I was hoping to leave tomorrow for the Beater Retrieval Road Trip, but that’s delayed due to weather. Right where I need to go, there are winter storm warnings on the good route and travel advisories on the not-so-good one till late Saturday. So it looks like later in the week, provided my first Evanston Print class doesn’t run, and it looks like it won’t.  I had some company for the trip and now might not, but I’m fine with it all, just chugging along. And actually, I’m feeling a bit beat, so the delay is probably good in other ways.

Yesterday, I stuffed an amazing amount of insulation into an apparently huge unseen void, through a gap that I found near the ceiling when we moved the old fridge, and patched and painted a slim chunk of concrete wall (there were several deep drilled holes and cracks that cold wind came whistling through, also exposed by the fridge move).  I installed some wide shelving above where the guillotine was to go, and then a friend of Paul’s came by and slowly and comically, we got the guillotine moved across the room and into place. Our friend had to get on the floor and shove with his feet, because it kept overbalancing.  Then the men went out to a local bar they like (and I can’t stand) and I assembled and installed more shelving. Today I got the studio about halfway put back together, while running upstairs periodically to deal with travel plans.  And here I am.

The guillotine’s new home, shot last night.  Now there’s a ton of stuff stored above, behind and around it .


I’m still immersed in my studio-universe, but things have been moving along at a productive one-woman clip (with occasional assistance by large man). I’ve done a low-cost redesign of the space, and solved several problems.  Nothing will ever make it bigger, but it’s definitely going to be much better, and there will be room to work with a guest now and again! 

Somehow, my energy adapted and I’ve been able to work on the site in the evenings as well.  The first of the upgraded galleries is online: the Strays page seemed to be a good one to begin with.  Rather than scanning, it required shooting odd objects I decided to include because so many people ask, “do you make other kinds of books?”

The type has gone to two good homes, the pulp fridge is cleaned, empty and moved out of the way until it gets picked up in early March, Paul and a friend have a date set to run a beater-dedicated electrical line in, we’re moving the guillotine on Wednesday…and…I sold my old beater, a Mark Lander Critter.  I’ve had it for nearly seven years, and it’s a good little work horse.  I’ve processed all kinds of plant fiber in it, as well as half-stuff, and have done a whole lot of recycling with it.  It wouldn’t quite do the type of overbeating my work began to require a couple of years after I got it (or maybe the ready access I had to other machines kept me from taking the time to figure it out). In any case, it too went to a good person who will use it well, I know. I had a little pang or three when I packed it into its box.  I’m grateful to Mark for making these and very, very glad I had this one. Until he started the nearly not-for-profit Critter Project (by making a beater and donating it to a cottage industry for homeless women here in Chicago), papermakers had to be affiliated with an institution or someplace with equipment, or else rely on whiz mixers and blenders. Mark’s now made nearly 300 Critters that have gone out from his New Zealand shop all around the world, allowing people to experiment, use recycled materials in their work, and to be independent.  Read about Mark Lander here (and check out the giant Monster Critter on the back of his truck, beating away in the snow!  at the bottom of the critters page).

The Critter in 2003, working away at some abaca.

Do Si Does

Things often really do work out in unforeseen ways.  Of course, they can take their time doing so.  On September 28, 2007, I wrote about this:

“I received an e-mail today from a university that owns one of my artworks, purchased several years ago by a facility’s director, to be permanently installed in the lobby. Now there’s a new director, who has suddenly decided that there is “no appropriate space” for my piece. Like a government taking over a nation and pulling down iconic statues, indicators of the previous regime’s viewpoint must disappear.

But in this case, a rare one, I’m fortunate, because the institution has offered to return the artwork to me, rather than to destroy it as governments generally do. I’ll be able to sell it again, or, more likely, donate it, and allow it to continue to speak to those who may see a bit of truth in it. (I’ve told the school that I consider their original purchase price to be a six-year rental fee).”

What I didn’t write about was how awful this made me feel at the time, even though I was aware that the disregard had nothing to do with either the work or me. By the time the piece was returned, (about a year after the e-mail: hey, traffic is bad in Chicago), I was enmeshed in a similar situation (but this time, it was about me and my work). I didn’t even unpack the piece to look at it.  I couldn’t risk revisiting the past pall of negativity due to the chink that might have made in the armor I needed to keep functioning. I hauled the crate off to my warehouse and forgot it.

A couple of days ago, the piece became part of a permanent museum collection and will be exhibited later this year.  It was asked for specifically, and I happily donated it, since it had already been purchased once.  For me, this vindicates past chicanery, and reinforces what always sounds like a very tired platitude while you are suffering from a blow: “There is something much better waiting.”

Re: do, new, think

This is my universe right now, though I will need to leave it for awhile today and tomorrow to take care of outside tasks.  Moving, tossing, re-thinking, anticipating, trying not to dwell on the fact that the studio is just…too…small. I had to thoroughly clean up the shared adjacent room before I began this in earnest, and I forgot to take ‘before’ pictures of the old studio organization. These shots were at the beginning of yesterday’s siege. I’d planned to be working  in the studio days and continue with the web site nights, but so far the type of energy required for one is not proving conducive to the other.

