Thursday, August 30, 2012

New work, new images

I thought last week that it would be fun to do a string of woven paper beads, like the ball I made for Vagner in Santa Fe. Except it takes forever. But I'm still doing my best and at least I have something to keep my hands busy when my head is fried. Like after website updates! I was so tired this time that I left the thumbnails to speak for themselves.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Check, check, check

[Monoprint tests on hand- and machine-made paper] The to do list is getting pruned, though still formidable. Some bigger tasks are gone but the largest (all related to the book) are burning a hole through both physical and electronic lists. I'm amazed at how much I'm dragging my feet on this stuff, as if I think a fairy will arrive and magically do the work for me. My biggest accomplishment was finishing Jacob Eyferth's Eating Rice from Bamboo Roots and taking two whole days to type out my notes from that 4-month read. Granted, most of the time it was a computer prop or nightstand decoration in Santa Fe. It started out rocky because it felt too much like a dissertation (which was its first iteration), but by the end I was very glad to have made the trek. It's a social history of Chinese papermakers in Jiajiang during a particular span of time (1920-2000) and as he notes in his lecture last year at Brown, he is most definitely a social, not paper, historian. But I appreciated that he used these papermakers as a case study because historians generally don't spend a lot of time on paper, papermakers, or paper villages. He actually explained the papermaking parts, which were the parts I ate up. I love tidbits like this:
Vatmen, in particular, need to work with machine-like regularity, since they set the pace for the entire workshop. They are shielded from all other tasks and given the best food--eggs, meat, fat, and sugar--so that they can work for ten to twelve hours every day.
He talks a lot about skill, deskilling, and the location of skill.
Like other resources--land, water, factories--skill is contested and subject to distribution struggles. Although it cannot be expropriated in quite the same way as tangible assets, it can be monopolized--or, to the contrary, lost stolen, or destroyed.
I so appreciated what he said (and this was addressed throughout) in relation to secrets (emphasis mine):
Fieldwork in Jiajiang, though enjoyable, was not always easy ... manual paper production technology had been declared a "state secret at the district level," which made it technically illegal to discuss papermaking technology with foreigners. I heard several stories about Japanese or Taiwanese "spies" who had done undercover research in Jiajiang. In the one case I was able to ascertain details, the spies were in fact scholars from Chengdu, doing research for the Taiwanese folklore studies magazine Hansheng. Fortunately, the papermakers did not share this concern for secrecy, perhaps because they understood more clearly than did local officials that one does not learn a craft by interviewing its practitioners. Interviews took place in workshops and courtyards and were open-ended, sometimes meandering, with friends and neighbors joining long discussions that ranged from production processes to local gossip. One of the great advantages of discussing the concrete details of daily work, I found, is that it allowed me to treat my informants as skilled actors competent in all areas of their daily lives. Much social science research defines its field of inquiry in ways that makes the outside expert appear more knowledgeable than the local informant. Shifting the emphasis to a field in which informants were highly skilled allowed me to partially redress that imbalance.
This was a great way of articulating something that I struggle with constantly, the questions of "How many sheets of paper does a vat make?" "How long does it take to X?" "How much X do you need for X?" that I often do not have quantifiable answers for:
Explicit knowledge, in the form of fixed guidelines or formulas, would be of little use in an industry in which raw materials are uneven in quality and too bulky to be weighed or measured. Knowledge is context-dependent: papermakers know what the pulp should look, smell, and feel like at any given stage. If some pulpers obtain better results than others, it is because they know intuitively how to respond to subtle variations in the production process, not because they possess superior fixed formulas.
There is so much more, about gender roles, top-down demands that do not consider the reality on the ground, bamboo deforestation, changes in papermaking technology (in both manual and mechanized modes), uses of paper, relationships between producers and traders, the hierarchy of "work," how walls grew around mills where no walls used to exist, the deeper meaning of tradition in Chinese culture, and even details on secret watermarking methods for flexible screens. I wish I could say this would inspire me to work on my book, but since the tasks I have left feel purely cosmetic, it only makes me want to have written a better book. And that's fine.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Last printing day

