Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weaving in sanity

Lots of loose ends everywhere, while I scramble to tie them all up (knowing that I can't, and yet part of me still thinks that it's worth the effort). After Saturday's baskets were done, I had tiny bark bits leftover. I didn't think I could do anything with them but Velma was up to very inspiring studio work, so on Monday, I made this baby!
These two are now headed west in case someone wants to buy them in Oregon next month. I stopped by the Verne Gallery to see Yuko and deliver cookies before I hit the road and Michael asked if it was exhausting to live like this. He knows that it looks and sounds glamorous (travel to work), but that a stable life is also desirable. I love both: staying home and traveling. Balance is the trick, I think.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A doozy

After completely overdoing it at the start of the week (compounded by not resting enough before that and forgetting that I'm not physically 22 anymore), I got sick. I tried working through some of it, and was demanded at a couple of evening events, so it's gone longer than I'd like, but I still managed to make a few big deckle box sheets with failed kozo.
This one dried outside while we had sun while the others dried inside on slate or under a fan. I was hugely disappointed by the dyed kozo that failed miserably in the hanji vat (I dyed rather than pigmented and yet it still never dispersed well in the vat + was too chunky for even formation and couching). This was my last stab after big hanji and side-by-side washi.
3.5 x 7 feet sheets with huge variation in thickness. All the laying in bed, going through tissues, and not breathing much took me away from preparing for my big trip next week. The car also needs to go into the shop in a couple days to make sure I don't lose any parts on the long haul. I am behind on everything but will continue to put things off for one more day (or two!) because I need to do little finger work (as opposed to big apron, boot, heavy lifting, wet vac-ing papermill work) for some sanity recovery.
Making a bigger basket than the last and maybe the two will have a relationship. Seeing how far the rest of my kaki-dyed kozo goes, and enjoying NOT leaving the house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Still in the studio

The pictures are all out of order but I am so exhausted from consecutive studio days that I can't do much more after work (though today was an exception, a whirlwind of tasks at home and outside and back—reminded me of younger days. I can only exert this much energy on Mondays, and then go back to more human workloads for the rest of the week). One of today's tasks was drying the post of paper I made, over 30 sheets over the weekend.
Another task: dye and rinse fiber that I had bleached last week after it was left to rot for two months. I am very excited to see how it pulls tomorrow.
An endless task: hand beating kozo. These are all the dregs, a lot more after I instituted the rule that we have to pick Thai kozo to some extent. This means that we lose about a quarter to a third of the fiber, but it makes a huge difference. Like everyone has always said for 100s of years, fiber prep is the key to good papermaking! But what is left is still viable fiber. This has been collecting over batches, and must be at least 3 lbs. I want to run it through a Hollander and attempt cut-fiber big sheets (and may dye it as well).
In the meantime, I think the rope is as long as I need it to be before shipping it to my partner in crime. I get to have an instant use for all the bad sheets and it's terribly satisfying.
Before pressing and parting and drying,
and after! Lots to wrap up this week, my final full week before I hit the road again. So very grateful that we'll have another respite from hot/humid this week. It will make it much easier to do the important work.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

100% studio

I did a total off day on Sunday before returning to the studio Monday to finish fiber prep (picking, hand beating, naginata brushing, draining fiber, storing for the next day). All afternoon, Tom and I scrubbed ALMOST every bucket that had piled up since last year. This is the downside to not enough studio hands and no consequences for not doing work. We left some for people to do but they're still sitting there.
Yesterday, I cooked four more pounds of kozo, taped the drain of the vat (we don't have a good stopper, so water and fiber gets trapped in the plumbing and contaminates the entire batch, so I plugged it), cleaned the vat, and filled it with water with one hand while eating lunch balanced on the corner of the vat with the other hand. It took me a while to finally find a clamp to hold the nozzle down so I wasn't tethered. We can use way less water than we have been and I need to mark a water line before it gets overfilled again. I patched the couching stand after Tom screwed the surface back onto the base and tested a fruit cart as an alternate couching stand (works fine, maybe even better). I finally pulled big sheets in the afternoon, and all was well—like coming home. Good fiber prep really makes all the difference.

