Monday, March 13, 2023

It's all hard right now

What has transpired over the last week has turned everything upside down but I wanted to show how everything was already such a mess. All of my work lately is BIG and takes a long time. Nothing can get crossed off the to do list quickly. This is Michelle spending hours helping me on my beater, first to wrangle the screws to get the lid off (we had to saw into several to turn hex heads into flat heads). Here she is trying to undo the massive clog of rags that initiated the overhaul. I probably should have done it years back when I first got it, as it's a used machine that had sat outdoors for years, but I was going through so much then that I could only do so much in the moment.
After many panicked thoughts about how I would have to spend too much on a new one, Bill reassured me that this is a machine, which can be taken apart and put back together, and he offered very generously to help. Thank goodness, because I don't have the mechanical understanding, tools, or gumption for what lay ahead. He's trying here to get one massive cast iron support arm off of its locating pins that have rusted on top and won't budge. After seeing the ones on the other side had been broken off and ground down (with the arm brazed and installed backwards later), we figured we'll survive by locating the position with the bolts. It took two days and we accidentally dropped it on the floor, but finally the shaft assembly came free.
This is after Bill got one bearing off. The other won't budge, which will make it impossible to properly place a new seal against the roll on that side. The entire studio has smelled like penetrating oil for weeks.
Once the roll was out, I could finally see what was causing all of the rust chunks in my pulp, which was failing finish and rust. After one morning of sanding and scraping, I called it a day for a while because the next step requires ventilation, which unfortunately the beater room does not have. Temps also dropped so I can't yet roll it into the front gallery, which has a door to the outside, since the heat is broken and the treatment I need to do won't set properly if it's freezing (plus I don't want to work when it's freezing). While the only useful thing I can do on this job is sand and epoxy things, I did have to remove the bedplate and diaphragm and probably need to cut a new one while I'm at it because I would love to not have to do any of this for a good long time again. Bill has the shaft assembly now to wire wheel the rust on the roll and then I have to find replacement bolts for the ones that are rusted out, pulley belts, seals, and who knows what else.
Next big project #2: trying to get a handle on my book inventory. I have so many books that have been waiting for years to get made, and I have felt this pressure (maybe that I put onto myself) to make some. But truly the pressure is financial, because I've turned down teaching gigs to make room to make art in the hopes that if I make more, I can sell more, and replace lost potential income. I'm happy with how this one turned out.
This took a while to figure out content but once I did, I knew I didn't want to glue in text because the abaca paper would cockle horribly with any moist adhesives. I laced in the text and was also happy with that solution.
This one came all at once in a morning, but then took over a week to actually finish (there are two versions, very close but a bit different). I have also had a bunch of false starts, a book I had to re-do completely, and one last night that I destroyed so I am giving up for now and remembering that it's sometimes better to stop and go to bed instead of stay up and mis-fold paper that I only have one sheet of.
Big project #3: I've wanted to get back to the printshop to print my bark lace onto paper so I can use it for a bunch of different projects. That includes more books, more garments, a print portfolio collaboration, and a performance collaboration. It's so simple and yet brings me full circle: the bark that makes the paper can also be the image that imprints onto the paper. To get shop access, I had to do a one-on-one monoprint session with Lisa so that I could rent monthly access. She's a super pro at this and I had a great time getting to know her and her process better.
Here are some samples of my test bark lace and some bark thread that is also supposed to somehow turn into an installation.
We were really methodical that day and I confirmed that my teacher in Korea really deserves his national treasure status. His hanji is a DREAM to print onto. I was so excited to finally put my giant stash of paper to work.
I love how much detail can get picked up and for now am not worrying about ink colors, just trying to understand how natural fiber holds and prints etching ink. And how it holds up to being smashed in a press over and over.
I got carried away in an early attempt to layer when I finally got into the shop by myself to play. This is the day that everything was wonderful and then all came crashing down later.
By my second solo studio day, I tested a bigger piece of bark lace and have been elated by how much I can do with it. This print is on hanji that I brushed persimmon juice onto over and over.
The fiber holds so much ink that I can ghost many times, easily up to four, even if I don't chose to go that far.
This reinforces my general sense of wanting only to work with materials that I make from scratch with the least harm possible or by recycling. Guess what these little sheets used to be? Bricks! And I have lots more so I am excited to take those apart. Today I had a third day in the shop and it really wore me out. Thank goodness that Bill helped at the studio also with a city code issue that required a lot of panicked running around and sign ordering and phone calls and emails and learning that being in a commercial building is a big pain in the ass.

The major big project that has thrown all of my hard-earned plans for a solid month of studio time out the window is caregiving. My guy has managed to break a pretty important joint and goes into surgery this week. The accident was a week ago and has destroyed my ability do to any admin (there goes major project #4: website overhaul with an incredibly competent web person, who works even faster than me. Plus shows in April, taxes, an international trip, etc.). My studio time is shattered and all the extra driving has messed with my body enough to make walking, standing, doing stairs, laying down, and sitting very painful. I drive to the pool for stress relief and find I've forgotten my swimsuit. Or yell at home alone and in the car. Recovery will take months and of course the artist with "free time" can drop everything, anytime. I have to overcome being angry that I've allowed years of my time be seen as less valuable or free to be interrupted and learn to carve out what I need to survive right now. Time to go yell some more.

Minnesota Center for Book Arts show, tell me how it goes!