Thursday, May 16, 2024

Downs and ups

I'll start with the bad news. My worst nightmare is taking shape: 11 new books that I mailed to my dealers stopped being tracked once they got to the Birmingham distribution center and have been MIA for a couple of weeks. I tried not to think about this huge loss but on a walk this morning realized that I have to start processing it. I know it's not like when your loved one falls off a bridge and they haven't recovered a body and you keep hoping but also dreading the likely outcome. But these books were in the works for YEARS, made with paper I cannot replicate.
I could go on and on but I won't, just sharing some images of the ones we may never see again (but if you do....or if you know postal inspectors in Alabama...). It's not so much a money issue (though of course it is) but that I can never make these again, which is why they were so special in the first place.

I had even thought of sending this one separately since it was a request from an overseas library years ago. My friends have sent a lot of sympathy tinged with, you should have known better than to trust USPS. Some I can try to remake in different guises, three I held back the extras of an edition of two or three, but the best work is gone. If it was theft, I don't even know why, it's not jewelry or cookies. Recently while swimming, I reflected on losing a batch of books and materials years ago from a show in Baton Rouge that was shipped but never arrived, and I never remade or replaced them (the show exhibited both the tools/materials and the art itself). Maybe somehow I knew it was going to happen again.

Onto nicer things! After a number close to 20 years, I got to see Joseph. He was on a residency during sabbatical, and we got to eat good tacos and bad ones, visit my museum show and the print fair that was on concurrently, and talk shop—along with as much as we could fit in between his studio time. I so missed this kind of interaction and relationship, and it made me wonder if I needed to leave town to be somewhere where I don't feel so alone. Our fields are tiny (though they are adjacent to bigger ones), and on one hand I wanted to be somewhere that didn't have what I have to offer, but on the other hand it's lonely and exhausting.
An even shorter sojourn was when Jeff zoomed through town on his way to teach at Paper Book Intensive. We haven't had a long hang since 2017, so we had tons of catching up to do. I was only able to take him to a nearby golf course turned public park for a walk after all of his driving, and feed him dinner that I couldn't eat (due to prep diet for my first colonoscopy—which was clean! Glad it's over for 10 years). But he showed me some of the very cool tools and objects that he was taking to his students, and of course he brought a beautiful gift made of pear wood + superb well water from his cottage studio in upstate NY that is now repopulating my gut. He also had found an incredible breakfast place for the next morning on his way to Michigan that I had never heard of. Again, this connection made me wonder if I'm in the right place, and reminded me of how huge the inheritance of pandemic is.
More wonderful news: Oberlin's library acquired a Reina beater to round out its papermaking studio. I could not be more excited to meet it next week and am so thankful to some of my favorite people, Bob and Ed, who made this possible. I had been waiting for over a year to find just the right one and am so thankful to Ed for going way above and beyond his special collections librarian job to transform our capacity. If everything goes well, I can run a papermaking open house on campus on May 26 using pulp from this machine.
No one's faces are in this image, but after months of delay due to health issues and work and whatnot, I was able to finally dine with friends on the Anatolia patio. You'd think that if I ordered a platter built for two and a salad to boot, that I would have plenty of leftovers, but instead I ate everything. Was that a stupid idea, of course! But it was delicious.
The show opened almost three weeks ago; prep and celebration were all consuming.
Ingrid did the ikebana for the opening, inspired by one of André Kim's looks inside, and it was stunning as always. She started the flower fund to provide fresh arrangements year round for the museum and has been a huge support to me in the process of launching the show.
Sooa and Darnell, co-curators of the exhibit, started a private tour before a lovely reception where I was able to meet a wonderful folks, including one of the designers, Lee Jean Youn.
The director of the Gyeonggi Province Museum arrived in full regalia and was a huge hit during the subsequent MIX party. This collection loaned two rotations of garments recently excavated from a 17th-century tomb, which contained at least 100 pieces of clothing. This is the first time these clothes are being exhibited in the US, and they are stunning. I can't wait for the July rotation!
The three looks on the left are by the late André Kim and the one on the right is by Lee Jean Youn, who was inspired by the former.
Everything but the rightmost look is by Kim, and you can see the connections between pieces.... are Lee Jean Youn's stunning embroidered gowns that depict Korean architecture, sewn by hand onto fabric made of silk warp and hanji weft. My dresses are made from the bark that makes hanji, which was printed onto the hanji itself. So you move from the paper mulberry material in the first gallery to the same plant fibers, made differently, in the last gallery.
From the foreground, looks by Blindness, LIE, and Lee Sangbong.
I especially love Lee Sangbong's show stopper on the very left, which you can kind of make out in the video, in motion. Incredible!
I mentioned that my first dress in the show is made of bark, which is then printed onto the second dress, which is made of hanji. There was a third dress, which was made from the ghost print of the second dress. I used the last prints from that piece and made a new wearable hanji jacket. This really stressed me out but in the end, aside from my inability to properly ease an armpit, turned out well given I am not a fashion designer or tailor. It was the first time I ever did a lining, which truly broke my brain for a while. The edging on the collar and sleeves are raw paper mulberry bark.
Once all of the formalities were done, we were able to mingle at the MIX party; I had to grab Sooa for a shot before she was swallowed up by the night. I was so happy that Achala and her family visited on her quick stop through town on the way west. Foolishly, I thought that this was it for the weekend, but since there were so many guests in town, I ran two more studio visits the following day (one, bilingual), an airport run, another museum visit, and then dinner. My body hasn't been the same since but that's no surprise. Throughout this heightened schedule, I also did a huge amount of coaching for past students.
But I'm nearing the end of the laborious gigs! Monday I started to soak fiber for this weekend's museum demo/interactive event, before yet another studio visit. I was out of commission Tues and Wed for the scope, but feel fine now and so grateful to return to my regular diet of everything that was banned pre-procedure. After this weekend I'll prep two more batches of fiber and a talk for an Oberlin panel and open house. Then I can ease up on manual/scampering labor before presenting a webinar with Velma about our essays in PT2. Immediately after that I will jet to NYC to see my niece in two performances. And prior to that I will be getting as much acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic help as I can afford.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Bark celebration

