Milestone

(S)Edition is finished!  I did the detail work on the 99th stem shortly before midnight last night.  (Cecile and JE, the power duo, came yesterday and knocked out six extra stems, which will be dry and finished tomorrow, but they’re extras, so I’m saying it’s finished). (S)Edition is finished!

It’s 34 months since I began production, and just about two weeks short of three years since I began the structural experiments at MACA, and the time period stretches even longer in terms of development and accompanying research.  Last night, while enjoying a commemorative dram of the good stuff, I counted back; of those three years, about seven months have been spent working intensely on (S)Edition, and another three working here and there whenever I could.  There was also the decision not to work on it last summer; I desperately needed to make new work at that time. If I ever decide to do something like this again, I now know I can very likely accomplish it in a year, working at a sane pace (if that is possible for me).

And it’s been one…freakin’…hell of a three-year period.  I thought of listing the most intense highs and lows, from the melting of our house to the arrival of the bronze beater, but you know: it was enough just to think of it for myself.  This is a lovely, lovely milestone; the rest is water over the dam.  Now I’m off to a day in the garden, packing and finishing those extra stems tomorrow, and then heading to Ohio to finally see what I dreamed of three years ago.  One final, somehow comfortable thought: Blahg essentially began as (S)Edition did; it’s been a constant companion piece.  Thanks for coming along with me!

Another wee milestone: about three years ago, I found a little peony plant growing among the weeds at the side of the garage, and transplanted it (peonies don’t like that). It’s just beginning to bloom for the first time. (It’s a deeper magenta than this photo shows).

Whew!

The (S)Edition books are completed! I finished the 99th (the last of the 27 remaining copies) at midnight on Thursday; yesterday morning, they went off to the Morgan, along with the rest of the show.  Tom Balbo drove in with his oversized van, we loaded up my portion of the show at home and at my warehouse / storage space, and then went up to Pam’s, where we re-arranged it all to fit in her works, large and small.  Today, tomorrow and Friday, the newly expanded Team is still making 10-12 more stems, while I finish them all off, and the entire final  load o’ stems will travel with me next week.

Tom got right back on the freeway (and made it back to the Morgan safely), and I stayed at Pam’s for a bit to finish a new contribution to Treewhispers, and Pam also generously gave me a brief taste of the energy work she does, something new in my experience.  It made a noticeable (but difficult to describe) difference.  I came home and took the most delicious long nap ever.  Today, I am very, very aware of how sore my body is, and that’s made me determined to get serious about addressing the damage it’s sustained over the past few years.

Every 21st century moment documented…

During the final push to get the books done, Chicago shot from unusually cool spring weather to July; a couple of days of 90F-plus temperatures and intense humidity; I had every fan we own either on the work or on me.  By this weekend we will be back in May again, in the mid-70s, and I am so looking forward to two mild days in the wildly overgrown gardens. Friend Shawn has just bought a lovely wee house; he’s coming by to help thin them, and the thinnings will also begin his gardens. I love how that worked out.

The first of a whole lot o’ red roses appeared today, as if to celebrate (S)Edition.

Then, off to the Morgan to install. A bit sadly, I’ve just learned that though the show opens on June 4, the reception was scheduled later in the month. I doubt that I’ll be able to go back for it.  Regardless, finally seeing all 99 copies of (S)Edition together will be a monumental personal experience for me; a watershed. From that point onward, I will now always be making new work.  Hooray!

Push

I lost two and a half days to nonstop, painstaking, unavoidable admin last week, and two nights of sleep as well.  The Team came Friday and knocked out an unprecedented ten stems while I kept them supplied with fresh sheets, re-stuffed molds, more supports. They just rocked. Today begins the final everything:  beating a final short load of fiber for the remaining stems, beginning the ‘binding’ of the final nine books, and then the final finishing of the stems. Perhaps, also, the final round of jokes about their shapes, though I tend to doubt that. I’ll be driving to Ohio, so I can haul whatever isn’t done when the truck gets here; there were no cheap-enough airfares to be found. It will be very, very good to be earning money soon.

