And now…

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A good place to chop up a stem harvest on a hot day, with assistant.

Home a bit over a week now and beginning to feel…fresh, as if this is a new time, a new paradigm. A lot of clearing out has happened indoors, making way for some fine, needed changes. Unpacking happened. A great deal of chopping back and chopping down and a few harvests were completed outdoors. Though the big harvest is past, I did get home in time to eat some tomatoes and more are ripening here and there. The indigo plant has its new home. Chance training goes on daily and mostly well, and of course there’s been inevitable bouts of admin.

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I still pause every year as school season starts, but this year it’s with not a single pang at all, just gratitude. As soon as I began to breathe in this no-teaching year, to feel it peacefully settling around me, there were three tempting requests in my inbox. I’ve been contemplating (and constructing some initial parameters for) just one of them: a new reprisal of an old way of working that seems to be falling into place after falling into my lap. I had just barely begun to think of it as a future possibility when I was asked to try: win / win. That’s all I’ll say now but the potential is excellent.

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Jalapeño, nigella, lupin, lunaria.

Mostly, my mind is on the immediate future in the studio. Early last week, I managed to quickly harvest the daylily stems on a very hot day (a smaller crop this year, taken about a week later than I like.) Working in small increments during the week they were cut, soaked, cooked, rinsed and are soaking again, ready for the beater today. A fiber prep mini-marathon is underway: the stems plus abaca, flax, water hyacinth root and backyard mulberry to begin a few August-to-October projects. The weather has been fabulously mild the past several days and more sweet days are expected all week, so the late summer studio (which includes the outdoor spaces) is in full glory.

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I’ll grow these again; flavorful but definitely mild enough for the other human. This one was 9″ long. It’s a pasilla-type pepper called Holy Mole (which I admit I chose just for the name.)

Out in the world:

Here is an article about Unusually Natural which opened Friday at the Guenzel Gallery of the Peninsula School of Art up in Door County, Wisconsin; I hope there will be photos! And here’s one about An Embarrassment of Riches which opens tomorrow, August 25, at the NIU Museum’s Altgeldt Galleries in DeKalb, IL (I will see this one; two of the other artists and I will be carpooling to the reception and panel discussion on September 10.)

And, if you make books and you’d like to show them, this call for entries opened Friday and runs through September 15th for an October Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition.

Hometown, Back Home

Cleveland was, as always, wonderful and way, way too short. (Trip recuperation has been way too short as well, as I’ve needed to jump right into things, most notably to hack back a huge amount of vegetation in order to be able to re-enter, at both the back gate and the front porch.)
A six hour drive from Owego, NY was a bit too much for me, especially with storms during the last third, so I was glad to be able to take two relatively slow days in Cleveland.

aneon The SmithSanctuary always is just that, easy, good good talk, beautiful healthy food, the light, air and comfort of the space high up at the top of an old Victorian, high ceilings, good people, approving amusing cat queen. Bee talk, homegrown hometown honey to eat and bring home. Crystals in the window to send morning light dancing, tighter twilight rainbow reflections onto the windows and calm Jeff Chiplis neon light for the night. Traffic goes by on two sides, a busy street and a freeway, making an amazing range of sound. After Kathy says, “I think of it as two rivers,” it’s impossible to think of the flowing sound in any other way, and it adds to the peacefulness. Aaahhh…indeed, and thank you.

adux I did something I’d never done before, which was a ‘private class’ that did not feel at all like a class and was mighty pleasant and it, too, was peaceful. Aimee came along to visit while it happened (and wrote about it) so we were four very compatible women on a quiet big brick porch, working and talking after good food on a most mild, most lovely day. And ducks! I’ve been loving watching the ducks each emerge online, and there they were. So fine to handle each, to look close, feel textures, and watch two grow.
The next day, the Morgan was peaceful too, though with a poignant air of unused potential. I was glad not to be teaching, yes, but it was hard not to think of the space as I usually experience it, a buzzing hive in that beautiful light. But it gave me some time to just wander a bit. And ducks, more ducks, including the head-explosion-in-reverse finish of this one:

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aRadhaAimee And these two, Radha and Aimee. With the quiet and time to talk, I came away aware of long lines of strong paper women, of Marilyn, of the odd but wonderful lives that paper leads us to.
Just as I was leaving the Morgan, Ana Fernandez, on her way home from my WSW class, pulled up for a visit.

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Hush…

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…a murmuration…

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…impressive and somehow in harmony with the unaccustomed hush in this big, beautiful space.

