Outrunning hurricanes

Unbelievably, I am in Vermont.  I pulled up outside just in time for dinner after 12+ hours on the road yesterday, something I should not do and will not again; my feet and legs were still vibrating unpleasantly when I went to bed hours later.

Hurricanes and Halloween.

Wednesday, I wrote the last blog and caught up with all sorts of paperwork (electronically), and notified Vermont Studio Center that I would probably not be arriving till Monday, though the session began Sunday.  On Thursday, I was finally well enough to make it out of the house, still slightly bleary; I ran delayed errands, delivered a lot of artwork and picked up a couple of lovely items I bought for the studio, thanks to Evanston Print & Paper‘s generosity. Friday, Paul and I addressed the house (which I am sorry to say was absolutely disgusting; when I return, we’re having a guest for a late, weeklong delayed Thanksgiving celebration; now it can be kept decent for that) and I re-packed, switching out things from Ragdale for what I plan to do here.  That evening, I had a lovely visit from and impromptu dinner out with Gail Stiffe, who was visiting Chicago post-conference. We both discovered that we would be back at the Morgan the very next day! I offered a ride, but she had already booked a bus ticket.  I got only a few hours’ sleep so I could leave early in the morning, but was delayed; didn’t leave till 8 am, braced myself for horrendous traffic…and there was…none!  No traffic at all and I made my fastest time out of town ever: 38 minutes. (It was Saturday, and I didn’t even realize it; that’s what being knocked out for several days will do for you).

Behind the studio.

I got to the Morgan and put 2lbs of flax (I had none at home) to beat in the red monster beater; the Morgan folks had kindly soaked it for me overnight.  I had a great time talking to Susan and Tom and heard more about the conference and made some future plans; it was lovely to be there as it always is, for any reason. I beat Gail by an hour.  I drained the flax down to fit in one bucket (tossing out most of the hemicellulose, but I am casting with it, not making sheets).  On the way to Ohio, I kept getting text and social media messages, saying I was heading towards Hurricane Sandy, so Susan checked out the predictions for me. It seemed prudent to do the entire drive Sunday, instead of stopping overnight as I’d planned. I drove to Cindy’s and we only had a few minutes’  visit; she went out and I was in bed by 8 pm (which wasn’t hard to do; I was mightily fried by then and not capable of anything else); up and out early and a long, nasty drive, with Sandy pushing lots of rain and wind in front of her: rain from Ashtabula, Ohio to Syracuse, NY; advance high wind all through Vermont, rocking the car.  I was so tired (again) I didn’t even unload the studio last night; did that and set it up today (and snagged the last half-bag of casting plaster, woohoo!).  Now, this evening, we’ve got our predicted Sandy-related winds; spectacular gusts out there, and we’ve been told what to do in case of a power outage.  I’m wishing safety to everyone in Sandy’s path!

Hello, Sandy…

(Just as a side note, because of my damaged ears, I can be extremely sensitive to rapid pressure changes in the atmosphere.  All day, I’ve been a bit dizzy; now that the winds have arrived, I’m fine…)

Roof birds and Sandy…

Caught Up With?

The small bits of the Watermarks conference I experienced in Cleveland were unexpectedly fabulous: warm, fun, stimulating, exciting and enlightening. These are things I never thought I would say about a conference; they’re events I usually avoid, because they are so geared to hearing people. I fully expected to just skulk around the edges, and have a nice time reconnecting with folks and meeting a few internet friends in person; I also very much wanted to support the Morgan, Aimee at her book launch and the William Busta Gallery. I’ve never been active in either Dard or IAPMA, so I figured I could occupy myself by quietly taking photos from the sidelines.

One of Helmut Becker’s handwoven moulds shot with my phone; these took my breath away, imagining the texture they’d impart.

That just did not happen. I forgot my camera both Thursday night and twice on Friday but would have had no time to take pictures anyways. Every time I hit the conference, it was nonstop meeting and talking. Papermakers are huggers! I was amazed and humbled by the number of people who introduced themselves who knew my work or teaching; and also simply by the sheer number of people I already knew who were there. The five-floor party at Tom’s studio Thursday night (which I attended minutes after arriving in Cleveland) set the noisy, joyful tone.

A gorgeous tiny beater! in the ‘Jury Rigged’ show, I think belonging to Donna and Peter Thomas, whose Gypsy Wagon was parked near the Morgan.

