Friday, May 31, 2013


The Kyoto Journal has gone digital, and an article I wrote about jiseung (which was eventually expanded into the middle chapter of my book) is in the new issue, number 77.

I have been struck down by illness and weather, but will still see you tomorrow!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chapter markers

Today, nearly the end of May, the game changes: I just got my new plates from the DMV! The car won't be in my full possession until later this summer, but the paperwork is nearly done. I am also reading Are You My Mother? and When Women Were Birds, which means that I am finally back to books, after a long and sometimes confounding hiatus from both reading and writing. Now I can exhale and turn to prepping for my artist talk on Saturday, here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cinderella was never so happy

I am exhausted from another fantastic trip to the Met to visit with conservators of Japanese and Chinese paintings. Always so much to learn, and in an absolutely gorgeous and well-planned lab. I got to see lots and lots of silk and paper, and to talk with people who understand what I am up to, and to swap ideas. I was over the moon because I was able to bring my hanji shoe on its first field trip! Yesterday I made the little blue/purple basket out of its offcuts (the colors come from Morgan hanji made during my last Cleveland trip). I'll parade the shoe again this Saturday when I give a 6:30pm talk at the Manhattan Graphics Center. If you can't make it, see the shoe from beginning to end here! And, yes, it's meant to be solo. Making a pair of identical shoes would kill me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Long time coming

It shouldn't have taken almost a year but it did, because it went untouched most of the time. Not perfect, but I learned a lot. Too tight for my foot but I can slip it on. Wohoo!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Off - on - off

This one I love because I had envisioned it in a different orientation when I first made the bark lace and even when I placed it between the wet sheets of paper. But it all came together when I realized I had it all wrong. I wish that I could hibernate during some of my quiet slots of time, when I don't have to travel, as if that would recharge me more than 100%, in hopes that when I overexert myself, I'd have more than 100% to draw from. But that's not how it works.

I did, though, force myself to go to bed early and stay there for 12 hours last night so I would be in good shape to talk to Frank's history of anime and comics class at Lander University via Skype. We had some technical troubleshooting to do at first, but overall it went well. It's much easier to pull art, comics, and books a couple days before, take them to another room, hold them up to a webcam, and then put them away right after the talk. And they got to see my entire Bedhead series! A nice change from the usual antics to get myself and a suitcaseful of samples on a train, bus, train, car, or street to share. Now I can relax and enjoy the thunderstorms.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Slow down, catch up, repeat

I had too much fun with this new bedhead series. This weekend, I was finally able to see my regular hairdresser, and she was mortified by what I had done to myself in Seattle and Portland. I learned a lot of lessons after getting two haircuts that were not right at all for my hair (unruly wavy like mine is hard to cut), like the consequences of acting impulsively on a bad hair day. She wasn't able to completely repair the damage; it will be a two-step process. Hopefully by the time I get to Cleveland, it will be sorted out. I don't even want to think about finding someone there to cut my hair, and panic when I think of being in Ohio when my best photographer is in NYC, best hairdresser in Jersey, and best dentist in Chicago.

Flickr has completely imploded but I still managed to upload pictures from my Cleveland trip, here!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Outrageous riches