Two friends are urging me to apply for a residency I’ve always wanted to try, but that deadline may be too close.  I’m torn between the familiar and comfortable urge to escape and the increasingly un-ignorable issues and too-long-unfinished business of my home situation. For now, there’s only the  beater retrieval deadline. Back to it.

millimeter by millimeter

More progress on the web site; I reorganized the old galleries to implement the new site map, built a few more pages and I’m now at the point where the massive scanning and some re-photographing needs to take place, so I can make the new galleries. I also shot some amusing additions for the Strays page, because I am always asked if I make other kinds of books, though they’re not added yet.  I’ll be so happy when this is done; this, my dears, is work! Paul told me that when I’m in here dealing with it, I remind him of Lon Chaney at the organ in an old horror movie.  Um, thanks, Paul.

I have a date for beater retrieval! It had been receiving the benefit of even more conscientious restoration, but I’ll be heading east in just under two weeks, and am happily not renting a truck. After I learn the specifics of what is now a custom designed machine, we’ll remove the beater from its rolling stand, disassemble that, and it will all tuck quite nicely into my car. Between now and Road Trip Time, I hope to have the site squared away, as well as the studio.  That will involve cleaning out the disgusting ancient and infirm pulp fridge, disposing of it, getting a new mini-fridge, getting rid of some space-wasting things like drawers of type I’ll never use, building some shelves and –o boy – moving the 350 lb. guillotine.  I hope to be rewarded for all my efforts with decent weather, so that I can stop for some visits along the way.

Right now the CAA conference is and has been going on in the loop, but I’ve had no inclination to attend even the few things I thought I might want to make time for. (CAA = College Arts Association; it is to the content of academic art departments as the AMA is to the USA’s medical care, with every implication that comparison affords). Instead, I’m happily working away. And I have to admit that I’m very glad some of that work will now be physical, though I am not at all looking forward to moving the guillotine.


Though it doesn’t look like much, we had a bonafide snow day; Paul’s class was cancelled.  More snow all night and more tomorrow.  Since I did all my running around yesterday, I’m thinking: Nice.  It’s lovely coming down, though too fast and too fine to show up in photos.  But it’s there. Blizzards are much more agreeable than grey February gloom.

Something about a snow day lets me relax, buckle down and enjoy, no matter what I’m doing. I got tons done, including six class descriptions, laundry, more work on a long complilation document, several photo shoots, and I finally resolved the ‘your text is so hard to read’ problem on the web site, I think for good.  (Lots of the photos were of paper, so I could do this to improve the text). I tried this to try to respond to I-hate-video feedback, but I don’t like it, so I think there’ll be a compromise. And I added a page, and played around, too – though I’m not sure I like this, or at least not the fuzzy way it shows up on youtube:

Last but not least, I actually cooked dinner.  Snow days require good hot food. Now I’m working on a very fine bottle of red wine, blogging and not thinking about the fact that one thing snow days are not good for is retrieving beaters.

DIY: testing, testing

Today we have *SUN* – so this will be a quick post. Must…get…outdoors. But I am continuing on with the web site, and am about a quarter of the way there. Most of the galleries, though they’ll be consolidated into a single source page from which you can open each, will continue to look like this (but wider). I feel that some works, particularly the books, need a different presentation.  So I’m experimenting with this.  What do you think?* I’ve tested it with Safari and Firefox on my Mac and Internet Explorer on Paul’s PC (which screws up my new temporary home page mightily, but thankfully only that page.  I think I know how to fix it). In any case, I now know why having sites made costs so much.

If you’ve noticed the stack of empty wine boxes on out front porch in the Amaryllis photos, they are for these great things that Paul builds from recycled materials:

The second one has temporary strings at the moment; adding an empty three-dram bottle of Springbank Old Malt Cask as a support made the entire thing too long for regular guitar strings.  Somehow that reminds me of working on the site. I’m pleased that we are a D.I.Y. nation at this address; nothing goes to waste, as amply evidenced below.

In keeping with that, I found an on-sale shredder a few days ago, and brought it home to begin processing fifteen years worth of teaching materials into a new piece, after scanning the things worth keeping. Shredding is curiously satisfying.

* I’m soliciting all kinds of feedback these days.  Not only did I also post the web page test to both my Facebook pages, tomorrow, I’m excited about meeting with some trusted friends to pick their very fine brains about possible situations involving the bronze beater.  Which I am not even ready to pick up until the weather settles down in the east.  Stay warm, everyone.

February Syndrome

‘Tis the dead of winter; that’s always true of February, regardless of the timing of the solstice.  I am seeing, reading, feeling and even sometimes hearing February Syndrome symptoms everywhere from everyone I communicate with in the northern hemisphere.

Tuesday, left;

Wednesday, below right.

I wrote a blahg at midnight last night, and then decided it sounded waaaay too February to publish.  It boiled down to the fact that my personal February Syndrome is one of impatience. I’ve got a whole lot o’ balls in the air right now and all is moving forward, but so, so slowly.  All the things that must be done to keep all my projects progressing are very mundane at this point, and not blahg-worthy. So I’ll remind myself that getting any of it out of the way is very good and necessary, and I’ll get back to it.  Apparently, I want it all to bloom as fast as this Amaryllis is right now (and am in utter denial about the weeks it was just a slowly expanding stem). That’s my February so far.  What’s yours?


During a lot of this phase, I need to (still) stay basically glued to the computer, awaiting communications. While that was happening this week, I got some of the preliminary work on the web site up and published, all on the (boring) text-based section. I’m not at all sure these are the final page formats, but I needed to either publish them or leave it all offline.  iWeb contains many mysteries, such as photos that suddenly refuse to move on a page after they’ve easily been repositioned previously, and the captions on the two home page photos that look so different even though all the information (color, typeface, opacity) is exactly the same for each.  I can only do the best I can. The site now has a split personality, maybe multiple personalities.  Maybe that’s another February symptom.