This morning, I started a slow press on the post while rinsing and picking kozo, weeding, and learning which weeds were what from Tom while Ed came to dig up baby kozo to take back to Oberlin to plant. After lunch, I parted the sheets; the new ribbon system for parting works fabulously well, though the heat dryer is too hot in certain corners. I set everything up so Kirstin could pull sheets today while I dried, and she will find out tomorrow if her sheets + mine = enough for an order to ship as soon as possible.

I keep forgetting to take pictures of the papermaking but it is happening. The best part is weather compliance: I started the vat on our first cold day after the hot/humid blaze. Hoping to keep the vat full for less than two weeks and the patch job seems to be working. I can't stay vertical for long when I get home these days, but it's an excellent kind of tired.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


This is what I worked on last weekend at Yuko's house. Still many more baskets to make. I just saw these incredible clogs, wow. And before I forget: Julie Sirek is looking for clothing/textile donations for her newest work.

I've been busy in the studio. Today, I picked and beat and beat and beat and my body is screaming from all of that standing and picking and beating. I also gave a tour of the Morgan to a lovely family and got great news from everywhere. Like what you see above: Julie set up her own small hanji vat in Iowa!!! And the sheet formation is going great. This is the first official hanji sprout that came out of the Morgan's hanji studio, almost five years after its maiden voyage. Not only that, but another one is near completion at the University of Iowa, at the hands of two of their students.
I finally found these wedges that go into the sides of the hanji bal teul to secure the top and bottom braces. I had promised this image to an Iowa student in March, and then had it on my to do list until now. She emailed me to ask again for them (I never have to be prompted for these things, but now I am that person), and I started to look for them. Not in any of the places I thought they were. I was afraid this would be another case of me losing track of something that turns up a few months to a few years later (I am also now that person), but finally found it in the fifth spot I checked!

I insist on this being a good omen for the rest of the weekend. Enjoy!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Light rope

Another long day at the Morgan. Hardly any studio work, but now that spring is here (or summer, whatever it is, this sudden rush from cold to too hot), I figured I should get out more, interact with humans. Especially after so much writing! Charity saw the rope and said it looks like rope but when you pick it up, so light!
 Leftovers from yesterday. I couldn't resist.
 Growing inside the bindery!
Finalizing the freebees I'm sending for gifts bags for the book arts conference out in Oregon this summer. Jim Croft may carry some of my little hanji weavings, so you can look out for them as well if you attend. The last thing that kept me here longer, just to listen, was finding this recent podcast about the Japanese paper balloon bombs! I've read so much about them and have a piece of the paper, but on the radio it comes alive, turns into so many other fascinating stories. I don't like that they say washi is made out of "wood" but I also didn't realize that schoolgirls also had to make the paper (I thought it was just papermakers pressed into overdrive and unusual dimensions).

Really hoping that I get to make paper soon!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

May days

Charity and Mason both had birthdays today! Today was his last day but we'll still see him when he comes to teach workshops. You never leave the Morgan forever. See the pretzel container of wadded up hanji? That was full to the brim after Kristin filled it with failed sheets. I had a plan for a while but didn't get a chance to execute until today.
I unwadded the paper and organized as best I could so I could start cording. I'm trying to make a long, thick rope. It's so much easier cording thin, wrinkled paper. And always fun to make fat rope.
Very uneven, and I haven't trimmed the bits where I made joins (and I may never!), but it's about half as long as I needed. The little bits are what was left from the stash, too small to do much with.

Eventually it will be the length of the longest gallery wall here. Today was my first full day here since last year! I never even left for lunch because so many people brought in donuts and pastries for Mason's farewell. I hit the road at the end of this month so I'm getting all my ducks in a row: the permanent crown is in place, the car goes to the shop next week, and I can finally do something other than my report on Japan research because it's done. Big, happy sigh.

