Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baby time

This is the only non-baby picture I took in NYC this past week, mostly because I have been too busy helping out or pushing the stroller or whatever. I squeezed in a little bit of time with my parents, Ellen, Terttu, shopping, and in a photo shoot, but mostly was cooking, cleaning, running errands, and changing diapers. Because the wee one mostly just sleeps, eats, and cries, I have not even come close to having enough time with her, but she is perfect and the cutest baby ever (I would prove this with pictures but they are private; she's not my baby to parade online). In the meantime, I have let the work pile up, and it is precariously teetering right now. It went too quickly, and I head back to Ohio tomorrow for meetings and the grind, but at least the niece and I have smelled each other. Can't wait to see her again over xmas!

I can't participate in Halloween from being overextended and exhausted, but a big happy birthday to Chandler! So many of my favorite people are October babies (including the niece).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Elephant ears in the Living Machine at Oberlin, which processes the building's wastewater and returns it to the water system. The plants that thrive here are tropical ones, and the ears have done so well that students have to cut it back constantly.
Even though I suspected this would NOT be the best choice for papermaking, I couldn't let an opportunity to go home with plants pass me by, so Sean was kind enough to take the machete to some and send me home with 5.5 kilos (all water weight, of course). I know Gin says there really is no fiber and I believe her, but I'll do what she did, and try it once just to know by the fire of doing.
Mostly, I think I just wanted to hug some plants and be around ones that were way bigger than me, like how being around big mammals is good for humans. I can't resist plant intimacy, especially now that the weather has turned for the worst.
The beater room has all the electric outfitted and Mason put down the first coat of urethane on the floors today! That, mixed with the stink of propane heaters on for the first time this season, made for a noxious night in the studio, but I survived.
I arranged a tour for four of us to visit ICA, where Jamye gave us a wonderful and generous dose of her expertise. It was great to see some pieces that were early in their treatment stages almost completed. They really are magicians over there. We saw Jane and some textile work she was doing, where she has this paper cut hanging over her desk. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, where I have no appointments, instead of the 3 to 4 daily. Teaching prep, travel packing, and getting my head in order because it has fallen to pieces lately.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bolting early

[Cooked dogbane seeds/silks before beating.] Since last week, I keep having mornings where I wake up much earlier than I need to and then realize anxiety has bolted me awake to work. This morning I was up at dark so that I could zip over to the studio and put the dogbane seeds/silks on the stove to cook while I beat and pulled milkweed seeds/silks, dogbane bast, and milkweed bast. I had two accidents where the beater plug just opened up while my back was turned. Thank goodness there was a bin under the plug so that I didn't lose the fiber, but it's no good to run an empty beater with a lowered roll. But it was good to be working alone, early, and quickly enough so that I didn't notice how cold it was (besides, the nice thing about running a beater is that it warms the slurry).

What I learned: seeds are easy to rinse away and I would have rinsed away more if I had more time.
Seed silk fiber is beautiful and silky and strong and makes more handsome paper than bast.
Dogbane and I do not get along but the color that runs out of the water is so beautiful.
Going to an hour-long meeting at the local CDC is an hour too long for blotting pressed papers.

After my meeting, I loaded the stack dryer along with some papers from yesterday's field trip from the local art school, and then gathered my things to head over to Notre Dame, where I will teach a printmaking class next semester, to meet Jan at her photo exhibit opening and presentation. There, I found out about an amazing urban farm on previously blighted land. Then I was able to relax at a super fun dinner with Mimi and Jimmy over decadently greasy food. I can't wait to see the paper tomorrow before I head to Oberlin for a meeting, and hope it's not too hard to rise in the newly-cold weather.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dogbane kicked my ass

Left: dogbane seeds and silks. Right: milkweed seeds and silks. I will never ever complain again about de-pod-ing milkweed. I worked for at least 5-6 hours today on dogbane, not including the 30 minutes it took (okay, maybe less, but I was so delirious it felt that long) to get the splinter out of my thumb. I had already done maybe 100 pods, maybe less, in the last few days but today was the big batch of over 300 pods; I was determined to finish as I also steamed and stripped milkweed and dogbane (which is not one that should be steamed to strip), cooked those bast fibers, and cooked the milkweed seeds and silks.
The latter looks like watermelon pulp! A lot of the seeds don't want to hang out once I add water, but I'll just see how it all beats down tomorrow. These are tiny quantities but I may still use the white beater for it, especially after Mason and I took it apart to figure out why it suddenly stopped working last week (it was a safety button). We had a class trip visit today as well, and Mason and Kirstin helped me finish off my birthday truffles. I didn't escape tonight's rain, but made it home a hair shy of 11pm. Better than midnight!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tired to tears

