Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Two blobs of cleaned milkweed, and two more of uncleaned milkweed (the lower one was beaten better), after my flurry of night beating yesterday.
The two cleaned batches filled the vat nicely, though there was a pang when I realized I spent a LOT of time preparing the fiber, to only get one charge. That's okay. Those 22 sheets are precious.
I was so shocked that the very first sheet I couched of the clean milkweed went down perfectly: no bubbles, no tears, no stretching, no tears. I've never had that experience when starting a hanji post. So dreamy!
YES, there are some air bubbles, but they are really quite minor. It was a beautiful, beautiful post.
I charged with the uncleaned fiber after lunch. Allie and Jill came over to watch, and then they also watched me fall down from squatting (so more like sitting on my butt, rather than falling from a height) while trying to load the post into the press. It fell but it was already low to the ground and horizontal, so not disastrous. The disaster was believing the gauge, because it came out so overpressed that I panicked and poured water onto it, rather than spraying slowly. That was enough force to shift the pressed fibers into a weird pattern. I can see it in every sheet but it's not the end of the world. YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY.

This has been my dream for five years, if not more. Today it happened! I got to fill my hanji vat with 100% milkweed. Some has already dried and I love it 100%.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Local weekend

I knew this would happen, but it's always a surprise when my social life and life outside of the studio in a place that I've never lived starts to take over. Thursday night, I got to enjoy Kiki Smith's lecture in Ann Arbor with a bunch of new friends and colleagues. As she noted, the universe is so generous to us and it's often a matter of re-framing the way we see the gifts we are given.
Though I was exhausted, the next day I went back to Tim's and Pati's basement to beat my old duvet cover. It came down in 20 minutes (it took 20 minutes to clean up afterwards) and I ripped out a zipper the entire time while waiting. We shared lunch, chocolate, and then a beautiful walk that took us past related horses, milkweed patches, the woods, and their lovely garden. I got to go home with lettuce, peppers, beets, and basil, all gorgeous.
Finally, a chance to use the wove mould I had ordered from Germany so that I could pick it up in Vienna in February. It's great except that pulp gets under the deckle. Still happy with this in my collection.
I didn't bring sizing here, so these are all waterleaf. I was amazed by how the beater room (basement) and my studio smelled like me sleeping, but of course years of using bedding will embed a person into its fabric forever.
I finally started to beat milkweed yesterday, but only got a little over an hour in before I took a break to go downstairs for the artist reception for Angie Redmond's show (an Albion alumna) and enjoy the new faces that were converging on campus for homecoming. The extra treat was meeting Laura Beyer, another Albion alum who then went into the book arts world and now lives and works in the Detroit area—she vacations in Cleveland!
Then I enjoyed Walk the Beat with Kevin and Anne, somehow overcoming my afternoon naptime sleepiness and general lack of fitness to be on my feet all over town, hearing lots of music and running into lots of great people.
Transforming old spaces into new spaces has been on my mind for a while and now even more so, and it seems to be happening all over the place in this small town. This will be a new Albion Malleable Brewery, the name inherited from the old iron foundry that was in town. Once we used up all of our raffle tickets, we had dinner at the Dark Horse Brewery. I thought I'd catch up on work this morning, but instead got lots of goodies to eat in Battle Creek. But it's wonderful to have a fun weekend—the next stop is the library reference desk.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Milkweed mania

I never got past this much cleaned fiber (and will probably combine the left side with the cleaner right side, only to get enough to get the vat going).
I had even considered driving home last week with all of the stalks to process, but didn't. I felt the weight of them not stripped heavier each day, and started to strip as soon as I got back. Dry stripping felt endless, so I steamed and stripped in a rush before heading to a great ramen place last night in Battle Creek with friends.
But that was kind of ridiculous for the state the stalks were in, so I went back to dry stripping today and finished in just under three hours (after stabbing and scratching up my hands and fingers a bit in my haste).
This is the rest of it. After Velma shared a great nettle video with me last week and noted similarities with milkweed, I realized I've been approaching dry stripping all wrong for years. Once I stomped on each stalk with my foot and split them lengthwise, it went so much more easily. The survivalist folks do the same when splitting dogbane for cordage, as they are trying to preserve all the length of the fibers.
Two cooks done today: dry stripped and steam stripped of the uncleaned fibers. Tomorrow I'll cook the cleaned ones and hopefully start hand beating. I am REALLY itching to pull sheets, though I so appreciate all this fiber prep time. It's all a necessary part of the process and provides a lot of time to think and improve each step, plus appreciate all that it takes to do this work.
I had considered doing this for a while, and the trip home was the perfect chance to grab a worn duvet. In ripping and cutting it apart to soak (and beat on Friday), I was glad that I did it, because it's so threadbare! I'm happy to have used and worn it so well; it and the silk blanket inside served me admirably over many years and homes. I'm excited for it to enter its next life.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quiet milestones

I originally thought that I should spend my decade turning birthday at a cemetery because I did that the last time. Then my tooth hurt enough to make me scared enough to rush home and see the dentist. A good excuse to take care of things, see the beau, sleep in my own bed, and relax (though really I was running errands every day—amazing how many things you end up having to do when you are no longer nestled in corn fields). I got one major surprise that will become real in the coming year or two, and will be the big work for this chapter in my life.
I did some jiseung and methylcellulose coating, as those are the easiest things to do on the road. Thought about the next steps for other pieces while putting in all kinds of maintenance orders (amazing how the natural direction for human-built structures is into decay and disarray. Sometimes I wonder why we ever bothered).
Made new tiny ducks. There are three other ones (bigger than these, on copper stands) that are now on sale starting today, running through Oct 22, at Still Point Gallery—meaning you can get a discount! Also, the Hand Papermaking art auction goes live today! Though I'm back in Michigan after yesterday's drive, it's already time to head next week to Tacoma for the Standards of Excellence meeting of the Guild of Book Workers. I shipped my hanji today for my demo.