I learned quickly on Friday (with no surprise) that the lectures were not going to work with my ears, but that didn’t seem to matter; there were lots of people out in the halls, and so much (good!) talking that after a nice (quiet!) lunch with Aimee, I had to go back to the Smiths’ and rest my ears and myself by taking a nap before heading to the Morgan (fabulously en fete, festooned with gorgeous, unique paper works everywhere) and then to the William Busta gallery while five busloads of conference folks came in and out in waves on the gallery tour, with a few independent carloads in between. The show was nicely hung and very well lit (and appreciated!) and I had a blast, but my ears were worn out again by the end; I literally collapsed back at the Smith’s. Saturday after coffee and a good (quiet!) talk with two friends, I went round to the hotel for a few hours to say my nonstop goodbyes (and met even more lovely people!), and then to the Morgan – finally with camera – so I could show at least some of it to you, and to congratulate Tom, Bruce and the other Morganites.

Aimee, doing Author things, captured by my phone.

I am so, so, SO proud of the Morgan: they did it all fabulously and flawlessly, with inimitable Cleveland style! Aimee recapped some of Tom’s opening speech for me, about how “the Morgan is for everyone” and we both just grinned at each other. And it was wonderful to see Aimee signing and signing her books which were flying off her publisher’s table, and to see everyone carrying them in the halls (now you can get yours online!). I was also so grateful to the Smiths for providing much-needed sanctuary for my ears and tired self, for their calm, relaxed energy in which to recharge, an easygoing, humorous flow, with periods of comfortable quiet. Saturday evening, an old dear friend (‘Wilson’ in Smith’s book and on my blog) came to visit and that was a good, sweet closure to everything…though, from the look of Aimee’s photos here and here, perhaps next time I will reconsider attending the banquet, which I thought would be hopeless for my ears, but now am a bit sorry I missed with my eyes. (Yes, I am thinking of a ‘next time.’ – but much less tightly scheduled).

Half of my favorite wall at the Morgan: In The Field, a show of papers with recipes and/ or harvest notes.

Sunday, a good breakfast with Smiths, and lovely sunny weather for the drive home. But, shortly before the Ohio border I began to feel foggy and achy and to suspect that I might be coming down with something; halfway across Indiana, I knew it, and that it was coming on fast. There was nothing to do but keep driving. By the time I finally hit the Skyway I had a nasty fever, with bone-shaking chills. It took another hour and a half of horrendous Chicago freeway crawl to reach home, shivering and blurry-eyed, cursing and whining aloud at the traffic like a two-year-old having a tantrum. In retrospect, I’m grateful for that snail’s pace; it probably saved me from having an accident. Poor Paul was preparing a delicious welcome-home dinner I couldn’t eat, which fortunately involved orange juice. I downed what was left, and went to bed, where I’ve spent the past three and a half days.

Helen Hiebert’s big balloon…

Now I’m slowly emerging and am unsure whether or not I’ll be able to get to Vermont on time. I’ve got important work to finish here first so now I’m playing it by ear – or rather by body, what it will let me do. It still adamantly required naps today, twice. Wish me luck, please.

Departures, Delight

Whoo.  I came home from Ragdale today and am heading to Cleveland to the Morgan and the Watermarks conference tomorrow, writing this quick pictorial blog while my clothes are in the dryer.  I don’t have to tell you that Ragdale was fabulous; it never fails to be so.  All sorts of things happened since the last post.

My main project (something I’ve been thinking about for a year) needed lots of drying time.  Some of it I spent scouting for locations (there were very specific criteria), and I kept coming back to this:

The broken-off stump is perhaps 12 feet tall; not only did it meet all my criteria, closer to the path,  directly in front of the stump was this:

a big, beautiful fungus, close to a foot wide, right on the ground. Perfect.  While I scouted locations, made drawings, and thought about how to begin, I made two more copies of You Never Know (#2 and #3), just to get the juices flowing.

This is #3.

Then, (after making a cast of my own ear for reference) I built the clay ear shown in the last post, and made the plaster mold also shown previously.  It took almost three days to dry out, but was helped along by Ragdale magic that came through Linda.  I surprised myself by making this

on the heated floor, of Morgan kozo with the green bark intact, and some of my milkweed in little round sheets and some of the unbeaten fiber.

A little mycelium madness – with NO added color (though I had dyed a few small batches of Thai kozo before beginning).

Finally, I could cast the ear in flax, adding some  removable structural and integral installing devices, hand building the back, and setting it to dry with Linda’s magic: wee metal fans she just happened to buy up in Wisconsin the day I needed them though she didn’t know that!  (I now own them). It was a thick, heavy casting that took 2 and a half days to dry, and in the meantime, I went back to that lovely heated floor and built something else that had developed during evening drawing and research sessions:

Mitosis anaphase in dyed kozo with mixed flax, overeaten abaca and dyed kozo sheets in two intensities, with added milkweed fiber (shiny and a bit iridescent; beautiful).  The whole time I was making it, I kept thinking about paramecium, so after the art walk (which was excellent, but during which nothing got done), instead of spending a day making milkweed sheets as I’d planned (I can do that anywhere), I took the art walk evening off to think and draw, and the next day (all day) built this:

The ear had dried and shrunk and warped (with some control by me) during that digression, and had also had some after building to cover up openings.