Perhaps foolishly, I took on another exhibition, an installation.  It will occur during what was my only remaining quiet month of 2010, October.  But: it was so unique and so intriguing that I could not refuse.  Didn’t even think of it.  Really want to do it.  And the timing was sort of perfect…for anything but being quiet.  And that’s how I get this way. I really, really hope I can get to the garden before I take off for the summer’s teaching…

Process

Lack o’ blahg may continue for bit, and photos will have to do for most of today’s.  I am deep into the final, final stages of (S)Editioning and enjoying it immensely; 9 books done, 18 to go. Thankfully, the admin has slowed to a manageable daily trickle (knock on wood! I know it’s temporary, but I am in willful denial*).

Best of all: JE Baker and Cecile Webster, who both volunteered to be my assistants, are absolutely fantastic! They both came over last week, I showed them how I have been casting the “stems” and now they are ON it, while I finish the hand-shaping and ‘binding’ of the books themselves.  This is so great!

People have periodically offered to assist me before, but because my processes are so odd and my working and private time was so limited for so long, I was never quite able or willing to figure out how to have that happen. But this is working beautifully, and has me thinking a lot about the future.  Thanks, ladies!

Now, off to start the next nine books (making nine at a time gives me a perfect rotation of drying times). The truck shows up sometime next week, to haul the bulk of the work off  to the Morgan.

*As soon as I wrote that, an e-mail popped in with more . Which must be done tomorrow, o’ course.

A grateful, cheerful Crow

My summer schedule is still hopping around like so many drops of water on a hot greased skillet. One late summer show has been pushed back and has turned into an early fall one; but the work will still need to be shipped at the same time as previously planned because of my schedule.  It may become necessary to drive straight home from my PBI class in Maine and then fly back to Cleveland for my Morgan class four days later. But some things are solidified and written in stone: two classes at WSW, two weeks at PBI, class at the Morgan, a Ragdale residency, and now, these:

Listening: Melissa Jay Craig and Pamela Paulsrud (with  ‘Premiering Print Portfolio’, a group exhibition of printmakers) June 4 – July 30 at The Morgan Conservatory, Cleveland, Ohio

Interior Markings, July 1 – August 8, Abecedarian Gallery, Denver, Colorado

The Book As Sculpture: Thomas Allen, Melissa Jay Craig, Brian Dettmer, Daniel Essig, Andrew Hayes, Shawn Sheehy,  Mike Stilkey and Francesca Vitali,  August 13 – September 25, Guenzel Gallery, Peninsula School of Art, Door County, Wisconsin

I’m so happy about the show at the Morgan! First, just to be showing there with Pamela Paulsrud, but also because it will be the first (and probably the only) time all 99 copies of (S)Edition are exhibited together. (This probably doesn’t mean much to anyone but me; but I’ve stubbornly held off selling any of them until I could see them all together.)  The galleries at the Morgan are huge, and I will have several other works in the show as well; Pamela will be showing her cymatics series and some amazing other works.

I’m excited about the Guenzel show too; I’ll be traveling up to Wisconsin to do an installation for it, and I am also (again) in excellent company.  Plus, I’ve got to love that curatorial view, (and after more than 20 years in Chicago, I’ve never yet been to Door County). And, Marking Time will be at the Cincinnati Public Library this summer, and traveling on to Pennsylvania and New Hampshire yet as well. And, so far, four more great shows coming up later in the year, including a solo exhibition.  I’m lucky  (and I’d better get back to work)!

PS: while I’ve been tied to the computer, scheduling things like mad, I finally put a new version of the lost Respite show page back up.  That show deserved to live on.

PSS: AND an in-person reunion this summer with Aimee Lee  at the Morgan in Cleveland – she’s getting almost there with her fundraising but still needs your help. You can do that for as little as $11 and you’ll get some of your own Hanji to boot.  Or, take her class at the Morgan! Better yet: do both. (You can bet I’d be in that class if it weren’t for installing the Wisconsin show. Oh: take my class, too!)

A (pleasant) academic interlude.

Paul and I jumped into a family van, complete with family, for a whirlwind overnight round trip (thirteen hours of it in said van). We were the super-proud aunt-and-uncle team at our niece J’s graduation from a large midwestern university (a Big Ten school, whatever that means. Something to do with sports, I think). It was surrounded by vast farmland, the kind of place where the school is much, much larger than the town it’s in.   J received her Bachelor’s degree, was part of the Honors College, and is heading straight to a prestigious PhD program, with funding and job attached.  I’m not going to talk about her or the family here, to guard their privacy, except: did I say we’re proud?

