Kozo and Fawns and Bears, Oh My (Peters Valley)

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I am at Women’s Studio Workshop, my second stop of the summer. Peters Valley was unusual in a number of ways, but also quite good (not for blogging: wireless only in the studio where I was working, or outdoors on picnic tables, where Flying Biting Things were during my free times.) It’s literally a craft village located in the Delaware Water Gap national park in New Jersey; several of its buildings are a town that was evacuated to be flooded, but then wasn’t. I stayed in a house I liked with another instructor, Beth, who I had met before at Penland and liked (and liked again.)  We drove to the studios, which was the most unusual aspect. The studio complex I was in was not part of the original town, but was purpose-built a couple of miles away along a rutted dirt / gravel road a mile and a half long, through dense woods and past strange-ish ponds with dead trees sticking up out of them. Three times a day, I made the drive there and then back: so did everyone who worked in the woodshop, photo and fine metals studios, and my group in fibers: surface design.

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A scary pond, and a not-so-scary pond below, on the way to the studio (at top.)

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Each morning I woke, made coffee, and skipped the dining hall breakfast in favor of the Early Animal Show that went on in the big mowed meadow outside a convenient picture window. Two wild turkey moms, each with a flock of seven chicks, one group teenaged, another much younger (this morning, just the younger flock appeared, and sadly, it was reduced to six chicks.) There were also a varying number of deer with their young  every day, and the fawns were much fun to watch, playing, leaping, tearing around for the joy of it, reminding me of Chance-pup. And two bossy lady bluejays, feasting on the stunted blackberries growing up over the side porch of Lloyd House.

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I never got a shot of any of the bears, but Karen One (we had two Karens) did, on her phone.

I also saw black bears: a cub just melting into the woods the first day, a lone adolescent standing dreamily in the road, who stared curiously at me in my four-wheeled creature for a minute or two before deciding it was a good idea to run (while I scrabbled for my camera, but missed the shot.) And then one evening I drove round a bend and surprised a big mama bear with a roly-poly cub looking exactly like a glossy stuffed toy. They each shot away into cover on different sides of the road. I stopped the car and waited. A few minutes later baby bear came zooming across the road to mama, at an amazing speed for such a plump little thing. My city-dwelling self was purely delighted by all these sightings.

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One of the dorms, and a visit to the forge, inside and out. It pleases me when there are women blacksmiths; in this case, like at Penland, the blacksmith instructor was female, though this isn’t her.

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The class was lovely, five women hailing from eastern locations from Maine to Maryland. We cooked, dyed and manipulated kozo, and beat some and incorporated it into western sheets we pulled from 50-50 cotton rag and abaca I brought along; there is no beater. But there were moulds, deckles, pellons, good felts, a nifty small press, good hotplates and an amazing variety of dyes. JoAnna was a rocking Studio Manager / Fellow / Resident who made it all flow smoothly.

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The first sheet-making day. The big recycling bins are full of the discarded dye baths and cooking water with soda ash.

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Rumor has it that a New Jersey species of ear-fungus appeared, too: if you should find yourself driving along Thunder Mountain Road towards the fiber/ metals/ photo/ wood studios, you just might find one. Or if not, maybe you’ll see a bear.

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One of the best reasons to love being at craft schools: the intersections.  This is a bit of bark lace impressed into copper and then annealed, made in the fine metals class by Lauri, who is from Cleveland. She made a beautiful necklace using kozo-textured metals, and then made this for me!

Progresses

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A visit to ZIA and my part of Anne’s current back room installation.

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Accommodations.

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I like the light.

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Building with the landscape and an eye to the work’s eventual deterioration.

It’s been a full, fine marathon. The summer studios became operational instantly, and I realized that they had already evolved to accommodate the back arthritis I didn’t consciously know about before this year. I have things with wheels so that full buckets don’t have to be carried; instead of attaching a hose, I use a milk-crate stand for draining the beater so full buckets don’t need to be lifted up from the floor. The studio transforms like lightning now from beater room to production to wood shop to reasonably comfortable seated task space. I still keep looking ahead to next year as I work: not only the garden but the studio is in full glory in the summer and I’ve never yet had the opportunity to use it for the whole season.

