Great DisContent, Great Read

Man, God and Magic – Brian Dettmer

Google Alerts just brought in a fantastic interview with Brian Dettmer.  I thank him hugely for the shout-out, but more importantly, I also agree wholeheartedly with just about everything he says here about books, being an artist and finding your own way. It’s an excellent read, heartening for young artists especially. Enjoy (and internalize)! (Here’s to being ‘stubborn and delusional’.)

Homes & Gardens

As I get older, it takes me a bit longer to recuperate from teaching trips but I still want (very much) to do them. I already have some excellent 2013 classes booked!

These two shots are Before The Weeding that just took place…

After a few days’ readjustment (which, for me, means No Schedule and No Alarm Clock) I’ve been working on the Task List slowly but surely: unpacked until fall residencies, almost done with one written interview, and have gotten two new entries published on MakerCentric, one about WSW (and its exciting news) and another about new stuff at the Morgan.

I love every ever-changing aspect of these Nigella plants, which originally came to me from Jeff Chiplis’ Cleveland garden years ago; they thrive here.

I’ve worked a bit more creating space in the clogged-with-eventual-yard-sale-stuff house, and on getting the studios set back up.

Cleveland-in-Chicago kozo! Just for reference, the peak of the curved fence behind it to the right is 8 feet. When I put it in the ground last year it was 6″ high.

I’ve also spent a day, pleasantly, working in the gardens (where I discovered I need to move some volunteer plants even though it’s not exactly the optimum season, which commits me for another day or two). I’m trying to be smart now, by scheduling two days in the fall for cleanup and seeding for spring, and scheduling a week in the spring for (hopefully) the last of the major plant moves, switching out several species from shade to sun and vice versa. And, most importantly: after a lot of discussion with the folks at the Morgan, I’ve written in my first fall kozo harvest! Already! Exciting!

Tom’s personal Cleveland garden-in-progress (phone shot).

I missed a lot of my favourite blooms while I was on the road: the purple coneflower, many of the lilies, including my favourite red ones, primroses, the dark purple liatrus bottle-brushes. It’s just a Chicago city lot, but the gardens give me such peace; they ARE home.  Visiting everyone else’s gardens on my travels is another stabilizing feature, and I realized in Tom’s lovely urban garden space that, though I am in Chicago, my gardens are rooted in Cleveland.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cleveland style, Chicago architectural bits: home.

Fabulously Industrious

Visual musical notation: some of the first day’s works hung to dry…

I’m back in Chicago now, doing a great deal of thinking about how absolutely fortunate I’ve been with my classes all summer.  It’s been SO rich!  The two-day workshop at the Morgan, which I had thought might be something of an anticlimax because of its short time span, was definitely no exception.  I had a fantastic time, and was amazed at what -and how much! – everyone accomplished in those two short days.

The dye table was a popular second-day spot.

There are beaucoup images of the workshop, all over the internet.  The Morgan’s are here, participant Erin’s are here, and participant Elizabeth has posted 7 pages of images here! This is a good thing, because, although I’m embellishing this post with some of my own shots, I was a bit busy and didn’t have time to take many.

Mike, Julie, and Tom’s (eventual) topper.

My old friend Joanne came by on Friday to help with prep on one of those kinds of days when the universe decided to mess around, which included having me setting off a truly obnoxious security alarm.  I really, really, really enjoyed the company of my 4th floor flatmates, Julie (who honored me by taking the class) and her husband Mike. Intern Abbey was a great help, as (as always!) was absolutley everyone at the Morgan: great help, great fun, and easygoing while being hardworking, industrious, and tremendously hospitable – Cleveland to the core!  The lovely Susan Kelly even packed me a little (biodegradable) sack of snacks and bottled water for the road, and Tom Balbo was, well: Tom…he is the heart of the Morgan, and the Morgan is unique.  All of you coming for the conference in October: you are in for a multitude of treats. See you then!

