the ‘hood helps


Today is the last day that I have health insurance. Here at Women’s Studio Workshop, I’m pretty much acclimated and somewhat recuperated now, though I’ve had certain chilling clues that an extensive healing needs to (and will) take place (and time).  It was fifteen years of my life, after all (and I gave it my all for most all of it).  I am, thankfully, in a fine place to begin that.


Here’s my domain, as well as it can be shot.  The Reina beater (in another small room) is sweet (and much, much more efficient than the one I’ve used these many years). For the first few days, I shared the studio with Pi, a delightful person near my age, who spontaneously showed me how to braze steel, and also left a small bucket of gut (pig intestines, i.e. sausage casing) in the studio fridge for me to mess around with.  She left Saturday, as did the three interns who have all been here for a year.


Later on Saturday I moved from the Atwood House, two doors down, which I shared with the interns, to a small apartment on the third floor of the studio building, which I’m sharing for the next three weeks with Abby, a printmaker and future book conservator.  The studio’s now mine until July 4, and I’m settled in till then as well. I quickly learned to stop hitting my head on the eaves up here, and it’s very nice to have a semi-private space.


My work’s all at the testing, testing, testing stage.  I’m building something I’ve been thinking about for nearly a year, but I also have a strong urge to just play, like maybe to make sheets of paper for fun (imagine!), and I’m going to take some time to do that.  For the next week, it’s just myself, Abby and Amanda (who is editioning a mighty fine book she just finished printing today: 80 copies). And of course, all the WSW staff and founders.  Next week, three new interns arrive to begin their year.


The area’s really gorgeous; my kind of place.  I love all the old eastern US mountain areas, and I remember how truly surprised I was last year in Catskill to find that this part of NY is indeed so rural.  NYC is under 100 miles away, so I guess I’d expected amplified suburban mall ‘n’ sprawl, like Chicago’s surrounding areas.  Though it’s still pretty populated, it’s also all twisty hilly narrow roads, gingerbreaded old buildings, abundant lakes and streams, views of the Catskills, and tiny towns.


Rosendale is that.  Tiny, old for the US, funky, but with everything you need a short drive away, and a two-hour train ride to Grand Central (yes, of course I’ll go in at some point).  Apparently, the Shawangunk mountains, where I am, are made of a limestone that was perfect for making cement, and the WSW building is the old headquarters of the Rosendale Cement company. Its product was used to build the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as many other historical structures contemporary with it.  In the woods just up the road and in other places in the area are rows of huge old overgrown cement kilns; and there’s a towering solitary smokestack, just visible through the dense foliage, like another of the tall trees that grow right up to it, only made of red brick.



About 2/3 of Rosendale.


This place is for rent. I like the shelf-bracket porch supports.



I like it, a lot.  It isn’t quite Vermont or Asheville or Black Mountain, but it would do.  And that made me wonder, and then made me realize something I didn’t even want to think about: about the kind of cold, hard ambition that would spur anyone to leave a peaceful place like this, to go and systematically set out to trash several people’s lives elsewhere in order to feed it.  And that caused some truly disturbing, explicit dreams, and brought the realization that healing was needed, and that it very well may be a long, slow march.


And now, off to the studio, to the future, to the best part of the process: my process.


Catapult thru Catskills


I’m here in Rosendale, NY.  I was supposed to get in on Memorial Day, but getting fired too close to the holiday put a damper on that; too much to do before businesses closed when I should have been packing. Not to mention dealing with some delayed reactions, my own and others’.

So I packed all day M-day, got a few hours of sleep, left early Tuesday morning, stopped in Cleveland for a couple-hour late lunch break with my dear old friend Sin De (who wouldn’t let me take her out but fed me great leftover M-day party cookout food) and then drove late into the dark rainy night.  (Unintentionally a couple hours later than I had planned; I took a new route through NY state (which will forevermore be my favorite) and suddenly, after I shunted past the biggest town, there were no motels to be found; the road before the town was littered with them). Finally a clean little mom & pop place appeared just after midnight, where mom & pop were still awake to check me in, slept a few hours, and got here at about 10:30 am.  Have met people, unloaded, met more people, semi-unpacked (I move to a different home in three days for the rest of my time here), met more people, figured out the internet situation, written an online letter of reference that was waiting for me when I did (still!), gone food shopping, took a walk, and put some unbleached abaca to soak for beating tomorrow.