First, I lack capacity now to do a separate post about my new batch of books and images. Check the bottom of this page for all new artists' books, and the top of this for a new knitted book.
Ever since coming home from Virginia in Feb, I've been grinding, whether making more books (I finished 20 in 7 weeks), going to acupuncture and other people to help with the congenital bone deformity that led to arthritis, and gobs of admin. But the big work all along is and has been prepping for the big Korean couture show at the Cleveland Museum of Art that opens in a few days, on Sunday!
Fortunately, they invited me to help dress my two pieces. First each separately had to be set to figure out where the ceiling anchors would go.
Robin, the textile conservator, is at the bottom of this skirt, and Philip, the mount maker, is in the middle above.
I think I saw four preparators in the whole gallery. This is the one you walk into at the front of the exhibit, which opens up into a larger gallery with the contemporary designers' looks. We also had the registrar, exhibit designer, and fashion curator on hand.
I think of whenever I do this, I have to do the job of all these people by myself! Sans cherry picker (and not even that nice ladder with a deck at top.
Philip is vacuuming any debris from drilling the holes (green tape marks the center of the deck below), and the deck is covered with plastic to minimize dust during install before all the drilling.
This is my least favorite part of hanging, when you have to make sure the threads are just the right length. So glad it wasn't me up there.
The hanji dress was easy but because of the nature of this bark one, there was a lot of back and forth about minute leveling. It's hung at an angle from the Korean 17th century pieces behind it in the case so my sightlines were confused.
Philip very kindly called me over when they were installing the anchors so that I could see what kind of hardware they use in the ceiling. Here, he's making sure they are screwed tight before he clears out, since we found out near the end that we needed make way for a private walk through.
I'm so gratified that these dresses have their first exhibition in a show that surrounds them with these tomb excavated garments from Korea—which are also having their first showing in the US here. The bark dress was made like this, and the hanji one like that.

I'll be at the museum during the day when the show opens this Sunday, but you can visit anytime for free through Oct 13.

I'll also be at MIX on Fri, May 3 in a brand-new hanji jacket, the ghost print of the two dresses in the show.
There's a virtual lunchtime lecture about the show, hosted by the curators, on Tues, May 7 at noon.