Oh, my. I had no idea what treasures were in store for me when I went to meet a textile conservator at the Met who specializes in Korean hemp and ramie.
I brought samples of my own, hanji and barks and the like. But I was so amazed by what she had done in her fieldwork that spans almost 10 years. She knows a hemp farmer in Korea who is trying to develop a market for hemp paper (you can see that below, both printed and not, to the left of the woven piece of fabric).
The stiff sample in the lower corner smells strong, starched with soybeans. This kind of material used to be widely prevalent in Korea but has fallen to near oblivion because it is so labor intensive and expensive. Of course it is women's work.
There was so much to talk about, so many notes to compare, overlaps and divergence in research, all in a small office where I sat next to lots of pins and needles. It amazes me how people do this conservation work full time but are also so devoted to their own research.
Straight: Korean ramie before removing the epidermis. Wound in a circle: Japanese hemp samples. She asked me how I make a living and I said I don't, really, in a way that makes sense to 'normal' folks. I used to think in my 20s that there had to be another way to make a living as an artist that was not 1. selling art through gallery representation or 2. teaching. Now I realize that, aside from the 0.001% of artists who can make a living solely off of making their art, there are only two ways to stay afloat: 1. working a job that is other than making your art or 2. having a patron (or more). Her concern was that if I go in direction #1, that I will not be able to keep my passion at the forefront of my life, and that she might call me in a few years and I'd say, "Oh, I don't do that [hanji stuff] anymore."
But I had a good back and forth with Tam yesterday and she seems to think I'll keep it front and center. I hope so. It's an uphill climb but isn't everything, at least everything that matters? Then I came home and was thrilled to get even more beautiful samples in the mail, this time from Susan Byrd. Four shifu samples, by her and by a master. Her book will be published this year by my publisher and I can't wait! This was the perfect way to start my work weekend, inspired.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Practiced silliness

I'm going to do a Skype talk to a class about my comics next week so I've been slowly pulling things out of archives and laughing at myself. I also got a chance to sit down and work on my bark lace in laminated colored sheets from playing at the Morgan vats, as well as other bits of paper and experiments. It's outrageously wonderful to get lost in a mess of paper and bark after sorting through the regular stresses of non-studio life, even if it's only a moment between tasks.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The newest hanji video

I've been slow in getting this video done, though it's less than two minutes. Editing and compression and uploading and announcing always take much, much longer than I'd like, but what I do like is that Mason from the Morgan was able to stand on a table to get a different perspective of the process of forming sheets of hanji. If you want to watch the same video on Vimeo, click here.

Surprise honor

Jolted back to work life by the news today that Hanji Unfurled was given an honorable mention in the reference category of the Eric Hoffer Book Award! The US Review of Books published a nice blurb, which was gratifying. It always seems like a miracle to me when someone reads my book, understands what I wrote, and can summarize it intelligently. A welcome miracle for which I am Very Grateful.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I have been in hiding since my return from Cleveland, taking a breather. I have spent a lot of time at the Met. So much that I was on the steps with one friend and saw another climbing the stairs but let her go without flagging her down. I have spent time with lots of conservators lately, book and paper and textile, and it has been WONDERFUL. Though there are huge differences in what I do and what they do, there are also lovely overlaps, like how okay it is to be particular about tools, and particular about details.

I went to an incredible talk several days ago by Yana Van Dyke in the newly renovated Islamic wing of the Met and cannot stop going back (if you can, go to any of her talks!). It's stunning and gorgeous and I love having a new corner of this museum to become intimate with. I also came up against my own ignorance about the field, thinking it's this haven of examining and repairing things. But aside from history and science and technique—oh, the politics. Always, everywhere. Strange to realize that politics could determine how a tapestry is hung or scroll is mounted, but a no-brainer once I thought about it.

Lots of days in my head while getting as close to beauty as possible, and avoiding thunderstorms. I wish I could stay inside, but it's back to work soon enough.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Sometimes you just know

[Correction on this first image's photo credit: it was actually taken by Katie Avery, though all the rest of the artwork photos were taken by Stefan.] One of the nicest voicemails I got while in Cleveland was from a very down-with-the-flu Velma, who had just gotten her issue of Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot. Not only did Judy Dominic write a lovely feature about me, but they also ran a positive book review. I got my copies yesterday and it all looks great! Meanwhile, I'm still sorting through work and scared of the future but am keeping in mind what Tom said over and over during my visit: "Nothing is forever." True! So as anxious as I may be about the move, I also know very clearly that it's the step I want to take. Just last night I was stuck in a vicious cycle of a bad memory and tried to snap myself out of it by looking at rentals in Cleveland. It worked!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Packing it in

