Monday, September 28, 2015


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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Getting by

I got a message yesterday saying that it will probably be a month in total that I will be without my car as it gets repaired. I'm crawling out of my rut and yesterday we harvested indigo (later than I wanted to, thanks to the accident), with big help from Emily (right). Charity (left) is shifting into studio work so it's great to have her back in that capacity.
Radha has been under the weather but came in after we harvested to help de-leaf. All the steps after that were slow and in the end, a bust. Next time, we'll divide the batch to do two kinds of fresh leaf dyeing in hopes that one works. We'll also do a summer harvest (I have no idea what happened this summer that made us forget to do that).
This was when we knew it was not looking good, because the solution did not change color. But we finished it all the way to the end, to confirm the failure. So sad, too bad. But it was still great to work together with people who love to do this kind of labor.
A tour of the new Creative Fusion artists came through later in the afternoon, and we found out about Zygote's special event with Adrienne Lichliter that evening. The energy at Zygote is welcoming and exciting as they always work on improvements. Adrienne loves Asian papers, so it was a treat to meet her first at the Morgan and show her our papers before her wood litho demo.

This week, I'm playing catch up and writing a massive article while preparing for my own show (in less than a month!), a hanji forum in NYC (in just a few weeks!), and a trip to meet Patterson Clark at SUNY Fredonia (next week!). My eyes are on the milkweed pods, trying to decide when I'll harvest and freeze them for my November milkweed papermaking class. Next week, I'll help out at a yellow-flag iris eradication, harvesting the leaves and stems, and felt better yesterday morning deadheading flowers for dyes in the morning before anyone arrived.

Lately, I've seen so many monarchs downtown and in urban places where I don't expect them. I like to think we helped a little with our milkweed. Here are some wonderful images of their migration through town.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Duck steps

One downside to the accident was that all of my work was delayed. An upside is that being carless + having anxiety about being alone = going with a friend to Wendy Park for duck shoots. I never work with assistants but thank goodness for Angela; not only did she hold the duck at crucial points, but she nudged me out closest to shore to meet some real ducks.

Anyhow, still completely thrown off schedule but wanted to share two things: my report on Japanese papermakers is online here as a free pdf (search for my name in the page to find it).

And Charity has some beautiful hand-dyed scarves online for sale here!