And I'll do a demo/interactive event making bark lace in the museum atrium on Sat, May 18 from 11am to 4pm! You can make bark lace as we work on a communal panel, or view my bark lace printed art very close up, see books and samples, and touch related samples from the museum's education collection.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

OSGF part three: interstitial breathing

Last year I gave myself a lot of leeway to not blog as much and it was a great training to almost stop. The older I get, the more I would rather be, instead of documenting the being. January is always bananas as I teach every day for six hours, and somehow I survived. But the deep yearning I had was to return to Virginia for a three week residency at OSGF. As soon as I pulled into Bank House, I knew I was home.
Through an unfortunate fluke of bureaucracy, I was alone again. I immediately set up as usual, paper on one side,
books/dry work on the other.
Then I walked and saw the new oak planting experiments, fenced, in the near field.
A pollinator garden where there was once black tarp to kill weeds.
The old compost pile was growing veggies from old unturned scraps.
The new compost system on the other end of the airstrip.
Milkweed was even closer than ever, the field directly across the studio.
First I tried an experiment to cook stalks directly in soda ash, to bypass the steaming step. Meh, I still had to clean a lot later.
Then I steamed as usual and decided to extract only certain fibers.
I feel like what was happening in the studio was not so different from what was happening in the house.

This mess becomes...
pickles! I for sure made more pickles than paper this time around.
But nowhere near what our wonderful chef Jason had been up to.
I was so happy to be back when the alumni show was up, and honored to have my book included in this display.
As well as this one (Kandi does the MOST exquisite work, hers is the marvelous big book, standing).
She also did all the silverpoint drawings in this display. Tony the librarian did an amazing job composing my piece of milkweed paper at top between Kandi's nests. Henry's four thistle papers are below.
I finally got to make two different iterations of this book, which was one of two ways of handlin the honeycomb that I have been backburnering for YEARS.
When you get to work on art every day, all day, things happen that you wouldn't have expected because you are showing up and then more is revealed to you.
Nancy took this picture of one of the most glorious sunrises we had, in our first week. I had looked forward to this aspect of living here for a long time: watching the sun rise a LOT. I cried the first time I saw the sun peek over a red barnlike structure, while sitting at home. This morning that Nancy captured amazingly well, I was outside walking towards higher spots to get a better view and yelled a lot as the sky showed off. I also totally overdid it with walking and was in a lot of pain afterwards (the week between Oberlin and Virginia, I had four appts and got unhappy diagnoses but no clear route forward).
All the snow we had melted quickly but was still welcome.
I took old journals to make new comics.
My last two visits were during serious pandemic times, so I never got the regular chef dinners and treats. I didn't know Jason would make us so much gorgeous bread and that there was enough leftover for lunches.
Also, with a fully equipped kitchen, I made lots of things, mostly with CSA produce. Aside from quick pickled beets, turnips, and shallots, I made parsley pesto, skillet potatoes, seaweed salad, baked rice, and butter bean hummus (with pickling juice).
I was rarely paying attention to sundown, but when I could, loved the pinks of it as much as the pinks of dawn. Along with this wonderful tree with its lower branch almost like a bird in flight from afar.
My first batch of milkweed paper was lovely, small, and sweet. I had spent the first week cleaning it and then had to stop myself because there would be no fiber left if I cleaned it all.
I figured out a new couching system leaning in/on the sink. I always love to work in/on sinks.
I learned to really appreciate and savor tiny batches. Never made more than 11 sheets in a go! My body was grateful.
The paper, dried.
Another dawn.
Another unexpcted set of books born.
Yet another unexpected set of two books, a re-envisioning of a previous unique book I did many, many years ago.

I love revisiting old work, if it still holds up.
My studio presentation, in the afternoon after I had made 6 sheets of hemp waste paper. It had taken me two years to do it, but I finally did it! The final batch was a very hasty one of small milkweed sheets from the near field.
I was fascinated by the burn they did of one of the fields. If I hadn't been so glued to the studio, I would have watched it in action.
Once I got to the end, I realized I wouldn't have time to do much. It's hard to let go of the work time and start packing to leave.
But I noticed patterns even on the last day of studio and kitchen work.

My final morning, I walked up the ramp to the top level of the studio to watch the sun rise.
Behind me, the full moon was setting and a black horse hanging around on the neighbor's side. This was a watershed time, learning to sit with myself in the in between spaces, and thrive.