See the milkweed bug on the pod? I saw a few burst pods last week while sitting outside and jumped up to get my gloves and shears from the car so I could harvest immediately before I lost any more silks. Just in time, too. Some pods were so fat and airy during the harvest that I was glad to have gotten them in the nick of time. Of course, the ones behind the fence I had to leave, but maybe I'll check this week: if they haven't burst yet, I might drive around to the other side for the rest to join their frozen friends (either for my November milkweed class
or for Oberlin students in January). Freezing the pods makes harvesting the coma—the lovely silk fluff attached to the seeds—easier.
[Paper made from white mulberry that was harvested just beyond the field outside.] Since July, I had been looking forward to last week's event at SUNY Fredonia in western New York: visiting artist Patterson Clark
taught papermaking workshops using white mulberry and garlic mustard, and gave an artist talk in between. Last week was a crazy time for me to travel on every level except for the keeping sane level. He has been an inspiration to me for years, and every papermaker, especially those who work directly with plants, should know his story (NPR did a beautiful feature on him in 2011).
I saw this and it made me terribly happy—leaf specimens of the real thing!
And this: teachers who can draw and provide information right out of their fingers. He works full time as a science graphics editor for the Washington Post, so this is cake. I know they're dusty, but I miss chalkboards.
Even the posters for his workshop were lovely, printed onto translucent papers. This is the Reina beater in the printmaking space (soon to be moved after all the construction ends in a year or so) that professor Tim Frerichs
has created and also outfitted for papermaking. Tim
took my hanji class last year and is also the bomb for bringing Patterson to Fredonia (and hosting me so that I didn't have to do the round trip drive in a day!). He also had me procure the school a smaller hanji bal and teul last year so that he can set up a hanji vat for them soon. It will probably be the first academic studio that has the real thing!
Stripped white mulberry branches (Patterson burns these for charcoal; one of many uses they have in his studio and work).
Scraped outer mulberry bark. Another treat was meeting Bill Burry from Syracuse
, who made the trip from SUNY-ESF (College of Environmental Science and Forestry). He has done years of research on phragmites, and their use in industrial papermaking. He graded papers while I worked on an article in the studio before we headed to dinner, and very kindly drove me to town and back. Upstate New Yorkers are much better about driving than downstaters like me.
Tim is checking on the garlic mustard cook; he had his students pull the plants earlier in the spring and dried them in ovens in the biology department, which also sponsored Patterson's visit. Professor Jon Titus
has done a ton of research on invasive species, including years of field work with garlic mustard. At dinner, he talked about how they had found garlic mustard burned into pottery that dated back 6,000 years, and about his experiments on pulling them for eradication versus leaving them alone, over several years.
The talk was well attended and fantastic; we were all super impressed by how engaged the students were, with nonstop questions. Patterson is tall, humble, and easy going, with an Arkansas accent and low-key humor that made us laugh constantly. This is the slide where he shows the tiny area where he harvests invasives within walking distance of his home studio. He is very devoted to his space, and "real rooted where I am." I always marvel at people who find their place, root down, and know they'll stay. What he is capable of doing because of that rootedness is mind boggling.
Final slide, from plant to paper! The first invasive he talked about was English ivy, and how he was trained to eradicate them, to "liberate trees." The story is so remarkable and inspiring that it would be silly for me to try to recount it here, so just look at his website,
read about him in this Hand Papermaking newsletter column
as well as in this fine Hand Papermaking magazine article by Julie Johnson on responsible use of invasive plant fibers
. I am too sleep deprived to do this visit justice, but wanted to say something about his incredible work before I get washed away with the rest of life.