I was slowed significantly for a couple of days with a low-level sinus thing; runny eyes, nose, achy, energy-less. Better today and back to quiet, intense background labor: production for (S)Edition, putting together a proposal, necessary painstaking research for a looming deadline, prep for classes.  Through it all, thinking about both my gardens and the next pieces I will make.

I fell in love with these last summer at I-Park; they’re tritoma, aka ‘red hot poker’. Two dozen are germinating in seed trays in a sunny bay window, along with delphiniums. little violas and all the herbs (the only seeds that have sprouted so far). There are also three batches of mystery seeds, gifts from folks whose plants I admired, which I forgot to label. Everything I’m doing right now feels a bit like what’s going on in those seed trays.

Good Vibrations

This was Chicago’s vernal equinox:

On Friday it was 65 degrees, and all the crocuses were in full bloom; they have little bright yellow centers.  Sensibly, they snapped shut during the two-day snowy weekend, and haven’t fully opened again since, even though the snow was all melted by yesterday and the past two days have been sunny but cool.

I beat a short load of bleached abaca, which again went perfectly, and now have the correct shade of pulp. The past few days have been a lot of errands and writing and visitors and visiting and a few more studio improvements and finally getting the web site to work in Internet Explorer, and I’m hoping to begin production on the last bits of (S)Edition tomorrow.

Many years ago, moments after I got my first hearing aid (a very basic, outdated, donated and refurbished one from the Chicago Hearing Society), I went right to the original book and paper facility on Wabash where I worked.  It was near the CHS’s old offices, I was familiar (I thought) with its sounds, and I freely admit that I was utterly freaked. I was totally assaulted by incomprehensible noise, and since my hearing loss is in both ears and I could only afford one cheap hearing aid, my balance was shot to hell, too.  Pamela Paulsrud was working in the paper studio, and having been trained as a nurse, she graciously walked around with me for a good part of the afternoon, patiently answering each time I jumped and shouted, “Yaaah!!! What’s that, what am I hearing?!?!  Where is it coming from?!”  She doesn’t remember doing this, but I never forgot it, ever.

Some of my recent visits and visiting have been with Pam, whose current work with cymatics, begun last summer, is completely intriguing me.  I can’t hear this interview, but many of you can, and you can see the sound vibrations in action.

Yesterday, I got to see this happen in person; trust me, the video is just a slight taste.  Not only are the patterns made by the vibrations fascinating, the way the grains of sand move when shifting is captivating.  Sometimes they bounce at different rates like bursting popcorn or drops of water on a hot skillet, sometimes they lazily shift, or collide and pile up to make sharp textured lines, and they don’t all move at once.

As exciting as it is for a deafened person to see sound (and for a deafened artist / papermaker to see someone capturing sound in paper!), our conversations have been even more fascinating; we’re free enough with each other to venture pretty far out there.  And it’s fun, too, to try and describe exactly how touching a piano to feel the vibrations while someone plays fills in the musical information that’s missing from my ears, or how the sound from hearing aids differs from ‘real’ sound.  I think we might be filling in some gaps for each other, and pushing each other further, and that’s truly a good vibration.

Over The Moon

Did you see last night’s moon?  I was out walking under it, but without the camera. It was  a perfect slim bright sickle, but a horizontal one, describing the bottom third of the circle, the whole of which was outlined by the palest tiny blue line here in Chicago. Yes. Gorgeous.

My test sheets are PERFECT.  Absolutely perfect rate of shrinkage and translucency! The one on the right is what I was shooting for; the one on the left is the result of yesterday’s beat. It’s a tad thinner, so it appears more translucent. The darker color is not due to the beater, but is simply the result of a different lot of fiber.  This batch of abaca will allow me to FINALLY finish (S)Edition.  I’ve had all the covers made for nearly a year, but had no beater access to make the last of what’s needed: 132 text sheets for 11 copies, and 66 larger, heavier sheets to make the final 22 stems. I have bleached abaca on hand, so I’ll beat up a pound or so of that and mix it in to lighten the color – it won’t be  the first time I’ve had to do some tonal fiber blending during this long project.  But, the shrinkage and texture were my main concerns, and those were perfect on the first go, and I am absolutely over the moon about my beater!

I’ve been so over the moon about fetching it and getting it set up that I’ve neglected to shout out about two important things from two very important places:

First: You can buy this 2009 book!  And, you can support the only visual arts residency program dedicated to women artists in the US by doing it.  It’s part of Women’s Studio Workshop’s annual online auction.  Bidding opened on March 15th, and continues through April 15th.

Bid early, bid often, please – if not on my piece, you have 65 other artists to choose from.

Check it out and get ready to bid HERE.

(So far I have no bids and I am (snif) devastated).

And,  if you’ve been reading the Blahg for awhile (thanks!) you might remember how much I truly enjoyed a transitional residency at Catwalk in June 2008.

I was over the moon (and quite a bit closer to the moon) about using this fantastic octagonal tower studio, four stories up atop a high cliff overlooking the Hudson River and the Rip Van Winkle bridge. It was this peaceful, lush environment that allowed me to develop the original sketches for LISTEN, and to conceptually solidify the series I’m currently working on.

