I like to think this wee one blessed my most recent trip to Michigan. I started with a detour to Detroit to see a good friend at the DIA and visit one of my past students' offering at the ofrendas exhibit there. As always, it was a stimulating and energizing meeting because she always gives me new perspectives and logical ways of approaching my problems. Already I was driving away with all kinds of new, practical, and not too difficult things to do. It was also good to have time to roam the galleries and discover new work, whether really old or recently made.
The colors this fall everywhere I've been are glorious, and that is another blessing. So much to admire and enjoy, and I was elated to be able to be outside working amidst the blazes of all kinds of colors.
The first morning was harvest, and the fields yielded plenty of milkweed as always. I'm carrying my bunch as I wander on new paths more to water than to harvest. This year I felt less worried about the cutting back because I knew whatever we got would be more than enough. It takes time to learn not to be panicked and selfish, to ask for permission (and wait for the answer!), never take the first plant, leave more than half, leave your own gifts, and remain grateful.
I left this bit in the field, already separate from its core and adding fiber to the field.
I liked seeing this stand of color and lone milkweed leaning out into the path.
Pati and I created a way of working where we make piles on the ground in various places that we work and then gather them at the end. Because I was in so much hip/back pain and it was hard to walk, I did a lot of organizing work as she stayed out in the fields, moving one pile,
then another, to a clearing next to the car to make it easier to process, bundle, and load.
We were so happy to have Jill join us for the harvest! We sat around for a while first and then showed her what we had been up to.
Unsurprisingly, she did a great job and came back with her own bundle to work on. I decided this year it would be easier if we trimmed shoots and pods away in the field and took them as separate problems to tackle.
It was great to sit outside and catch up while trimming and collecting. I kept watching free coma fly into Jill's hoop earrings and hang out.
Back at home base, the colors were just as glorious and welcoming. This is the one place in the world where I know I can be fully present without danger, where I WANT to chuck my phone and computer out the window, out of my life, and be.
I had lost all track of time and we came home for a late, late lunch and I started a pot on my new induction burner to steam the greenest of the stalks (they weren't very green but I wanted to test a range).
These hung out to the very end, and I got almost all of them done but once I was at the final ten or so, I gave them to the compost pile. I had already come with steamed bast that had sat around for almost a week because of my furnace problems, so first I had to scrape all that before I got to the new batch.
Many hands make light work! It was also great weather for both Tim and Pati to do outdoor chores, and it feels easier to do all of that when everyone is outside doing something. I even had a whole bucket of exploded pods from LAST year that I hadn't gotten around the separating! So this trip covered a lot of ground.
Stripping bast from the inner core
Scraping away the outer layer that I call "plasticky"
Taking away that top layer doesn't get rid of the spots, those have already stained the fiber and flesh underneath. It's too much work to also try and take the flesh away (and means I'd lose more fine fibers).
This was from my home border, not that many plants but enough to fill a pot and keep me busy scraping for a day and a half. The batch from Michigan was way bigger.
Pati took great shots of me wrangling coma from a fresher pod below her studio. Opening the pod here.
Keeping it intact while I pull away the inside from the pod.
Pulling off seeds without disturbing the coma too much, or they become a big mess and not something you can hold in one hand.
Hard to see if you don't know what you're looking at, but pulling out the central soft bit that houses the free ends of the coma in remarkable compression.
These were a bit more damp so they didn't fluff up immediately and fly away.
The outdoor cats also tolerated all of our outdoor work, and here you can see the fluff that I threw away a few feet away from our working spot because it looked like there were spots that would do better in nature than in the beater.
Both of them like to hang out near the studio and hydrate near the rain barrel. As always, Pati fed us like royalty and Tim answered a lot of my questions about any number of mechanical and practical life things (why does that go there and how does this work??). I was so happy to be peacefully present in unusually gorgeous warm weather, ensconced by the trees doing their showy display before they dropped all the pretense—each day, leaves fell on and around us.
It was even harder to come home from this and do re-entry than from Hawai'i. Especially because I knew everything ahead this fall is work, and there isn't much reprieve until February. Grateful for the paying work because it keeps my house heated (the furnace guys are downstairs now putting a new one in) and my teeth from falling out of my head (I've been to the dentist three times in the last month) but retreats like this are what actually keep me feeling effortlessly buoyant.