And then:

Color scheming on top of the original drawings – with erasable Crayola colored pencils!  I’d forgotten my Prismacolors and bought these, cheap – and I like ’em! Then dyeing, and then…!

(late afternoon light)

(morning light)

This has me as excited as I was when I began building (S)Edition and LISTEN; it’s the very beginning of an extensive ongoing project.  More are on the way to Ragdale and I’ve already got a confirmed second location, and two more possibilities.

 But first, I’m off to Cleveland! I loved this residency.

Here and Now

Now I can bring the Blahg into the present! Or close. Ragdale is: Ragdale, as superb as always, but spectacularly painted by October.  It’s absolutely glorious to be IN autumn every day, not fleetingly observing it from a car or train window in regimented rows of city blocks.

It is odd to only be here for two weeks, and a lesson learned is that it takes virtually the same carload of supplies and equipment as it does for my usual month; the only difference being smaller quantities of brought-in fiber.  Already the residency has passed the halfway mark!  Probably any other blogs that happen will be photo-only.

I’ve harvested  a big batch of milkweed from the Meadow, leaving the seedpods. Half is prepared for pulping, the other half stripped, cleaned and dried for later. The last thing I will do before I leave is harvest autumn dogbane.

I’ve got multiple projects going.  This one (the main project, to me) looks like a departure, but really isn’t, all that much; stay tuned.  I’m trying to nudge drying times along (the October sun isn’t very effective, but we definitely have wind) to have one completed, situated prototype before I leave. This will eventually become an ongoing project; the prototype will tell me what refinements (if any, she says hopefully) will be needed, and I’ll continue developing it in Vermont.

Sunday, I will open the studio for this event; it won’t be the exhibition-type open studio I’ve done in the past, I’ll just keep working and open the doors.  I suspect I’ll be making sheets or will reserve some other relatively neutral activity for that day; I need quiet and privacy when working with color or shaping the final look of a piece.  If you’re in Chicago, come on out!

While I was out #2: Paper / Book

(Richard Minsky‘s column in Fine Books and Collecting actually belongs here, so I’m mentioning it again! And I still haven’t seen it…)

The Art of Handmade Paper opened, had its run, and recently closed at Featherstone Center for the Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, curated by Sandy Bernat of Seastone Papers. It looks like a lovely show; documentary photos (with slideshow option) are here.

Paper III closed at Gallery Shoal Creek in Austin, and there was good news for me!

Aimee Lee’s long-awaited new book is almost here! Huge congratulations to her! Well before my recent loss of words, I wrote a ‘blurb’ for it, and was honored to find that it has been included on the back cover. I meant every word:

“Hanji, an incredibly strong, beautiful, versatile and sustainably sourced paper, was once literally woven into the fabric of Korean lives. That wide-ranging presence is also how hanji affected Aimee Lee as she spent a Fulbright year intensively studying with some of the few remaining masters of hanji-making and its related arts. She takes us along on an intimate, comprehensive journey into this ancient, essential, humble yet noble material, from its history to its struggling present to possible paths for its future. This book is a valuable resource, a must-read not only for papermakers but for anyone interested in perpetuating honored traditions into an environmentally responsible future. Read it, and then get your hands on some hanji. You will be as enthralled with it as I am, and as grateful to Aimee and the Morgan Conservatory for bringing hanji production to this country.”  (update, 10/10: the link to the publisher’s page is now fixed)

I am also very pleased to have a quick view of (S)Edition included in The Papermaker’s Studio Guide, Helen Hiebert’s new DVD. It’s a complement to her book, The Papermaker’s Companion, which is The Book I recommend to every new papermaker, student, or anyone who asks me how-to questions about making paper. You can check out the trailer and order a copy (and get the book) here!

On the same day, shortly before coming to Ragdale, I took the Art on Artmitage installation down, and had a good short visit with Mary Ellen Croteau, whose amazing bottlecap self-portrait was doing well up at ArtPrize. I had a good time installing bookshrooms and talking with Jen Thomas at Werkspace for Thinking Outside the Book. I couldn’t attend the opening since I’d just arrived here hours before, but Jen published bits on Tumblr as the rest was being installed, and it looks most intriguing. I’ll just have time to see the entire show after Cleveland and before Vermont!