 A hanji shirt, just for fun.
Practicing washes, split fountains, and then a slightly bigger hanji comic from the one on the shirt. I think I will bring these to Cleveland in October for my trade fair table.
I am so not a monoprint gal, but wanted to try the technique anyhow so that I could practice everything we learned over the week. Which was a ton.
The color looks funny because the paper is pink but after I got tired of monoprinting and didn't like the first color I tried with this screen, I mixed up a darker color and then called it a day. Five hours, not bad, plus some exercise since the elevator was broken. I am glad the mysteries of screenprinting have dissolved, though I am not sure how much I will use it in the future b/c I dislike the excessive use of tape and bleach (my entire outfit was ruined, even with a longer apron! I know, sounds like time to graduate to a smock, right?). But the important thing is that now a choice exists.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On the side

I've been so caught up in printing and catching up with friends and NYC that I haven't had the energy to do anything else, aside from a little weaving on the commute. By the end of the week I had a little bud vase! An easier way to process the days after seeing family, old friends, an ex co-worker, Sam Shepard's "Heartless", and a documentary filmmaker. I'm amazed at how we have all grown and shifted over the years, how life has provided all sorts of adventures and heartache and the like.
Tom had insisted weeks ago that I finished up his shoe from a workshop in Korea two years ago. I don't know how to do straw shoes (and this was a modification, using thick paper twine in one long length, over rope), so I watched this and then made that up there. Except I wanted it to be reversible in case he ever has the time to practice, so I didn't cut off all the ropes. Plus there wasn't enough paper to finish it completely but I think it's fine for a first-time one off. Now I am free to plan for one last day of screenprinting in the studio and massive catching up on all work fronts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Benefit of the doubt, given

Day two! I was a little behind on sleep and rest from such an over-full Monday, so I took it easy in terms of the size of my first edition. Eight green hanji sheets, two hybrid kozo sheets, and five bristol.
The first run did not enamor me to the process but certainly taught me a lot. I realized while touching up the first pass that I keep doing flats of green! I had done a green background in my woodblock class last year. But this was for a very specific reason.
Pea green! The second run was MUCH more satisfying, not just because of the results of decent registration, but because it completed the image. And after all these years of proposing to print this book with silkscreen methods, I can finally prove that it would work.
I drew this yesterday in class and cut out the flat on rubylith. It's a plate from my Princesses and Peas book! Which I am determined to publish someday.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Taking care of old business

[Can you see the comic? This is an old one, from 2005, about to transform into a screenprint.] 16 years ago, I sat in a silkscreen class in college, looking at the instructions to buy supplies for constructing a screen. I was terrified by this, had no understanding of what was to come (I thought that I had to make a new screen for each print), and was intimidated by the teacher, so I dropped the class immediately. I briefly dated someone down the hall in my dorm whose roommate ended up taking that slot and killing it in class, which made me feel good, like I had done the right thing. Better for someone who really wanted to do it be there than me. Now I get to be that student! We were bombarded with tons of info, all very good and helpful, and prepared our first set of images; tomorrow we'll print. I'm super happy to be in class with Lisa again, and got to talk for a while with Katerina, who manages summerINK and is also in class. I can't wait to test out my new hanji and hybrid east/west kozo paper.

I schlepped four separate objects (a bag slung over each shoulder, a long tube, and a huge makeshift garment bag) to Stefan for another shoot and got to catch up with him about his residency in the works in a remote corner of Nevada while letting him do all the heavy lifting of making my artwork made in Santa Fe look real good. And the best kind of webby news: my website is back to functioning and my publisher has listed my book description!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Web mysteries

[Thick kozo sheets made hybrid western/eastern style, so that one side of the paper has fibers all going in one direction, eastern, and one side has fibers all over the place doing their merry thing, western. Ranges from 1- to 4-ply.] Melissa very kindly let me know that my website is not working. The call is out to my designer but I have no idea when it will be dealt with. I am clueless as to why (which makes me wonder if I need to get more serious about a new site design and method of managing it). 
The colors are all funky but this was one of the more subtle pigmentations done in the big hanji vat, of greens (the top sheet is not).
And I realized I never did a comparison shot of these two! I'll get a better one in later but this was all I could handle yesterday while catching up on work. Today I head into town to drop off silkscreen class supplies and hang with family. If I'm lucky, I'll get one book or more bound before I leave.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