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These eyes follow me, like living with an owl (I would like to live with an owl). Chance has become a sweet calm studio dog, just wants to be with me, stays out of my way as I do my working-dances, but observes everything. Often, when I bend down to the floor, there is just the lightest touch of his nose sniffing the top of my skull. He apparently approves of what happens in – or exudes from – my head while I’m in studio mode. He will occasionally do a full-body twitch when a machine is turned on, or when big things move as the space (frequently) changes shape, but he reacts no more than that. These things would once have sent him into a fear-frenzy. Now he will even take a good long nap while I am at an extended seated task like casting ear-fungi.

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Whatever I get done today finishes the studio time this session (sigh), tomorrow is packing and shipping two shows and a few last-minute outside errands, Monday to pack everything and square away, Tuesday, load and road.

Breezing

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The hollyhock mound will be cut down before I go and before it can seed; if it strips easily, it will come with me, contained within some work.

Zipping through July, so far in a nicely efficient way with fingers and toes crossed. There are drugs/ doctors/ dentists/ dogs/ documents and digital tedium but they actually aren’t interfering much, just fitting into the flow (more crossing of limbs for luck.) I’ve come to terms with the fact that mobility issues will simply have to be adapted to in the same manner as not hearing, and that I’ll learn that on the go, it will happen as it happens while packing/ driving/ teaching.

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All the milkweed is growing in its new homes and the outdoor studio areas are cleared, washed by a bit of rain, and ready for cooking/ cutting/ casting. There were some days of drawing for an end-of-year project, peaceful, focused and fun, and after tomorrow two of five shows are finished, a good schedule in place for the other three. I’ve even got the listings updated through August on the sidebar and site, with apologies to Peters Valley for doing that so late for their show. Looking forward to a whirlwindy week’s work (and not wistful, but just acknowledging that I’ve thought more than once about how fine it will be to be home to eat my tomato harvest next year.)

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The very first two blew down during today’s rain.

Goodbye June

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We have no grass because we have Chance of the Giant Feet. It’s hard to document, but the bulk of the Milkweed Farm is all along this side of the garden behind the existing plants, from the young kozo at the right to the alley. There’s a bit in the opposite bed and scattered around in a few other locations as well. A friend came earlier in the month and took away lots and lots of plants for her new yard; I dug out last year’s hollyhocks and moved them to the other side of the house where they can duke it out with the equally persistent orange day lilies.

Just checking in, so I can feel like I’ve kept up by posting something before June is over. I don’t feel like writing about the health issues, but though I’ve finally discovered a drug I can take for one of them, suffice it to say: they are continuing. aaaaseedlings2

The packed upper-center rectangle shows the milkweed seedlings before thinning for transplant: hundreds. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to plant milkweed before, so did not at all expect these seeds to be so viable.

I DO feel like writing about the momentous 10 days the country just went through, from our worst to our best. It was a time of important revelation for me in a macro and micro sense, but right now there is no time to give that the justice it deserves because of my agonizingly slow writing process. I am into the flurry-of-deadlines-I-am-not-prepared-for stage as I get ready for (and worry about) this summer’s teaching road trip and the exhibition shipping dates that precede it. aaaaseedlings3

How it had to be accomplished. Looks easy and comfortable, no? It wasn’t…but it will be worth it!

One thing I did accomplish: the bulk of what I hope will become the Milkweed Farm is in place; just a few more transplants into available nooks and crannies and with a bit of luck, next year there should be a fine home harvest. It was so ridiculously physically difficult to do that I made a decision: next year will be a year off to focus on rebuilding health. (With ‘off’ meaning: taking on nothing beyond a day’s drive away.) aaaaseedlings4

Mostly milkweed, mixed in with some annuals culled from around the yard: they appear to be thriving. (Yeah, they’re probably way too close together, but that’s how I roll…)

Out in the world, the Summer 2015 issue of Hand Papermaking arrived and looks great.

Better Living Through Chemistry ?

