writing, post office trips, and a tiny commission in between. The job much easier with my bday gift from Melissa: double blades. This one is persimmon dye on mitsumata paper made in Boston.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Working through sadness

This is some more e. e. cummings on my "weekend work": thick paper yarn knitted into what will eventually (hopefully) be a big(ger) knit book. Librarians and other people who see my knitted books always ask me about my choice of scale (small) and mostly I don't think about it the way they do. In that I don't like to design my work way out, only a teensy bit. I let my hands do the work.

But these days I have been trying to train new habits, or at least try them out to see how they fit. I have regular pockets of sad time, getting used to not having Ben in my life anymore, and re-read a quote yesterday about the best cure for all sadness: to learn something new. I always sign up for classes after a breakup, and it has been fascinating to witness my resistance to listening to my new teacher, because I am so used to NOT designing and NOT spending a lot of time planning something out before I dive in with the intense hand work. I finally relented a little and was given permission to start carving my blocks. It's funny, since I am compulsive about planning certain things (like my life and days) but can't stand planning other things (like cookie recipes, trips, and image/color separation of images).

Today, I am already an hour behind the regular schedule. But I'm still hopeful that I'll get most of the list checked off by nighttime.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hunker down

[Warmer days.] Rain is shifting to snow; they're confused with each other. It's one of those days where you roast things in the oven partly to cook food but mostly to have the oven on. Greyness keeps me inside, but for a moment I ran to the library and ran back, and caught a poem for the day:
seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

--e. e. cummings

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dim, dimly

[From Tuesday, a choppy day on the water.] Today's plans were waylaid, but in a good way, since I got more time to rest and work. Writing is still chugging along, a surprise but also a comfort. I thought about what both Terry Tempest Williams and Susan Tweit wrote, about the importance of journals. It made me bolt up in bed at 1am, turn on the light, and dig through a corner of storage devoted to all of my old journals and sketchbooks. I nearly pulled a muscle trying to dig out the ones I needed: from Korea.

[Last night.] While digging, I browsed through selections of other journals from way back, and was amazed: history repeats itself. I'd read myself writing the same thing over and over again, these doubts I had about myself, the observations that other people would make about me (whether or not their opinions were welcome or invited), and then the inevitable run I'd make to my sister, who would always reassure me that I was just fine. This morning, I read more work by Glenn Omatsu, which confirmed the fact that history repeats itself, where he talks about the corporate war on the poor in the late 1970s and how it affected civil rights movements.

It's all very disheartening, especially on a rainy day, but all the more impetus for me to continue mining my recent past, making choices about how to spin it, how I am writing and rewriting my own history in hopes that it serves a greater good. It's not just about the papermaking, but I'm grateful that papermaking woke me up and that I get to write about working in water on rainy days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

10,000 words, 10 hours

I think that's how much I've written so far. Slow and steady. I forgot to mention that last night, Susan Saladoff, the director of "Hot Coffee," the film that my sister edited, was on the Colbert Report last night. You can watch the interview online, where Susan was able to give a lot of good info on what tort reform really is (I love how she says it should be called tort deform). I've been reading about Asian American activism, and have been thinking about how to do activist work beyond the obvious methods. Then I think of my sister, who is now cutting a documentary about how corporations don't pay taxes. How she doesn't get totally depressed is beyond me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


My head was still going a million miles on a short walk today, but the wind boxed my ears and I finally came down. On the way home, some milkweed. Always makes me happy.

Real work

Yesterday, I started a new writing regimen and new work schedule. It's hard, but it feels good to know I can do it. I'm hoping that in a month, I will get stronger and more accustomed to the structure. Meanwhile, I just got a comment on my jiseung video that made me laugh. People seem to think that it's a "how to" video, rather than a quick intro to the craft. I have noticed the hits on it climbing by the tens of thousands and have no idea why. It's a little stressful, frankly, and people keep subscribing to my channel. I wish I could say, "I'm not adding more videos any time soon!" It's amazing how thirsty people are for how-to's; it creates the challenge of sorting out my feelings about giving away instruction just because people expect it in the days of "free," immediate, and ubiquitous information.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Whizzing + contemplation

The color change is slower than usual. I have been thinking about things, nearly getting big thoughts together and in line, only to lose them again while running around, either via mind distractions or my legs.

