Once again, someone I love has passed from the planet while I am on a residency: Paul’s mom, Barbara.  She was in her 80’s and had been having sad difficulties since January.  She left along with Michael Jackson, the same day, which made checking e-mail, waiting for news about her, a bit more surreal than it already felt. Her memorial service was organized swiftly, and it was today (Sunday), and I am still here…even if I had packed up and left WSW a week early, as soon as we learned of the service, I would not have been able to make it back in time, driving. Paul talked me out of flying in; it would have been a 24 hour turnaround only to come back and pack up and drive back home.  So, here I am in that same strange place, mourning her alone, trying to honor her for myself and to send my comfort out to Paul, to the family, in some ephemeral way. She was a lovely, funny, petite, but enormously strong lady, and though we will all miss her greatly, I am grateful that she is at peace.

from rock

When Barb took a turn for the worse and I was waiting for news and expecting that I would leave momentarily, in a rather dazed marathon, I finished the big piece. But now that I finally see it installed on a wall (rather than bending over it, or looking down from the ladder), it needs a bit more work. There are also additions yet to come; it’s just a central grouping I worked on (and figured out how to make) here.  It’s an adjustable configuration, currently just under ten feet wide. I worked a little too single-mindedly, though, and threw my lower back out. Badly. One hip is painfully higher than the other. I’m heating it and stretching, but I may need to find a chiropractor. I doubt if I will make anything else new, and I will leave a little early to be with Paul. I’ll spend the rest of my time here prepping for the following residencies; beating fiber, making sheets, using the bandsaw, just busy-ness and practicality. That will suit my current limitations, emotional and physical.


Also Unearthly Earth (under all that somewhere)



This, too, is New York.

I had an excellent time meeting David Reina yesterday, and going over every feature of the beater with him.  He said that very few bronze ones were ever made, and that a sculptor fabricated the tubs.  Likewise, I had a fine time meeting Shannon at Carriage House; they are both warm, funny and wonderful folks.

The two businesses are now on Kent Avenue , and I was kind of sorry to not have seen David’s old shop on Guernsey, because I’d heard it was festooned with strange old toys and other things (not that  this one wasn’t still fascinating, because of the equipment being built.  I took no photos, sorry – I was working too hard to hear in the shop noise).

When I added my info to David’s client book, I knew (or knew of) every single person I saw on the previous pages.  Likewise, in conversations with Shannon, we already had a rich community.  The papermaking world is a small one; and bits of my story had preceded me, which was both comforting and odd.

Equally odd was being back in that part of Brooklyn, however briefly.  They’re not at all far from where my family lived in Greenpoint (they’re just a bit over the line into Williamsburg). I haven’t been there since I was in my very early twenties.  I wasn’t there for two minutes before I got into an angry shouting match with a cop, while I was banging on the shop door (Shannon was at lunch, and David, back in the shop, didn’t hear me; beaters were running, music on).  I had my car’s flashers on and I was obviously making a delivery, but the bastard gave me a ticket and a whole lot o’ attitude anyways. I instinctively, immediately returned the latter.

Something about that roused some bad, vague, creepy memory-emotions, and I didn’t want to stick around, once I was finished. My theme became, as it did decades ago: Escape From New York. Getting out of Brooklyn was intense. Yeah, I remembered the street names, but not where they went.  Fortunately, Abby had lent me her portable GPS.  I’d have been dead without it, probably still driving in circles in the (admittedly interesting, vaguely remembered) Hassidic neighborhood I got stuck in…though it refused to take me back to the Taconic and my relatively pleasant drive into town, and sent me through freakin’ Paramus instead. Traffic was every frustrating thing you might imagine.  There were no fewer than six ‘disabled vehicles’ blocking lanes and jamming things up on the various freeways and bridges (including a bashed white stretch limo festooned with pink chiffon on the Kosciuszko). I had to keep the windows closed to hear the GPS (which I only heard enough of to tell me to look at it).  Bleah.  It was a ten-hour round trip to go like 90 miles in each direction. Bleah!

