Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Taking stock to make stock

Well. My home visit to NY was much more than I thought it would be, and all I'll say for now is that I survived and am glad to be home! One of my first jobs was to visit Stefan for a photo shoot and always enlightening catch up. One of my many takeaways was his reminder that the two most vicious places in the world are the Vatican and academia. Above, a detail of one of my newer paper compositions (you can see a few more here, and then more woven fun here).
The one show I wanted to see for sure was of handmade paper art in Brooklyn, and I was so happy to visit with my friend Lisa, who also loves paper.
I had met Candy briefly when they assisted me in a hanji class years ago in Cleveland and am gratified to see their current work now that they are done with grad school and in the wide world. This piece addresses their own body while looking at altar work of other artists.
I met Lina a few years ago when I helped Dieu DonnĂ© with studio buildout, loved her work then and still love it now. She combines colorful paper pulp with fabrics and imagery that address different issues—this particular one addresses a festival in Ohio that used to welcome seasonal migrants who did agricultural labor but then was cancelled because of anti-immigrant feelings.
Lisa is inside of Paul's enormous installation, which brings together three past pieces into a new iteration.
This is inside, but my favorite part is on the outside panel where you can see burned joss paper embedded between abaca sheets and then cut, so you see the different layers of the different paper.
I always try to see my conservator friends at the Met, but usually am too tightly booked to see any of the actual shows. I loved seeing Wangechi Mutu's four sculptures on the front facade but wondered how much of her work was on the inside.
The final museum bit was to see Amanda at the Museum of Arts & Design to see what she has been doing with paper cording since she took a class with me at the Center for Book Arts years ago. She had taken to it right away and then ran with it. It's fantastic because she is doing what I had wanted to do over 10 years ago but never had the time to do because of the education and dissemination part of my hanji work: I never felt like it was enough to make the art. I had to provide all of the cultural context. This is still something I grapple with.
But look at what you can do with hand-corded paper! She is really into nets, which I have been wanting to do since Pat Hickman so generously showed us how to do it at rainy, cold Haystack in 2015 (these ideas take longer and longer to come to fruition these days). I was going over old notes from two years ago from reading an anthropology text and it said something about material culture being only concerned with culture and not materiality. Guess who needs to check this book out of the library again to re-read?
Because of family constraints, I could only literally run through the rest of the museum, like this bit of the Anna Sui show.
Loved this Jaydan Moore piece. A docent tried to get me to talk to him about a video installation behind this wall but I had to run down the stairs to find my family instead.
And then a Vera Neumann exhibit.
The gift shop had soooo many delightful things, including paper rock containers from Japan that I wish I had written down the designer of. I was admiring the very top necklace on the bust when my sister pointed out the designers were from Cleveland. I took a jewelry class with Debra! Small world.
This was another run through the museum, this time of folk art. I'll never get over them being forced to move from a beautiful building next to MOMA; I really do not like this space but it's all about money. It's hard to see everything, it feels discombobulated, almost like they never really recovered from that move.
Everyone around me is looking back at their year before heading into the next, but I don't feel I have the time. Last night I re-read handwritten notes in the front calendar part of a journal I've had for years, and it was like looking into the weird mind of someone else: profound statements that came from an unattributed lecture, to-do lists of all sorts in all orientations on the page, technical details from website redesign, drawings, notes from books, schedules, and so on. That's all I'll do before moving on. It would be great to make those long simmering soups but the fast ones are okay in a pinch. My celebration today was to swim for the first time in weeks and do it alone in the small diving pool because the lap lanes were full. Small luxuries!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Between home and home

