Thursday, May 30, 2024

May Atrium event: bark lace

Two weeks ago, I performed a four-hour public event that was a demo at the museum that repeated whenever someone showed up and asked, what is this?? It involved so many meetings where little was actually accomplished (this is the contrast between people who get paid regardless of what they do, and me, who had to log into meetings that could have been handled in a few emails).
The other major time suck was prep. Making bark lace seems easy but usually someone has cooked the fiber for you already, which is most of the work. I also spent hours rinsing and sorting into at least eight different grades (too soft, too hard, very long, very short, no good for lace, etc.). I also panicked and cooked a second batch that was overkill. But I thought, what if hundreds of people come? They did, but they didn't all use the bark.
Betsy came with a gift that was PERFECT for my outfit: a hand-woven scarf! She was over the moon that she psychically brought the exact right color. My friends are so good at making sure that I am presentable. I was so touched that almost ten people that I invited came all the way from Oberlin.
Besides bringing lots of art to hang on screens behind me, I also set out tons of resources: art, books, samples, and new written material I spent so long on even though nobody reads anymore. I'm such an old lady, why do I waste my time like this?
Part of these events always include objects from the museum education collection. They pulled wonderful samples of material that people used before paper, like palm leaves,
pith "paper"
bodhi leaves
and kapa.
I didn't have time to for a bark lace panel at my station, which was is why I did NOT need to cook, rinse, and sort four dry pounds of paper mulberry bark (though I was also doing it so that I would have bark left over for the following weekend's event).
I gave up on doing a big panel and instead made smaller samples, including bark grids to explain what was going on downstairs in the show with my bark dress jacket.
This was another "Thank goodness for Michelle!!" day. She did all the heavy lifting at the demo table where people worked on one big panel of bark lace. After picking up Haoyuan, another star Oberlin student, and setting up well before the event, I asked for and got a tiny lunch break, but she worked the entire public event without pause (I also forget she is half my age, which helps!).
She did such a good job helping passersby fill up the panel! Many meetings were about, "Can I get two pieces of plexi or wood to cover each table?" and then waiting weeks and weeks to get an answer. Much of my prep was anticipating all of the things that a location could provide for me, but not trusting that they would. Down to old rags, I brought everything I might even imagine I would need. Also, when you bring art and books in and out of a museum, everything has to be checked in and out, so everything needs to be packed in a way that makes it easy to pull out and confirm against a checklist.
Lisa took this picture (low res b/c it went from iPhone to Android). We had 420 visitors over 4 hours. I felt my throat go halfway through, maybe even sooner. I often think I need voice training to survive the sore throats I always get when I start teaching, since I live alone and while I do talk a lot on the phone, this incessant repetition of information is a whole other game. After going out for pho with Michelle, I headed home and collapsed but couldn't sleep, and eventually later in the night started to make more bark lace. Every day after that until I took the bark to Oberlin, I made more lace and thread. This is the consequence of prepping too much fiber!

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.