And, I shipped and/ or arranged to have shipped work for Artists Working in Paper at William Busta Gallery in Cleveland; it opens October 12, and there will be a special reception for the Watermarks conference on Friday, October 19.

All this makes me triply excited to be attending my first (double) papermakers’ conference ever, the day after I leave here. I’ll come home (for four days before leaving again) with Aimee’s book and Helen’s video, and will meet several people I have only known through the web, and reconnect with many others….and it’s hosted by the Morgan! And now I’m caught up on the blahgpast. (Happy sigh).

While I was out #1: Cleveland, Smith Stories

Here’s the first half of things that happened while I was experiencing blogsilence.  A couple of them made me uncomfortable for awhile, and contributed to that silence.

Rust Belt Chic was published. It’s an anthology of works addressing the concept behind its title, which is articulated nicely here.  I haven’t read the entire book yet, I’m skipping around, but what I have read, I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve been acquainted with David C. Barnett (click ‘on-air personalities and scroll down) for many years, though we are not often in contact. Last summer, suddenly, he popped into my inbox to interview me by e-mail for a piece in the History section of Rust Belt Chic, about some early art activity I participated in, titled ‘Tales of the Regional Art Terrorists.’

Then, when I was in Cleveland a few weeks later, DCB visited the Smith’s living room, and recorded a very long, fun interview, portions of which were broadcast a couple of weeks ago.  The segment is available to listen to here, and runs from about 8:40 to 18:30 (of course, I can’t hear much).

The bridge pillar read “Birthplace of Various Industrial Byproducts”.

Just recently, Richard Minsky’s interview (that also included bits about my early life) along with some images of of my work, was published in the Autumn 2012 issue of Fine Books and Collections magazine, in Richard’s regular column. It’s titled Book Art: Without Words.  I haven’t seen it yet; I’ve asked Paul to forward the issue to me here at Ragdale when it arrives at the house.

Why was I uncomfortable about these things? It’s simply that I’ve never talked much publicly about my early life (the reasons for that might be the subject of a future blog).  Then, last summer, I decided those reasons were (there is no more appropriate word) hooey.

So, I mentioned the early (enormous) influence the Cleveland Public Library had on me (as both safe physical refuge and source of absorbing escape while I was a young, homeless runaway) to Richard during my lovely interview visit. He asked rather incisive follow-up questions. At one point, I did try to back away, but Richard said, “No, no, this is good.”  David already knew parts of my history and also asked direct questions. Except for that frisson of discomfort while talking with Richard, I was fine with answering all, but as the time neared for publication, I experienced some more oddness, and, well: my words shut down.

My good longtime friend Smith (also featured in the Rust Belt Chic article and radio segment, where he said Really Good Things about me) has never had any such qualms.  It’s something I’ve always admired him for.  Maybe that’s why the first descriptor that comes to my mind after having read his new book is ‘brave’.

I’m certain he doesn’t see it that way; he doesn’t hold back anything, ever, unless what he has to say might harm someone; he is an open book.  Stations of the Lost and Found, co-written with his lovely and talented wife, Lady K, is utterly, at times even painfully, honest. It’s all there: outrageous drug use, armed robbery, sex, adultery, his near-death by alcohol…and, perhaps glossed-over a tiny bit: redemption.  A Next Chapter needs to be written, definitely.

I liked this book, A Lot.  Much more than Kerouac, to which it has been compared. Yes, Smith is my friend; I’ve read earlier versions and have known some of the stories for years (and have lived through some as well, though I learned some new things, like about the LSD). This is the best telling ever, no question, and I think I would have liked it if I didn’t know him or the stories.  Smith’s own blurb about the book is much, much better than anything I can write; so please read it here.  He has led one strange life. The oddest thing about it, though, is that Smith is – and has always been – one of the most morally sound people I know.  And absolutely one of the funniest.  One story that didn’t make it to the book is something another friend told him years ago (the second thing that comes to my mind after ‘brave’): “Smith, if we just went by the facts, none of us would be here.”  Read this book; it’s truly true and stranger than fiction.

Blahg, Albatross.

Isn’t it always how it works? I’ve at least partially gotten my words back, and now have No Time.  In two days, however, I’ll be arriving here:

I have two almost, almost, almost completely written, lengthy catch-up blogs in the offing (there’s a LOT to catch up on, and it keeps building), which I swear I will publish during those first few quiet Ragdale evenings before I go into studio overdrive and probably even more blog clog (but I will publish photos).  See you soon, very soon.

A partial view of my installation at the fabulous Werkspace for this show.