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Mid-June. Almost a month of no blahgs. Sorry. it’s been an odd, personally disruptive time and I guess I’ve been hoping for a conclusion to the tale before writing. But that’s not happening yet. It’s yet more medical stuff. Early in May, I was given a month to try to change a (potentially life-threatening) condition before agreeing to subject myself to Big Pharm. Though I tried earnestly, I wasn’t able to alter my circumstances enough to escape.aaa2June

Though there are hundreds of political and intellectual reasons to oppose Big Pharm, many of which I subscribe to, the bottom line for me is that Big Pharm = Big Fear. For no reason anyone’s ever been able to discover, I’ve got a metabolism that almost never responds ‘correctly’ to even very common meds. From a first-grade vaccination that made my arm swell to the size of a small watermelon to total loss of muscle control to anaphylaxis to rashes and hives to five consecutive days of no sleep to full-blown 3D hallucinations, I’ve learned to avoid medical chemicals like little pill-shaped plagues. But, this time it isn’t possible, so with great (and unfortunately justified) trepidation, awhile ago I embarked on a search for A Pill I Can Tolerate. There’s only one way to do that, which is to try ingesting them.

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At the moment, I’m in the middle of a brief hiatus from a round of vertigo, hugely accelerated tinnitus, bright flashes of light in my peripheral vision and rampant insomnia, trying not to think about what may await me with the next chemical cocktail, and REALLY trying not to think about what this all implies for my (swiftly) upcoming teaching and show schedule. The garden is not yet finished, Chance is also now taking drugs (which seem to be working for him), and I have absolutely no idea when the next blog will be. And that’s that.

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Out in the world: the ZIA show closed, the Peters Valley faculty / staff show opened, I took on a 12th (!) 2015 show by invitation, my WSW class is full, the Pantone Postcard Project opens in the UK tomorrow and happily, the WSW ear-fungi survived the winter; the marvelous Chris sent these photos way back when she began planting.

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Seasonal busy-quiet

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This year’s ‘farm’ – three types of tomatoes (one a late variety, so that I can be home to enjoy them), two types of peppers; along the fence, dill, lemongrass, chives and marigolds to protect them all.

It’s been raining and raining. Wednesday we had a break, though it was quite unseasonably cool, but that day was taken up by many strange errands out in the world. Yesterday, we had another, and the temperature went up a bit; I got to spend the day in the garden, and got the vegetables and herbs planted, finishing the last of the porch herb pots just as it began to rain again. Today is a grey, misty maybe.

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Only a wee bit of the massive hospital p/t rooms.  I’ve spent a lot of time here the past couple of months.

During the rains, I’ve been: trying to keep up with the currently lengthy p/t sessions, Chance training (and Chance-curing; he was ill for three days, recovering now), working on the horrendous state of the house (with not much effect in ratio to labor), dealing with upcoming shows (one of which I dropped the ball on, badly), and some new health issues (annoying and time-consuming only.) When the rain stops, my brain and body are all about two things: garden and health. I’ve finally been given the green light to walk again, after new required shoes and lessons from the therapist on how to walk now (I’m to build up distance – and pace – very slowly.) I’m only up to ¾ of a mile, but it feels so good.

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The snazzy (and least costly) ridiculously expensive running shoe color on an actual sunny day.

Mostly, it’s garden. I’m totally absorbed, and there’s much to do. As small as it is, it’s also the most land I’ve ever had, and the only patch owned. It always makes me marvel at the abundant and tenacious life in the concrete-bound city, at the neighborhood as ecosystem. An amazing assortment of plants have wandered in and volunteered to stay over the years and I’ve now been living and planting here long enough to see some of my own contributions travel around.

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Volunteer tulips that showed up as a single tiny plant about five years ago.  There were no bulbs in this patch of soil, so they must have propagated by seed, which is supposed to be very difficult. There are no purple tulips anywhere nearby, so where they came from is a happy mystery.

One of the unpleasant things about the city is all the chopping back that has to be done to maintain (even to my haphazard, untidy standards) a small yard; I would love to live somewhere where things could just grow and grow and grow. (But then I’d need a motorized office-garden chair.) The other not-great aspect is neighbors who use copious amounts of chemicals and weed-poison sprays, which is why my tomatoes and peppers and most of the herbs are grown in pots.

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The smallest spring garden center purchase ever, before planting; the veggies and herbs that didn’t survive the winter, plus one perennial I just could not resist: the native wildflower called prairie smoke (which I have never actually seen growing on the prairie.)