Catwalk has just launched a brand-new website; you can read and see more about this beautiful and unique place, and about its founders, Purcell and Jim Palmer, who share their wonderful home with artists HERE. Congratulations, Catwalk!

Éirinn and Abaca go brách!

I’m beating my first batch of fiber on Saint Patrick’s day, which seems entirely fitting.  I’m starting with overbeaten abaca, because I’m so familiar with it (and because I need it!)  Everything looks, feels and (as far as I can tell) sounds exactly right. In about four more hours I will pour a sheet and will know what rate of shrinkage I have tomorrow morning. Wonderful!!!

The wearing of the green patina, as my personal St. Patrick’s parade swirls by.

Saturday, while working hard on the web site, I missed reading a volunteer beater help e-mail!  Alas, the window was only for that day, but I thank Mr. R anyways. So, Sunday was more work on the web site, which is working now except, apparently, via Internet Explorer (sigh), and I actually cooked our feast as well: corned beef & cabbage & leeks & potatoes, because Paul and I have radically different schedules today. Monday, a long day of meetings downtown amid green rivers and fountains, and then home. Kurt came by again to help, we got the tub up on the base, and I spent the rest of the evening adjusting and bolting it all together and hooking up the belt and turnbuckle and finding the leveling.  Yesterday, the beater and I had two great long visits from old friends, more exciting plans were made, and then I scrubbed out the tub and ran a load of water through, getting rid of all the carborundum grit and dried ten-year old pulp, adjusting and re-adjusting the belt tension while that happened. Finally, I put a full load of abaca to soak overnight.  And here I am.  I cannot describe how good this’s yet another long-held dream come true. But maybe my face shows it!

How I hear what a beater is doing. (And in this instance, how I discover I really need to get a haircut).

Pádraig meets Picasso.

Foggy, Soggy

…that’s how it is out there today. But at least it’s foggy and soggy and springlike, and things are poking up through the debris in my garden. (Like Velma said, that doesn’t mean we won’t have another snow.  I can think of multiple snowy Saint Patrick’s Day parades. But I get to ignore that possibility today).

I spent two days prying an amazing amount of pulp out of the wheels on the beater, then removed layers of rust with wire brushes and steel wool, then coated them with WD-40 and greased the ball bearings, so they’ll be protected, will roll properly and lock in place.  Then I cleaned lots more pulp off and assembled the base, and hit a brick wall; we need a third person for the next bit, to help hoist up the tub and hold it in place, while I scurry around underneath and jiggle the legs until they’re aligned enough to insert the bolts. (The beater’s a bit taller than the newer Reinas, and the bronze is heavy). Everyone is out of town or busy, so that will need to wait till tomorrow or Monday, when two friends return. All Monday, I need to be in a long meeting.

So, I got busy and planted seeds to start for the gardens and went grocery shopping and did other domestic things that we’re always a few weeks behind on; shipped out another piece to a group show, and this morning, decided to finish re-formatting the captions and publish the web site as it is now, reflecting all the work I’d done before the road trip.  I’ve been at it all day, and iWeb is just kicking my ass.  It’s refusing to include things I’ve added, and is completely ignoring some of the galleries; everything works and looks fine in the application, but just will not publish correctly.  Grrr.  I did enough fudging to make it acceptable, and am leaving it for a bit.  When I’m ready to do the scanning, I’ll go back to it, and re-build the galleries if need be.  Now, back to domesticity, and trying to not think about beating fiber!

These frustrations are minor compared to what some friends are going through; particularly someone whose partner is being deployed to Afghanistan. I’m thinking about you all.

(Next day addendum: I solved some, but not all of the problems by re-publishing the entire web site late last night).

Who’s Who (and Why)

The beater and I are back in Chicago.  It was a very, very fine trip, if a bit physically exhausting.  Five consecutive days of driving was a bit much. On the last leg of the way home, across western Ohio and Indiana, I kept recalling a comment that was made about this being a solo trip, and how untrue that is. I was also marveling at the enormous kindness I encountered the entire way. The fact that I was so impressed made me realize that a larger journey is still in progress, that I am still slowly moving out from under the long shadow of the past few years of concentrated negativity and ill will.  Still. And so, I want to acknowledge these folks for giving me the gift of even more support than they knew:

First, thanks to Dave Reina for his utterly thorough (and zealous) restoration of the beater, his good company, and for treating a small-potatoes, DIY-type, strapped-for-cash artist client with just as much (maybe even more) friendliness and courtesy as the big-budgeted institutions he deals with regularly.  He cheerfully gave me an entire Sunday, and it was an easy, relaxed, highly enjoyable and informative day; I felt like I was hanging out and working along with someone I had known for years and years.

Dave ‘signing’ the beater – signature below.

Thanks to Shannon at Carriage House for coming in on her busy Sunday to get my small pick-up order ready, and to give me some  advice on some of the materials.

