Monday, June 20, 2022

Another new leaf, again and again

Last week's big day involved meeting local kids at the youth center/camp down the street. They walked up from there to the studio and I showed them the outside first, asking what their impressions were. It's great to get really honest answers because kids do not pull punches! We talked about the best exposures for plants, and about chlorophyll, and they had already seen samples of botanical papers. Thank goodness for my friend Angela, who provided all kinds of drawing tools. This is the great boon of parent friends.
My Oberlin student Michelle was also an incredible and necessary help, as she did a lot of the prep and cleanup, as well as truly engaging with the kids.
I had done a tiny scale drawing of the building exterior and wanted them to draw how they'd make it look better with plants. I loved how some put full-on complete roof gardens! That is not an option right now but it would be amazing down the line.
Then we got to seed starting. It was a mess because I miscalculated how this would go, mostly from the sheer novelty and joy of scooping and spreading "dirt" (seed starter) and then planting tiny seeds. But it was worth it to hear, "This is so SATISFYING," over and over again.
The gallery's very first art show! After they left, Michelle and I cleaned and had some catch up time over lunch and ice cream. Then I gave a long tour to the local CDC director and marketing staff. I was so relieved that things went off okay, given how little experience I have teaching kids in this age range. We'll have ongoing contact, I just have to figure out the best series of things to do with them (a few containers are ordered, but also wondering about milkweed processing, etc.).
The crazy timing of it was that it was on Thursday and I had to deliver a new iteration of this on Saturday. I had spent days and days making bricks right up until the fiber started to get stinky. Then there was color sorting, and then demolition.
This guy had to come down briefly so that I could saw off the long wood support up top, as it had been 8 feet but didn't need to be. And so that I could start cutting threads at their junctions.
Then it went back up so I could finish cutting threads and then releasing bricks.
Why? Because I couldn't do a perfect color match and just add to the bottom of the piece (which would already have been a nightmare, since that would involve at least 21 new threads. That was going to happen anyway, so better to start all over and integrate the new weird colors (where some bricks were too blue, meaning they were getting too purply).
Final one!
Then I had to sort them all again by color and combine with the new batch. The bricks on the bottom shelf of the smaller cart are duds in terms of a match, so I'll have to turn that into another project.
After pulling down any extra lengths of threads from the clips, it was time to start all over again.

I think it took about 2.5 hours to do six rows. The beginning always takes a while, remembering the systems I've put into place over years.
The next day I had to get every last brick on.

Once they were all strung, I had to start releasing the bottom to the very ends of the threads to create the disintegration of the whole thing.

Then, where I see all the pulling and uneven distribution, I know that the threads are not where they need to be anymore (at no point is any one thread a complete piece from top to bottom. This means I attach new threads as they run out, but because I wanted to get them all on first before staggering, then almost all of the attachments are in the wrong place, too high up. It's a bad system but that's what happens when you are too lazy to REALLY start all over from cutting brand-new threads and re-clamping to the support).
Friday was utterly miserable for many different reasons but I managed to get closer to done, get home, defrost a pizza, and make the rental van reservation. Saturday morning I mowed the lawn because I knew I wouldn't be able to do it afterwards from exhaustion, and did some errands, before heading back to do the final necessary tweaks. This is about where I got it before meeting Angela at the rental agency so that she could drive for me. I am completely uncomfortable driving large vehicles; a pickup truck is my limit. Then we got it downtown to the CSU galleries and came back to return the van, blahblah. I asked Angela to shoot taking down the final piece, which caused everyone who saw it to recommend it turn into a sound piece.

For now, it's just going to hang there, when the CAN Triennial opens in a few weeks.

On fumes, I cooked and did laundry post-delivery, but Sunday was spent half in bed and the rest cooking soup, eating too much food from the farmers market, and lolling around. I thought today was going to be good as I got up early to head to the studio to water seedlings, of which more had sprouted. But on my way home I drove past a white dude walking down the street exposing himself at 6:40am. I was so angry that I called the police, who I'm sure won't do much. My car repair was not as long-winded as I feared so I got home before noon but I was derailed for many hours. Still hoping to get back to cook some yucca that has been waiting for weeks, though I have too many book projects and a jiseung piece waiting as well. Maybe I'll stay home and take it easy with some twining.

CAN Triennial kicks off July 8, see you at the opening at the CSU galleries on July 14!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Limping but still moving

This began in March. April? Something like that. I have only gotten this far but eventually it will be another knitted book because someone asked for one and I'm almost completely sold out (the only remaining one is pretty much out of most budgets, even for fancy institutions that ask).
My art arrived back from the UAE months after the show closed because of many mishaps having to do with the shippers not knowing how to do this or really caring. They left out part of the shipment and refuse to mail it back because they say the books have closed on this event. Good god. Anyhow, because they marked it incorrectly as "antique clothing" worth 18,000 USD, I had to pay import duties just to get my own work back. Then, because instead of saying it was paper artwork, they said it was clothing, the lightness of the shipment triggered another alert saying the weight doesn't match the description. Now I have a giant crate and no time to repurpose it into a storage unit. So it will hang out in my garage for a while.
Last week I was finally able to visit a Guatemalan place I wanted to try on the recommendation of a past student (who has moved close to the studio!). The part that made me happiest was the horchata. And the most kind and incredibly competent server (who worked alone on a slammed Friday evening) I've had in recent—or all?—memory.
That was after taking a long long walk with Diane at the Rocky River nature center. We were both confused because it's not actually in the town/city of Rocky River. It was humid and I got a little bit up by mosquitoes but it was so worth being under tree canopy most of the time.
I also took the plunge and had Bill refine his original hanji vat design for me so that my new students in July can test it out. Instead of having the wall dig into everyone's ribs, it can be at the proper belly level, plus we tacked on a little shelf so that the frame has a place to sit that's not just the edge of the vat. It's always scary to do this kind of retrofitting (especially given how carefully I coated this entire thing with polyurethane a billion years ago) but I hope it works.
AND . . . it only took months of my life, probably over half a year, but I finally fixed this cart!! One caster refused to reach its nut, so first a friend hammered the threading straight. Then Bill recommended that I sledgehammer the piece inside the leg holding the nut down further to reach the thread. I spent a day doing something incredibly stupid (trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, so that the rod got stuck inside), knowing that it was a bad idea, and then spent the next day correcting the problem (drilling it to bits so it would slide out). But after all that drama, the end of the threading finally found the nut, and the table is functional!! In the process I also realized the old grease all over the wheels was tracking all over the floors, so I cleaned those—probably would not have happened if not for all the drama and close looking.
I don't know how many weeks ago I started this piece backwards. Meaning, the lid was made in 2020. When you're supposed to make the body, and THEN fit the lid. But I am stubborn and had lots of ideas.
I'm still stuck around here because I haven't had time, and the last round of weaving left my right shoulder feeling totally crippled the next day, requiring a lot of manual work at PT. I have a new idea, though, and it makes me crazy that I can't work on it right away because of other scheduling conflicts.
Friends from Chicago bought a couple ducks last month and this is one in their new beautiful kitchen. I feel so honored! Pride of place is for real. Meanwhile, I've been scattered with all kinds of physical activity, like moving giant heavy furniture for the studio. I am still struggling with basic things like walking (especially up and down stairs), so it seemed like one cut and giant bump on my hand from a big heavy metal rod falling onto it was pretty good for one day of putting together shelving that should be done by two people. Learning my limits is hard as I keep exceeding them and hurting myself on a regular basis.

This is the bear that has taken over my artwork-making hours. Because it's on deadline and a different type of work than I actually want to be doing right now, it makes me cranky. I churned out many new bricks, working daily to finish a new batch of abaca fiber. But the color match was way off on more than the first half of production, so I only have less than 100 to add to the hanging. Which I cannot tack to the bottom: this requires unstringing the ENTIRE thing and starting over, to integrate the new ones. Today was supposed to be my work day on this beast because tomorrow, life changes again. But Vagner came thru town and we had a wonderful visit where he reminded me of lots of important things (friendship, sticking up for yourself, understanding your place in the world and what happens when other people disagree about that place). This meant that today I didn't feel like going to the studio first thing, especially in a heatwave, when my car A/C decided to die.

So...I'll be less prepared than I'd like for a Saturday delivery. This is precarious because tomorrow there will be a whole lot of activity at the studio that is guaranteed to wear me out, but also fulfill promises made a long time ago. More on that once the experience passes!

