Sunday, September 29, 2013

From mud to hugs

Sarah at Shaker Lakes saved a bag of yellow-flag iris that had been yanked by youth last week as part of an invasive management effort. I swung by a couple days after harvest and snipped away what I needed, had a conversation with a writer that was reading in the picnic bench area, and then took it away in a bucket.
They were muddy so I rinsed them at the Morgan before cooking. Somehow, despite the brutal mosquito attacks yesterday (my exposed calves were brutalized and I had to cut holes in donated men's socks to make leg warmers that covered them up. Even after that, I had to DEET spray myself so they'd stay away from my face/head), I managed to rinse, cook, rinse, beat, pull, press, and load into the dry box.

I made a card for my hostess because I wanted to share the bounty (iris paper sitting below the card): she mentioned that irises were her late mother's favorite flowers. I think that as exciting as it is to see and handle a sheet of paper made from common plants, it's even better to transform them into something more. I wrote a poem inside after sorting out the pop-ups and encased the whole thing in an iris paper envelope. A good use of the evening before dinner with a friend, an excellent way to spend a lazy Sunday. Velma helped me get some perspective as I shirked my less-fun duties, and I hope to return to them tomorrow with a better attitude.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Equinox gifts

My second night in the warehouse this week because the workload is too heavy to venture far from the studio. But I'm still standing!
Far left: milkweed before real beating, center; milkweed bast fiber (before or after throwing it into the beater? I already forgot), right: milkweed seed silk paper. Lovely stuff. If I had been more diligent, I would have beaten more and used more formation aid but there was so little left and I just wanted to get it done, to make paper and not feel like a computer automaton, and have something nice to see in the morning. All harvested on the equinox!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Overloaded week

But there is no getting out from under the work unless I DO the work. Lots of late nights in sight! This is part of a frustratingly botched dye job. It was going SO WELL until this point. But I'm washing my hands of it now, onto easier and less stress-filled kaki baths.
The milkweed stems got steamed and stripped and cooked yesterday and today. I finally remembered to save a stalk as a teaching tool and an open pod, but forgot to save a set of seeds/silk.
Those got rinsed and slightly hand beaten today. I had hoped to make paper but I'm wearing bad socks for the job and knew it would spread me too thin. So, tomorrow! Excited to see how it turns out. In the meantime, I hope my horoscope is correct:
For four days twice a year, the East China Sea recedes to create a narrow strip of land between two Korean islands, Jindo and Modo. People celebrate the "Sea-Parting Festival" by strolling back and forth along the temporary path. The phenomenon has been called the "Korean version of Moses' miracle," although it's more reasonably explained by the action of the tides. I foresee some sweet marvel akin to this one occurring in your life very soon, Libra. Be ready to take advantage of a special dispensation. (Rob Brezsny)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

One person can, or can't

I was a fool to take on this dyeing paper job. A fool! This was yesterday's first round of soy milk, to help bind the pomegranate dye. I did two coats of that today, while cooking a new pot of dye from the old rinds and just for fun, making a little bundle of hanji and eucalyptus from Pam, who hosted a lovely dinner for some new/old friends last evening. A wonderful respite, but too short!
Frustratingly, heavy rains like what we've had recently cause flooding and backed-up drains at the Morgan. The hundreds of carpet squares that were so carefully taped down one by one had to be ripped up again, wet vac-ed, and laid outside or inside to dry. Inadvertent installation.
In dorms, people put socks on doors, so I hear. At the Morgan, we leave each other scraps of paper.
I didn't sleep until 3am two nights ago thinking about this milkweed that I wanted so badly to harvest. I finally got around to it today, though there are still a few beyond the fence that I couldn't access. The close ones I pulled through.
The batch from the back lot. Tomorrow, if I have energy, I'll harvest on Hough behind a favorite warehouse.
I usually never ever bother with the pods b/c silk removal is a big big chore. But I decided to try it today.
 Inside each pod,
 surprise colors!
I had made this note for myself but only remembered the TOP of that circle. Now my non-work clothes are covered in milkweed latex. And this is how all clothes turn into work clothes! I feel quite overwhelmed after a full day of work, still, by the insane workload ahead. But I keep trying to hack it down with my two legs and two arms and all my fingers intact.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Unlike most Fridays