Also, now that I've been reading and thinking more about tools and making, I so appreciate Jeff's post today about critical looking. This is something most people are NOT taught to do anymore. Thank goodness it's not completely lost.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Whizzing back and forth

I've only taken one solo walk on the trails since going out with the Nature Center director to look for milkweed. My bad, but hopefully I'll get back out again soon.
Tried to embed this in hanji, and technically everything went okay except that the watercolor used for the clothing bled into the rest of the post. Also, no one is convinced that the clothes should be trapped in paper.
A new one.
Instead of using water bottles filled part way, the scraps of pond liner from the vat work great to dry the bal with slight weights (evens it out).
Started this for the auction coming up at the end of Oct at the GBW Standards of Excellence meeting.
A very fun experiment!
The next experiment (something I've wanted to do for a while): start with a circular base but go slightly square.

Done this morning!
My social life this week was very very busy. Lots of driving to nearby cities (each about an hour away, either east or west). I did Ann Arbor mid-week and had a great time. Friday, Tim and Pati drove us to Kalamazoo to see Shawn's opening at the book arts center. We saw one of Tim's old moulds, in great shape! Made in 1995.
Shawn's show was fabulous and showed all different steps of making some of his books, especially the trade edition of Welcome to the Neighborwood.
Because I don't get to see him enough, I drove back on Sunday to take his fall blooms class. SO FUN.

Black eyed Susan! That was just the first of five.
I was really tired by the end but so pleased. Always take class with him if you can!
The pro: part of his show in Kalamazoo right now.
Learn more about Shawn here. Today in my paranoia about a tooth, I decided to rush home to see the dentist. Rush isn't quite right, as it's almost 4 hours to get home, but I trust my dentist and there's no other way to get there in time for an early morning appointment. Time to get back to the house and pack for a quick break from Michigan.

Monday, October 02, 2017

New month, harvest moon

Anne's birthday is today so Friday Bille brought a cake. Friday cake is brilliant regardless of celebrations.
My first day pulling hanji was great, until I slid the post around to load the press when very tired and dropped it between the two sawhorses it was sitting on. Sideways, between boards. I was so tired that I didn't have the heart to re-beat the entire post or start over, so I decided to rescue it, press it, and see if I could get away with it.
Aside from the corner that made first contact on the floor, the sheets actually did quite well. It's remarkable how strong the sheets are and the integrity of each sheet: they would pull right out of the wrinkles, intact.
I ran out of boards so I started door drying.
Yesterday was my third day pulling hanji (I take at least a day off in between and bail out the vat each time). Now that I have time and space to just make hanji on my own without teaching or training or people coming through to ask questions, I have lots of opportunities to make improvements, take mental notes, and know what to change for the future. Yesterday I got really tired of the taped ribbons coming loose so I poked a hole in the pond liner and made a loop fixture for the ribbons. Not perfect but hopefully more elegant (and now easier to tell which side of the liner is the front when unpacking).
The other delightful project was FINALLY getting to use my yucca fiber that I harvested and cooked over a year ago. I didn't think it was going to come down with hand beating, though so many people have achieved good results that way, so after several rounds of beating with mallets, I trimmed the long strands and threw it into a Valley. Done in a minute or less with some soap suds, demonstrating the saponin levels of this plant used for soap, I was so excited to use it.
I pulled it on my Japanese sugeta even though I had beaten fibers short and it did beautifully even though my vat is too small to manipulate the sugeta properly. Not many sheets but lovely. I saved the dregs to throw into my second batch of hanji for fun.
Friday was busy, with a morning hanji lecture I gave for a world art class, and then working with students in Lynn's sculpture class. She drove them out in two groups to harvest milkweed, while rotating the other half of the class to stay at school with me to hand beat.
They got a lot of tall stems on this beautiful property that David and Allie have been restoring to a more natural habitat (going from corn stubble to grasses, tress, and shrubs). Beautiful and inspiring! I was a little sad that I didn't get to do the harvest myself because the weather was perfect (and because harvesting is often the easiest, fastest, and most fun part of the process).
I only was able to process a fraction of it that night while also coming up against a writing deadline that I've already missed. I stayed up far too late steaming, stripping, and scraping this batch, but figured I have a hard time sleeping here so I might as well work.
But doing this until 2:30am is probably not a habit I should cultivate.
I'm only under half a pound, and even then, more of the fiber is going to cook away. If I get this essay edited before sundown, I may attempt another batch tonight.
Last night I was treated to another dinner at Tim's and Pati's with two more Albion friends. I always always always marvel at woodpiles like this. I had already splurged at the farmers market earlier in the day, so I was stuffed with delicious food all day. I had hoped to celebrate the Korean harvest moon festival today in Ann Arbor but am going to skip it because I need to edit. I'll visit mid-week though, so I may head to a Korean restaurant then.