My last gig for the year was a live event, taped to broadcast this week on radio. This was the first group, a band called The Katy. We each only had 5 minutes to perform so The Katy could only do one song, a shame! I had a little extra time because my papermaking won't be on the radio as visual art does not translate well without visuals. You can see the host at right, Mike McIntyre, who was really well prepared. It was a relief to answer new kinds of questions that were thoughtful.
I arrived after 2pm though my sound check wasn't until 3:30pm, for a 6pm show, because I had a lot to set up and then tuck into the wings. I was extremely jealous of the people who could get up without props, perform, and then relax, but I enjoyed all of the gigs immensely. They had this camera on a big crane in case they air this on TV later. The director of the TV part was very kind and helped hold my display stands as I tried to screw legs onto them.
Choreographer Dominic Moore-Dunson (at right) performed part of a show that he'll present next month at Akron Civic Theatre. His goals are inspiring and we were all sad that we couldn't see more of the performance. There were six gigs in total and the show will air this Wed on 90.3 WCPN at 9am, with the video of the event eventually going online at their community tour site. Thank goodness a friend came and was like an angel, ordering food for me to inhale between striking my set, loading my car, and having provided props for the solo show I de-installed only days prior. Where would I be without my friends?!
If I had had more time to relax after the show, I would have curled up in a ball for a few days before flying, but instead had meetings, January teaching prep, and final class and grading. I packed the night before leaving and arrived so early that I had enough time in the weirdly quiet Cleveland airport for this selfie with my art at the current airport exhibit.
The direct flights to NYC on my regular airline are always in sardine cans, so we were smushed in with a pilot who did at least one sudden descent and then lots of killing time (I know, that's not his fault). Soon after passing Manhattan, we passed the airport and kept going so I closed my eyes because I didn't want to see Boston or wherever we were hovering over. At that point, passengers behind me who perhaps had never flown had been spending 40 minutes exclaiming, "Are we there yet? Where's the runway?" and I felt quite ill from all the turbulence and inane chatter.
Seeing her with her arm still aloft makes me feel sad when I think about how we are tearing each other apart, but also makes me think of novels that center around immigration and islands, way stations where people who have been on boats for a Very Long Time pause briefly. I hope we push the ship towards better days.
This morning I spent hours finding old photos and scanning them for the PBS producer editing a show about my life. I thought my art in my undergrad senior show was so wonderful, and it's so not, but it shows me A LOT about how to approach teaching art students at this age. I also am amazed by how much velvet I was wearing. David and Eliza, pictured here, were my showmates and I still love what we did together in this gallery for a brief week or so in 1999.
I don't remember exactly where or when this was, but it must have been high school because I recognize the slip-on high-heeled clog-like shoes that my mom got for me and the white-top black-bottom rules. My favorite part of school concerts aside from performing was collecting cash from my classmates ahead of time and going to the local florist to put together the loveliest bouquet I could get for our teacher/conductor. I still love flowers and teachers, especially this one. On the back of this photo in someone else's handwriting (whose, I don't know) is "PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE" plus a smiley face in the corner. I get two weeks at home to practice being home amidst friends and family while balancing with a bit of rest. :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Rooting the moon

My dear friend Therese reminded me of the full moon due shortly, which helped me remember why things are converging so intensely all at once. This is a piece (I didn't get a good enough shot of the artist's name but it's part of a show of Ohio artists) at the Canton Museum of Art.
I went there for the first time to see Yuko's solo exhibit, which was lovely. A lot of it is based on paper she finds in old books that have been eaten by wormholes. A nightmare for a conservator and a treasure for her. She takes pages and paper apart, pieces them together, and uses them as resists in her printmaking. This corner shows some of her collages mounted onto antique wooden spools.
I attempted a less work-filled weekend, but did have a lot of panic over the paper studio I've wanted Oberlin to have for years. My fantastic librarian colleague drove a press over to my house to deliver to my neighbor, who will construct pieces for us. We did a big hardware store run but there was still a ton of stuff on campus that we need on my side of town, which I picked up yesterday on a rainy Monday after de-installing my solo show. This task was much easier than install, especially since a number of pieces sold—the best end-of-year present I could ask for!
I had eight different meetings but each one was enlightening. I especially loved visiting the new maker space in the Conservatory's TIMARA department. I rarely if ever went to the basement when I was a student as it felt like not a place for me. Time and advances in the field have changed the program and the space feels much more welcoming now.
I was skeptical of getting everything done yesterday but writing a list helped. Completing the list and more explains why I am so beat today. This was my sugar rush at 4pm yesterday where I began more lists, as work begets work. The next several days are overbooked: radio gig tomorrow (which meant papermaking and prep today), continued studio build-out for Oberlin, final class and grading this week for school, booking a NYC fortnight full of childcare and meetings, and continued juggling of a massive exhibit idea that I envisioned a month ago (which will take over years of my life).