Today was a doozy, in the best of ways. I had had a late but fun dinner last night, so I rose later than I'd like this morning and rushed myself out the door to drive to Columbus. That drive was long, but I was welcomed so warmly by Elena and her husband that it all melted away in a refreshing jumble of introductions and stories about language (mostly French) and names and cats who gravitate to those allergic to them.
[Cowboy, one of my housemates. He mostly leaves me alone, unlike most cats]
Elena showed me her studio briefly, full of amate dyed in cochineal and other natural dyes, before escorting me to lunch. She is recovering from elbow surgery, so I was lucky she was finally cleared to drive, and she told me about her extensive research on amate through books and field work during her travels in Mexico, her home country. Then we saw her exhibit of paintings at Otterbein University, all about color. She is a magnificent colorist and I was so happy to see her work in person after seeing the images on her website—no comparison! Then we headed home to see her video/photo documentation of amate makers. I was especially taken by the tools used to hammer the bark and coveted hers, rectangular and made of volcanic rock.

Plain amate to the left, patterns and designs to the center/right. !!!
She insisted I visit the Wexner, and it was funny to return after 14 or 15 years (the last time was on a field trip as an art undergrad) and see the things that had made such huge impressions on me: the outdoor acoustic arches disguised as curved benches and Maya Lin's glass mounds. As luck would have it, none of their shows were open and their preview interfered with my opening, so I rushed back to the parking lot (so relieved to be back in a vibrant city, college town notwithstanding, with walkable and bustling sidewalks and businesses) to see if I could catch the the Riffe Gallery exhibit.
So glad I did! Well curated, diverse, and with some strong showings of paper art. Above, by Danielle Rante.
The opening of the paper/fiber show went well once I found the building and it was great to meet the curators, arts commission folks, and artists. Some familiar faces, many new, and all welcoming. I managed to tear myself away to hit the road again, and avoided car accidents as dusk moved to dark to pouring rain. I missed almost all of the guests at Bill's Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) party, but was treated to the usual massive spread and comforting, friendly company.

Now I am all fired up to get back to the studio! Somehow, I'll figure out a way to get that work done alongside the writing and the admin and networking and visioning my life and maybe a little sleep.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If only

Got a huge hanji shipment (huge for me, at least) that included these beautiful traditional webal sheets by a very good mill that works only in wintertime and only does super old school paper. The bottom half is coated in soy milk, drying. The peels went into the pot today but then I realized that I won't be able to do any dye baths tomorrow because I'm heading south to attend the opening of a fiber/paper show at the Concourse Gallery in Upper Arlington. And then back up to celebrate the harvest moon festival, which began today in Korea, with Bill and his family and friends. This morning I had my second yoga class in the hood and it was fantastic. If only I could spend yoga days napping and doing radiant human things rather than driving and running errands and feeling behind, I would be very happy on those days.

Maybe a nap now is in order, and then some weaving!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grand slam

I checked on the pomegranate rinds and worried if I would have enough, even after skinning eight huge fruit, to dye ten large beautiful sheets of hanji. I'll find out in the coming days.
Today was another up-to-the-eyeballs day of meetings, though all four were great. The morning took me to Waterloo again and the massive construction happening in front of Barry's amazing printshop that is not in use right now.
This is the least impressive image from the whole shop. Two large spaces, the interiors in beautiful shape, tons of presses (litho, letterpress, etching, linotype), lots of type that includes Hebrew wood type and Chinese type, gorgeous furniture including an old wooden high chair, street level, tons of natural light. Completely not being used. Too many spaces like this in this town! Not enough people to turn this gold into gold.
Then I had a lovely meeting at CIA with Lisa, who was full of excitement and praise about my work. That kind of feedback is such a treat, even though now my load of paperwork has increased exponentially. Oh, the fall with its deadlines and snapping back into the reality of the hustle! I was happy, though, because I was able to navigate on my own without getting turned around AND found a good parking spot. Afterwards, I headed further west to meet Mimi and tour the Transformer Station as well as give each other support as artists here and now. I brought her back to the Morgan for a tour and mosquito bites (I hope she still comes back!) before touring the Rainey Institute and hanging with kids. That is an amazing space with remarkable programming: homework activities, snacks from the food bank, art, dance, drama, music, and daily after-school support. About a five minute walk from the studio!