That's all for now, Cleveland

When I am at the Morgan, I never want to be around my computer (nor do I care to take pictures anymore. It's all about work! The good kind). I don't even have time to appreciate Tom's warehouse, but I did like this on a side table.
Melissa shot this one at the end of a workshop day. I had cut my fingers on buckets and vats on both hands on my prep days so I had to wear bandages for a few days. They were sticky!
Yesterday I took a little trip to Oberlin and met with a horticulturalist for tea and then two friends for dinner. In between, I sat in the Con lounge (the music conservatory) and worked on some jiseung pieces. The furniture is way fancier than when I hung out there years ago. After I got back to the studio to pick up dried paper and then to the warehouse to pack, Tony came by for a final jiseung coaching. I was SO impressed! He figured out a double-layered vessel all by himself and I helped him with the bottom. I would have photographed it if I had a device near me at the time.
Just to get this shot, I went to a bakery for breakfast today. I saw this a few times when I first arrived and thought it said, "Thank you for your self," which I loved. Then I finally realized, when seeing the identical tag on the other side, that it says something else entirely! Which is also helpful but not as warm and fuzzy. I marvel at how my brain reads sometimes. In a few hours, I fly back home. Tom already left yesterday to pick up equipment, so it has been quiet. but I was proud of myself for pacing my free days wisely, not overdoing things, leaving enough time for everything to dry and for clean up. Now I'm going home with some faintly-green hanji (overpressed, so not well parted--I took them apart four at a time instead of two) and a handsome stack of thick hybrid eastern/western kozo sheets (double, triple, and quadruple couched). Another wonderful Cleveland visit for my hungry heart.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dry day

[Melissa's donation to the Morgan archive! Love it.] I was so pleased to be able to sleep some last night. This morning, Vladimir came in to dry some hanji, and we talked more about hanji and kozo and growing in one country or another. Then I headed out to teach the private jiseung class, which was SUCH a pleasure. It was at Yuko's home, who had requested and organized the session, and I was so happy to have been invited in because her space is as exquisite as her artwork. Then I was heading back and couldn't do a left turn so I was driving until I could turn around and noticed an art supply store. I pulled in so that I could get supplies for my printmaking class next week in NYC (funny that it's easier for me to buy the stuff here in Cleveland than for me to haul around on the subway back in NY) and bumped into the Morgan's intern coordinator. Once I got back to the studio, I heated up the new Kwikprint that I had cleaned off this morning and made a bunch of calling cards onto hanji. FUN. Too fun.

What I forgot to say yesterday, which I could say every time I come to Cleveland, is that I could never do any of the work I do here without Tom! He worked so hard this weekend to help me during the workshop (I had a swell intern for part of the time because I talked a new one into spending part of his weekend with me in class, but he is not even two weeks old here) and makes everything possible. He makes dreams come true! The hanji studio here being an obvious example. Tomorrow, back to the vat.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The view from the other side

