Friday, June 28, 2019

Artist dates

Okay, I survived yesterday's massive crankiness. I called a friend in a panic about how I'd never finish my book and she mentioned how she liked that I was taking myself on Friday dates to museums and so on. Though I have a schedule that doesn't exactly follow mainstream business hours, I do find that my Friday energy is wild and harried, not easily tamed, and unwilling to buckle down to do work that I can knock down easily on Mondays. I'm so glad my friend reminded me that I had started to address this problem by not forcing myself to work on Fridays in a mainstream way. This was part of a light installation under a bridge in downtown Cleveland that I saw with an artist friend who invited me last week.
That Friday, I went to see a show that closed the following day, of three local artists. I did that on the way to visit friends way out west who have invited me numerous times to their home along the Vermilion River. I didn't take pictures there because I wanted to be present, and also because our hike to the river was extremely muddy and slippery (thank goodness for papermaking because it means I have the best waterproof boots). I met their dog, two cats, and a whole different way of living—things like sitting on a covered porch listening to the river in the middle of the woods and watching hummingbirds be extremely territorial.
Thanks to my friend's reminder, and to my efforts to walk more, I decided to do an early morning date today. For the first time since I went on an actual date six years ago in the middle of the night to an art installation (lots of artists require darkness to see their art), I finally returned to the North Chagrin Reservation. It's huge and I don't know my way around but almost immediately found the site of the date, only to be welcomed by a magnificent heron flying up from the water.
I want to have one of these! Once I find landscapers who can fix my major garage flooding and ponding issues, this is the goal.
It is always a joy to be welcomed by milkweed. I'm plotting a self-styled Michigan milkweed residency this fall.
I tried to stay off of the paved trails to find the ones that wound through the woods. All I wanted was to be surrounded by trees, protected by their canopy (it's going to be a scorcher today), and that's what I got. Even though later I heard traffic noises, the loudest noise when entering the woods was the birds. Later I diverted to this bit of Buttermilk Falls and recognized the slate formation from my visit to my friends along the river.
Though I know this is good for me, a balm, I had always avoided doing things like this because I was so conflicted about driving my gas-burning car almost twenty minutes each way to get to nature. I'm relieved that I finally did it, as will be all the people around me today.
Yesterday I had to do some things at the studio building to prepare for contractors in the bidding phase, and was horrified to find the weeds taking over the lot completely. But it reminded me again of how silly we humans are to think that we could ever keep nature at bay. A pot of rice is on the stove for tonight's potluck and I am deep into wild Friday time.

The wheel

I've been in hamster mode all year, I think. I know this because I've made very, very little artwork, and because my eyes hurt often from computer time. It is necessary (though the more I work on the book, the farther away it feels) but it's hard. I should use this picture to practice looking away to see faraway things, like the bird gourd habitats in the distance.

I'm beat! Herb speaks directly to the things we have to do but can't humanly do alone (I can't stop trying, which is why my eyes hurt and there is no new studio output), even as more is demanded of us in the outside world. I keep trying new things, new schedules and routines, but I don't think I can do it all. Right now, I focused on health: sorting out the right exercise, physical therapy, sleep patterns, nutrition, and so on. That takes a huge chunk of time and energy away from writing and making art, while my website migration robbed me of the last few months and counting. Today I sat down to write and all I could do after writing half a page of how much I didn't want to do it, was to scrawl "DRAFT" all over the top of the next page in lots of colors.

I should be excited about the books that showed up at my door yesterday, a volume on papermaking that includes my essay about two toolmakers of almost 20 that I've interviewed. Three years ago, I had an idea. I didn't know at the time that my grand idea would behave like kudzu. I've been alternately productive and paralyzed througout the process because it has gotten so big. Yesterday I read fascinating accounts of one person's great-great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War even though most of that narrative will not make it to the first draft. I feel honored that so many people have been willing to share their lives with me but the responsibility is heavy. What was I thinking?!
But the new book is lovely—read it if you can! A friend yesterday said that it sounded sad, and I laughed, realizing that this is indeed mostly for insiders: "papermaker's tears" refer to the drops of water that accidentally mar the surface of a freshly made sheet of paper. What you see on the cover is someone who intentionally dropped a bunch of water droplets onto paper. Otherwise, I'd be really sad if this was my paper and I ruined it like that. Usually there are only a few "tears," but it's enough in production to mean you can't sell it as a first. All that to say it's not a sad book. It travels to Eastern Europe, India, Japan, NYC, and more. Time for me to travel upstairs for a nap.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Slowly is the fastest path



I couldn't help but pull up these Perth zoo pictures from my first adventure in Australia two years ago, after seeing the creatures that have become Velma's neighbors. I'm not sure exactly why we think these animals are slow but they do remind me of a certain constancy that is both real and not about the cycles of our lives.

Almost as soon as I landed in the American South to begin teaching a couple of weeks ago, my mom managed to get a text to me (hard in the mountains with almost no reception) to let me know that my grand-aunt had passed away in Korea. My father (she was his aunt) left almost immediately to pay his respects and I was sorry I could not join him.

Lee Hee-ho was an incredible person who changed the course of our family, not only through her marriage to Kim Dae-jung (who would eventually go on to become the president of South Korea in the late 1990s), but her example. I was only able to meet her a handful of times in my life, especially once she became Korea's First Lady, but read her two books almost 20 years ago and so admired her ideals, values, and commitments. Not only did she devote her life to her country, but she received and pursued opportunities that were rare for women in her culture at the time. She studied in the best universities in Korea as well as the American South and was a tireless advocate for women's rights and peaceful reunification of Korea. [Above is her wedding photo. Seated at her side is my grandfather, the polyglot patriarch of the family who inspired respectful fear. Next to him is my grandmother and in front of her is my youngest uncle.]