Abbey and The Colors…

I get to go back in just about two weeks for my summer treat: Aimee’s class. I am so happy about that.

Industrious Pulp Application meets Industrial Landscape

In the meantime there is unpacking, a show to see, artwork to finish (hooray), deferred taxes, two interviews (one to be completed, another begun), web site and MakerCentric updates, yard sale organizing and last but definitely not least, some serious reflecting about teaching to be done, along with not-too-bad gartden weeding (those last two are likely to happen at the same time). Right now, it’s predicted to reach 101 degrees out there today, and whatever I am allergic to in the Chicago high summer is out in full force, so itchy eyes, sneezing and benadryl hazes put it all on the back burner till I readjust. But rest assured, I am also basking in an extended glow.  Thank you, Arrowmont, Women’s Studio Workshop, and the Morgan!

Thus ends my 2012 summer teaching tour…

Home, Town, Cleveland

Peace everywhere, especially here.

The weather has cooled considerably but the pace heats up as of today; tons of prep to finish.  I’m spending quiet last moments at Smith Central as the dryer works on my laundry, then I move to Tom’s to the Fainting Couch (which I have yet to see), a ton of prep and studio set-up, an opening, and a full class in the morning.

5lbs kozo, 5 abaca…

This baby is almost ready to go: 20 lbs!

Cleveland treasure: the view from Cindy’s porch.

For the transit of Venus.

It’s been so, so good to have this sweet, not-rushed hometown interlude, and time to get some of the prep out of the way, and to visit with new folks, people I’ve known for 30 years and more, and a town I’ve known for more years than I care to name.  Many many thanks to Smith & Lady, Cindy, Jeff and DCB, and to all the Morganites. And here we go.

Cleveland treasure.

This floor in the beautiful new bindery space is done; here it was yesterday morning.

Kozo cooking (and later rinsed) in the fresh rainwater.

These are for all of us.

And now…

Moisture is essential

Things grow when it’s wet; my hair included, it grows tighter, into wild ringlets, and it’s pointless to attempt to control it in any way.


I am in Cleveland, at the Church Of Not Quite So Much Pain & Suffering, the Irreverend Smith and His Beloved Lady Presiding (as well a feline high priestess), and I have one curly head. The Church is a most excellent place to be on a steamily humid Cleveland summer day (or any season).  Being here helps to negate a blog that I wrote in my brain during the long drive, or rather, makes me want to put it on a back burner to simmer into a more tender, subtler concoction.

After the last deluge, near Salamanca NY.  Relieved, I stopped to rest by visiting the National Seneca / Iroquois Museum: informative and excellent.

It wasn’t a very pleasant drive; long copious downpours had me hydroplaning across a way too large portion of southern New York state, which made me even more grateful for old friends.  I could actually hear departed friend Mr. Ed, who long before I met him had left a lucrative, company-jet style corporate job for the freedom of the road as an independent hauler, detailing his driving strategies as he did for me on one long drive during a deluge years ago. I followed his advice and arrived safely to these two folks who, like Ed did and his wife Mary still does, accept me always just as I am, as I do them.  And here we are now, close in three separate worlds, surrounded by fans moving the damp air into cool eddies all around us, clicking on our keyboards and slowly beginning a day with easy flow (and perhaps more than one blog).

(Contented sigh).

The Morgan Kozoland is now too vast to capture in one snapshot (though I will try).

A little later, I’ll be off to the Morgan, to begin some work in wet pulp in wet air.  I stopped by yesterday while it was closed just to drop off my things and check out the kozo plantation.  It can no longer just be called a garden, it is thriving in Cleveland’s fluctuations; so many things and people do.

Much ado, and Adieu.

Another excellent but very different class is finished; I’ve had today to sleep in a bit, regroup, do laundry, say most goodbyes and write this blog in little quiet chunks.