Rainwater, and lots of it! Which caused me great joy from the moment I got to the Morgan until yesterday, the first day of workshop, when I saw one little wriggling thing in a glass jar meant for testing doneness of fibers, only to see that the entire huge canister of water (comes up to my chest) was FULL of mosquito larvae. I haven't been that creepy-crawly horrified in a while. The big men dumped it all but even that night I felt creeped out thinking of it.
I can't even remember which day this was, but Tom was interviewed for a local TV spot featuring the Morgan. I had to be reminded a few times to shush and use inside voices (and no laughing!). I arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday but Thursday and Friday especially were blurs, the final prep day lasting for 15 hours. There were moments I was worried I was going to pass out but mostly my feet were angry that I was on them so much.
I had tired moments of panic because I realized I planned entirely too much for this two-day, twelve-hour workshop. Velma coached me in the morning when I called to worry out loud. Though I probably did not take her advice at all, it was a GREAT comfort and made it possible for me to let go of things before I even started and I think that (combined with the extreme exhaustion) helped me not get too hung up on whatever was to come. Which was wonderful. Somehow, I got through all of my material, everyone got to form and dry three sheets of traditional hanji (meaning six sheets of paper total), I was able to do demos that felt much calmer to me than how I had felt in my heart while worrying, and there was plenty of other activity going on. My body could only teach, though, so I have no images even though I had many, many moments that I thought would look lovely. I've learned a lot from the first time I taught this class, and more this time. Just ask this tea party of drying hanji next to the kozo garden.
I really couldn't have asked for better students. Eager, helpful, engaged, curious, and spongy. Lauren made this lovely jiseung bracelet as a donation to the Morgan archives. I had never seen a student pull something like this off after my jiseung demos! She was one of the final people to sign up, after the stars aligned quickly: she contacted me because she works for a business that makes hanji lamps and had some questions. All of a week and a half ago. I told her about the Cleveland workshop, not thinking she would actually be able to travel all the way here from North Carolina. Next thing I know, she's registered for class and driving up! Aside from the healthy local representation, there were students from Boston and Kansas City, though the prize for traveling the furthest for hanji is Vladimir from the Czech Republic. He'll come by for another visit tomorrow before I head to a private jiseung lesson.

The more I do this, the more I pick up on tiny details that remind me that I know so much more than I thought while also reminding me that I know nothing at all. I was so honored to have one of the best teachers of my life come all the way from Chicago to become my student for the weekend. Melissa had great suggestions for me and was a wonderful extra set of eyes, cluing me into how class went when I was supervising the big vat. To match that goodness, a former student when I was a TA six years ago came all the way from Michigan to take class. Both she and Melissa had been readers for my book, so that made it all the more touching for me. Two years ago, I met Tony, a board member and wonderfully kind and generous friend. It was such fun to have him in class as well, and he gave me important feedback early that helped me offer information in a way I haven't before. Despite being terrorized by mosquitoes last night (I had to offer my cheek while laying in bed before I could slap myself, kill one, and get back to sleep), I have enough wind to appreciate and turn over in my heart what a student from NYC shared: this was a life-changing experience.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Have mercy

In Cleveland! She greets me every morning when I leave for work. I took my time this morning and drove in the thunderstorm around the area to kill time before the bakery opened because I wanted to treat myself to a warm breakfast that I had not made. Yesterday's travel was all quite smooth, and after having been here four months ago, it feels like I just visited a week ago! The good part of that is that I don't have to meet as many people since it's not such a novelty for me to be in town (and also because summer is as busy a time as ever for people, especially for teachers).
Usually, I head to the Morgan and start work. This time, I started to soak kozo and hung hanji samples and unpacked class goods. Two hours later, Joe (in the bright blue shirt) arrived with a carload of poets from Buffalo and I gave them a quick tour before we headed out for a Korean dinner and then their reading at Mac's. They were joined by Tom Orange, who is a local poet and musician, and I was pleasantly surprised that the whole group was very good. I don't know if I've ever been to a reading where I enjoyed everyone's work very much. Plus it is always fun to catch up with residency-made friends! Today is a slow day for me because my body is uncooperative, but with intern help, I'm not worried about getting everything done in time for class this weekend.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Palpable changes

[One of Beth's books from early in the class week, responding to an assignment where they made two books that told the same story, one book using no text.] I gave myself the luxury of staying home for three days in between VT and OH gigs and am not completely rested, but finally got to the task I had been putting off for months: uploading images online. I used to do this cheerfully, but everything has changed. Now, I try to take less photos to begin with so I have less to sort through and less, period. The only way I can do that is to trust that my photography skills have gotten better since I got my first digital camera almost 10 years ago. My compulsion to shoot the same thing over and over came from the worry that I'd never capture anything decent, and also from not wanting to miss some amazing moment. Now I miss the days when film and developing cost enough for you to edit better. Airline/baggage costs also make it harder for me to justify taking a tripod on trips, so less self-timer images. It used to be so important to document myself DOING things. Now I am fine not to be center stage (and this probably explains why I am okay to stay away from performing).
Six years into blogging, I feel the same way. I used to just put it all out there, and now I don't. Not only to protect myself, but because I don't want to anymore. I think these are all functions of maturing (I am trying to switch to that because all I EVER get are eye rolls from people when I say I'm "getting older.")--I noticed it in Santa Fe, meeting older women who would advise against things like nighttime walks alone or any kind of striking out into the unknown landscape (in a car or on foot) alone. Certain risks start to feel less worthy. I have always been headstrong combined with foolish and it's fascinating to see where that combination of choices has led me. I sympathize with my teachers and family more for the difficulties I caused, not so much for them, but for myself. We get in our own way. Just yesterday, I was trying to plan commuting tickets for the silkscreen class I will take in a couple weeks, and figured I could run from station to class in 10 minutes. Then I remembered that I can't do that anymore; my foot won't cooperate. Better to take the earlier train.

