Friday, May 29, 2020


I heard that on a Jungian podcast the other day and since then, my sense of days has only deteriorated! I woke up today fully convinced it was Saturday (it's Friday). I dreaded doing laundry, wondered why people's schedules were the way they were, and couldn't remember how my mom's day at the hospital was (because she hadn't yet worked it). As you can see here, I also can't see very well and probably it's because I haven't had my eyes checked in years. Healthcare in this country means no vision is covered. I can't wait to get to Korea next year so I can take care of all kinds of medical appointments.
I tested my slippery elm papers (the brown ones) after using up all of Velma's little flax papers. Truly at this time, the smaller the better.
I was finally able to see a dear friend yesterday while distancing at other ends of her porch. She had a stash of dyed silk fabric that she let me sort through and take home, and last night I promptly started to sew a pincushion design by Youngmin that I had been wanting to make for well over a month.
Sewing with silk on silk was a big treat, so much easier than paper and paper. I didn't have any batting to stuff it, nor many of the other materials people use to stuff pincushions. But I noted one thing on the list I happened to have in my basement for wood projects: steel wool! I didn't do a good job stuffing it and closing the bottom evenly, so it's lopsided, but I still love it.
I almost stopped drawing my rhododendron once I hit the two-month mark, but then I started to notice the buds at top of each set of leaves getting bigger and bigger. Or even extra buds. From my table, I couldn't see, but when I got close I saw that they may indeed be getting ready to actually blossom! They've never done that since I've moved here but if I can witness and document it, that would be awesome. I feel like I'm recording a pregnancy.
Also in my listlessness, I branched out to a few other plants. After doing the same one for months, it's interesting to see how different it feels to draw something new. I see these plants all the time but I haven't developed the same kind of relationship. This is about all I've been able to do, so completely stymied by any work that requires the computer (remember when most work didn't require one?). Hoping to get one last big manual project done this weekend, but I'm not making any promises.

An interview I did for a couple of book arts students in California went live. I think I wrote all of that in March, but most of it is still pertinent even if it's messy.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Still no head

Still very low but I finally managed to take a bunch of scrap hanji cords to make another one of these. I didn't even have the energy to go outside to pick weeds to stick into it. The day before I had taken bark thread from various demos over many workshops and wove a tiny button.

But grateful for other people's words. Michelle wrote about her walks in Maine. I've been attempting daily walks in the face of my seasonal allergies and even got enough energy yesterday after eating two donuts to plant flower seeds all over my border and in pots and planters. This morning, I dipped into the wonderful words of Pema Chödrön, where she talks about Milarepa (I had read about him at the end of grad school when my bodyworker told me stories and taught me to meditate in this particular tradition):
Milarepa, who lived in the eleventh century, is one of the heroes of Tibetan Buddhism, one of the brave ones. He was also a rather unusual fellow. He was a loner who lived in caves by himself and meditated wholeheartedly for years. He was extremely stubborn and determined. If he couldn't find anything to eat for a couple of years, he just ate nettles and turned green, but he would never stop practicing.
The rest of the story is the lesson, but I was struck by the idea of eating nettles for years and turning green! I ordered more nettle tea because that's what I do for my allergies. It's a lovely fiber for textiles and paper, but I've never been fortunate enough to work with it. The tiny book where I read this story is a treasure; I dip in daily because it's set up so that you can open it to any page and each morsel is so helpful. I recommend getting for yourself and people who could use it—the gift wrap alone is incredibly sweet.

Now, back to writing, because I've told myself that if I write today, I can walk to the shop later and get another donut.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

What is or not going on up there

I made this last week I think (my sense of time is eluding me, it already feels like at least a month ago but it wasn't). This is definitely how I feel these days, my head is not right / not present / has been replaced with something else entirely.
But I am grateful to have received a few relief grants. One in particular is related to a residency I had been looking forward to but of course can't attend this summer. Oak Spring Garden Foundation has been particularly generous in providing our stipend to us even though we can't attend this year. The contract asks for a presentation and new work, so I made a book, my first during quarantine.
The covers and straps are made from two different types of milkweed paper, and the pages of harakeke. I had made the milkweed paper at home and the harakeke paper in Australia a couple years back at Barb Adams' beautiful paper studio. The structure is from the wonderful Interlocking and Woven Book Structures, one of my favorites because it allows single sheets to lay flat and requires no glue, only paper straps.
I had made the book a while back when I was re-practicing the structure and it turned out to be exactly right for rhododendron drawings. Lots of plant life in here.
This is the sketchbook I've been drawing in since about late Feb or early March. I use both sides of each page and weight the book every day after doing wet drawings (with interleaving glassine) to try and keep it as flat as possible over time.