I’ve been so happy to be back at WSW.  But last night, I was left wondering about a phenomenon that’s occurred both times I’ve taught dual classes here. The first class (which is technically the second, because it is created from the waiting list for the one that fills up first) truly bonds as a group: someone creates an e-mail list before the class is half over; people go to eat or shop together, and at the end, everyone eagerly wants a session to look over and document all the work that’s happened, including the taking of multi-camera group photos of the people it’s happened with: new friends.

The second group simply doesn’t. It’s not as if there’s antagonism or unfriendliness; there’s  banter, work and laughter, but everyone remains separate somehow, with much less interest in what others are inventing with the same resources, or rather, the interest is there but is not unanimous; inevitably, several people are sadly disappointed that others just want to pack up and go. (And it’s not as if the earlier group is any less focused on their individual work, either).

It seems odd to have had the pattern repeat twice. I teach the same in both sessions, (which is pretty much the same as I always do).  There are two differences in circumstances. First, the earlier group is the only one here that week; the Summer Arts Institute hasn’t begun in earnest, so they are the sole class at lunches with staff and interns; so perhaps they spend more time talking to each other, and the next group to folks in other classes. Secondly, there was a much wider age range in the earlier groups.  In the second groups everyone was hovering somewhere in the vicinity of middle age.  That makes me wonder: is there an age at which, culturally, we just stop expecting that we will make new friends?

During the week I invited a couple of folks from other classes out to dinner; they accepted, and then at the last moment, backed out. Because of the difference in my classes I briefly wondered if there might be a similar contributing factor, as in, ‘I have enough friends in the field.’ Then I simply concentrated on having a nice (solo) evening out.

Personally, I still love meeting new people (and getting to know briefly-met people better), even though I need to do that in different, smaller ways than before my deafness. My reluctance to join large gatherings and my inability to effectively participate in group conversations are often read as indifference or hostility, and I must constantly work hard to overcome that perception, something that’s difficult to do with exhausted-from-teaching ears, so perhaps that was a factor as well.

Yet, I have to admit that during the past two weeks, I turned down multiple invitations from WSW folks to go on daily group swimming trips, and, well:  I wasn’t honest about why.  I need to swim deaf; hearing aids can’t get wet.  Water gets in my eyes and then I can’t see either, so I crash into people and things, and I hate that. I only feel confident swimming alone, in a roped-off pool lane, wearing goggles. I don’t know why I didn’t admit this, why it’s easier to write about than to say, but it is.  So most likely, all these musings are moot, and there are things other folks don’t quite know how to say as well, that make for less cohesive groups.

I truly enjoyed both classes, and each of the individuals in them, both years, but I have to admit that, as groups, I liked the earlier classes just a wee bit more, simply because they appreciated each other so thoroughly. That enthusiasm is simply contagious.

Tonight, I had a nice dinner and great conversation with incoming instructors who did accept an invitation: Dorothy and Catherine. I only heard oh, about a third of the talk over the noise in the cafe, but what I heard was lovely and rich.

I’d like to stay at Women’s Studio Workshop for weeks more, and I’m sad to leave.  I inevitably come away with much more and very different insights than I anticipated. Maybe it’s time to apply for another residency. But for now: I’m back on the road.

Today’s images are only three of the works by Merike Van Zanten, an artist I first met at PBI in 2010.  It was great to see her again in the second class, and especially to see the many, many fascinating things she came up with: experiments, finished works, and prototypes for new work as well…it will be very interesting to see what happens when these materials are incorporated with her already formidable palette.


What A Week It Was!

 This just has to begin it: Lisa’s abaca-dipped bra.

And another piece by Lisa Cirando, who made a lot of great things, including all of our kozo shades in the previous post, and a glorious abaca-dipped book I loved.

Last week was jam-packed, and it didn’t stop this weekend, beginning with a Saturday morning flood in my bathroom, most likely caused by two of us having long showers while a third person did laundry, and going on to the excellent time I will end this post with a tiny glimpse of.

