Another Goodbye: Barbara Lazarus Metz

Yesterday I sadly received the news that another friend, mentor and stellar book arts personage has left us: Barbara Lazarus Metz. I first met Barbara at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when I was a grad student.  I was teaching assistant to Joan Flasch, another Chicago book arts legend, when she passed on at far too young an age. Barbara, as Joan’s friend and fellow bookbinder / book artist, helped organize the bookbinding studio in the aftermath.  Barbara was one of the founders of the legendary Artists’ Book Works, which was located in one of the two storefronts of her building on Irving Park Road.  I participated in some of the shows there, but didn’t get to know her very well at that time. So, I was extremely surprised to get a call from her shortly after my graduation: “I want you to come teach bookbinding at ABW.”  I remember replying, shocked: “…Me?  Teach binding?! But I’m…I’m a book art weirdo.” She laughed and said, “But you are a book art weirdo with skills.” Cautiously, I went, I taught, I liked it, the students liked it, and that was that: I began teaching regularly at ABW, then the Newberry Library, then other places. A few years down the road, Artists’ Book Works and Paper Press combined to become the Center for Book and Paper Arts, so it is directly due to that one fateful call from Barbara that I met Marilyn Sward, Judith Hoffberg (they were great friends), Bill Drendel and so many, many others.

Barbara was also an extremely active curator and exhibit organizer, and as the new Center’s exhibitions manager, I worked closely with her on a number of excellent shows.  One of the most memorable was a miniature book show: there were over 600 exquisite tiny books in the small original Center’s gallery.  Installing was exhausting, but I learned so much from Barbara about displaying books that couldn’t be handled to their very best advantage, things I was able to adapt to countless shows later.

Barbara was enormously feisty and could be prickly, and in later years I found that, unknown to me at various times, people were wary of me because of our association, but she always treated me very, very well. We had fun and laughed a lot together, even during a sweltering week painting her entire large kitchen ceiling in four separate layers to make a rather odd faux finish. It was that feistiness that drove her to get things done…and she got a LOT done.  Her life was rich with accomplishment, friends, opera, world travel, gardening (her backyard garden was lush and lovely, and we traded plants several times), her family and grandchildren.

There’s another thing I owe to a sudden call from Barbara.  During my divorce, when both my financial situation and general direction were extremely precarious at best, she called because she had found a deal with a local distributor: a fantastic price on a Kutrimmer, if two were ordered at the same time.  I absolutely shouldn’t have; but she convinced me, “You need to equip your studio!”  So we went in on them together and I still have that machine, good as new.  It not only immediately earned back the (rent!) money I spent on it, but has paid for itself many times over, each year I’ve owned it.  After that, I made a vow to myself to acquire one piece of equipment yearly, no matter what. If not for one of those calls from Barbara, even my sweet home studios may not have happened.

In June 2008, at the very same time we all received news that Marilyn Sward’s departure was immenent, Barbara suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage while traveling in Turkey. It made her last years difficult in many ways, and lately she’d been living in Minneapolis, near one of her children (who were marvelous at keeping her widespread friends informed about her). Fittingly, the last time I saw Barbara in person was due to her unexpected e-mail popping up in my inbox. It was just at this time of year: was I going to the Ragdale holiday party?  She was not allowed to drive anymore, and wanted a ride. I picked her up, and we had long talks on the way there and back. She was quite open and frank about her brain injury, and laughed heartily about the more absurd aspects of the ways it affected her.  After the party, I took her to Whole Foods at her request, and then carried her groceries up to her apartment, and we talked awhile longer.  She was excited (as always) about an upcoming trip: yet another adventure.  Today, I am finding immense comfort thinking of Joan Flasch, Marilyn Sward, and Judith Hoffberg all welcoming Barbara to that big ongoing party and eternal adventures together.  The annual Ragdale party is this weekend, and I will quietly toast them all, these strong, lovely women I and so many others have been so, so privileged to know.

Barbara’s memorial page.

Some of Barbara’s marbling on a card from a few years ago:

(As for me, I have been sick, sick, sick with a flu for the past six days and am just now poking my head up, even more monumentally behind on things).

New Things

I’m now represented by Zia Gallery in the Chicago area. They’ve already made a page for me on their site. Zia is a young-ish gallery in the area, just over a year old; it’s a small space with big ideas that I liked a lot. They’ll be part of Art Now at Art Miami / Basel next month. Currently, Zia has eight pieces of mine ‘in stock’ and my work will be featured in a show there from the end of November 2012 through early January 2013.

