Thursday, September 07, 2023

Summer roundup

I didn't have a lot of recovery time after the last hanji retreat and dove right into a couple of private studio tours. One was for conservators and fellows and interns from the Cleveland Museum of Art, which was fun. It was so helpful to have Taiwanese colleagues to translate a few things that I had been curious about. The funniest was that a gift from a student was a print that contained a curse word.
I also had a lot of bark to process into lace and grids for future projects. These are going to lay around for a while as I'm too scattered to focus on them.
This was round one of two marathon print sessions I had to do for one part of a large edition due end of year. It has been months in the making and a very difficult process because it's a collaboration where my collaborator is very inaccessible so I'm just doing what I can. I designed something that I thought would be easier to execute but is actually the opposite.
Then I had to zip over to D.C. for a gig. I know, I had promised myself no out-of-town work this year but the exception was made for several reasons. One: my collaborator invited me. Two: I needed major dental work. In between transporting everything for a papermaking demo and panicked formation aid making in the hotel bathroom, I visited the National Museum of Asian Art. There was a cremated Korean guy in that gorgeous stone box once upon a time, among other things.
This pic is more for the tag than the objects, because it confirms (in a very diplomatic way) that the best Korean objects are in Japan. And I'll probably never get to see them.
I was stunned by this sixth-century cosmic Buddha in the Chinese galleries. Front and back are like this.
It was classic August D.C. weather, hot and humid, barely making it from one building to another while passing through gorgeous gardens.
The National Museum of the American Indian was very moving and powerful in its main exhibits, which were mostly educational. The objects were more on the outer periphery of the circular floors. These stories on bone are my favorite, imagine making and handling! I also ate a lot and hydrated a lot here, as it was the closest museum to my hotel.
I had only seen Geo Soctomah Neptune's work on screens so it was wonderful to see it in person (albeit behind glass) at the Renwick. Their birds! Their birds.
I wish I had had the time and energy to have been able to research the bark cloth collection at the National Museum of Natural History but still enjoyed this Fijian masi (1838–42), whose fringe of bark I especially love.
From the Kiribati Islands in Micronesia, more stunning textiles (and spotted porcupine fish helmet and shark teeth/wood sword), the armor woven from coconut fiber and hair.
I was amazed to be allowed to do this papermaking demo and talk inside of a library (look at how close the book are!!) and glad to have been able to share with a large audience, mostly for UCLA Cal Rare Book School. \
Did I take the bus first thing in the morning on this day to look for a more appropriately-sized vat because I had given my friend Frank the wrong specs on a concrete mixing tray? Of course! Did I find a kitty litter bin that was perfect at a hardware store after going to three of their sections, all with separate entrances, after the sales guy told me most people buy it to soak their feet? Yes. And did I give away the gloriously large vat that Frank got for me to Kelsey so she could have her children play in it with water and sand and also use it to garden? So happily. Thank goodness for them, for helping me in what to them were simple ways but to me so necessary and so generous. Also to Minah for coming to the event and helping me clean up, get everything to the hotel, and then find a place for a quick dinner.
One of my other private studio tours was for my cousin and her daughter, and during lunch, the latter showed me her crocheting projects. Even though she is now a junior in college on the east coast, I realized I may have found another potential vessel for jiseung learning. She came over after my D.C. adventure and incredibly learned the steps from cutting down a sheet, cording, twining, and finishing a gourd in four hours! I felt like I was watching myself. I've never had a student who so immediately, with no extra props or dancing on my part or re-explaining or handouts, had it click in her head and hands what to do. She was such a natural and at once point said, "This feels so familiar." She is tracked for a wholly different career but even if this is a hobby in the evenings or she never comes back for more, I felt so fulfilled.
Esther from the hanji retreat shared this image of how she's been busy making cords, which is also very satisfying, as this is the foundation of the work. As my teacher long ago said, fully one third of jiseung is making cords. She does it while watching TV, exactly the way I developed a terrible TV habit 14 years ago in Seoul making hundreds of cords.
The much, much less fun part of summer is dealing with how the HVAC system (mini splits) have been failing since construction (which is wild, since it has only been less than three years since the building was gut rehabbed). Everyone blames someone else. The architect drew the condensation lines to be pumped UP in the wall to the roof to drain into the roof drains. The HVAC installers chose a water pump that clearly cannot keep up with the condensation, so the drain tray overflows and spills both outside and inside the wall. So the brand new wall is being degraded on both sides (the vat on the window ledge is weighted so it can stay and catch the dripping water from the outside).
Outside drips, not great. But dripping INTO the wall, really bad. Yesterday I smelled mold and touched the underside of this window frame only for my entire finger to go through what felt like only paint. No more drywall, it's gone. General contractor says the entire outer masonry should have been pointed before more walls went up. No one is taking responsibility (and of course, the city approved all of the drawings and final construction), just a bunch of men finding other people and companies to blame. Meanwhile, I am the one living/working with it. I try not to get too worked up about it but for sure have lost sleep over the years. Oh, and I had masons point my house and was horrified by their poor work and high costs and mansplaining nonsense. Why don't I hang out my window and throw money out of it? Probably would get similar results.
Back to the collaboration print, did you know I was making two different types of paper (hanji and European style) for it? Yet another brainiac move, a good way to torture myself since I'm still getting to know my beater and made some pretty embarrassing sheets, three batches, before I gave up and said, I just have to make the edition work with what I have.
But I love my Tim Moore mould. Because it's so light, I am really averse to going back to my heavier British and German moulds.
Also wanted to test new "felts" for my paper. Over 16 years ago, I would travel to residencies all over to make paper, including in Mexico, where I cut up an old dress to use as interleaving between sheets. It worked great but left the imprint of the fabric. Which at the time I must have been taught was less desirable. Now I actually love the imprint of weaving on paper, and appreciated Hannah O'Hare Bennett's article in Hand Papermaking's issue on shop talk, because she has swapped out all of her synthetic interfacing for bed sheets. I'm excited to make a new new batch of paper and see how it goes. It felt particularly perfect that I had no offcuts, both sheets I used tore down perfectly to two different sizes.
I divorced a duck from a pot and dyed both and got some unexpected results! The divorce went great.

And when I'm in the studio trying not to feel upset about men being stupid about mistakes they've made but will NEVER admit to, I twine tiny bits of bark thread. I have too many projects going on and am completely scattered. I feel terrible guilt about the things I'm not "getting done." But also am riding the waves of climate instability, migraines, chronic pain + physical therapy, while learning not to overwork myself so much. Reaching out for help has been key. [Sorry, too tired and screen timed out for links, but they are easy to find!]