Goldenrod at the farm.
I was going to wait until this week to harvest on Case's property again, but on Friday, after driving east to help my host with a car repair, I decided I had to harvest RIGHT AWAY to enjoy the colors and be outside and feel a bit more grounded because I feel my life has been lifting away in a hot air balloon. Which is wonderful, but also unnerving. So, dogbane, it is.
My birthday moon reminded me that the Hunter's Moon was approaching, and it was a stunner. I spent that day enjoying the colors, harvesting dogbane, and attempting to tie up loose ends in the studio. But there are entirely too many, and I was entirely too scattered. Eventually, it was time to visit 78th Street Studios for the first time, where I bumped into at least four Morganites and a past student. It was nice to see a bit of the west side, too.
Not even close to enough sleep Friday night before I showered in the dark (too early for lights!) and got myself over to Case to prep for my workshop. Sharlane, Gail, and Rachel did an amazing job prepping and helping during the event. Sharlane cut boards for cutting mats, used old book covers to make triangles, and sourced all kinds of affordable tools for the bookmaking class. I was really stunned. Aside from being surprised that I was going to teach in an all face the teacher setup. We had a ton of registrations but they didn't all arrive: rainy Saturday mornings are made for staying in bed! But I was so pleased to see friendly faces (there are Kris and Patrick) and to make new friends. Case provided a generous breakfast and lunch as well, though I ended up heading to the museum for lunch with a couple, friends, and their friends, a couple. LOTS to discuss, and then I showed them the miniature Native American baskets before I rushed to the Morgan... continue loose ends. Here, dogbane seed pods to open. I want to test a batch with just seeds and silks. But when I arrived, a huge leaf bag full of giant milkweed stalks and paper bag of pods were sitting out in the rain for me, from the Case archivist. She brought them from her garden and it was the mightiest milkweed I've ever seen. I was so touched. Plants walk over to me, harvested! I'll do a test with seed silks and seeds for the milkweed because I had to cut down on processing time. Both dogbane and milkweed basts need to be stripped. Can I do it all this week AND make paper?
Dogbane seeds/silks. I did this until my hands were too cold and left to meet Yuko and Pam to visit Achala, who now has an amazing lake view. I am so grateful for this new circle of female artist friends, enjoying food and drink and ideas and laughter. After yet another late night, I dragged myself east to help Judy at her booth at a wearable art fashion show. Met lots of interesting people and saw plenty of familiar faces, got to get friendly with Judy's work, and later was able to meet her son and grandson for dinner. I was so pleased to model her work while ringing up sales and helping customers because it worked! I saw a woman look at the rack, walk away, then come back and slowly start to ask me about what I was wearing. So I stripped, she tried it on, and it was hers.

Five days until I get to meet my niece! Which means nonstop work. But before all that, some real sleep tonight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


LOTS to work through. I had this thought the other day that for years and years and years I have avoided certain kinds of making because they come so naturally to me and I fear they are just crutches. But then I pushed a little harder, thinking that maybe if I gave into all of it, all of the things I think are banal and weak and overdone and actually do the work, I could push through to something else entirely. I keep thinking I can get to that point without doing the work, but I just have to dive in.
Too many things to juggle. The cattail sheets came out lovely, though with some issues because I overbeat. On purpose, though it's not my preference in terms of sheet formation. My bleaching experiment failed but next time I'll use real bleach or 35% peroxide, not just whatever I hope might work from the shower stall. Claudio came by to drop off things from a papermaking class and gave me a birthday print and my reading of sorts before we went out for Korean soup (how much I needed THAT!).
I have to figure out a better sample book, which is tricky because it has to be ever expanding. And I'm still itching to harvest, but have to keep my gloves and pruners out of my car so I am not tempted to go into the field when I really should be preparing to teach a book class this weekend. Now, time to pack up and drive to birthday dinner. Though I have to add, for those near Cleveland, I went with a new friend last night to see Mimi's temporary outdoor installation and was floored. GO, for some magic. The nature preserve is open until 11pm, so no excuses to skip it before it comes down Saturday.

