Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Walking curiosity"

Right after I posted the link to my first lecture in Chicago in a couple of weeks (less!), I got the poster for my second, more public talk. Fun. Today was the last of my doctor's appointments and somehow I pumped out two apps, one before and one after. Earlier this week, a new doctor told me that I am a walking curiosity because of this new but probably permanent condition. It isn't grave (though the doctors in Korea had me in the most fear I have ever had about my health) but I have used it as a big wake-up call to make changes and take better care of myself.
On a last-minute whim sent by a former student, I visited the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to see Xu Bing's phoenixes. Apt, because a lot of the changes I am making are very much in the vein of a rising phoenix (though I am still a bit in the phase where I burn everything down to make way for something new that I may not even be able to imagine).
Then I saw a dear former teacher/close confidante, rushed in and out of an art show, and rushed home because I am tired and didn't want to be on my feet any longer (I spent and hour walking around in the cold today to kill time between dates). This is after I decided to turn my solo show this fall at the Morgan into a two-person exhibit, with the bright and hardworking Kristen Martincic. We met last summer at Penland when each of us was teaching and she sent many students my way to buy the hanji we had produced in Cleveland. I love her work, want to see more in person, and think that our work would speak well with each other. She is also a Cleveland-area native and her themes right now are water, pools, and these transparent blues that she prints that I look at every night before I go to bed.

I should go to bed now. Packing will have to wait for morning! I'll be glad to fly back but this was a good trip, second opinions and all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sewing machines are amazing machines

Before last weekend, I got the sewing machine up and ready to go. I wanted to finish this hanji dress over the weekend, but I had to go see the baby, so this languished until a friend asked when I was going to finish and I panicked last night, sewing late, until my eyes wore out.
I started up this morning, thinking I'd be done by lunch, but I wasn't done by lunch at all. I'm not a dressmaker, and this is an intermediate pattern that I was trying to follow fairly faithfully (I skipped one step: the staystitching. I wish I didn't skip it). So it took longer than I'd like, and I had to rip out some seams because better to take the time to fix mistakes if this was a dress six years in the making.
This was the first joomchi I ever did, in 2008. Six sheets of it stayed in Korea after I left in 2009, and when I returned in 2014, I found the sheets at my aunt's house. She had intended to return them to my teacher but never did. When I saw how far gone my teacher's mind was in Jeju, I decided to keep them, bring them back, and finish her homework: back the paper and make a garment. But I won't do the rest of the homework, which is to have a famous person model the garment, photograph the model, and give everything to my teacher to have and exhibit as her own work. I picked the pattern because it had "washi" in the title. There are issues, which are hard to see from the front and on a hanger, but I learned a LOT, which was the whole point.

Meanwhile, I am still extremely behind on my long to do list, but time ticks on. I was happy for ONE day to myself today, but could use about 300 more.

Scroll down here to see info on my talk in Chicago (one of two; the other is on Wed, Mar 11 at 4:30pm).

Monday, February 23, 2015

Exactly how things unfold

I prefer to spend Mondays alone but today was an exception. I had to do a photo shoot with Stefan for one book. I usually never get five slides of one book (or only shoot one piece at a time), but I figured I might as well make it worth our while; it's also a one of a kind. Look at the first five photos here to see today's shoot. I was going to ship this to my dealers, who have already placed three of my books in three excellent collections this year, but realized I should have it on hand when I teach at SAIC in a couple of weeks for my prodigal return to Chicago.
After the shoot, I met Terttu for a nice long afternoon tea and then tacos. I indulged in horchata, the only beverage that I insist on getting if it exists on a menu, and watched this boy insist on stacking all of the table condiments and then crying when his tower was almost immediately dismantled by a concerned adult. Before tea, I got a message from Lisa about meeting while in town, and we managed to make it happen tonight! I was grateful to meet right at the train station, and excited to swap Japan trip stories (we both went in November but missed each other by a day). It reminded me of how much work I still have left to do, but that I could approach it with more joy than dread. After reading a 2002 speech by Michael Dirda about books and reading, I finally began a book I wish I had read years ago: Jonathan Bloom's Paper Before Print. If I can get excited about reading excellent writing again, I can start writing again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Duster party

Feeling a bit buried by work and obligations, but a weekend with the niece is always a good tonic for all that panic. The best part is that she loved her paper duster—she got one with really tough paper in three colors, and it was hilarious to watch her not only wave it around while dancing to music, but to hit herself in the face with it and then hold her cheek, wondering why it stung.