On the other side of the circular drawing is a quick pencil sketch of a little bird I saw sitting in the middle of my front lawn this past weekend. It was big enough to be out of the nest maybe but still shedding its down and not ready to really fly, only travel a few low feet at a time. I noticed it because mom was feeding it and then flew away. Baby started to look around and later I saw it had moved, still searching and cheeping. It didn't look like a good situation. The next day I saw it behind my house, hopping around and not looking any further along in figuring out how to fly or eat or survive.

Yesterday on the way back from the garage I looked down to see it torn to pieces on the border of the back lawn. I don't want to move it but am not sure if scavengers will clear the rest. During a walk I was thinking about how long humans now live, a less short and brutish existence, but maybe we're fooling ourselves. I'm still not able to work as I used to, but grateful to be doing anything at all.

Saturday, May 09, 2020


Last night I prepped Velma's lovely papers for today's drawings. I tested both sides, the uncoated and the acrylic painted backgrounds. I also painted the page backgrounds for a book I'll hopefully get done this week. Scaling down took out a lot of the stress, and yesterday I thought about how so many people all the time see my work in person and say, "I thought it was bigger." Scaling up is ALWAYS the feedback art students get from their professors. Sure, in some instances, but right now I'm in a big scaling down mode because that's all I can manage.

On Thursday I was in a bad mood and intended to sit down in a chair at my table, and tried to flip my seat cushion up against the back of the chair to sit on the wooden seat. In the process, I pushed the entire chair back and then sat/fell down hard, on the floor. I was stunned, amazed that I had managed to pull out my chair from underneath myself, and indignant. Immediately I called Velma to whine about my butt's landing and she reminded me about teaching kids during her special ed days. When they acted out, they went low to the floor and even took off their shoes. Her friend, a therapist who works with traumatized children, said this is a wholly natural response because the kids were trying to get grounded. I guess I needed that, too. That day it was falling on my ass, today it was drawing, and both are effective.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Beans, bags, babies

I did a real Sunday where I stayed offline, napped, had some outside time, had an indoor picnic, and tried to relax. But Monday came and I was still in a very bad mood rather than feeling refreshed. I did get edits back from one of my essay subjects and he approved of the general tone of my draft even if there were plenty of factual corrections (which I knew I needed help on. I wasn't able to keep that many generations back to the Civil War straight—too many nameless ancestors! Glad to have the family tree sorted out now). That was a huge relief. I also soaked the tiny bit of butter beans I had left and kept swapping out the soaking water, feeding it to the outside plants. Of course, because we all know how I'm to die, I put them on the stove to cook and promptly forgot about them for a few hours. Fortunately, it was the lowest flame possible and I remembered before they burned.
I threw this one together from leftover upholstery cover material because I wanted to send pictures to my mom about how to do the bottom corners of a bag. I had insisted when I saw her in March that we take her old sewing machine to get fixed, but then the lockdown began and she couldn't get it for six weeks. It came back with a big scratch but otherwise seems to be running well. On that visit, I had also left her lots of fabric scraps and mailed her even more later. I thought it would be a nice break or new hobby but apparently sending her pictures of my bags made her jealous and frustrated so she stopped to eat snacks instead. I am 100% her daughter because I also eat when I get upset.
Lavender seedlings!! I hate the idea that I'll have to choose the strongest later but for now, I am delighted. My one audible yelp from last week was when I saw the first one poking up from the south-facing bathroom window. There is barely any room in there for the upside down boxes stacked to reach the windowsill sunlight but I'm happy to cede that space for a while.
I've switched to all brush and gouache lately for my rhododendron drawings and that has been a lot of fun. Some days I don't make it but mostly every day for at least a minute or three, I get to not be in the crappiest mood ever. It's a low-grade crappiness but cumulative, so I was relieved for a slight break today in it because I found out I got another small relief grant. They are extremely aptly named.
I probably shared this last year but wanted to share again. A year ago (in April 2019), I worked with four 4th grade classes in Oberlin for Allen Memorial Art Museum programming. It was fantastic, well-supported, well-received work. I miss teaching, being close to human beans, sharing paper joy. I hope it won't be years before I can return to this work and know that my crappy moods stem from an inability to fully grieve and grasp these losses. It's nothing like the families who could not be with their dying loved ones, and different from the anxiety I feel as each day I hear from more friends about their recovery from illness, or sickness and deaths of their loved ones. But it's all related. Trying to to stay nourished, make space for it all even if my containers are insufficient, and encourage new life.