p.s. - Chandler has the most perfect post today about October. I am biased, but she is also awesome and so good at getting to the heart of things.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cattail rendezvous

Claudio and I swapped farm photos; here I am with cattail that is clogging Sheila, the beater, out at George Jones Farm. Yesterday, I cooked my harvest. Today, I pull. Yesterday, we got an excellent reading of a temperature that means potentially a very real way for me to stay here and be compensated to do my work, my heart's and life's work. Today, still recovering from the news. As Velma said, I was afflicted with the vapors and had to stay in bed all night. Good news, Velma: I didn't fall out of bed! Jumped out this morning with renewed hopes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Renewing schedules

There's nothing I can guarantee myself anymore in my weeks as I wander from place to place! I know that my intuition is usually leading me, but how I'm headed where by what I'm doing now seems to just barely be hanging together. Not that I'm unaccustomed to walking tightropes, there are just so very many these days and they all intersect! Here is some milkweed, gone to seed, on the George Jones Farm out in Oberlin.
Liora stopped by with her sister, visiting colleges, to help some kids make paper! No one has a smile brighter than hers.
Claudio set the whole thing up, and I don't know where he gets the energy to cart the whole circus around: tables, beater, hydraulic press, vats, buckets, moulds and deckles, felts, pellons, a burner! 
I told him to abandon the tomato vines for cattail. There's nothing like conversation while buried amidst cattail, harvesting for paper. I harvested two batches: one to cook at the farm during their fundraiser, and one to bring back to the city for Morgan papermaking.
The last time I got to do cattail was in Wyoming, after having missed doing it in Mexico. So I am curious to see how it goes in a proper beater (rather than a kitchen blender).
On another tightrope walk is this paper that Asao used to wrap and ship shifu. I saved it, removed the stickers from the postal service, and got it ready to spin.
I'm always amazed by his paper; it's so much more refined and the pineapple fiber so strong and layered. I'm knitting now with it, after remembering that I have a show that needs work in February. I also have a solo show that will open that month, too, so suddenly a new rope appears. But these are all good routes to navigate. Today's question: quiet work at home, or drive back to the studio to cook cattail and battle mosquitoes?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Free book workshop in Cleveland, Oct 19!

I'm happy to have booked one of my first gigs in town, at the library at Case Western Reserve University, in celebration of Octavofest. On Sat, Oct 19, I'll teach a 2-hour workshop on travel journals, followed by presentations. I hear there is food involved AND the entire thing is free (though the workshop is limited to the first 25 registrants).

Back outside

Another great set of meetings at the Nature Center, which included a nature walk, learning about the deer and worms ruining the spaces, seeing new versions of familiar plants, and amazed by how quickly the landscape has changed with the seasons. This is a new home for invasives on this downed tree. Hard to see, but incredible the way that life is able to root into nearly any and everything.
I learned about how hard it is to distinguish between the yellow and blue irises when the flowers and seeds are gone.
And that the center did an incredible eradication of cattail a few years back! The before/after pictures are amazing.
I finally got around to cooking the milkweed silks that I de-seeded last week. I've been very un-centered lately so it's good to get back to this, even if it's on a small scale.
Dogbane pods, broken open before starting the cook. I counted this time, about 370 pods (which is really nothing, but I was too hot and hungry that day to harvest for long in the field).
Meanwhile, my pot/basket is not getting very far at all, though it's popular as a hair piece. The week is going too quickly, but that's because I feel the urgency of the season change so strongly this time around.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The rabbit hole of yarn

Those are in the wrong order, but it's the announcement for some of the American Museum of Natural History's cultural programming for the coming months. Which means I'll be in NYC for their March 1 celebration of Korean culture! Hooray. I was so upset last night by the pictures of my niece in a hospital hat, cut off, that I decided to hit the yarn store today after coaching and spend entirely too much money to knit her a hat. Of course, it was too big, and I couldn't figure out how to do it right until I had made the too-big one. At least she'll have something as she gets bigger!
I also got the most amazing book-sized charka wheel from Velma. I let Jared piece it together (and then take it apart again) while I wrestled with the hat. HOURS later, I haven't gotten anything to show for myself besides a funky hat. She's already become the cutest excuse for me to avoid my work.
And of course Velma included a beautiful dyed accordion. I am doing a bit better with my home cooking demands, too. Tomorrow: nature walk!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Going cross-eyed

All I'd like to do is stare at baby pictures all day and to share them but it's not my baby and also babies should get some time to be newly born and that's all. But she is precious, from the few pictures I do have! Yesterday was a huge mapping of all the parts of two bindings I need to teach, so that someone else can buy and prep the paper. Always a risk, and I really hope the measurements are right (I caught one error right before I sent it away, thank goodness!). Today was the dance of running around to get printouts and copies, find a notary, call the Canada tax agency (nice and polite, very little hold time, absolutely no obnoxious hold music or sounds, wow!), and take two trips to the post office to get paperwork in order for my Toronto workshop/talk. I also have been hemorrhaging much money on lazy eating, so I did a run for honest-to-goodness groceries. Tonight was a big cooking adventure; I am always fascinated by how non-Koreans cook!

Some things to share:

Finally, a book arts class that deals with repetitive stress awareness!

On Friday, one new friend said, "So you do things to figure out what you can do," and suddenly it all made sense to me, what I do with all this paper finagling and spinning and weaving and dyeing and so on. It just is happening on a very long, slow scale, so it feels like nothing to me, but it's just increasing the number of volumes in my library. The library that resides in my fingers and eyes and intuition.

On Friday night, an older friend said, "I know what I know and I know what I don't know." This is great wisdom, and it's not easy to get to that point. But I like it a lot. I think I know what I don't know but I don't yet know what I know.

On Saturday, Chris Ware said that someone else would often use the Noel Coward quote, "Work is more fun than fun."

Time for some work.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

After the party

All of the out-of-town guests have departed, via car and air, and it's now just me catching up on work and Tom doing ALL of the cleanup/custodial work by himself because he doesn't want any staff to have to come in after the big event to work. Though I wish I had the energy to help, I don't. It was balmy, but he managed to wear Julie's beautiful kimono last night for a moment. I was tasked with taking a thousand photos but only managed almost 300, but will have to delete a bunch that are no good. Though I am decent with a camera and Tom is good at hauling and cleaning, I hope in the future that we are able to contribute other talents to greater use.
There was a flood right before the event, which was highly stressful, but Mason and Kevin rigged a wonderful siphon system with the gutter to reroute the flow. It was great to see new and old faces and finally meet some people I've been meaning to connect with for a long time. The other really big treat of the day was seeing Chris Ware speak at the public library downtown (AND to find street parking! Miracles). It's kind of amazing that he was here, disappointing to see that the hall was not packed, and hilarious to hear him swear while seeing school-aged kids with their parents a couple rows in front of me.

The big hope for the next few days is getting back on track with studio work now that the benefit is over, practicing a lifestyle that involves more sleep and home cooking, and constantly harassing my brother-in-law for baby pictures.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Straying from targets

The tiniest bit of dogbane, maybe a half sheet from the stalks and god only knows from the seed silks hidden in the skinny pods. I was too hot and hungry to harvest more at the University Farm, which is also having an event tomorrow that I wish I could attend. Yoga was intense, then the farm visit (and a ride on a 4-wheeler!), the Morgan/warehouse to see old/new friends, the burbs to meet new/newer friends, and back to the first group for dinner. Not enough sleep, so I'm feeling strange. I hope it's allergies but fear it might be sickness.
Milkweed seeds! Now they feel like gold. I was alerted to another big patch and may suss it out today before stopping at the Sculpture Center. I heard rumors of a hanji shroud art piece. Sometimes I wonder if I had less interests that I would have more time. I do the plant harvesting and it takes me away from fundraising, which takes me away from teaching, which takes me away from the studio, and it goes in a big old circle. I guess in a way it's better to be so far from the new baby!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A new wee one

I was completely distracted today after going to bed last night knowing my sister had started labor and probably was going to the hospital while I was sleeping. I had a very productive and lively meeting in the morning and then was anxious for a few more hours in the studio until I got the news that everyone was well and I was long-distance aunt to a perfect new niece. Somehow, I managed to open and de-seed silk from 52 milkweed pods, a gift from the garden of a textile conservator. Tomorrow I search for more, worried that most pods have already begun to burst.