Barbara Landes’ fantastic use of the pattern on an old rusty heating grate, found in a gutted house next door that now belongs to WSW (for which there are exciting plans!) and below, an exploration of ongoing themes in dyed kozo and abaca, perhaps contributing to her upcoming thesis work (sorry for the bit of blurriness):

Today, Sunday, was up and out for  studio prep and fiber-beating and e-mail answering and the rather dismal local laundromat (in all but its name: Tiny Bubbles). And then, meeting almost all the next class at dinner – it all begins again tomorrow!

Ceci Cole McInturf’s cast back, done in very thin flax, and her big, lovely loose amate exploration – done with our kozo and some of the elusive bleached kozo that Carriage House sold out of before I got to Brooklyn to buy some a couple of years ago – Ceci gave me some to mess with!  (Thanks!)

This post contains two images of everyone’s work from the week, with big apologies to Laurie – I tossed out my class list in a cleaning-up frenzy and lost her last name! (Please e-mail me, Ms. Kosogompi, and I will correct this!) The images are  no indication of the volume and variety of the experiments, and I was really disappointed that a few photos I really wanted came out blurry, but this is a taste, anyways.

I loved Jackie May Hiller’s short-handled rake, one of seemingly hundreds of strong pieces she made; below is a hanging piece incorporating just about everything.

The week also seemed to begin Interview Season, which is fantastic; they’re for an oddly, pleasingly diverse medley of publications and purposes, and all surprised me hugely.  I did one in the evenings, another in person, and a third will happen in the evenings this week, while the in-person one will continue by e-mail. I’m feeling incredibly dang lucky, in spite of regurgitating showers, nut attacks, and washing machines that tear holes in favorite shirts. Those all have their part in whatever this story is, at any rate.

Above is a bad photo of one of Laurie’s curiously appealing winged figures; the other is a marionette.  This one had squishy rubber hands and feet, and intricate guts made from an incredible $4 haul at the local salvage store; below, her early experiments:

This was a most excellent group of folks to spend a week being pulpy with.  Or longer! I will hook up with Lisa again in August: we are both taking Aimee Lee‘s class at the Morgan! And, best of all: this won’t end here.  The work done in these quick classes is just the beginning, and these folks truly understood that.

Here are some intricate abaca insects by Stephanie Garmey, who teaches at MICA. I’m  eager to see how this all intersects with her current body of precisely cut 3D paper  objects and installations.  Below: big beautiful abaca water lily prototypes (and she left with three re-usable armatures and pulp,  ready to make many more).

I spent a delightful afternoon chez Richard Minsky on Saturday, complete with a big, delicious lunch and even tastier company and conversation. My thanks to Barbara, Richard and George; I so enjoyed time with you all.

My GPS said the address didn’t exist, so I had a bit of an odd time following Richard’s excellent directions on my phone while driving.  Then, I pulled into a curved drive; the house, which I had a photo of, was blocked from view but I saw these:

…and knew I was in the right place.  And I truly was. What a perfect way to end a wonderful week!

Nuts! (Good and not so)

Seriously nuts for 3D!  L to R, front: Stephanie, Jackie; back: Joyce, me, Lisa, Barbara, Ceci, Laurie; tres chic cast kozo  eyewear made for us all by Lisa.

Whooo, what a week!  A 99% fantastic one, jam-packed and intense and vibrant.  My first WSW class ended tonight and it was fabuuuulous, seriously so.  I’ll post some of the work as soon as I can, but I was disappointed to see a lot of blurry images in my collection when I downloaded them tonight. This was another stellar class: six motivated, engaged, innovative and freely-experimenting women who all got along wonderfully well with each other and with me.  I am feeling mighty lucky this summer; the folks who are coming out to classes are superb!