Though it was bumped for impeachment radio coverage, I did my interview this morning via phone while looking out the window at deer feeding on my back lawn. Since they've already eaten all of my plants, I don't know what they find so delicious in my grass and leaves, but they always hang out because I don't have fences. To help me survive the next few days, I roasted root veggies and re-read the poem I saw yesterday on the storefront window of the bakery:

Maybe Ohio Needs

Ohio needs three active volcanoes.
Ohio needs three jungles.
Ohio needs three bustling cities.
Ohio needs three blizzards a year.
Ohio needs three emerald mines.
Ohio needs three world-known jazz bands.
Ohio needs three huge jack-o-lanterns.
But maybe, just maybe,
Ohio needs just one
insecure and immature
kid like me.

Daylon Mason
7th Grade Student
Langston Middle School

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

One last push

This is the time of year where it's easy to panic: the end is in sight and yet I am unprepared! If I could only do what I liked, I'd play with paper honeycombs all day. But instead I need to prepare for one last performance this year, making paper for a radio show.
Last week, I went to the airport to see my pieces (the black and then the maroon after it, apparently leading to Concourse A at Cleveland Hopkins. I never fly out of this concourse so I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been told to go here) during a reception.
The two sheet cakes actually each had the image of the show card on them: one for the solo artist Walter Grossman, and one for our group exhibit.
I was pleasantly surprised by how efficient and thoughtful the event was. The show also included city employees, and it was gratifying to see cops, water and utility workers, and so on be recognized. It's likely the most inclusive show I've ever been a part of, and that felt good.
An 8-yo made that mallard drawing! There is an entire youth gallery section in a very public area of the airport. I learned a lot about the art programming and was glad that I made the drive to attend—usually I think it's odd to go to the airport if you're not traveling or driving a traveler, but this reminded me that many, many people work at the airport, so our experiences are very different.

On Wed, Dec 11, I'll be part of a local radio show's community tour at the Beachland Ballroom, presenting my papermaking alongside musicians, dancers/choreographer, a poet, and a storyteller. We'll each perform for five minutes before being interviewed, and the edited version will broadcast the following week on WCPN at 9am on Dec 18. The live event is free to the public! Here is the FB page, and here is the invite info.

Thursday, November 21, 2019


Jean is a constant source of inspiration and it seems like she was doing one thing with mushrooms outdoors while I was inside busy on my second set of them (the first is in Oberlin for my show).
I saw shiny red pomegranates at the market last week or so and had to save skins for future dyeing. Now that I suspect that former brittleness of paper that I dyed with these skins years ago is probably due to the industrial soy milk that I used, I want to test them again with only alum.
After wanting to make honeycomb paper with my paper for YEARS, I finally sat down last night to do it. Part of the delay was not remembering where I had stored my glue bottle for several weeks. I still do this a lot, today being the search for my hammer. The other week I had left the gas on my stove for a while after heating up soup. Even while cleaning it and standing right over it, I didn't see the tiny flames because the sun was streaming in at just the right force and angle to disguise it. I can't tell the future, but I'm fairly certain that this is how I'll die.
This morning I experimented with the glassine scrap honeycombs. Then I got distracted searching for my hammer to drive pins and needles into wood to put my mushrooms somewhere else to hang out.
This week has been full of spreadsheets and online orders and talking with different vendors and comparing prices and imagining the future. It's always wonderful and terrible when equipping a new paper studio. This is a space I've worked in for years, but with rented equipment. Soon, another college will have a sweet papermaking outfit in an old gym shower. When I get tired of crunching numbers, I get back to paper in my hands.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Leaves to snow and ice

