City of Light, City of Magic


Sadly, I did not take nearly enough pictures: too busy!  Here is a portion of the very full class at work.

Tonight’s blog title comes from Randy Newman’s song ‘Burn On’ from the 70’s (music or lyrics here), which was meant to be sarcastic. But for me his delivery (memorized before deafness) rather succinctly captures the paradox of my strong affection for my hometown and my ‘industrial byproduct’ roots. Even though my early life was spent there during the time of its greatest decay, it was indeed also a magical place, a pleasingly eerie landscape of rust and crumbling past industrial splendor, completely open to the adventurous young whatever-it-was that we were. That magic has changed, but is still present, and it was absolutely grand to be back for a busy week. Highlights were many and bright:


Jared’s mural on the big shed across from the kozo garden reminds in some ways of Randy Newman’s song,..maybe only because the mosquitoes don’t bite me anywhere near as often as they do Aimee.

Always, always, one is the Morgan itself, and always, always Tom Balbo and also always, Susan, Lauren, Margaret, Jared and all the Morganites.  I don’t think that there’s a single negative personality attached to the place; everyone is happy, helpful and honed in on what needs to happen (even when – even especially when – there are hundreds of things that need to happen simultaneously). The class was very full and totally energetic, and many grand things happened or were begun. Chris Takacs taught a leather-paring class in the bindery at the same time, lots of other paper projects were happening, the marvelous new beater room was steadily being built (it’s larger than my entire basement studio!), auction donations were rolling in and the kozo garden was beautiful, ready for its dedication in September. There was a constant stream of visitors, all of whom received personal tours and attention while all the rest was going on.


Beater room!  With two sets of big doors installed while I taught.


Aimee with the odd rolling pin, beginning some joomchi magic.

I got to have so much quality time with Aimee!  She came to stay for three different nights, in spite of being loaded up with appointments and admin, and we ‘camped’ on mattresses in Tom’s second floor gallery; its partitions became cozy private rooms once we stopped talking late into every night. I liked the space so much that I asked to stay there instead of moving up to the fourth floor when that became available. I was able to peacefully stretch almost every night, thanks to Aimee’s loan of her yoga mat, and, though I forgot to take photos, it was also fine to wake up and feed a morning snack to the three koi who live in the indoor fountain (they eagerly pop their wee fishy heads out when you whistle).  Aimee and I talked and talked and talked: valuable, enriching and most enjoyable.  Many of the possible paths she’s uncovering give me great hope for us all.


Velma taught at the Morgan earlier this summer; in certain ways she was with us as well, as you can see!

Staying with the Smiths for two days after the Morgan class was excellent, next to those stretching sessions and late-night talks, the closest I got to completely relaxing. Lady K attended the class, which was wonderful, and so was all the delicious vegan food she made.  And of course, the easy flow of everything and the simultaneous calm comfort and energy of both Smiths makes the atmosphere peaceful even when things are actually quite busy.


At the top o’ the stairs, things look different now at the Smiths’ sanctuary.

Seeing some other old friends piled on even more greatness: Sunday evening dinner (and a class-is-over margarita) with Cindy and Aimee, Tuesday lunch and then sitting in the nearby park with Joanne, and thanks to the Smiths and Susan Kelly, Saturday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where Jeff Chiplis had some beautiful, wry work featured in a four-person show. I saw more old friends there and met several new, and it seemed like half the class attended as well.  Jeff also came by to visit later at the Smith’s.


 Cleveland ear-fungi.

I continued to work at the Morgan on Monday and Tuesday while staying at Smith Central, getting the JentelShofirst small colony of Cleveland ear-fungi ready to go. It was too rainy to install on Tuesday as I’d planned, so yesterday, I said goodbye to the Smiths, went to the Morgan and, in overcast,  damp weather, installed ears in a configuration I haven’t had the opportunity to do before, bought some flax from Tom and made some near-future plans, documented the ears, said more regretful goodbyes and hit the road. While I was driving, this show opened in Wyoming.

I got in before the sun completely set last night; this morning, quickly unloaded the car, unpacked the studio and adjusted the beater. Heather and Erin came by to beat the first four of six pounds of varied fibers for some of their upcoming projects; they’ll return again tomorrow afternoon and evening to finish up. I quickly put some of Tom’s flax to soak as well, to beat on Saturday.

Now I have just about five weeks at home before the next round and then: the huge ‘ahhhhh’ of Ragdale.  Lots to do during the coming five weeks, though: projects, webpages, harvests and more, but first I’m taking the long weekend for me, Paul and Lupe, prep and the gardens. I’m loving it all, and very glad to be able to call both Cleveland and Chicago home.


Some of Elizabeth Mather’s work drying on the ground in the sun.  She took the class last year, and she had a wonderful kozo heart in the current Morgan show, and awhile ago wrote this nice short blog about these.  That’s my only small regret for the class, that I didn’t have time to gather people together at the to reiterate: it’s not so much what you make during the three days, it’s how things develop later that’s important. 

On the other hand (ahem), some pretty great things were made; I just didn’t get to see them finished, as most went home wet. Rachel was a Morgan intern, so her piece remained to dry, and I got to see it finished and its predecessor in the show.  Wonderful!



3 thoughts on “City of Light, City of Magic

  1. and i was htere, but it would have been ever so much better if i was there in the flesh, too. i’m so glad it was productive and friend-filled, and of course, pulpy as anything.

  2. If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? The trees at the Morgan now know the answer – psst – trees have ears – kinda like the old B.C. Cartoon – clams can talk!

    You are a marvel at what you do and duplicating in paper what you see in nature – amazing woman!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s