The tiny insect in the balm of the week was an odd experience I haven’t had in years and years, and hope not to have again. At lunch yesterday, I took a small spoonful of a tasty rice-based salad, ate a couple of bites and then saw: A Peanut. And then Another.  I have That Allergy, something that came on suddenly and violently many years ago with full-blown anaphylactic shock, causing me to grocery shop at a snail’s pace from then on, reading each and every label, and to be annoying at restaurants and parties, but successfully avoiding any hazardous encounters till yesterday. I saw The Peanut and thought, ‘O NO!’ and then, ‘Well, maybe the allergy ‘s gone after all this time, and anyways I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually eat one…’  But no; I now know the allergy is still there, and mere proximity of peanuts to something consumed will produce a milder but un-ignorable reaction.  I had to leave the class to fend for itself (which they did admirably) while I knocked back some full-strength Benadryl which knocked me flat on my back for the entire afternoon into early evening. I escaped with a couple hits on my inhaler, room-spinning dizziness, itchy swollen eyes, a bout of hives, and hours of antihistamine coma…followed by a full recovery but a seriously disrupted sleep schedule, which is why I’m telling you this.

That’s why I’m going to bed instead of posting photos and raving about my class and WSW (everyone here was wonderful, helpful, understanding and concerned) the way they all so richly deserve. Maybe tomorrow, OK? Goodnight!

All this, and Lunch

Written June 30: I am at Women’s Studio Workshop (ahhh!), writing this to publish tomorrow while I wait to become sleepy, not just tired. I am staying in the Atwood House apartment, which is a great, comfortable space; its sole drawback is fluctuating wireless, currently at zero.

I will need one.

It was a not-unpleasant drive, split into two segments with a good solid night of luxurious relaxing and conversation at the House of Smith, between. We did have some nonsense, laughs, and tales, and good food, and we caught up on the things we don’t blog or send out on social media. We discussed the act of not publishing, too.

That was very, very good for me; long hours driving are also long quiet hours for thinking. Talking with friends, particularly those you have known forever, brings added, trusted perspectives to mull over.

Here are two of the many things I thought about for miles and miles today:

  1. On and off, for the past few weeks, I’ve been writing and re-re-editing a post that I haven’t published.  It has to do with once being told that I would ‘never eat lunch in this town again’ (though the actual words were: ‘I will destroy you’).  The post was sparked by spuriously twisted written ‘information’, showing me that that particular destructive effort is still ongoing. Yes, it disturbed me. Though I did eventually write a piece that was sufficiently vague yet still pointed, talking with both Smithfriends confirmed that the uneasy gut reaction that kept me from posting it was wise. Even before I reached the Catskills, I decided that addressing the issue at all would simply draw that sick, malicious energy back into my life. No. Enough.
  2. In Cleveland, I learned that my Morgan class is full, with a waiting list.  That makes it unanimous: I’m playing to SRO audiences in every class this summer! (Pats self on back). The number of grads from degree programs around the country is much higher than ever before, which pleases me to no end, because it continues a vital quality of exchange that I’ve been missing; and the dialogue is even richer than it was before, because the classes are also filled with teachers at all levels, and established artists as well, with fascinating, varied contributing perspectives. Excellent. And much, much better to think about.

As if to validate my decision, as soon as I arrived and hooked up to some live wireless, a link to this piece was in the mail.  Though I still think it makes me sound much cooler than I actually am, I cannot help but be delighted that the publication’s title is Quiet Lunch, and this is a tasty slice of it, the cherry on top of a Good Decision. (Thank you, QL!).

June 1st: And now: quiet time in the lovely cool studio, beating fiber and liesurely setting up for what I know will be a grand session (or rather the first of two grand sessions). And thinking about how sweet it is when the trip is a return one. Cleveland, WSW, the Morgan: all different types of homes for me. And thinking about making new homes, as well. And also, appropriately, eating lunch. Right now.

A few stories begun at Arrowmont. To be continued here…