Friday, May 01, 2015

What is actually happening now

Yesterday I had lunch with Charity (we visited Zygote, too, which is always fun). Afterwards, I saw Tom out in the garden with long pruning shears and asked if he wanted help: we worked on clearing one side of the fence line of trees and vines so that the fence can come down now that we finally have the deed to the next lot. He did most of it but have scrapes and soreness to prove I did something. Kirstin has been watering the seedlings on the ground in flats: more tororo, and indigo. Garden expansion very soon!

All about the latest hanji dress

In 2008, I was in Korea doing Fulbright research and met a teacher in her 80s who showed me how to fuse paper to paper. She provided colored hanji and white hanji and had me make six sheets of this joomchi process as my initial "homework." The paper shrunk slightly down to 22x33" and the next steps were: back it, make a garment, have a famous person model it, and then hand over the clothes and photos to my teacher. Like old studios in various cultures, whatever you make under the master becomes the master's work. I only got the first step done, and then left the sheets with my aunt so she could return them with my apologies for not finishing all my homework. Above is the hanji on the left and iron-on interfacing on the right.
This is after the interfacing is fused, not quite wide enough for the entire sheet, but serviceable. In 2014, I was back in Korea on a different grant and my aunt happened to uncover the paper—she had never returned it! I brought it to Jeju Island to see my teacher, now in her 90s, bedridden, with enough dementia to render me a stranger. It seemed counterproductive to return the paper and I brought it back home in December, determined to finish some of my homework.
I went to Bolt and Spool for thin interfacing and a manageable pattern. Debbie was super helpful and gave me good advice on all of the initial steps while pulling out simple patterns. I spotted one called "Washi Dress" and asked, "What about that one?" My initial attraction was to the name: washi means Japanese paper, which is the center of my current research report after going to Japan last November on a different grant. The pattern was named after the fabric design, which was named after washi tape (colorful tapes made with washi, which seem more popular than the paper itself...a big sigh from the papermaker here). I thought it would work well with the idea of making a hanji (Korean paper) dress! Above, you see the biggest flaw in my construction, which I couldn't work around: the back had to be constructed from seamed sheets.
After all the hanji was backed and cut, I used my mom's sewing machine during a trip to NY and did my best to follow instructions. I am not a dressmaker, so there was a lot of running back and forth between the sewing machine and the computer, searching for things like, "what is staystitching and DO I HAVE TO?" I did almost everything by the pattern, which was a great lesson! All the things I hadn't realized that I had been curious about throughout my life, in relation to how clothes are made, became really clear and mostly fun.

The front is constructed more elegantly than the back, with three panels on the front skirt to compensate for the limitations of the paper dimensions. For the most part, the seams coincide with the pleats to reduce distraction.
Getting it back to Cleveland on a plane was slightly nervewracking, because it's not easy to iron this: not because it's paper, but because of the joomchi-ed pieces on the dress. I put it in a garment bag and then the overhead compartment; the plane didn't have a closet.
Shirring was so fun! I kept the seam out of the photo so that we can pretend it never happened.
Home safe! I took it to the studio a few weeks ago when a bunch of book folks were in town for a gathering, and was surprised when the chairperson, from Iowa City, said, "Hey, is that the washi dress?" She had bought the pattern but hadn't made the dress yet!
People always marvel at paper dresses and always ask, "Can you wash it?" I could, but it would never look the same. I don't make paper dresses to wear them, especially warm weather dresses. Paper is such a good insulator that I work up a sweat whenever I wear this dress or my paper scarves. I like the idea of making clothes (and everything else) out of paper, and seeing how cloth-like paper handles. Sometimes it acts more like paper, sometimes more like fabric. The interfacing definitely helps with strength; there is no way I could have sewn this without backing, and even with it had a few tears—no surprise, given how thin the paper was.

Special thanks to Bolt and Spool! They had asked me to write a blog post about this dress back in February and I said okay, but not until I finish my other writing. After seeing Debbie yesterday to show her the dress, I felt guilty for not writing it, so I figured I'd post it here. Also, I'm still not done with my other writing. But you can read more about joomchi in Chapter 8 of my book, Hanji Unfurled (with pictures of making this very hanji, before I even knew I'd see it again and turn it into a dress). And no matter what, the washi report will be done in less than a month and free for the public to read!