Monday, October 18, 2021

Mostly blue and gold

I don't know if I've ever felt so discombobulated in the fall, as usually it feels more grounding than this time around. A couple weekends back I decided to visit the museum to reconnect to things outside of myself and my regular concerns.
The Korean gallery had a wonderful rotation focused on gold. The centerpiece was this Translated Vase by Yee Sookyung. These are ceramic fragments gathered from other studios and connected, with 24-karat gold leaf to fill the cracks (an old tradition).
It's different from every angle, and I was so happy to see this work temporarily installed.
In the Chinese galleries is a wonderful show on rubbings. They had images of people preparing paper for large ones, which is very instructive, and the center case was full of the tools and materials necessary for the process.
I keep forgetting to tell my students to visit this show but in a way I wonder why I would bother because they never go above and beyond what is assigned.
Was so excited as well to see the Flower Garland Sutra (Avatamsaka Sutra No. 78). This is from the Goryeo period and this version dated to the 1200s–1300s.
So much work in the papermaking, indigo dyeing, and calligraphy.
300–100 BCE painted clamshells from China. I will never not love paintings and drawings into bone, shell, and any other number of portable canvases that nature provides in spades.
475–221 BCE lacquered wood from China, cranes and serpents that potentially were made to hang a drum in the central gap. I have to get started on a major new bird and feel a little nervous that I haven't even chosen cords to begin.
After the museum, I headed to the hospital to see a lovely cyanotype show featuring lots of friends and colleagues. Lisa Schonberg did this one and is one of the most prolific printers that I've met in town. She works tirelessly and is a great teacher as well. I covered one of her printmaking classes when I first moved here and was amazed by the studio she had set up in a space not originally built for printing.
My images are weird only because I was taking them partly to show the track hanging system to someone else. But these are by Paula Zinsmeister, a friend who also makes a ton of work given that she has a regular job. She always works with plants and natural elements in her signature way and has always been a generous resource for me. I think she took my very first hanji class, ever!
Steven Mastroianni works at CIA and has helped me check out tons of stuff all the time for teaching, so nice about it. Also a CIA alum, he was trained in photography and built a whole greenhouse in his backyard to make cyanotypes (and grow plants, of course). I loved the scale of these and the different effects he used for his imagery.
This is another one of his pieces and overall the whole show is a fun and soothing combination. I enjoyed seeing all of the different takes on cyanotypes by a wide range of artists, but mostly was glad that I've only EVER been to that hospital to look at art, not for medical care.
On the studio front, the glass door next to the space (still part of the building I'm in) was shattered by a city mishap and it took months for the glass to arrive because of supply chain blahblah. Glad that is taken care of and relieved it wasn't on my side but a reminder of why I would never have chosen full glass exterior doors if it was up to me.
On the home front, the new tree lawn trees were delivered today. I was shocked several weeks ago when the stump grinder was hauled in to tear up the tree lawn and remove the giant silver maple stump that had been there for at least two years.
I checked the tag after the guys left and it's a frontier elm. I was surprised any elms could go in at all but it looks like this one is fairly resistant to Dutch elm disease. It looks exactly like a bad art installation right now, just hanging out on an angle with its future stake and protector on the ground where I hadn't watered the grass seed at all.
The unseasonably warm weather finally snapped into fall so today I popped off some more marigold heads. For the studio, I think I want to plant a zillion marigolds—for dye, but also for tea. I saw so much marigold tea in Korea and had plenty as well, since they say it's good for your eyes. Pam had asked for pomegranate peels recently so I gave her a bunch of mine that I had dried and saved from at least a year ago, if not more. She returned with more fruit, so I have been eating seeds and peeling fruit for days. It's like storing future gold and sunshine for when I'll really need it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Ducks and stands