But my beater is now in the excellent care of its creator.


Segue: Unearthly Earth



It’s a dreary, drenched grey Saturday, and my work is at a standstill.  The next stage on the piece I’m building involves the band saw, which is in another building, and apparently I missed Chris (the studio manager) this morning, to see about using it. My car is still loaded with the beater, which is rattling alarmingly and blocking my rear view when I drive, so, other than a short trip earlier into town to buy food, I’m not inclined to go anywhere.  And the studio is all set up for a production run of WSW paper that didn’t get finished Friday, so I can’t really start much new till that’s done.  I straightened up my stuff, put two kinds of flax and some kozo to soak for later in the week, and right now I’m beating a half-pound of abaca and recycling a half-pound of flax and kozo sheets in with it. (I made them last week, and didn’t like them after they air-dried, though the sheets mixed with abaca were great and I kept those. Already the green and brown-dyed kozo fibers have disappeared into the pulp).


So, I thought I’d show you more of the ‘hood, though it’s hard to photograph.  It’s kind of eerie around here, even when it’s sunny.  Right across the road from WSW is one of several ‘rail trails’ in the area, walking paths where old railway lines used to be during the area’s cement-production heyday.  The other two trails I’ve been on are more like park paths, wide and well-used; I haven’t seen anyone else on this one. It’s a narrow cinder line cutting through wild growth, with lots of deadfall and a small, dubious bridge midway that has a couple railroad ties missing. You’ve got to tick-proof yourself before venturing in (and I must be getting good at that; I’ve been regularly leaving the trail to tromp through the woods and so far, haven’t picked up any at all, thanks to the fact that I’ve reconciled myself to slathering on deet). The trail is a narrow, artificially level pathway; the mountain rises steeply on one side, and drops just as sharply down to Route 7, the road into Rosendale, on the other.


What’s eerie is what you pass: the old mineshafts hacked brutally out of the small mountain’s face, a great many of them, all overgrown and filled with water.  You suddenly realize the mountain must be hollow, that the thick woods and great huge tumbled mossy boulders are merely a sort of skin on a honeycomb.


At one place, there’s a low line of mist that crosses the path, no matter the time of day.  I first saw it at five in the afternoon; it’s not like the early morning mist in the Smokies; it doesn’t rise, just whispers past, keeping to a level height, then tumbles slowly down to the roadway.  It’s quite, quite cold when you walk through it.  I followed it a short way to its source; it’s emanating from a deep fissure in the rock, maybe another shaft, collapsed.  It’s as though the hollowed mountain is emitting a sigh of lament. I’m both disturbed and fascinated by it, and that, eventually, will be good for my work in some way.  Likewise, the rape of the mountain is so apparent, so absolutely violent, but now, a hundred years on, it’s softening, rounding, being taken back by the flora. It’s beautiful, horrible, interesting and eerie.



And, though they must be as plentiful as the ticks we’re sternly warned about, I haven’t seen a single deer since I’ve been here.  Not one. Just a few big-winged hawks floating silently through the trees, and this guy:


Oh, and on another planet (Chicago), I’m in this show, paired with Jen Thomas.  It opened yesterday. (Many thanks to Regin Igloria, curator).

When one door (to the beater room) closes…!


The NEA bought me a beater today! 

Well, not really, but yes really: my NEA stipend from the WSW paid for an early Reina beater. Tomorrow or Monday, I will drive it down to David Reina’s shop in Brooklyn, and he will have it retrofitted with a roll height counter, and ‘dial it in’ for me, as my old friend Ed would have said.  I’m thrilled!

I have wanted one of these for a long, long time, and I began saving for one last April when the chicanery began to become truly transparent. But, my ‘beater fund’ was only a little over half full when I was cut off from the studios I’d spent fifteen years helping to build. For most of the year, I’d also been asking around, fruitlessly, for a lead on any kind of used machine capable of over-beating fiber. I knew I would be able to process what I need for the rest of the summer here at WSW, but I wasn’t at all sure what I was going to do afterwards, and that was disturbing, to say the least.

