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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The first flight of unease

In my month home, I was able to work on some new bricks. These have lots of milkweed seeds and coma mixed into the beater with the abaca and cotton, leftover from a teaching gig. I am realizing more and more that I am mostly interested in working with what I have, what's left over, making do. Being frugal and being able to transform and reuse material seems like a much more important skill to have than imagining something and then working with only exactly the perfect materials that I order fresh.
I brought some molds and pressed paper home so that I could cycle through a couple rounds of bricks without having to go back and forth to the studio, since by the end of my month, there was too much to take care of at home. 
This is something I wanted to do right after my Cali trip but didn't get a chance to do that until just a few nights ago.
Before sewing (all the papers made in my new studio with my new mould!), and
after sewing.
I also got very intense about cooking at home and trying new things, like a Spanish tortilla! I can't believe I managed to flip this one without major disaster. It didn't last long and was my packed lunch for after a physical when I was ravenous after fasting for bloodwork. Later that week I got an MRI, so I really packed in the medical stuff while I could.
But the major thing that kept me from my work was what this garden supply business calls Procrastiplanting! This is my first spring at home in a WHILE, and I felt my window to take care of spring yardwork was really small and fleeting. So when a tree guy came out for an estimate and noted that I hadn't mulched in a while, I realized, I really had not! Not for years! How would I know these things?? After my first year of home ownership where I tried to get a few bags from a big box store and spread it myself, I decided to take the plunge and get yardage delivered.
Well, that was extremely stupid. Years ago I had paced out my border to calculate what I needed, and it was only about one cubic yard for an inch of mulch. But I couldn't find the paper where I had scrawled out my numbers and thought I wrote, "1.9" when actually, when I found it after the fact, it was "1.1". The minimum order was three cubic yards and the guy said it's "not a big pile" so I ordered 3 and 3, compost and bark mulch. This load of compost mulch arrived first, and immediately I thought, uhoh. Thankfully, when I called in a panic, he let me cancel the second order.
I know the pile looks THE SAME, but this was at the end of the day, working three hours with a local 7th grader, and then a bunch on my own. I had already started weeding beds a week prior, and the morning the mulch arrived, I woke up to a bad twinge in my left hip flexor. By lunch, I knew I had already shredded all of my soft tissue but had to keep working. For over a week, I worked daily so that it was gone by the next week when rain was forecast. But I could barely walk, stand up from the toilet, climb the stairs, sit, lay down, etc. Two PTs and a massage therapist didn't address the core issue even though I told them I was in excruciating pain, and where. Go figure.
Because I had planted in such disorganized ways over the years, I have a really crowded area here and then empty spots. But it's a miracle that I even got to see the columbine get to nearly flowering as well as the other plants, because normally the critters eat everything but the milkweed and anise hyssop down to the ground. I may not get to see the purple flowers because today I flew to Dallas.
On a brief walk behind the hotel I saw lots of fancy homes and pristine lawns. I was so upset at the Cleveland airport, on the plane, and landing in Dallas, because almost no one is wearing masks. It completely dumbfounded me, that THIS MANY people think that it's a good idea not to look out for each other by doing this very simple thing that is proven effective. I also was upset about the recent racist Dallas shootings of Korean women in Koreatown, so I felt like either Covid will get me or a rabid gunman will. What a country to live in.
Judah is right next to my classroom for the workshop/conference that starts tomorrow. Fortunately, it's two days instead of a million, and my hosts are extremely organized and on top of things and really know how to handle hospitality.
This is a famous press and I forgot the name already. But what caught my eye was the two-on mould that I saw in a corner and then pulled out. Jesse let me put it on the table to take a better look. 
No one is using it and the ribs and facing on at least one edge have pulled away from the outer frame but it was fun to see.
This is the conservation lab where Jesse works and it is very nice.
I love the color coding that requires no words!
And of course, my eye fell to the top of the room this time to a mould that had a new weird deckle on it. We removed that and I was amazed by the watermark work on this. I can't even read it but the details were so fine that I could barely understand what was going on with it.
This is what's crazy: the darker mesh is much finer, and sewn carefully into a HOLE in the regular facing!
Here is the backside of it. I'm assuming the rounder wire lines are helping to support the squiggles that are sunken down to create darker areas in the paper because more pulp will lay in there. I wish I knew where this mould came from and who worked on this facing. Time to lay down as the next few days will be full with the conference and then another scary flight home.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Old home, new home

Sewing scraps is always very soothing, though also flares up my tennis elbow (from work, not tennis!) and stuff in my hand and shoulders. It also messes with my back and hips and feels similarly to what happens when I drive, which is mostly why I avoid and dread long drives. Who thought the ergonomics of driving should be/stay this way? But it's hard to stop sewing, as there is never any end to the scraps. This random bit is from a friend, a friend's mom, and old clothes.
This is the book I had been thinking about and mocking up since before my Bay Area trip, maybe even before UAE. I am not convinced but it has been a long and grand experiment, and a good way to figure out how the studio works. 
The hanji embedded here in abaca is what I made when I first moved my papermaking stuff to my basement years ago while waiting for the studio to be ready. I had added kakishibu powder to the sheets, which works well for 2-ply hanji. But the hanji is really not interested in fusing with the abaca, no surprise. It can't, and the persimmon makes it even more resistant.
I had to oxiclean this batch and it was not even 50% as nice as it was when I left it, but there was just no time to pull all of it before I left, so that's why I came home to the mold in there. Besides, abaca turns immediately.
Scenes from cleanup: my cheat sheets to figure out which printed papers went where and in which direction, and my new favorite Tim Moore mould. I'm so grateful to have a light one, given how much PT I've been doing on my shoulder.
The Aardvark Press, in the useless corridor that I should never have let the architect draw in the first place. I didn't realize that we'd be digging up the floor regardless for the floor drain in the beater room, so it would have been on the way if we just put the sink against the same wall instead of the half wall here. I really wanted to tell the contractor to stop when I saw him framing it out but it wasn't my call. The new idea is to use the leftover laminate sheeting to cover parts of this side of the half wall to use to dry more paper.
The lovingly-made drybox by Jim Elling, one of his last ones. I love it and wish I hadn't cut my blotting layers an inch too short.
Since the ceilings are really high, I want to rig clotheslines that sit on a frame that goes up and down on a pulley like in Kalamazoo, but for now I figure out anywhere to hang. This is not a good solution without sandbagging/weighing the feet of the grids, which are not structurally strong.
I had all this energy over the weekend to start weeding my beds to prepare for compost and mulch, but then I tired out REAL FAST and have been avoiding weeding for the last two days. Yesterday I saw a broken egg and moved this bit to the side of the driveway so I wouldn't run it over and then feel even more sad.
Today on my late walk I saw this one next to the new tree on the tree lawn. Sigh. But soup is on the stove and the windows are open...mostly to air out the house because I didn't know that the gas was on with no flame for a while. That doesn't explain my vertigo but it doesn't help! Just two weeks until Dallas and still not all here, but I suspect that it mixed with deep hurt about how politics here spends so much time in hateful places. Hating women is so tiresome. Let us BE. And fingers crossed that the Korean burdock seeds I planted last fall next to this new tree take!