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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pops by Shawn Sheehy

My friend Shawn has updated his site with lots of new goodies, like the commercial work section shown in the screenshot above. But the part I like best is his statement about his new book of wildflowers, all pop-ups (check his workshop schedule to learn how!).

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!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tiny break

Tam sent me these super Bryspun needles, along with a sweet shawl. THE BEST GIFTS EVER.

I have been struggling with falling asleep at a normal hour for a week or two now, so I have had difficult mornings, which is unusual for me since I am a morning person (not an early morning person, but regular morning. Supposedly, snakes like me do best between 9 and 11am. I fit that description perfectly). So instead of forcing myself back into edits, I let myself carve another tiny block.

It's so satisfying! But now I need to pack everything up for class so that I don't get completely carried away by fun. It's time to work again. [I just realized that Velma told me only to do this on weekends, but I figure as long as I put in the same number of hours on edits, I'll be fine.]

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Around town these days

This time of year gets really hairy when you actually live someplace near civilization and know a bunch of people in that civilization. NYC is particularly dense. This is the flyer for a Fri/Sat holiday party and sale at Dobbin Mews, which is where Robbin and Andras live and work. There are all sorts of wonderful makers who rent their spaces and they will be showing off their wares this weekend.

Also, LAVA has just a few more days of performing their new show, Atlas, at Dixon Place. This, I want to see very badly even though my calendar is fighting with me. If I get enough edits done in the next few days, I will fight back.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Kickstart Julie's performance in Jakarta

I forgot to mention a project that needs funding: my friend Julie Laffin was invited to perform at the Jakarta Biennale in Indonesia but cannot physically go due to an ongoing disability. She would like to send her collaborator in her stead, but the biennale, nor other funding sources, have been able to help cover the costs of sending an actual person (weird, I think, for a performance biennale to not have a budget for bringing people to perform). So they're fundraising through Kickstarter. Here's the appeal.

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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It can't all go in at once

This is the combination of poor sheet formation plus poor parting plus WAY too much external sizing, leading to paper that can't take ink. I went overboard with the rice paste, and it went beyond permeating and coating the hanji. But it makes me think of this process I'm in now, writing this book. I thought I was near the end of the rough draft, and I am, but as I cull my past words more carefully, I realize that I can't put it all in one book, or in this one. There's so much I could add, but I'm not sure this is the time to talk about my Korean language teacher, crazy cabbies, or all the things you can do with raw egg yolks. I'm astounded by the things I survived, and feel even more deeply what everyone else said about it taking years to process.

For now, maybe another hour of work, trying not to cram it all in. I want a nicely sized book, not one that slumps over because it's overloaded.

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!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Edits to the routine

While having family and then sister time this weekend, we browsed Korean shops and I HAD to buy this because it was just too perfect. I may never use the notebook to write in but will certainly use the cover to show concise design.

This morning, I finally sent off work for this month's big deadlines, for which I had purposely changed my writing schedule (I was writing, but something else). And then, with the excuse that I had to pull hanji to test with more external sizing, I suddenly was surrounded by a sea of hanji and next thing you know, I'm on the floor on plastic sheeting, banging on a new piece that I had wanted to make since early October. It will reveal itself when dry but for now I am very happy I did that. I know that I can't sustain regular making of things with my hands while I am typing with my fingers, but I can only go so long without making anything at all.

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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nothing according to plan

This week has been supremely funky, and I haven't been able to get a toehold into any of my various projects, including the most important and pressing task of writing. But I'm trying to not get too upset about it. Yesterday I had a lovely lunch and walk through Central Park w/an old friend and then stayed in the studio for hours until class. I found out that I had OVERcarved and also that I'm fine at carving. Not the disaster I feared. This is one of four proofs from last night, three blocks. You can see the registration issues, but the final edition will be different. It was nice to start pulling proofs, though, after weeks of carving. I also got the chance to extol the virtues of teflon folders and paper cutting knives to my classmates, so I was happy to spread the word of cutting down by hand (the paper cutter in the studio is VERY suspect).

I was going to write now before meeting another friend for lunch today but I think I will draw instead (for a deadline). Sunlight like this is precious these days. Besides, today is a date full of ones, so it might as well begin new practices.

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.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The last days of light

The corner registration for my paper on this block.

I'm only very, very slowly carving. The top ply on this board is super thin, and I'm starting with that so I can see where I need to cut away wood. The ply underneath that will be harder to carve, and with a different grain, so that goes into the "later" pile of work. Yesterday's cookies were perfect: carrot / blueberry / oatmeal / walnut. I'm still writing, realizing this is my last week before we lose light and enter real dark days, inspired by the example of my friend Jami, who celebrates a big birthday today!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scarier than ghouls

Today is the deadline to comment publicly to the Dept of Health and Human Services before they decide if women can purchase private health insurance that covers abortion services. You can do that here or via PP: "Take a moment right now to contact HHS and tell them to protect women's access to the private health insurance that covers all their needs before the October 31 deadline:"

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.