We can all relate.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One by one

I met these three yesterday after lunch with a dear friend. I've been trying to not push myself in NY, a stay motivated solely by medical needs (I'm fine, just getting second opinions on something that was diagnosed in Seoul). It's hard to fight my impulse to cram my time full of family and friends and professional work, but that's probably what got me into this mess in the first place. First, sleep. Second, food. After that, I'm just keeping my head above water. It's cold now, but I've been dreaming of learning to sail.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Dust away

I felt like I was driving kids to afterschool activities, but they're just my paper dusters traveling to get trimmed and sanded.
I decided to make a new batch that was all Ohio botanicals, so that the entire thing would be grown and made locally: the kozo stick that acts as a handle, the paper thread that it hangs from, the paper thread waists, and the heads. Milkweed, cattail, hosta, and dogbane were thrown into the mix.
I prefer this miter box saw but mix it up with the powered version for speed.
Though I did lose a few sticks on this one, because they're so light and not straight.
I dropped them off today at Still Point Gallery, and Kate labeled each one so you know what fiber is what. They're on sale in Little Italy, so visit to take a look or contact them if you need to purchase from a distance (I had very harrowing experiences driving through the blizzard, so you don't have to go today—better stay warm and safe at home!).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Endless housecleaning

I was very content to make paper dusters yesterday afternoon on a dreary day. None are quite as thick as the one from Japan and I doubt that anyone will ever use them but they make me very happy. I'll take them to the wood shop tomorrow to clean up the ends. Last night, I made a bunch of new paper cords from my konjac-coated hanji and the verdict is: less fuzzy, but not zero fuzz (maybe I will break in a duster yet!).
This morning, I finished this book and mailed a bunch off to my book dealers. I'm in the midst of an errand/chore day but am grateful for the afternoon sun to keep me motivated. My Chicago schedule is shifting for March, which is great for my sanity and less kind for my budget, and I am already scheming to try to make it to another state to see a friend's new exhibit.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


I am processing big changes in my life right now and it has been both exhausting and exhilarating. Today was a big turning point and that was marked by the early morning completion of a book I've been struggling with for several months. Here is the gist, Lapse relapse.

Oh, and my artist talk for my show at Kendal Gallery in Oberlin is tomorrow (Friday) at 4:30pm! It will be fun.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Tackling the backlog

More snow days! Today was supposed to start with admin but I couldn't start it that way. Instead, I talked to Velma, got inspired, and finally did the thing I've been thinking about for weeks but didn't have a chance to do until now: coat a bunch of hanji from this last trip to Korea with konnyaku in an attempt to take down the hairiness of the paper, and also see if it's any easier to cord if pre-coated.
Now that my brick wall is in a show, I can use the entire living room floor!
The insane radiator also helped speed drying.
I forgot how crispy they would get. I love them. It's like when your hair is blown out and then you take a shower and it relaxes back into its wild state. The messy personality of the paper is so much more interesting to me than tamed flat. 24 sheets should yield me over 500 cords (when I actually get around to cutting down and cording these all is a whole other story).
I also made paper duster prototypes. One tied, one not (partly because it's so fat).
One unexpected artists' book in progress. This one has been fascinating: it started out as a wall piece last year. I kind of hated it but left it intact until a couple weeks ago, when I cut it up. Now it's sewn into these new pages of hanji (mounted to itself, from my last lesson at the mounting shop). Tonight I spent a bunch of time binding it, and even that surprised me. Every last bit except for wire for the ornamentation is paper. I just have to get the narrative straight and then the story goes in.
Box from my Japanese family friend (I ate the candy that was inside long ago), paper thread, and cloth from Pam underneath.
This print by Jeff Peachey made me laugh aloud when I saw it online so I had to buy it when I met him in person way back when. I should share it with my students when I teach but I like so much to keep it at home. Next to it, Honma-san's mitsumata paper duster. Next to that, long lost but then found joomchi-ed hanji I made years ago and finally was able to bring back. That will turn into clothing just as soon as I find a pattern and get to a sewing machine (in a couple weeks)!

I'm still hopelessly behind but the crunchy stack of paper on the floor was worth it. I hope.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

What's on deck

This was from that one day where I worked all day to make up for the endless days where I wasn't getting my hands onto anything. This made me very happy.
I was struggling with this book for MONTHS. Since before Korea. I carried it all the way from Ohio to NY and back and it was still stuck. Then I realized I had to cut off the entire front cover to get it to work. Amazing how little it took to move it forward and how long it took me to figure out I had to take it apart first (I also tore a book out of an old case and glued it back in a couple days ago; this was a job that waited almost 6 years for me to get to! Now it's off to a one-day show in Chicago).
Inside the cover. The book is so much happier now. It can breathe and talk and is slowly starting to share some words with me.
Meanwhile, the surgically removed piece is hanging out with some paper by Mary Hark. I am excited about so many things now: snow on a day where I can stay home, pizza in the oven, strawberries and carrot cake, and an afternoon to relax!

And I forgot to add: I only just now (almost a year after it was published) found this photo of Marjorie and me at the art museum! I wish I lived near this much bamboo.