This was my Halloween activity, trying to sort through old jewelry marketing halftone blocks, test printing some. It was good to be back on a letterpress after so long.
The next day my students had a field trip to make paper.
 They were so cold even though the heat was on, as per usual.
But everyone survived and made a lot of paper since it was a smaller class and they could almost have a vat per student.
Back home, I bound together a book made of gift papers from Velma, always so satisfying!
This was an old print done on flat twined hanji years ago, which I found and then took apart and twined into something else.
And then tests for a new/old book for an application. This was the version with inkjet printed text.
This one is with pencil as text, which got too smudgy and dingy grey because the lead was so soft.
But it's always good to confirm suspicions about how a thing will turn out by actually doing it.
Now I have a bunch of info from testing the width of the strips, using pen or pencil or printer, and using different types of hanji. Meanwhile, I've been raking for the past two weeks and then the snow dumped. I unfortunately got scammed by a snowplow company (according to another plowing neighbor down the street), so I was also out shoveling the pile they left right on the sidewalk. Now I have to sort out if I eat the money from the first half of the contract, fight to get it back, or see how it goes for the next few months before switching to another service. Joys of home ownership strike year-round as there is also a mysterious spot growing on the ceiling upstairs, so I have to find someone willing to go into the attic to diagnose it as I am too scared to do it myself.

I also had a friend visit from sunny California and got buried by applications. I feel like I'm still trying desperately to catch up to a place I thought I'd be, but it may be time to give up the idea of that schedule where I'm somehow done with everything.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Nearing November

My neck and shoulders have been killing me because I keep looking down to do this work. I need to build myself a drafting table or stand but it's one of too many other things on the endless To Do But Actually Won't Ever Get Done list.
This is the final piece of major house work for the year: masonry. The old milk chute was leaking water into the house so while the masons were replacing lintels and doing other repairs, I asked them to remove this. Now I know the entire house is masonry rather than a brick veneer, and have confirmed that I have really good friends: Bill came by to assess, then returned with all of the materials to patch this hole. All that's left now is priming, painting, and coming up with a way to cover up the paint that will inevitably not match.
I know it sounds crazy but I feel like I'm still recovering from the TV shoot, getting a grip on my 'regular' life (which is never routine but I can pretend that sometimes it can be), and eating lots of junk food. The producer requested pictures of me growing up, somehow forecasting my future, which is nearly impossible. My parents were very good sports a few states away and combed through all the old family albums. This one was obviously in an oval frame and faded, but one of my favorite art class pics. I am only noticing now how ingenious this table shape is. My classmate ended up becoming a doctor.
This image I vaguely remember and yet I have no idea what I am doing. Seriously, what am I doing? My childhood memories are vague and mostly involve laying on the sofa reading books voraciously, but I recall that when I was outside I usually sat on or low to the ground, inspecting things like buttercups and thistles and ants, even though I was (and still am) very squeamish about bugs.
According to my mother, fall is when your hair falls out more. Even if this is true, I also think that according to my friend Pati, this is the time of my life when my hair will fall out a lot. I've had a lifelong habit of running my fingers through my hair and pulling out the loose ones (the idea being that if I get them all, they'll stop falling out on my clothes and on the floor and on the plate of brownies I offer to guests). I have many plans in store for things to make and do and so on but mostly it is transitional time again, wearing more clothes and having a variety of slippers for cold floors while being less springy to jump out of bed in the mornings.

Friday, the first day of Nov, I will give an artist talk at 4:30pm at Kendal at Oberlin for my solo show (where I will be presented with an award).

Next year in April, I'll be teaching a weeklong intensive in San Francisco, hooray!