I remember examples of her calligraphy in our home and how a simple image of her making hanji alongside a Wonju papermaker made it possible for me to visit his studio. When our parents were able to visit her in the U.S. after her lengthy house arrest, they came home with beautiful gifts from Korea that she had selected. I still have a silk drawstring pouch from her and felt like she truly cherished and appreciated Korean art, through practice as well as patronage. Her choice to marry an opposition party leader made my family a target for oppression, but she did it even against their wishes. Eventually, her sacrifices became our greatest pride.

My grandparents passed away before and soon after her tenure in the Blue House (Korea's version of our white one), so this generational loss feels especially final. I wonder about leaders today, if they could even hold a candle to her faith and devotion to causes she knew she would likely not see completely fulfilled in her lifetime. If not our leaders, then I hope our ordinary people will be able to stay the course.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Home from Folk School

I'm so glad I was able to finally experience the folk school after hearing about it for years. After the first day or two of rain, we had pretty beautiful weather. I especially love these gourds for nesting birds that are in different parts of campus.
There is art in the dining hall as well, including the new fabric banners above, weavings, a large quilt, stained glass, wood carvings, instruments, and so on. If only I had found the fruit bowls earlier in the week!
Mouse Town is not far from the studio I was teaching in. I've heard that it was even bigger before but that it looks curated, with less objects. There's even some ceramic cheese lower down against the side of a big wood shed.
The one accurate prediction from a friend was that it is beautiful. Aside from the natural beauty of the mountains, the landscaping was pretty gorgeous. My roommate taught the Greek cooking class, so she also clued me into a lovely herb garden across from the cooking studio. Campus is very walkable, but I was so focused on my class and didn't get enough sleep, so I never made it to all the studios. Of course I visited the brand new book & paper studio, but then ended up catching up with a colleague I haven't seen in years, so I never made it to the nearby woodturning and something else studios.
I had a lovely group of ladies in class who were so good about helping each other. The studio was just the right size and easy to work in. I had totally overestimated how much hanji we'd need, but hopefully in the end, everyone was satisfied with what they learned. Here's info on what I had planned.
Pattie was my hero, having booked me to sub in for a teacher who passed away this year, and took excellent care of all of my needs (from bringing me melatonin to driving my suitcase here and there, and showing up with whatever tools and supplies we needed). She's a very skilled basket maker, so twining was no problem for her. This is her first jiseung piece, a double-walled goblet.
Once I mentioned the steganography of shifu (writing a message on paper, slicing it into a continuous strip, spinning into thread, weaving into cloth, sewing into clothing, and clothing the messenger with it just to reverse the entire process by the receiving party), she got right into a birthday gift for her grandson. This is the message on gorgeous washi made just for shifu, after she sliced it.
Here is the thread she spun from the paper.
And the start of her weaving for him.
On my last morning, I walked out to the gardens that sustain the cooking class and probably some of us in the dining hall.
I hadn't seen any dogs on campus but dreamed about one after I got back home. Between exhaustion, I enjoyed myself, especially by being in a community of warm, friendly people. It's a beloved institution for good reason. Speaking of communities of people, an amazing author wrote about me here. I highly recommend his most recent book, The Adjunct Underclass. It came into my life at exactly the right time and helped me understand seismic shifts in our culture that have led to today. I feel much less alone, more informed, and inspired again to make the best of my life given the circumstances.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

From here to here to here


[my view-ish from my shared room on campus]
Sunday morning: I'm writing from the Atlanta airport. I wished that I had seen the 1am text that said my morning flight was delayed two hours, so that I could have gotten the extra sleep straight through. Regardless, glad that I did not have to find out AT the airport. Flying was smooth and I read the entire time, feeling more and more that I really am at a pivot point in my life: I can keep going as is, or make different choices to take better care of myself and the people around me. The choice is obvious but the actions required aren't.
Tues afternoon: I'm at the the Folk School, on my second full day of teaching. This is outside our studio. My class is lovely and the pouring rain took a break from dumping on us so the sun is out. Now, back to making more cords to weave!

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Day trip to Akron

While home, I've been trying to take myself on a date once a week. So far it has all been museums. I had missed the performance of Nick Cave's Soundsuits, but wanted to see the show before it closed. It was pouring but I drove anyway and was glad to see the Akron Art Museum for the first time.
I first saw this work in Chicago way back when I was in grad school. What I didn't notice at first was that the backdrop on the wall was not a mural like in other parts of the show.

It's all buttons!
After that main room that also has big wall assemblages was a video room, and then this piece of hanging painted beads that I wished I could have walked INTO. It changes as you walk around it.
The Hustle Coat was great against the custom mural (rather than on a white gallery wall).
This is the mural that greets you.
This Viola Frey ceramic sculpture was impressive. The whole contemporary and modern wing is lovely and has lots of space for rotating exhibits plus showing off the collection.
Though you can't tell scale, this is a big painting by Helen Frankenthaler. I enjoyed the museum, very human scaled, with thoughtful curating and a great collection. If it had been nice out, I would have stopped at the national park on the way home. This week I'm not sure what the date will be, but I may have to forgo it for teaching/travel prep. Excited to visit the John C. Campbell Folk School for the first time!