Waiting for it to begin, while the orchestra played. That big while object behind the orchestra is a huge mound of rolled replica diplomas, each about 1″ in diameter.

I can say that I’ve never before been a graduation guest, nor have I been to anything other than arts school versions of the ceremonies; I’ve only either been receiving a degree myself or, much more often, required to be a gowned faculty body* so I found it all interesting. First, we all attended the BioChem Breakfast, which title I (alone) found amusing, and I really liked some of the hallway notices.  The university is so huge that they held back-to-back graduation ceremonies for different areas and degrees for three solid days; we attended the undergrad Natural Sciences segment, which filled a huge indoor sports arena. It was much more formal, straightforward and well-behaved than what I was used to, and everyone knew things like the alma mater songs and fight songs and chants and belted them out in unison.  When they asked the families to stand at the end, the thousand or so students – now alumni – did a ‘wave’. On campus, there were lots of places like research greenhouses I was really curious to see inside but couldn’t, and I was told of lovely botanic gardens, but it was raining off and on. But it was a warm, happy, fun and interesting time, besides the fact that we were so proud (did I mention that?).

*I don’t own my own regalia, and neither do a lot of the faculty in the places I’ve taught, so forms were filled out so that the correct outfits could be rented for the majority of us, and just before the ceremony we were dressed in wrinkled straight-out-of-the-plastic-package gear. Often, my hood-and-gown order went astray, so I was given whatever was left over. I have attended ceremonies impersonating Doctors of  Philosophy, Engineering and Music.  PhD’s have the best hats by far, as well as nice little velvet stripes on their gowns. Apparently, they also tend to skip out on ceremonies. But was I also once a Master of Journalism, which, if you read the blog, you know is truly stretching the truth.

I finished making all the remaining text sheets I needed the night before we left; when I got home, they were dried and shrunken beautifully. Now I am back to a whole lot of studio work and (yes) more admin, and I am down to waiting for just two more e-mails before I can finally publish the upcoming show schedule, hooray!

a quick blahg break…

I remember writing last summer about how great it would be to stay home and enjoy my gardens during a growing season.  Even though I austerely have only one residency this year, that ain’t gonna happen. The growing season sure is, though.

I now have two assistants who are ready to begin next week, and others waiting in the wings. (Just now, I can’t thank anyone by name, but I most emphatically do thank them!)  Then yesterday, I heard from Women’s Studio Workshop. The waiting list for this class was full, so we added a second, earlier duplicate; it will run from June 28 – July 2nd.  Best of all: the same thing happened with Abby Uhteg’s class (scroll down to #3), so she’ll have a second class at the same time. An extra week at WSW plus a reunion: excellent!  (Tip: if you’d like to join us, sign up fast!) I’m also teaching a shorter version of the class at the Morgan Conservatory, July 31- August 1st. (Not online yet, but you can register.)

It does means a week less on a lot of production and prep that needs to be finished before I hit the summer road, and that time will also be interrupted for a quick trip to install a fast-upcoming show that my co-exhibitor and I hammered out together over the weekend.  Between June 25 and September 25, I will only be home for a total of 15 days; the longest single stretch will be 6 days.  Whew!  I added a group show to the mix (two pieces, do-able) and then today, a curator contacted me and… I added on another. But this one is winter – through-spring, sounds great, and is in a state I’ve not exhibited in.  I’m not sure what’s causing this sudden deluge of good things, but I’m feeling mightily grateful.

Actually, I do know partially what is happening; I’ve finally segued into being a full-time artist again after having the bulk of my time absorbed by academe in one form or another for twenty years.  It’s a very different world out here now; cyberspace has changed everything.  In spite of a significant increase in admin (somehow, while I was immersed in institutions, dealing with piles of it daily, I didn’t realize how much the art portion had grown), I absolutely think it’s for the better. (Apropos of that observation, I finally managed to re-vamp my artist’s statement while curators waited, and got it onto the site. Though I still much prefer this).