Then, late one night a week or so into the residency, while I was tediously researching grants that could help me obtain the equipment I need to make my work, I spontaneously took a very, very long shot.  I didn’t expect anything to come of it; these machines are hard to find used, because they’re such total workhorses and they go on forever.

Unbelievably, in two days, I had the e-mail address of a lovely painter named Leslie, with the caution that the beater she wanted to sell might not still be available.  I sent off a two-sentence inquiry, and got a reply from her right away, with photos, and a price that exactly equaled my stipend. I shot back: “I’m interested. Where are you located?”  She named a NY state town a ways northeast of here, and incredibly, added: “it breaks down and fits into the back of a Subaru; that’s how I moved it when I got it.”

So: here I am in NY, with exact change, so to speak – and though Leslie didn’t know it, I drive a Subaru Forester. I knew this was my machine.

I just spent a very pleasant day driving the Taconic Parkway and back roads through verdant hills in lovely, mild, sunny weather.  Though the beater’s been stored for many years, it was amply greased before it was tucked away, and it fired right up.  I also bought a mini-tablesaw-type thing used in the garment industry that instantly cuts up fabric to pulp (and sharpens itself to boot), and 36 pounds of abaca half-stuff, at great, generous prices. And the beater is in my Subaru.

Just under one month from having a door slammed in my face, another permanent portal opened!

And ain’t it just beautiful?  The tub is bronze! 


(Thank you, David!  Thank you, Leslie!  Woooohoooo!)




Dyed kozo, flax and abaca

I am bad at the blahgin’ right now, mostly because I’m so, so utterly absorbed here, so here are random images.  Tonight is unique in that I reached a natural stopping point and came up to the apartment at 11:30.  Most nights, it’s been well after 1 am., sometimes 3 am, but today flowed so well I had forgotten to eat dinner; just did that.


The fiber stove on a roofed side porch outside the paper studio.


My two residency-mates, who were printing when I arrived, are now just finishing the sewing marathon stages of their editions, soon to be replaced with cover-printing and binding marathons, and I am all fiber-y, wet-footed, building and thoroughly happy, looking forward to my soon upcoming times of color (my dye order arrived today) and bandsaw and assembly.  I have three pieces going, currently, and little experiments here and there.


Chris and Amanda begin sewing Amanda’s edition…


…Amanda’s edition a day later.


Abby’s edition of 35.

And even when I am not in the studio, things are flowing, flowing, flowing towards me. For instance, three shows came in, in as many days, and another enormous possibility to have along-held dream realized, and more, more, more support. I keep thinking of Aimee’s “abundance is real.” It is, for me right now, incredibly so.  It’s wonderful, it’s the golden time, the flourishing.



Well, that was fast…


I’m deep into the studio, into my work, making manifest something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and it’s going slow but well (it always goes slower than I’d like, but then it’s my attention to detail that causes that, and is worth it). 

I’ve had some excellent conversations, getting others’ perspectives on the situation in a micro-and macro sense; unbidden support (some even international) continues to pour in, some of it from surprising, unexpected sources…and I’ve even had a couple of offers.  Healing may be quicker than I thought, as quick as my body usually bounces back from trauma (and is now, as without much conscious effort, I begin to shed the insulating weight I had put on during it all).

There may be other bits of backlash, or unforeseen obstacles down the road, but right now, I’m in my element, and even the most ridiculous news from afar just rolls off, as I realize: It Is Not My Problem any longer; another, even greater weight shed.


I’m thinking of Marilyn Sward daily…every time I tip a bucket of water into the great floor drains (she loved, loved, loved floor drains), I feel her smiling; every time I share a meal, or freely give or receive a bit of knowledge, it seems as if she is here (and she was here, during her time on the planet).

Now, I’m off on the obligatory residency Home Depot run…here’s a nice & kinda funny review that came in earlier this week.  I am both ‘unidentified artists’ at the end !  And, in another show, I also rather like being ‘borderline creepy’.



a gift that appeared next to the first prototype, and, though I don’t usually post work-in-progress, here is that prototype: