Leap day.

Happy February 29th!  I’m making some (quiet) leaps, and I hope you are too.

(There’s no reason for this photo except that it is decidedly a February image.)

As you can see in the side panel, a 2012 class at the Morgan Conservatory is now also open for registration…and many other exciting classes as well. Wish I had time to take some myself, at every place I’m teaching.


Google alerts brought this in a couple days ago, by someone I don’t know. I thought, “aww, that’s sweet (thank you)”  – and then I laughed out loud. The author inadvertently and succinctly exposes the heart of certain matters and attitudes I’ve struggled mightily to understand. Yes, sweet.


Gearing up for a Massive Restructuring: online, in the physical realm and probably (inevitably) in other ways.  The online portion involves shiny new tools to keep me interested in this box, and the real live studio is ready and loaded for sanity breaks. This will all be lengthy.  As it begins, I’m not feeling much of a relationship to words, so I make no promises for the blog during the next couple of months, except: there will be images. I keep thinking of this one as the February 2012 self-portrait (and tonight, they say the snow rolls back into Chicago. I’m ready).

Before and Again.

I’m working on / dealing with a variety of things, and don’t have much to say, so today’s Blahg features visual and verbal recaps.  The visuals show the general layout of the Sensing Language show at St. Ambrose University, shot by Jay Strickland; the accompanying class photos are by Heather Lovewell, Catich Gallery curator extraordinaire. The verbal portion is my answer to one question from a recent interview by Barbara Landes, who is currently doing graduate work at the University of Iowa Center for the Book ; her (excellent) questions are part of a research project. (I’ve answered this question for articles before, but briefly; Barbara kindly gave me permission to publish my expanded, unedited responses). Thanks to all today’s contributors!

Your work changed dramatically when you moved from manipulating books to using handmade paper to create your work. Why do you think this happened?

“I can tell you how it happened: first, my work was already changing before its medium changed, moving away from overt social or political themes and pointed commentary. It was becoming quieter, more contemplative, and I was beginning to compare and contrast human conditions with seasonal cycles in nature. (Why that happened, I’m not completely sure.  Perhaps it was maturity or simply an urge to go deeper, or a burgeoning dissatisfaction with sociopolitical critique).

With that change already beginning, I became interested in working with paper at just about the same time I learned that I would eventually become deaf.  Kozo, the fiber I experimented with first, was simply so eloquent on its own that adding words seemed to cheapen it, to detract from it and lessen its impact.  As I began to experiment with other fibers and to discover the unique properties in each, I made a conscious decision to stay away from conventional language: if I was going to be deaf, and not have access to spoken words, I wasn’t going to use conventional language in my work, either; I wanted my work to reflect my experience.

Usually when I say that, someone will respond: “But…you could still read, couldn’t you?”  Yes, but that’s not the point; our extensive use of non-conventional communication is.  At the same time I learned I was becoming deaf, I also learned that my body or brain had taught me to expertly read lips, without any conscious knowledge on my part. I had simply believed that I was hearing. When the audiologist told me I had been reading lips for years, I still didn’t quite accept it. How could I be doing something so complex without being aware of it?  Then she held a card in front of her face and spoke…and I couldn’t understand a single thing she said. The phenomenon, this completely pivotal, enormous but unconscious adjustment, just astounded me.  Then, not too long afterward, I won the all-college Excellence in Teaching award for full-time faculty where I taught, and was invited to a two-year fellowship addressing the scholarship of teaching and learning, aligned with the Carnegie Foundation.  During the fellowship sessions, we investigated Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (here’s a good brief summary), which thoroughly echoed my own experiences and solidified my desire to make work that focused on and utilized our sensory intelligences; i.e., the alternative ways we ‘read’.

So, while the appearance and materiality of the work changed, and the utilization of conventional language changed, I am still ultimately investigating (and toying with) the act of reading.”

(Speaking of teaching, this appeared in my Google alerts this morning, from a class at the University of Baltimore. I applaud the use of a class blog. I tried something similar twice using an allegedly interactive early learning system; but my efforts apparently were too early in the online age).

Work and Wealth

The pictures show how it’s going around here; I’m very happy.

I found a stash of old winter milkweed and stripped it, leaving the grey bark and black spots to be included in the paper. It’s cooked and ready to be hand beaten as needed.

The afternoon sun (sun!) makes the bronze beauty glow.

There are buckets of hemp waiting,  processed two ways; half came out of the beater at 90 minutes for its marvelous mottling, and the rest stayed in to be overbeaten: dark but translucent, high-shrinkage, tough.

While I’m doing all this, I’m working: a (currently) e-mail based, paying project that’s also great fun with a fun, great partner, and still working to take care of us here at home.  Not that all this papery stuff isn’t work; it is, in fact, my work, but it’s also a source of quiet joy, simultaneous contentment and excitement.  So is a visit to my art supplier, above…

…especially when that comes with lunch with a good, dear friend to talk over big, big news, coupled with a long visit to another dear nurturer, and the surprise of seeing an unexpected young friend in an old familiar place…and is topped off by this gorgeous, uncharacteristic February weather.  Life feels so fine and full right now (and it’s all brought on, one way or another, by my work).

And after today’s harvest is stripped and cooked tomorrow, five (really six) fresh pulps will be ready to go, to be mixed, matched, experimented with, shaped. I also filled a big pocket in my bag with unexploded seed pods to play with at a later time, an unexpected find so late in the season.

The University of Dallas has published photos of the Paper in Space exhibition: it looks like a lovely, rich show…I’d love to see it in person but I’m happy here and now, which makes me a very wealthy woman.


Ahhh. The anticipated quiet February is here, and Chicago has been weirdly warm and snow-free (knock on wood). I’ve been busily at work on a postponed-by-surgery project with that project’s fun and lovely partner, somewhat frustrated by budget limitations but still quite excited about how wonderfully things are shaping up within the necessary parameters. I also have my at-home duties doubled for the next few weeks, being the sole fortunate person who is able to do anything physical (shopping, cleaning, cooking, driving, laundry, etc.) during the healing period, which has made me appreciate exactly how much considerable weight we each pull here (not to mention being doubly grateful for the lack of snow and the need to shovel it). They’re all time-consuming, dull but necessary tasks. It is also definitely necessary to begin to address my broken, in-limbo web site this month, but first there is a much greater need, my personal cure for damn near everything: the studio.

So: As of this morning it’s completely unpacked, all vestiges of past projects are cleaned away, the beater is freshly greased and the work surfaces are totally cleared and ready to go. Hemp, flax and kozo are soaking for cooking in lovely 40 degree weather outdoors tomorrow, and I say: hello, February; hello, hello at last, time for new projects and experiments. Few things are more necessary to me. Ahhh.

(I heart my studio when it’s clean; even better when it looks like it will in 3 days).

Like Aimee, whom I’m quite delighted to be showing with, I forgot to post that this exhibition opened yesterday in Texas (though it has been listed over there in the blahg sidebar). I too hope everyone had a grand time last night!