Then, after driving vaguely remembered streets, I spent the late afternoon with long, longtime friend Joanne, finally seeing her great place, near to the city but tucked up against a Metropark. We’ve known each other since the 70s, were late night RAT compadres: the camera went away, the old mail art and letters came out and so did a lot of laughter; nice. Back to Smiths’ for an equally nice night on into the neon, up and easy relaxing till out, and a no-drama six-hour drive that was still a bit too much, and now: lots to think about while I do the lots there is to do.

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A’s and A’s and A’s

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My Women’s Studio Workshop class earned a collective A plus-plus-plus; I do so love the caliber of the people who come there. Once again, it was a sort-of dream class: everyone had a considerable practice already, and came to find ways to enhance that, or in search of another direction to take, or as a way to reconnect with the materials and/or to explore them further. We had an extra person, seven instead of six, with me being the eighth body; for a 3D class, that was pushing the limits of the smallish but beautifully-equipped studio, but we all managed the rather intricate dances we needed to do to navigate around the space. I learned a bit about my new-ish physical limits after straining my back rather badly the second day, but everyone was incredibly helpful, class and staff. I had two repeat folks: truly enjoyable Jim, from last year, who built himself a wee paper studio in his Manhattan space, and Terri from a few years ago, who had strayed away from paper for a while but came back to it with a diligent bang during the week. My only regret is that, after seven full days of working, I misunderstood the time the class would end on the last day (an hour earlier than I’d thought, which was also the opening of the au-gust festival) so we had no time to lay all the work – and I do mean ALL – out for a show and tell and photo session. You’ll have to trust me when I say that there was an incredible amount and variety.

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Here we are: Maureen, Barbara, moi, Terri, Jim, Ana, Louise and Dale.

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I also really enjoyed my roomie, Shelley Thorstensen, who taught a five-day intaglio workshop up front and rocked a mezzotint plate in the evenings. Early in the week, my class at the Morgan was cancelled, so I could not have asked for a better group nor better company nor a better experience all round for my official last-class-until-2017-at-least.

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During the week as the class was going on, all of WSW was even more of a hive of activity than usual, everyone building up to Friday’s opening of the au-gust festival along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. I installed my two groupings after class on Thursday, in the woods with Woody who was superbly helpful. Sadly, I missed Friday’s festival opening,  by falling asleep after class at the kitchen table (!) and on Saturday, because my car began flashing brake / battery dashboard lights. I suspected the alternator, so instead of seeing the afternoon performances along the trail (some very intriguing tree costumes had appeared in the second floor studio), I spent too much time at a busy Jiffy Lube in Kingston that the amazing Chris Petrone found for me. Jiffy Lube said there were no problems, so I had an oil and some filter changes, and had the tires rotated because it was inexpensive and I was there, grabbed a very late lunch and made it back past crowds of happy attendees in time to catch the tail end of Barbara Westermann’s interactive workshop, then packed and loaded everything but what I needed for overnight. After gassing up and grabbing some dinner and road food, I was able to walk part of the rail trail in the twilight and see some of the other impressive installations, though the woods were getting too dark for photos. A HUGE A- plus and congratulations to WSW for au-gust!  It is amazing, and is going on through the end of the month with a series of public events (ear-fungi will quietly linger on.) Photos on my Facebook page.

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Yesterday, up early in the morning mist, out to the car to find a lovely farewell: a beautiful healthy indigo plant from sweet Chris, waiting next to my driver’s side door. About two and half hours later, cruising through the last bit of the Catskills and admiring the bands of morning mist that had wafted up into lovely thin strands around the hilltops, BAM! The alternator blew. I managed to coast downhill past a retaining wall to be able to pull over onto the verge and put the flashers on. My partner Paul gets an A plus-plus-plus for insisting that we sustain a membership in triple A. After an initial frustrating 30 minutes of trying to understand a squeaky-voiced person over the phone, I was transferred to a man with a deep, enunciated voice I could mostly understand, and from that point on I’ve been truly taken care of. A highway patrolman came and parked behind me with his lights flashing until a huge truck came and hoisted up the car for a 60-mile tow (on my route!). I’ve just spent the night in a king-sized bed in a motel room overlooking the Susquehanna river, while a part is on its way to the very good triple A garage. The indigo plant got a drink and spent the night in the window with the garage’s plants. I’m awaiting the text that tells me I can be back on the way to Cleveland and the SmithSanctuary soon…where I will say a-a-a-hhh.

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Buddy, who hung out with me for several hours at the garage yesterday.

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.