Friday, March 29, 2019

Research trip: Final Belgium, Germany

There is something going on in every corner of the wood shop where Serge works. This deckle is the mate for the mould he was working on our last day in the Ardennes.
Here it is, bound for Cleveland once it's clad in brass. These are the copper strips being hammered onto the wove facing, that was sewn onto the backing (which was sewn onto the ribs).
It was especially precious to see his goddaughter walk right into the shop to watch, ask questions, and help. Her family astounded me: when I came downstairs in the morning, I expected zombie kids in front of the TV for Saturday morning cartoons. Instead, they were sitting around the dining room table, which was covered with paper, glue, tape, crayons and pencils and colored this and that, furiously cutting paper snowflakes and building paper boxes. My heart was bursting to see that some kids still play this way today. Of course I could not resist showing them how to make a book out of a piece of paper.
After taking leave of my most generous Belgian host Serge, I took three trains through delays to get here: the Eifel, beautiful volcanic mountains that provide the name to John Gerard's papermaking supply business, Eifeltor Mühle.
He has a gorgeous home and studio, separated between wet and dry spaces in an old converted barn. He showed me a bunch of his many artists' books, using handmade paper to convey his fascination with language, as well as numerous collaborations with other artists and writers.
Though he does not think of himself as a toolmaker, he has designed and now sells a bunch of useful ones for papermakers. Here are his older white oak beating sticks, alongside the current maple one that.
This is his three-piece press that assembles in five seconds (you provide the hydraulic jack, made of galvanized steel.
One of the few production papermakers who remain, he was serious about building his studio to suit his needs perfectly. This included raking the wet floor so that all water goes to the front of the room, where the floor drains are. So very few paper studios actually get this right (usually because of budgets + contractors who think they know better)—it was a JOY to see this floor working exactly as it should.
And even better, a proper home for the squeegee! After visiting John and his assistant Jeannette, I was sad to leave the beautiful countryside so quickly, but was glad to see Andrea and head to her home.
After not being able to spend more than one or two nights in one place for the first half of my trip, it has been an absolutely luxury to be here near Frankfurt, not having to pack my bag every night. I finished our two-day workshop today and then we had a nice walk along the Rhine. Saw swans and storks, and heard the latter on a huge electrical tower with at least three big nests. Spring is here for sure it seems. My students were wonderful and each day we walked to a local cafe for lunch. The kozo is cooked for papermaking in a bit, but we all need a rest for now.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Research trip: Belgium & the Netherlands

Yesterday, Serge and I finally found the chocolate pizza in the frozen section that he was telling me about!
This was the pattern in the basement of the public library in Amsterdam that screens the bathrooms from the storage lockers. I love being in a place that allows lockers, as I live in a country that is too terrified to be practical.
At the very top of the library is a glorious view of the city, and the day I left was bright and sunny.
The Amsterdam trip was a last minute gift to myself, to have a moment where I didn't have to be taking notes or thinking of good questions to ask. I love the pavers used for streets and sidewalks because it makes repairs a lot easier than tearing up the road.
I only visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum (left and center), which was too much for  a day but I don't regret trying.
This room of an elaborate and huge dollhouse reminded me of paper drying lofts, even if it's really just a linen room.
Aside from a bowl in another room, this was about all they had of Korean pieces in the Rijksmuseum, but that makes sense as it focuses mostly on Dutch culture and history (and really hammers home how incredibly wealthy they were, and the access to other places they had because they were such excellent sailors).
The city trip was after I had a beautiful visit with Peter and Pat in their home and studio. It was great to finally meet these important paper artists and see their work in person.
The research bit was about Peter's beater, though of course the life's work is all connected, which I had first seen two years ago in Vienna. I got to see one in action and the other at rest with its wonderful bedplate and all.
In Brussels I had a visit to the Magritte Museum, which was much more interesting than I had expected. It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised.
I also visited their musical instrument museum, which was very thorough. I was interested in the lacing on these drums, and fascinated to see so many bagpipe-type instruments made from animal skins from many different parts of the world.
On our drive from Brussels into the mountains, I saw the disposable gloves at the gas station. I'm more used to seeing these for mixing food in Korea rather than for diesel fuel.
Serge has been an amazing host (here he is sewing the facing of a wove mold that will be shipped to Cleveland). He has an insane amount of info on many topics besides English mould making, his specialty. He was especially kind and forgiving this morning when I did the worst thing possible: I erased all of the photos from our trip to his teacher's widow in England. !!! I am still horrified by my carelessness. He had taken time off of work, arranged the visit and booked lodging, drove from Belgium through France through the tunnel to Maidstone, and then did the reverse commute. He can at some point return to re-scan these images, but what I did was horrible. I saw them on one drive, didn't put them onto my other drive, and then formatted the first drive. One minute they were there and the next, gone.
This is the marvelous loom that he bought from his late teacher, Ron Macdonald, in action. It's a gorgeous machine. We are now on our second trip into the countryside and return tomorrow to the city so that I can repack for my final country on Sunday: Germany.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Research trip: France & Belgium