Now that this larger loose shifu piece is done, I have no excuses for avoiding my homework: more apps than I can count, and two articles to write. And a full moon looming.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Small milestones

Today, I visited the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. The trails are ultra short, which is good when you don't really know what you are looking for. I only wish it was a little more quiet. The lawn-mowing and weed-wacking machines were out in full force.
Some things never change!
Wherever there are humans, there are typos.
 As much as I'd like to deny it, the fall is upon us and September half over.
 The view from the parked car: a milkweed welcome!
Just yesterday or the day before, I noticed that the views on my YouTube channel were close to a million. Now they're well over that benchmark! I still find it amazing, knowing that most of the views come from my jiseung video. If I could just get over the first big writer's block, I could see the mountains that lie ahead in the jiseung research. In the meantime, these kinds of days, cool in the shade and warm in the sun, are a blessing.

Back to basics

After doing morning admin yesterday, it suddenly passed noon and I felt too cold and isolated to stay home any longer: off to the studio! It was nice to see the familiar Monday faces and then new ones, a couple of my students from a couple of years ago, making paper. I finally decided on one version of my samples, re-wove the bottom left corner b&w one, and made two new kaki ones after spinning some paper that flew over to me from NY. It was much easier to spin the kaki-dyed paper after getting it damp and rolling it on my thigh before going to the bobbin winder.
Then a couple more rounds on this one, though it's slow going and I could see that when I work with tired hands, it really shows. The piles of work are still like boulders but I may still run away from it for new adventures today.

p.s. - Frank is opening his new studios on Friday, Oct 11 (4-8pm) in Dillsboro, NC! The Open House will celebrate the new printing/binding and paper studios of SpeakEasy Press/Frank Brannon. Refreshments, Old Time banjo music, and open shops by all, here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


The new jiseung piece is slowly beginning and I had to rip out four rounds because I am trying hard to shape this piece just so. Which is hard but now all of the old lessons, my teacher's voice, echo over and over and this time I understand better. Everything rose to a fever pitch over the last several days in preparation for last night's garden dedication. Of course, the Morgan looked fantastic for its first donor appreciation event and it gave a nice preview for how well it will clean up (as always) for its Oct 5 Open House. I played a little violin and helped with garden picture displays but teared up as our fearless leader choked up a few times during his speech. We knew it would be an emotional night, dedicating the garden to a dear friend who passed away suddenly less than a year ago. But everyone went home happy, with gifts and full stomachs and some with flowers from the lovely arrangements.

Meanwhile, I have not slept enough in days and have fallen way behind on everything. I spent at least two hours today skinning and de-seeding eight huge pomegranates. Many thanks to Mike for picking them up for me at the market while he and Julie were in town. I hope to reboot, starting tonight with a good night's sleep in a bed on a frame, well off of the floor. Every day and every week brings chances to make changes, to learn the limits of the self, which inform this growing edge.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

One right start

The giving tree and the givers printed on each leaf! I took my first yoga this morning since arriving, and my first since probably my March trip to Portland, OR, so I was sorely in need and grateful for the good decision making. But then my morning appointment cancelled on me five minutes after we were supposed to meet. I have gotten through as much as I can manage at the studio in terms of work, and got to see Pam for a moment, but really need a nap. I stayed up very late making a spreadsheet of all the people I have met and have been told to meet here.
Yet there is still SO much work left to do. I was thinking last night after an overall good day (fruitful meetings and errands, but too much driving) that I keep thinking that there will be a moment where I'm caught up and THEN I can do my work. But that is pure fantasy and really I have to understand that I will always be working and always be behind. What's real? Bill is playing with paper and pumpkins. A wonderful new book review came out in the Textile Society of America Newsletter. And Vamp & Tramp has my books online, both regular and miniature.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back to the races

Networking would not be so exhausting if temperatures hadn't climbed so high today. Scorching! My car's sensor said 101 degrees Fahrenheit. It was enough to melt my memory, so I left my homework for tomorrow's session in the flat file. Oh, well. But I had a wonderful visit to ICA today, which includes huge open lab space, so I got to meet lots of conservators and the majority of the people in this photo. Their photographer worked at Oberlin for years and was the very first person to shoot slides for me. I hired him on the advice of a professor, and meeting him again today after 14 years made me wonder if my best experiences with photographers are with very tall ones.

Anyhow, it was jolly good fun. Conservators are a breed of people I feel a certain kinship to, and in another life I might have gone that route. I saw the most amazing Man Ray pipe with glass bubble (Ce qui manque à nous tous), huge WPA murals, 18th century painted chairs, large survey maps of the parks being built in Cleveland down to every last tree (each tree marked with a central circle and a larger one to indicate its size and even its type: butternut, cherry, oak, beech, you name it), a Native American drawing, a Warhol print, a large textile and its replica from the Hayes House, and a flaking but gorgeous French painting. Lots of ideas to consider, and yet another wagonload of people and places to approach.