Almost as soon as vacation ended I had to prep for a hastily arranged fall hanji retreat for a student who prefers to be anonymous but came across an ocean to study with me. She happened to be staying at an Airbnb where I noticed milkweed on the tree lawn ready for yard waste pickup. I knew the owner so I asked if I could have it and lo! We had some raw material to begin with immediately.
I won't bore you with ALL of the steps but thank goodness I had Justine drive out from Providence to assist for the nearly two weeks, because she is a photographer so she documented in a way I could/would never. I don't have the eye/skills/patience and also I'm not good at shooting while working.
So much went down during the retreat in terms of studio and personal discovery and so on but here is the milkweed that Justine beat, and then I was reminded of how much fresh stuff gets everywhere. The flesh of this plant spatters FAR, and I didn't have a shower curtain set up the way a murderer would to stop blood spatter. They were very good at cleaning off the walls but it truly went everywhere.
Testing fibers after hand beating for a while.
I originally drilled holes in this for a watering can but drilled too many holes so it became useless as a watering can, but lined with a paint strainer it became perfect to strain out lumps in formation aid.
The first day of hanji making was on the third day of class.
Justine got a donation of dried burdock burrs from her local herb sanctuary and so we were able to use them to clean the bal, hooray!
Finding the top thread to begin parting sheets.
I had Justine work on making more big table bark lace, which has to be done in one sitting.
Just like her last visit, Justine's mom prepared SO MUCH FOOD, mostly Korean, and so we were well fed each dinner. I made the gyeranjjim, the eggs, on the stovetop for the first time. Then afterwards we got advice from our respective moms about how to do it better.
I was running on very, very little sleep the entire time but somehow managed to get out on Friday night to have dinner with Pam, Paula, and Yuko to celebrate Yuko's and my birthdays that fall in the autumn. It was so nice to have this outing to break up the work.
Saturday I had offered a free tour where we visited the art museum (here I was showing how I love the way contemporary art is mixed into the Asian art galleries. This is one of my favorites, by Sopheap Pich).
After a Korean lunch in Asiatown, I showed them around the Morgan and they got to see the naginata in person. Then I dragged them all the way to the east side to a second Korean grocery to get tea. The outing lasted much longer than I expected and there were some other not fun issues that I was unaware of until later but we survived. Overall, the weather was remarkably wonderful for the entire time; it would threaten to be grey and then the sun would appear, and we got some warm days as well.
For the second half of class, Julia flew in from L.A. to join us do "dry" techniques.
It was perfect timing to go out to my neglected studio garden and harvest the coreopsis to make dye.
It was unspectacular but excellent as a teaching aid and helped them dye cords to have a different color that they made themselves. The next day I brought in onion skins, which is how the strips in the back are dyed.
Justine and Julia admire Julia's very ambitious jiseung project. I was amazed by how she kept going and going and going, and that she finished it at home!
We did other things like paper thread and joomchi but this is my favorite teaching demo sample since maybe 2013?
Julia was really happy that I chose Zhug as our final dinner even though we waited over an hour to be seated. I originally intended to take them to the museum for the late night but decided it would be better to do it on their way to the airport.
The Cleveland Print Fair was on that weekend so the atrium was full of art, including of my friends, and it was so great that my students could meet both Paula and Yuko and see their fabulous new work.
Yuko generously shared with my students how she made some of the work that was out on display. After that, the two students shared a car to the airport and I went home to do more loads of laundry than I could count and housecleaning. The next day I had the perfect series of gifts, lunch, cupcakes, autumn walk, tea, and leftovers from Justine's mom to celebrate my birthday. I was very grateful to all of my in person loved ones and those from afar sending greetings. Then I thought I'd be able to wrap up and get ready for my milkweed residency that begins Friday but instead my furnace decided to poop out on me (on the same day that I had to get a new crown from the dentist) and I've been displaced from home so I can sleep in a warm place and learn too quickly about furnaces. It's a good thing I agreed to teach last minute, so that I can now buy a new furnace!