Things have felt relentless since arriving back home in July, but this time with mostly not very exciting things to report. Yesterday I had a wonderful day with the fearless and powerful Kim Baxter, a metalsmith who founded Flux Metal Arts. For the last month or so I've been working on a duck commission that required that I move aside a ton of my regular work. The ducks were one thing, but then the stands....
This was where I worked yesterday and am so glad that a friend told me about Flux, because I was able to book private time with Kim to get more guidance on these dang stands that began in 2016 and have taken on many different lives of their own. I've been fortunate to meet great jewelry folks this way, from Damon Thompson who made the first stand at Haystack, to Deb Rosen and Grace Chin who taught me at the Orange Art Center, and then last week Lyanne Torres, the excellent technical specialist in jewelry and metals at the Cleveland Institute of Art. If the ducks could stand on their own, fine, but these metal stands really help, and while I've also hired out for steel versions, the very strong part of myself that insists on a certain degree of self-sufficiency and control demands that I get a little better at doing them myself.
In a panic, I ordered copper discs from three different vendors in NJ, Mexico, and England. NJ ones arrived just in time to work with Lyanne and England in time to work with Kim. Mexico shipment close but hasn't arrived yet! Kim is great with all of the pandemic protocols and the shop is very well set up and stocked. Everything you need is there either for use through the studio rental or for very reasonable prices through the store. She even set up a little table on the side patio so I could have lunch in the gorgeous weather. The front of the space is devoted to gallery space of their instructors and local artists.
We talked so much shop and that included commiserating about adjunct life (and breaking away from it), creating studios that don't feed into the non-profit industrial complex, finding what you need from every source possible—like this mix of cases! The black-based ones were from an industrial resale place that I need to hit up soon for my own studio, and the skinny-legged ones were inherited from a colleague.
It's true that once you know the work that goes into just finding equipment, lighting, etc., you see so much more than the jewelry. Talking to Kim made me realize how long it has been that I've been able to meet and connect with local artists, and how valuable and precious it is to continue to do so. Even when it feels much easier to crawl into a shell.
Learning from her also reminded me of how students probably walk into my classrooms and how I could probably cut them some slack in certain ways, but will always hold myself to a certain standard. The larger stands in the front I did with Lyanne and then the smaller ones in the back with Kim.
New ducks, new stands, now packed. There are three other new ducks not pictured. I will be SO glad to get these on their way so that I can get back to the work I had intended to do this fall. Aside from this job, the other major detour was my kitchen ceiling/leak that ate three months of my life/sanity. Thank goodness for Bill, who came over to do repairs after the plumber did his thing. He was so patient and never complained, coming over countless days over weeks to do the various layers of patching, mud, and primer. Then it was up to me to finish priming and painting, which was yet another comedy of errors. But after really pushing through last weekend, I'm done!
I made this book maybe a month ago and still need to properly photograph it. But am glad to have one more rhodie book done, this likely being the last one. It's called Steady.
At the end of this week, I fly to NY for family stuff for a bit, and then the agenda: make more books, figure out how to weave a rooster out of hanji, and write. I've been approved for occupancy and passed fire inspection for the studio, so fingers crossed I can have a real opening by year's end. It probably will be snowing by then but it's just a matter of time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Slow grow

More marigolds appeared! Seeds sown in July and very intermittently watered. Good to know that these work while the other seeds totally failed.
Over two weeks, I worked on a new set of ducks for a commission. Here's a review of the paper show my ducks are in, in Columbus.

I tend to make more than ordered so that I can choose the best selection for shipment. These are going overseas as soon as I can make more copper stands. Under the fabric full of chickens (from Youngmin) are lots of bamboo splints from my trip to Korea that already feels like it never happened. Funny how that works.
I also sowed these seeds in July and while the zinnias came up quickly, the flowering has been the slowest of them all. One poked out to say hello in the last day. After talking yesterday to Velma about how it's okay to only get a few plants out of many, many starters, I feel doubly grateful for this one pink face.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Time and change

Working on ducks while listening to this far-ranging and deep story about the UN Conference Against Racism that ended only days before this day, 20 years ago, by a brilliant journalist that NPR was so lucky to have, Shereen Marisol Meraji. Tears, for sure.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Testing tech

I hastily scattered marigold and bachelor's button seeds in July before I left for NY. Clearly the latter failed utterly and as of last week I think I have one tiny marigold. I definitely don't expect a real yield for dyeing but it's always great to see which plants can survive my neglect.

This is mostly a test to see if the new subscribe by email button will work. I could not deal with any of that while in Korea so I am slowly getting to it now. What else? A few more rhodie books are available from my dealers now, the coffee grounds from *$ are actually working well to dissipate the kimchi smell from my fridge, and registration is open for my fall Asian Paper Craft class at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Still buried by life but grateful for it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Round and round

This may be the longest I've gone without posting, because I was so unreasonable with myself when booking my schedule before I left for Korea and while away. Too many obligations, no down time from a very important trip, and then lots of zoning out while visiting family for the first time in a while. Right before the fall semester began, I was able to have a visit with a friend in Sandusky of all places, where we visited a merry-go-round museum. This is a diagram of the first likely amusement ride, people on swings going around on a wheel together.
Included in the price of admission is a ride on the central carousel, which is in the middle of an old post office. I was going to get on that little horse until I saw the weight limit would require me to saw myself in half to get on.
So I mounted this one instead, which turned out to be the lead horse. As my friend said, this ride was completely worth the price of admission. As soon as it started, I had this rush of all worries and regular life disappearing instantly while getting flooded with a sense of innocence and childhood I haven't felt since I was last on one of these. And back then, it didn't mean as much because there wasn't so much crap to wash away while whirling in a circle. We even got wooden pennies to drop into the box before climbing on.
I never thought of all the fantastical creatures that normally were on these rides but they are wonderful.