Then, back to the Morgan for a meeting and finishing up the huge screen that Tom and I started yesterday. He had made eight beautiful panels to be displayed four on each side of a double-hinged folding screen, out of big-ass-type sheets. One was the giving tree, where donors names printed onto leaves will be attached (for this weekend's garden dedication, which is why the place has been whipped in to the usual pre-event frenzy). The other side is more abstract, but just as lovely. He made the custom screen after the sheets were made and was wondering about the best way to adhere the huge sheets on either side of the thin primed plywood in each panel. I mixed up some methylcellulose and he found a big paint roller and flat tray so we could make some slow PVA. It took a little bit of a learning curve but by the last set today, we were ready to start a screen-making business! That's a joke, but it was nice to work together because we do that well. Of course, I got a handful of bites each day, no surprise.

The real work week has begun! And I forgot to mention that two of my pieces from a 2009 national park residency are in an online exhibit.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Gratitude for quietish Mondays

Can you find the flower and the ear? I took a lot of days away from the studio last week to attempt acting like a normal person, a weekend full of driving and errands and catching up on the phone with friends and family. Now, back to the weekly work, which I always find exciting on Monday. The studio is quiet (aside from all the banging in the beater room as Mason does construction) and I am excited to be allowed to work all day, rather than working at relaxing on weekends. Relaxing, what?
The flat file drawer is a mess of half-finished things and new and old scraps. I learned that Bill grows indigo locally! Plus he does fantastic joomchi. The paper/fiber show where I have two pieces down near Columbus has already opened, and they got a nice write-up in the Columbus Dispatch's Sunday edition yesterday. It made my afternoon!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Real pacing in an ideal world

This is an early exercise for my coaching homework, exploring real and ideal. It is mostly layers of weird cooked and dried kozo that comes in a papermaking kit, laminated into a thick sheet. I beat a bit by hand and then threw it all into a wonky beater and pulled sheets on a western mould and deckle. The first sheet had a nasty air bubble that I tried to mask with colored cotton pulp before I couched more kozo sheets over it. The orange colored pencil highlights all of the cotton splashes, and I cut away the top layers of kozo to reveal the biggest one. This weekend I don't get to do this kind of quiet work where the scale fits my hands while listening to Terry Gross interview John Zorn, who says he is just as sensitive as he needs to be, to be himself. This weekend I should be taking a large butcher knife and sawing through 4 x 8-feet pieces of styrofoam. This weekend I should be writing outlines and abstracts for papers.

Who knows what the future holds this weekend, but a few months ago I did an interview for this article. Thanks to Melissa for noticing it before I did! The graduate alma mater has been slow in recognizing my work in the field, but I suppose everyone has their own pace. I'm learning my own here, especially now with seasonal allergies coming into the mix.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

All green, all day

I am really bad at landscapes so I didn't even try to capture the amazing vista where this sign is on the Hiram trails that are part of the Center for the Study of Nature and Society. What a wonderful treat, to drive out in the morning and meet Matt, its director, and get a generous chunk of his time.
Aside from seeing all the outdoor and green spaces (more cattail, some inspection of burrs on plants with a hand lens, scoping out prairies and meadows for potential milkweed cultivation: they LIKE milkweed there), he also showed me the barn used a lot for ceramic work.
So many barns with amazing potential in their upper decks! And a silo outside, too, but more of an echo chamber to grow moss (unintentionally) below).
Next to the silo, some faces that were embedded when this tree was still alive and was able to take over the masks. We visited the art department, too, and met three faculty. Then I was treated to lunch in the dining hall! I had forgotten how MUCH food is available to students, and was amazed at how fancy it was. Clean, well-lit, great views.
I was a zombie by the time I returned to the Morgan, so it took a while to snap out of my driving stupor (unfortunately, highway and distance driving makes me very sleepy). A few days ago, one of the interns transformed the outside bathtub to a true Morgan tub: green! And then I went to visit SPACES for the very first time for the most apt close to the day, a talk by the Metroparks Invasive Plant Coordinator Jennifer Hillmer and Mimi Kato, an artist who worked with them on making art through buckthorn removal. We were all terribly excited to meet each other.

Yesterday, I walked a couple miles to mail something. I think it was the first real walk I had since arriving here (oh, the perils of car culture). But today was my first real walk on earth here. I will sleep well tonight!