Tom's first day with his brand-new screen to make hanji, finally getting the hang of the sheet formation process. I was so glad he finally had the time after all these years to get some serious quality time at the big vat. Now I can retire! Haha.
I finished this book today, no words. Just stitching with no needle, quiet sitting time with the sun coming in through the back garage door.
I have been cleaning everything as I go this past week, even things that aren't my mess. I like this taped message.
This piece is on its side but I sewed it up after making it this morning (pulled my sheets out of the stack dryer a wee bit early but I was impatient). Tom had a violet batch and a blue batch, so I sneaked into both to make laminated paper with bark bits trapped in between, and sewn on top with bark thread. This was a gift for him, called, "Oh, you Koreans". HAHA! [That will be the last of the inside jokes.]
Tom is much more careful with his couching process than I am, much more patient. He also did a batch of eastern/western paper: laminated green cotton with blue/violet hanji. I wish I was staying long enough to see it dry! He parted and dried all his first-round sheets this morning. Mondays are always nice and quiet at the Morgan; it was good to finally return the favor, vacuuming up water and cleaning as Tom worked, the way he takes care of me when I work.

It's always sad to leave Cleveland, but I'll be back!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Pause to admire

Sorted, labeled, stacked. I had a quiet evening to myself after making some colored small sheets, adding inclusions of bark lace, making more lace after helping Tom beat three batches of old kozo. Slightly slimy but broken down a bit more because it had been cook back in November. It was good to see him finally agree to tackle the big hanji vat and prep a whole load of blue kozo.

SOMEHOW, I got bitten twice on one leg. It's not mosquito season but they know I'm here. It's one aspect of Northeast Ohio that I absolutely despise, but at least I'm wound down for the day after seeing Spencer's art show and going out with my hosts and their friends. Tomorrow: back to big sheets!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

All's well

The latch on the battery cover of my camera broke so I didn't risk any photos today. I always wondered what these couching tables were, and Tom finally explained to me that they're for fruit vendors! There is a drawer that pulls out in the front to display more fruit. He got them at a fraction of the actual price. Today's tasks went very well. Parting success!! So the magic is all in the pressing. Turns out I pulled 50 sheets yesterday (meaning 100). No wonder my body feels this way. Good tired, though.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Perfect May Day

Today was absolutely wonderful and amazing and reaffirming. My first and last batches for hanji making were remarkably ideal. I learned so much and there's no point in writing it down, because my body remembers it. But some basics:

1. Right thinking makes right papermaking. Any hint of ambition/ego destroys good formation. Yes, I should know this by now. But I'm always amazed by how completely airtight this one is, never fails.

2. Ultra thick and gooey formation aid is a godsend. I CAN'T BELIEVE it can stay that good (unrefrigerated) over the course of 6+ months, even the synthetic stuff. Not to say all of it did, but the stuff that did made me want to live in that vat forever. For the first time ever, I started a post and evened it out to near perfection without redoing the first sheet (batang jari: the seat of the foundation) or freaking out. I was kind of holding my breath the whole time but I knew it would be fine from the first dip. GO, OLD PMP (and likely a cold winter and spring in Cleveland in a mostly unheated facility)!

3a. Never use the bits of bark that you think you could slide by on. It always screws up the whole vat. Not worth the trouble, better to use it as bark lace.

3b. Picking out paint flecks from a chipping beater is worse than picking out bark bits.

4. Five to six dry pounds of fiber is good for a solid day of pulling sheets.

5. Teaching is the best. I had intended to teach Mason for over a year now, but it was never a good time. I am so glad we got a few moments in the afternoon for a quiet one-on-one, no time pressure, no watchers, no stress. I think he's the only person I've taught so far who in his first try (this was about six times at the vat = three sheets) managed to avoid bubbles along the rib lines from air being forced up in suction. I seriously know no one, which includes me, who has not had this problem from the get go. Then again, he is a very careful papermaker and he listens to instructions.

More later. For now, I'm already behind on sleep that I need to be prepared for tomorrow's adventure: pressing, parting, drying!