That’s my quiet current world: running out to do equal parts of clearing, planting, dividing, chopping back and relocating plants when the skies let me, and happy with it. And apart from walking on my own, there has been an increasing series of loose-leash, treat-laden, and actually fun walks with Chance; I’m hoping we’re over a hump. We go a little farther each day, and I hope soon our walks can be combined and enjoyed by both of us. The neighborhood lilacs have been sending out their ribbons of scent on the wind, and when we can be out, it’s grand.

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Just outside the kitchen: basil pot, spicy oregano, purple sage, cilantro / coriander pot (self-seeded), summer savory, rosemary, lemon thyme, tarragon…

Out in the ether-world, perhaps in a bit of a stretch, I was surprised when the Exo-studies appeared on a basketry site, (thank you!) And out in the physical world, as of early this week, there was only a single spot left in my seven-day August class at WSW. There are still spaces left at Peters Valley and the Morgan!

May Be This Way

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I always love Anne Hughes’ installations. I like this one even better with the duct dots above.

The ZIA opening reception was very, very nice and warm. A surprising and diverse group of long-ago and newer friends attended (including one person who actually saw the announcement in the newspaper rather than on social media. Think of it.) I appreciated the support, and also had a very fine time catching up. I had no time to take more than a couple of quick snapshots afterwards. I remember sheepishly posing for tons of photos, but have only seen three. This shot by Linda M. Barrett is the absolute best of them (it’s one of the things she specializes in, and she did direct me a bit -“To your left. Chin up now!”- which is part of her work and it shows. In the others, I was somewhat sad to see the arthritis so blatantly visible, affecting my posture.)

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On social media, Linda appropriately captioned this with the hashtag: scale is everything!

I got the new work onto the site a few days after the reception.  My hands-down favorite piece in the new series sold. Here is the series, and the news page will link you to a couple of other new works. Done! I also showed some older works and Anne made a great selection from ZIA’s inventory, so it’s a substantial grouping of works.

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For the month of May, my main preoccupation will be nurturing: the gardens and continuing to school my body against arthritis (Chance training goes without saying, and it’s been going well.) Let that be a warning regarding the content of the next few blogs (and most of the rest of this one.)

Monday after the opening was my first garden day. I sat on an upturned 5 gallon bucket to rig a support around a burgeoning peony. Afterwards, I simply could not rise, so I slid off the bucket and scuttled, crablike, to a place where I could grab the house to pull myself up with my arms. That was a bit of a shock, especially since working while standing has been so very much better. I definitely need my body to be functioning more than that.

Last Friday, the day before the ZIA opening, I ‘graduated’ from the spine portion of p/t, with a good, workable and flexible routine. This week, we began to focus anew on the knees, with the added perspective of the spine issues. The therapist gently but frankly reminded me that arthritis is a degenerative disease. So, I need to keep a better grip on it, and I’m very glad to be able to take this time to get there. The hospital p/t will end in mid-June with a blended back-and-knee routine in place, and I’m researching a few additional options to complement it. Meanwhile, yesterday was a beautiful t-shirt warm day, and after a good, calm(!) session with Chance, I did the exercises out in the back yard, and the mat work on the deck, looking up at endless clean spring blue, breathing it with the movement.

Then, the rest of the day in the garden, with this mobility solution, which worked nicely.

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This tiny strip of garden got trashed and made even tinier when the big fence went back up, while I was at Ragdale last fall. Dormant plants were chopped out and tossed into a pile that was under snow when I came home. I found them during a late-December thaw and just threw chunks of roots into the garden or the vegetable pots before it (immediately) snowed again. Yesterday I pulled off dead material and re-planted the ones that had sent up shoots, while clearing up the first of 8 garden spaces. Bits of everything survived, even indigo (!) and I think I see new growth from the young kozo, whose branches were randomly snapped off. Life is good in all its forms, though it might not make interesting blogs.

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The space is one of the few places in the yard that gets all-day sun, so it’s important. 

Out in the world, I was very, very sad to read about the passing of Jane Farver. While at Spaces Gallery in Cleveland, she was a fantastic early supporter, who not only helped me to see the immense value in following my own odd winding path, she also shored it up. I am definitely not the only artist so influenced; she will be missed.

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Blooming for Jane.