In a separate corner from this was an ostrich, and assorted other animals.
They even had horseshoes?!
There were two blocks of wood that looked like this, complete with disembodied hands working on the piece (and both sets of hands of course had wedding bands on the left hands). There's a guy in the back who makes stuff as well. I thought about my grad school advisor who as a side job would restore pieces like this because she was an expert painter (they require many layers of musculature and so on before even designing the surfaces). Once she earned enough money doing that, she would quit and live on that money while making art. The cycle began again when she ran out of money.
They have real organs as well for the music and this one they can play for you at request. It almost seemed louder than the one on the ride.
A couple more, with elaborate decorations and painting.
As soon as I returned from Korea and then New York, I had to deal with very stressful and invasive home repair projects. My garage door finally had enough so I gleefully replaced it and wondered why I didn't do it sooner (still learning as a home owner when it's better to pay a lot of money upfront rather than piecemeal over time). Should I have asked them to leave the almost new torsion springs that I had paid for them last year? Probably. Did I? No. Does the garage have a zillion other major problems? Yes, but I can't replace the whole thing so this is it for now.
The most pressing issue started my last week in Korea: a leak in the kitchen ceiling. When I got home, it had stopped, but when I finally got home for good from NY, it started right back up. Fortunately, the plumber came out the next day and right where the leak looked the worst, he smashed a hammer into my ceiling and there it was. A failed fitting. But because of a weird re-routing of the water upstairs, we put in a new line and cut off the old one and then there were two holes in my ceiling plus yanked-out trim. Thank god I was smart enough to buy a house near a friend who is extremely handy and good natured, so he came over to help patch the holes. We still have several more visits left to get it all done to the point where I can use my entire kitchen, but I'm relieved that it's not a job that requires getting home insurance involved.
That, on top of getting my first ever lawnmower and learning how it works (battery powered), has kept me from being able to officially apply for occupancy and move into my studio. Still working from home but I would barely say that. There is so much I want to make and do but instead I have to keep my house from falling apart while starting fall semester teaching. Which feels harder than ever, because I am so desperate to have my time to myself.
What goes into these little books? Still sorting it out but relieved to have gotten this far. That's a big step from what I thought was going to happen to them last year. If you want to learn more about manipulating paper like this and in other ways, and are local, I'm offering a museum class in Cleveland (search for "Asian Paper Craft"). For the first time, a class over four weeks, very leisurely!
This is how I have felt for a long, long time. Not sure when it will let up. I'm fairly certain the only way to change it is to change how I am thinking about it. I also feel like I am in a years-long process of weeding away things I don't want to do anymore. But certain contracts were signed a while back so I have to honor those. Trying to be patient about glacial change as the world seems to be crashing and burning all around us.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Making hanji in NY

Another hanji vat has been born, this time in upstate NY at Women's Studio Workshop! Woody built it to my specs and of course improved it because he has been making stuff forever: equipment, tools, jigs, and so on. This liner is so much more manageable than the one I have back home so I learn every time someone builds a new one. Last week I had a lovely class; here is Amanda at the vat.
We lost a lot of enrollment because of positive Covid tests but the remaining students were excellent. Megan is weaving with some paper thread and Marissa is spinning more. I was so glad that my family was able to drive up in two batches the day before I started to teach as we hadn't seen each other for a year and a half. The itty bitty baby I saw a week before lockdown is now running around and we are all older.

Megan cast this lovely bark lace bowl out of cooked paper mulberry bast fiber and used it to hold her hanji scraps from the week. I'm glad to be back with my parents now and have been intentionally staying with them more than going out (for many reasons), which is a big change from my usual behavior in NY. But I had a nice group show up for my online talk on Wed, which you can I think see here for a couple weeks before it is posted online.

Sunday afternoon Eastern Time, I'll offer a 1.5-hour demo-based jiseung workshop so you can see the steps from cutting a sheet of hanji into strips, cording it, starting a circular basket, and finishing it. You don't have to prepare anything as I recommend you watch first, which will give you a sense of what is going on, and then I will provide the info for what tools/paper to order.

Have a safe weekend!