I'll leave the speed to the younger ones! Korea is proud: Yang Hak-seon got them their first gold medal in men's gymnastics on the vault. Video, article.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Still dazed

One of the best parts of coming home, albeit briefly: getting a painting from Marci in the mail!
I'm still dizzy (literally) from recovery. Most things are where they need to be, aside from the large pile of stuff on the floor headed to Ohio this week. Maybe I'll attempt a nap in a bit before I try to fix drawings for my book and deal with inventory for both an upcoming show and a photo shoot. This was the gift book from my students. Beth made the covers, Derek cut the pages, and Ann bound it. Each one of them got a page to decorate as they wished. It's always gratifying to see techniques in action!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Flurry, flurry, flown

[Ann's final book, about being all thumbs.] It was too hectic today to take pictures--by the time I realized I wanted to shoot, everyone had put away their final books and I was scrambling to try and finish keepsakes for everyone (I failed and only was able to gift half the class, the ones who were there until the end). They did a GREAT job and everyone really stepped it up; I was so gratified to see the leaps and bounds made in understanding and execution and belief in themselves. My ride was early and I was so rushed that I shamefully did not get to do final goodbyes with faculty and staff but I'll post more tomorrow of the best thing ever: my students made a beautiful thank-you book for me. In the car for hours, and then more hours spent unpacking and repacking and organizing for at least 3-4 different trips that span Cleveland in a few days to class next year, so this zombie is going to sleep. A grateful, highly-fulfilled zombie.

Friday, August 03, 2012

A sweet final night

We cleaned up good. Open studios tonight were a great success and lots of people came through the studio. More importantly, those who came into the studio stayed for a good long while. I decided to set up center tables instead of books at each work station. I even stayed later than I expected at the final party with some of my students. I have really enjoyed this group and am super proud of the work they made this week. It almost felt wrong for me to say "thank you" when people raved about the books, b/c I didn't make them myself. Tomorrow morning we experience our final harvest of books before farewells.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A new bounty

This was a project asking for form/structure/design to be fully integrated with content. Emily searched all over for the perfect teacup in which to house her book.

I love how Ann has been using her new paper cutting skills from Beatrice's class last week in her books, along with the volvelle I demoed yesterday.
I've enjoyed watching Ingrid wrestle with the book form after spending her artistic life in ceramics.
Beth set up her book in a box adorned with a compass with this perfect quote.

I can't get over how tight and fantastically hilarious Derek's blizzard was, a he said she said that had us all laughing in crit.

Patricia worked super hard on getting this pop-up to work and the effect, with all the paper cuts and color and paper choices, was just right. Though most people were wilting by afternoon, I powered through a ton of demos for our last full day of such, so they have as many options as possible for their final book due on Saturday morning. Tomorrow we tie up loose ends and prepare for nighttime open studios. I realized that the reason the class seems so overwhelming for all is that I'm attempting to teach two in one: artists' books AND bookbinding. But I was serious about the class description, that students will leave with an "armful" of books. Lots to learn, and tweaking constantly on the way. I was sad that we lost yet another student to unforseen circumstances, but the rest have been holding their own admirably. I was happy for another brief afternoon interlude on the couch, finishing Jhumpa Lahiri's wonderful Unaccustomed Earth while icing my foot. Looking forward to slowing down tomorrow!