Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Oberlin Reunion papermaking open house

This has been in the works for over a year (and in my general papermaking life, many years): a Reina beater! I had gotten affirmation in 2023 that if the right beater for the right price came up, Oberlin would get it. The library always comes through on these kinds of things, so when I heard about a beater that was exactly right, all the gears went into motion and now it's home! Gena, Ed, and Taylor came for its inaugural run. Gena takes care of all of my logistics for the January class without complaint, Ed is the mastermind behind the entire studio/class/me doing anything at Oberlin + being a huge part of the Book Studies Program, and founding the letterpress studio, and Taylor has taken care of all of my last-minute, "Oh no, I forgot xyz chemical/fiber, can we raid your lab for more?" needs. He had taken one of my classes years ago and then set up a sweet little paper studio that he generously allows students to access.
After they helped me load the beater with BFK scraps and cotton linter that Taylor kindly soaked and donated, we did some quick bark lace making while the beater ran. All of the timing worked out perfectly for Ed to pick up the beater out of state, and deliver it down a half flight of stairs, so that we could test it to confirm all is well and then use the pulp for a papermaking open house I offered during Oberlin's reunion weekend. I was already going to be in town to speak on a panel, as it was my 25th reunion and the other panelists' 50th.
The beater worked great, which was such a relief after all of my previous beater drama. I went several days ahead of time to make sure we'd have pulp for European sheets and left the fiber for Asian sheets in the fridge.
Sunday morning, I had to drive to the panel site to set up my artwork display, then to the studio to start setting up and to get Michelle started with beating fiber, and then back to the panel auditorium to set up my AV. After we finished, I had to pack up my art display, get back to the paper studio, and make sure we were ready for the open house. Thank goodness I had pigmented the fibers before the scheduled time, because after one young person came for a quiet tutorial, we were mobbed.
We had two vats set up for European-style sheets in two different colors and dimensions.
Michelle is SO GOOD with kids and in general with all of this public interfacing. All of these studio shots are by Haoyuan, who thankfully showed up to say hi but had a camera to document. Once we opened the vats, I told him that he also had to help with papermaking because we had so many people inside at once.
I was so glad that the kids wanted to do both types of papermaking, but was not prepared to have shorter students!
I love this family shot!
James also visited and even brought me a paper cicada—he's an expert folder and Oberlin alum, and teaches all kinds of origami inspired work. It has been fun to see him through the years since he is local and also teaches in the winters when I'm on campus.

I was worried about being able to accommodate so many people but fortunately given the schedule, we only had to run for an hour. Michelle and Haoyuan stayed to finish up fiber and clean; I am so grateful to have dream students who make these kinds of events possible. He recently received a giant prize that goes annually to a graduating STEM major senior who works across disciplines. When we met in early 2022, I had encouraged him to declare a Book Studies minor. Along with taking my class, he taught calligraphy classes and helped research Chinese books for the library. Now he's off to be a lab tech in Boston and I know he will continue his creative work because it's integrated into his life. I met Michelle in 2020 in my Jan class and she has been dedicated to making paper ever since, incorporating it into many projects as a double-degree student in studio art and music composition, and has been the best assistant I could ask for. Thank goodness she is staying another year; I don't look forward to life after she graduates!

This is also the last time I run back-to-back weekend studio gigs. Still recovering but glad they all went well.