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Survival moves

This was the dessert spread (there was a whole other section for beverages on the other side and this ginormous display obscures the savory spread) for the DeGolyer reception / presentation of awards / exhibition opening. If I hadn't already had dinner plans afterwards with the good and great Alisa Banks, I would have eaten much more.
Jesse was our intrepid conference leader / planner / teacher / all around making it happen guy who took excellent care of us from the moment we were invited last year. He even had to manage moving all four classrooms from one building to this library on the first day of the conference because the A/C suddenly went out. We spent the morning with wind blowing our hanji all over the place but the humidity and heat were great for making cords. Here you see the winner of the competition, Coleen Curry, who had a beautiful entry. She really gets material.
In the afternoon we used a fancy reading room that spread us out a lot but was great for distancing (very few people masked). Coleen was in my first class along with a lovely group that worked really hard.
There's the rest of class. We were fortunate also to have a small class size so that things were really manageable. That's the nice part of endowed programs, they're not in it to tally up as many tuition dollars as possible. This is a shockingly inexpensive conference to attend, and you get to study with fantastic teachers (I was so glad to be able to spend time with Bhavna and Juliayn; they are super smart, skilled, down to earth, open, and kind).
I believe this was Deborah's final basket. I was AMAZED that a decent number of my students managed to finish a basket in one day. That's from cutting down a sheet of hanji to this. The second day, I repeated the class to a new group.
Someone in class mentioned that a student in Juliayn's gilt edging class was practicing on my book. I couldn't believe it until she brought it in herself so I could sign it.
I missed her name but she was so respectful, waiting until class was over to ask, and I was really touched when she said she brought it because they were asked to bring a valuable book to them. Aside from one weird comment, I flew home feeling like that was a good job done, even if no one again was wearing masks on the plane / in the airport. I had NO time to decompress, as I had to mow the lawn before a thunderstorm arrived a couple hours after me, and then start prepping for my first private hanji student.
Youmee arrived on Sunday evening, and I arrived Saturday afternoon, so I was cooking fiber on Sunday, getting the dining table moved to the gallery, and the rest. We took her to dinner and ice cream that night and then Monday started by rinsing both batches of fiber, which she picked for two days straight.
She also beat for three days straight. Remember, this entire time, I am ALSO picking and beating fiber while prepping the vat, cleaning, etc.
We did a test run Monday afternoon and pulled maybe 6 or so sheets (that's 12 times at the vat, Korean style).
All of my learning with Mr. Shin, the Korean national treasure of hanji making, last year really came in handy, though I still need to figure out a better couching surface.
We took my new laminate walls in the beater room for a spin. While I wish I could have encased more of the walls in 4-ft Marlite, this is a good start.
After three full working days, she had a whole stack of cleaned sheets, and piji (chiri sheets / waste sheets / paper where we put back all of the stuff we picked out). I also drove her around to a paper/book studio, printshop, and print gallery for a four-hour tour, and fed her dinner at my house on the second night, while staying up until almost midnight on Sunday cooking her lunch for the first day. Needless to say, by the time she came by on Thursday to pick up her hanji, I was destroyed.
Amidst teaching, I was trying to juggle phone tag with my next gig in western Mass to ensure that supplies and equipment would be in place to teach papermaking. But my entire system was shutting down. My doctor said that pretty much all of my current ailments stem from too much travel and too much stress (and not enough sleep). So the obvious thing would be to travel/work less. When I was finally able to take a nap on Thursday, I felt like I was dying into sleep, it was so desperate. I've never done this, but I had to make the call to cancel my gig. With only two weeks notice, I also managed to find them a substitute teacher and to coach/prepare him. I knew I did the right thing because over the next few days, I found that I couldn't comprehend things anymore. For example, at the hardware store or grocery store, I'd stare at aisle signs or products and could not differentiate. I saw the words but couldn't figure out what they indicated. Scary.
This was also tied into our latest collective trauma of state-mandated murders. I've lost days to crying and helplessness, anger and fear, bargaining with myself about what other country I could flee to when the time comes. This is one memorial at Oberlin.
I went to Oberlin on Saturday because global crises have depleted papermaking fiber stocks, and had a wonderful afternoon seeing an old student (whose junior studio show is up now at the Baron Gallery) to talk about a more formal mentorship starting this summer, walking around campus, and visiting the art museum. Michelle, my student from 2020 class, has taught me so much about the resiliency of students these days. She never stopped making paper after I taught her right before pandemic began, and brought more paper to share with me that she and another student from my 2022 class had been working on this past semester. I was so alarmed by the massive digging for geothermal blahblah at the studio building that I didn't get a chance to peek in at the damage from the recent flood (probably for the best; I can't handle any more bad news).
I was so happy to see the Eva Hesse show at the museum after seeing her big show in Germany years ago with works from Oberlin, because this one had pieces that contained archives that cannot travel away from here. On my way out, I was delighted to run into Robert, who curated both of my solo shows at Kendal, and to catch up. We were mourning the slain and he talked about the trauma of the survivors, and how he was a war vet but he was an adult at the time. It is so hard to live in such a sick time but he reminded me to keep making art.
The flanking jiseung pieces are from before and during Dallas, while the little rock books I bought from Amy Fishbach, who lives in Cleveland Heights and collects these rocks at Lake Erie. That's about all I can do for now, find brief refuge in tiny things.
And support those who do the same. At right is my friend Paula, and her wonderful daughter Sarah rushing to get out of the picture, in her new studio quite close to Lake Erie in the Twist Drill building. She and I are both doing the same thing, growing up out of our home studios and into stand-alone ones. It's a big move/commitment but her space is beautiful, full of light, and seems like a great new place to work. These are the people I want to be around, those who care about their art yet take care of their family, friends, and community, who know how to be human in the ways that nurture humanity. While I'll miss being able to see my own family, I am so relieved to finally have two months at home for the first time since last year! Gardens await.