Thanks to Tana and Ann at Women’s Studio Workshop, who, when I said I’d like to stop by on my road trip, generously offered me WSW’s hospitality. I had a fine time and excellent conversation at dinner with them; the fact that I’d never been to the great local restaurant made me admit, “I think I was in shock when I was here last summer,” and to realize how much that was true, in hindsight. I had more fun talking to Kristen and Terez and current residents.  It was wonderful to have the comfortable, peaceful surroundings of WSW as a resting place, bookending the drives into and out of NYC – in addition to the pleasure of getting to visit one of my favorite places on the planet and seeing some intriguing work in progress.

WSW Paper Studio orchids

Thanks to the Smiths in Cleveland, for their fine hospitality, for offering me their spare room, and also for encouraging (and convincing) me to slow down and break the trip into a much easier pace. I am so very glad that I did, and that I got to spend time with them.

Thanks to Cindy for her easy patience with my constantly-fluctuating, unpredictable non-schedule, for rearranging hers so we could have time together, and for saying, “If I’m not home, the key is [here] – just go on in, take a nap, whatever you need.” I didn’t take her up on it, but those words had an impact; and they began to truly trigger the reverie that had begun lurking in my consciousness at WSW.

Frozen Lake Erie on a warm spring-like day.

Thanks to Tom and the fine folks at the Morgan Conservatory for their enthusiasm, friendliness and compliments and shared excitement over future ideas – and for insisting on packing me a road lunch!

And on the home front, thanks to Paul for so very, very many things, but in this context: for helping me get off to a good start, for dealing with the fridge-removal folks, for installing a dedicated electrical line for the beater with his friend Pat, who I also thank; and more thanks to Paul and his friend Kurt for their help in moving the guillotine, and tonight, just a few moments ago, carefully wrestling the bronze tub assembly down into the basement. It wasn’t easy.

I am a very, very lucky woman.

Good days; goodnight.

I’m blahg-ing in the paper studio at Women’s Studio Workshop and really should be getting over to the Atwood House to get to bed; Brooklyn and the beater tomorrow! Depending on how long that takes, I will either attempt to drive straight to Ohio, or come back to spend another night here.  The danger in that, of course, is that I will not want to leave.

I’ve been on the road for much of two days.  Got in the car at noon Friday, struggled with snarls of Chicago traffic to leave, then drove in lovely sunny weather past the vast flat white fields of Indiana and the Ohio Firelands, some gleaming unending snowy planes , others marked with the linear calligraphy of winter stalks.  Stopped in Cleveland for a couple of hours to visit with Smithfriends, then drove on into the night a few more hours to a midnight motel at the western end of I-86, near Lake Chautauqua.  Today I made my way across NY state. It was just beautiful, but skirting the lower Catskills on route 17 was…glorious.  There is no other word.  Sun, the bluest of cerulean skies and cool sharp cobalt shadows on the snow; dancing flashing bright highlights on the even deeper blue rivers and creeks. The mountains themselves looked like draped towering weavings, like sharp salt and pepper tweed, or something woven from multi-fibered shifu; tall narrow trunks the warp, their shadows the weft. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Then WSW, a long comical walk in slippery wet snow, like walking on loose sand, that stretched my legs back out nicely nonetheless; warm enough to wear just a sweater.  Dinner and fine conversation with Ann and Tana in High Falls, more talks and fun with Kristen and residents, and now: hit publish, get out the flashlight, walk up the road a bit, and sleep.


So…here’s the new, highly improved studio, frighteningly clean and organized, shot yesterday. Happily, I know it will never, ever be quite this pristine again. My goal was to get everything up off the floor (with the exception of the big tables) that isn’t plastic or on wheels and to get the things like my huge drying rack, that had been stored in buckets and bins on the floor, tucked out of the way and yet easily accessible. Oh, yes, and to clear off the workspaces. I have only one small area under the wood shelving left to deal with, and this area, once the fridge is gone:

The cabinet that’s up on the worktable will go on the wall where the fridge is now, and I will build a small counter next to the sink.  Here’s where the beater will live:

My fabric cutter now lives on the cabinet to the right, which is on wheels; yesterday I borrowed some really good safety goggles from Paul and attacked the overhead heating duct with a jigsaw, and installed the vent that’s sitting there in this photo, so dust won’t blow into the beater. Paul came up with a great idea for fiber storage that can be implemented when the snow melts, and will free up even more space. (Fiber’s currently in 3 big bins under the largest worktable).

I’m happy – I made as much space as I could and it’s vastly more efficient; enough to work with another artist, perhaps two if we’re making small sheets. (And it is actually clean, as in mopped even in the corners and everything…a real rarity, except for the parts that regularly get wet).

Friday through Monday went like this: work on the web site till I couldn’t stand to look at the computer anymore, then work on the studio till I got tired or spackle or paint had to dry, then back to the site.  Monday also brought show contracts (and hopefully resolvable fall show conflicts) and other admin that was added in; I’ve spent all day today working on those and polishing up a detailed, sourced and priced materials list for a big July class. Tomorrow: massive mailing of said contracts, pack and ship out some artwork, polish off a few more admin details, and begin prep for the road trip; and more work on the site.  I doubt it will get published until I get back, though; a day of scanning still must happen.  But the slides are all sorted and waiting next to me as I write. Thursday or Friday, hit that road!

Whoo!  So this is unemployment, eh?