Now, dinner, a book for a bit, and more than a few hours of sleep. I’m so glad to be here. The future’s now.




Here’s how the political maneuvering (that began at least two, maybe three years ago, cranked into high gear last year, and went into overdrive this year)  played out: yesterday, I Got Fired.

It was, strangely, both unsurprising yet still unbelievable.

I’ve never, ever been Fired before, from anything for any reason, except for a brief blip in my early 20s, when I was fired  (after a shouting match) from a screen printing company and re-hired (with an apology) three days later.  I have Quit (many times), and I have Not Been Hired, but this is new.  So now, while still moving full-tilt towards my great summer, I need to find out how one applies for unemployment, how long the health insurance will or won’t last,  and the like.

The oddest and most surprising thing about it is that I woke (after pleasant, scented dreams of Eilean Leodhais) incredibly feeling a wee bit sorry for those who fired me. And yesterday, on my way out the door, I actually said to the fire-er, “Well, good luck to you, then.”  (She replied, “Bring back the computer.”)

Already, I’m getting tons of support (thank you!) and I’m feeling fine: much, much lighter, and very glad the whole absurd, unnecessary, grueling scenario is finally over.  In the end, in a manner of speaking, it all boils down to just a wee bit of a bitch, or a tiny prick, or an insignificant little Jab…or maybe all three.


A gift from one of my first great teachers, long ago, who got fired during a political takeover.  That entire school closed down,  shortly thereafter. “Graduation Ceremony, Lecture #?”  by Reed Alan Thomason, 1976 







It’s OVER.  Finished, finito, terminado: all except the shouting, which will hopefully be kept to a minimum, but who cares if it’s not?  Maybe some shouting is in order, eh?

Sun’s out, my part of the planet is in bloom, and the beginning is here!

Today, I’m shouting, “WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!” for the 2009 grads and myself!




The count-up widget reads six more days.  I’m in something of a state of suspended animation, brought about by liminal limbic overload.  Emotions flare and shift so swiftly that I can be wholly present and not there, simultaneously.

At last night’s round of openings, which I pretty much forced myself to go to, I was fine, engaged in many conversations, avoided painful subjects, all on automatic pilot: switched on and functioning in social mode but essentially numb, no different than if I’d been staring blearily at the TV in a latenight zombie marathon.

Thankfully, though, I’ve been here before.  I know this is temporary.

And, I was smart and set myself up with residencies to look forward to before this stage began; the first one commences almost immediately.  I need that so: the studio, my work, a clean slate, a community of like minds engaged in the same.

I’ve had one final class already.  At its end, the folks in it applauded me out of the room, and then followed me into the hall, applauding till I left the building.  At present, the clamped-down part of me thinks, oh, that’s just a sweet little gesture; but another, better part says: that’s everything. I suspect that when the dust settles and I return to myself, it is the single incident I will always remember about this time in my life.  Thanks, folks.


Unbelievably, I did not plant these lovely purple plants at the shady side of the house. I was totally unaware that they’d blown in and situated themselves, so evenly spaced, from a single plant I had growing in the backyard last year. They are, I kid you not, “money plants”.  


10pm Friday finally ended weeks and weeks of all-out labor.  After the insanity of working with one big show, which delayed everything I needed to do for two of my own, I got to work. Had a schedule.  But, still: unbelievable random oddity inserted itself, like malfunctioning hearing aids and yet even more ill-willed crap and extra hours and hours spent dealing with both. Somehow, though, I reached a new level of patience, and a new hard cold level of determination, and pushed on through it all, though with very little sleep at the end. 

Yesterday was a huge THUD. Today is, incredibly, a sunny day I will spend un-neglecting my poor gardens, something I can hardly believe.  And the homestretch is finally here; just twelve more days.


Where I was last May and am, in spirit, now.

Links to shows: The Women’s Studio Workshop listing should read NEA Paper Residency, not (ha!) Ceramics, and I’m quoted in the Marking Time writeup (from my juror’s essay, also written while sleep-deprived).