I can't believe it's only been a few days but here I am, on a trip I've been meaning to make for over two years. Here is Claudine Latron, a French mouldmaker, teasing a fish out of the bamboo.
We spent about 24 hours together, and I learned soooo much. I also had a wonderful, cozy, comfortable first night of sleep on the top of a charming old house in Lille. Here is a facing most likely used for paper that was used for circular filters.
With the help of a friend, who was her first teacher that made possible the idea of making her own moulds, she built a loom of her own to weave laid facings. These kinds of mechanics are something I would never be able to figure out on my own, but she is great at collaborations.
I landed first in Brussels, and Serge Pirard (in black) has been hosting me very generously, guiding me through the train and subway systems, the best chocolate to get at the store, which museum to visit, and so on. He is a mouldmaker and we met almost exactly two years in NYC at Dieu Donné. Today we went to his studio in the Ardennes, and on the way we visited Pascal Jeanjean, a French papermaker working at a premier level in Belgium (in grey).
He had to stop pulling sheets when we arrived and has a glorious huge studio that is amazingly neat. He works alone and is clearly very particular about his standards, which are very high. He works long hours, six days a week, and is always busy with orders. But in an hour with him, I learned so much about my own views of hand papermaking as an artist versus a production papermaker, the ways that we operate in the same world but not quite, and how beneficial it would be for more communication and understanding. Here he is in a fancy video.
This is a test sheet from a mould with elaborate watermarks (three different types) that Serge had made with a facing that was prepared for the task. Now we're still awake and working, swapping stories, and I got to see the amazing loom from the late Ron Macdonald. It was so moving to finally see it in person and touch it, see the worn parts, and feel the spirit of the man who had used it for a lifetime. Tomorrow will be a big work day, documenting all of these tools and materials, the space, Serge at work, and so on. We stocked up on groceries so we are well nourished until it's time to drive back to the city at night.

Monday, March 11, 2019

One after another

It has been enough years for me to learn that packing two classes and multiple locations and family events and so on into less than a week is a fool's errand, but here I am, a fool again. I flew on Wed to NYC, taught a bark lace class on Thurs, worked Friday and then had a family celebration, and then taught a dye/finish class on Sat & Sun. It's Mon and I'm still sorting out train travel for a trip to the Netherlands in less than a week. This evening I fly to Brussels.
The cooked dyes we used were brazilwood (top) and yellow onion skins (bottom). These are the dried remains, ready for exhaust baths. I collected those skins over years so it's always hard to say goodbye after only one cook.
My students were kind and flexible (given the issues with space, course description, and so on) and were very busy both days.
The second afternoon I sped through several book structures and though they didn't really have time to compile everything at the end, they are certainly going home with tools.
When I left home, it was still snowing, and the deer had long ago demolished the sedum (you can barely see the bits covered in snow). Much of my packing ado has been because I can pack easily for completely opposite weather (say, when I pack in summer for winter or vice versa), but not great at adjusting for a 10-15-20 degree difference (especially because I'm terrible at F to C conversions). But it's now or never! See you on the other side.