I was so happy to see Melissa on Friday and get some hang out/set up time before her CBA class started. She gave me brilliant gifts of paper and tools; it's such a treat to not be asked, "What do you want?" and simply be given exactly what it is I need.

I feel like my admin head and studio head and writing head and relationship head are all not quite cooperating. There is so much to figure out and shift, about the impossibility of constant balance, about the reality of constant change, and about how to live while friendly with death. So, all of those heads have been over the moon while reading these past few days. Terry Tempest Williams is an amazing gift to us. I wanted to share so much from Refuge, but why don't you just re/read it instead? To get bits like this:
The site adjacent to ours has already been excavated. Larry informed us that they had uncovered a burial: an Anasazi woman, approximate date A.D. 1050-1200.

"But what was unusual about this site were the objects we found buried with her--three ollas, corrugated vessels used for carrying water, and several large balls of clay. You could still see the palm prints of the person who had made them." He paused. "She was wearing a turquoise pendant. We believe she was a potter."

"And where is she now?" I asked.

"We reburied her."

I feel like a potter trying to shape my life with the materials at hand. But my creation is internal. My vessel is my body, where I hold a space of healing for those I love. Each day becomes a firing, a further refinement of the potter's process.

I must also learn to hold a space for myself, to not give everything away. It reminds me of the Indian teachings of Samkhya:
If you consciously hold within yourself three quarters of your power and use only one quarter to respond to any communication coming from others, you can stop the automatic, immediate and thoughtless movement outwards, which leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, of having been consumed by life. This stopping of the movement outwards is not self-defense, but rather an effort to have the response come from within, from the deepest part of one's being.
--Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where I wish I was

Someday, I'll also have a bamboo forest in my backyard. Today was a long day in town, but wonderful. I visited Robbin in her beautiful home and studio, which keeps changing and getting more lovely (the fig trees are HUGE!) each time I visit. The neighborhood has changed so much, or at least their block. Unbelievable, gentrification.

We had a delicious lunch, as always, and it was a rare treat to spend so much time with her. I felt this compulsion to help her, since I used to work for her, and was so grateful for the mentoring she continues to do for me. We talked about the lack of awareness and research in injury prevention in papermaking, how you really can have everything you want in life as long as you are clear about what it is you want and are patient, massive life changes, making work in the world versus networking in the world, weaving paper, and so on and so ON. To feel the changes in both her and myself were fascinating. Plus, it was a beautiful day.

Then I went to prep for class and it turns out we are at full enrollment! Two more women signed up, and it will be a really nice group. I was completely hung up about trying to design a print that requires the least amount of carving work possible. I will definitely be the exasperating student, which is funny after our afternoon talk about the need to work hard. I'll get over it soon enough; I probably needed time to resist myself for a bit before I do the right thing, or simply go into competitive mode when I see myself falling behind everyone else. Oh, the joy of working amongst people again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Muddling along

I am still unprepared for class tomorrow. I need to have a drawing of the print I want to make. Eh. At least I think I finally got the faux mechanical drawings done for the article I drafted last week, so I am free to draw now, sans ruler! I'm feeling antsy about older work I made that is all rolled up; I'm tempted to slash and bind into big books--lighter versions of Anselm Kiefer's. I keep forgetting that he's still alive and not that old, and found out about a film about his process that hopefully I can see someday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shopping and ABBA

[The basket I finished on my bday: hanji coated in coagulated kakishibu and kon'nyaku.] Just when I thought I'd get back into hyper work mode, I got a spa day today with my mom and Terttu. They have a lot in common, my mother having immigrated alone to the U.S. when she was 22 and Terttu when she was 18. The former reminds the latter of her own mother, since our moms both love ABBA and shopping, which we experienced today. I love going to the sauna with people who get it--no freaking out about everyone being naked, or the hot tubs, or the steam sauna, or the cold tanks, or the Korean food afterwards and heated floor naps. I mailed a package to my grandmother today, and thought about how she and my mom have always had a very difficult relationship. I could have easily gone that route, but I spent years in therapy + a year in Korea to work on understanding the relationship. It's not perfect, and we have our ugly moments, but I'm reminded again of what Chela said years ago: going to Korea would be all about dealing with my mom. So prescient! In that sense, then, all of the hanji research is just a large and happy byproduct of a much bigger life change. For which I am grateful.

BTW, I am looking now at Chela's new work and want it all.