It’s a whole new adventure for me.  Gallery representation has never been much of a personal goal or interest.  (I’ve been affiliated with Gallery Shoal Creek in Austin, Texas, for several years, and I definitely enjoy that, but this is a wee bit different, and local to boot). Beyond sending out a small Chicago mailing many, many years ago, and once dropping off some slides to a local gallery a smart friend said would be ‘ideal’ for me (all of which were ignored), it’s something I’ve never pursued.  The galleries I’ve shown in have found me, which is how I prefer to roll.  I know that’s exactly the opposite of what young artists are firmly taught to do, but it’s how I am. So, I thank Zia, and I’m looking forward to learning what this is all about.  It felt appropriate to formally begin on Halloween / Samhainn.

The mail recently brought an inscribed copy of this (relatively) new book by Sylvia Ramos Alotta, along with a nice note. Sylvia took my bookbinding classes in grad school, many years ago. She has an amazing ability to make rapid, accurate sketches, (while simultaneously building the books!) and her drawing style is impeccable. So, if you wish, you can see several structures I taught in Bookbinding 1 and Intermediate, circa 2000-2002, along with classes by Barbara Korbel, Scott Kellar, Maria Fredericks, Betsy Palmer-Eldridge and RaeAnn Collins. It’s an excellent resource, particularly for visual learners. For me, it provided many memories, since I evolved the structures, handouts and class content considerably in later years.

Some works of mine will be included in this upcoming book, as well.  Thanks to Jen Thomas, whose work is also featured, for letting us all know (via Facebook) that it can be pre-ordered.  The editor was just lovely to work with. I suspect (and hope) I’ll be seeing some of you in there as well!

(As long as I have all this ‘me’ stuff today, I might as well add that I’m pleased that Ryerson Woods chose an image of my work to represent their ‘Green Design’ programs this year, which included ‘Natural Cycles’. And now, back to a whole whole lot o’ tedious admin.)


This excellent book is by Amanda Thatch, Penland Core student: I absolutely loved how she took the long / link stitch structure and ran with it. (More to come).

It is also where I am, in the midst of all that flat land in Dayton, Ohio…I’ll be driving through the flattest of all in a day or two on the rest of my way home.  Below is where I am not, anymore (sigh). I will miss Penland; and I will return, definitely, if they’ll have me.

This is part of what I drove through yesterday, portions of Tennessee that were flooded to make recreation lands.  An overlook shortly before the Cumberland Gap tunnel and the bland interstate highways…

I am now visiting the Bro, who wore clown makeup when I painted his portrait about 30 years ago; I didn’t wear any for my wee self-portrait (painted with my left hand) shortly afterward.  Yes, my hair looked like that; yes, Bro was wearing one of those shirts with the three-inch collars.  We have much to catch up on for the next few days. There’s SO, so much left to write about Penland, and Delaware as well, but that will happen after I get home and settled.  Or as settled as I get.  See you then.

Reubens and Shroobens

Paper studio windows!

Today’s title was the lunch menu one day last week…the food at Penland is luscious and there are always vegetarian options, helping me to easily keep to my self-imposed regimen. If you miss a meal (like I did this morning), there is a lovely coffee shop with sandwiches and muffins and art…always art.

There is so much I want to write about, so very, very much going on every day and every night, but no time to do it in, so I’m thinking mostly captioned pictures will have to suffice, at least when I remember to pull out the camera.

Paper outdoors,

paper indoors,

and the pulp painting has begun in earnest, along with watermarks, abaca, flax; we’ve been harvesting here and there; field-retted iris is soaking, and Heather has raided the stand of bamboo for leaves; jeans and linen have been made into pulp…

We are making tons of paper and a number of books, people work late into the night, and still: the class as a whole is enthusiastically putting on the first ever All-Penland Edible Books Festival next Friday evening, so watch this space! I’m excited. We all are. Meanwhile, the stack dryer and beater are running constantly.

Tomorrow, the absolutely wonderful Heather Bella teaches the 4-needle Coptic binding while I prepare the first three of an eventual nine pounds of what we’ve named Shawn’s Perfect Pop-Up Pulp, and then I pack and head back down the corkscrew road to Black Mountain; Mary will take me to the Asheville airport on Friday morning and I’ll fly to Philadelphia, where I’ll be met and driven to Wilmington, Delaware for this.  Old dear friends are driving in from Maryland on Saturday, and we’ll have a night together after the symposium, and I’ll fly back on Sunday; the incomparable Shawn Sheehy will have already arrived, and he’ll be teaching Monday through Wednesday…so maybe I’ll be able to blog about the symposium while 9000 other highly blogworthy things happen around me.

Patrick Dougherty is one of my favourite artists: he has festooned the porch of The Pines, also on the National Register of Historic Places, where the dining hall and the coffee shop are located.  Mary visited last weekend (and we had a sweet Full Moon Porch Party of our own) and at first she thought his work was an amazing growth of wisteria. Dougherty is from North Carolina; being surrounded with utterly astounding trees like the one below (just up the road from where I live), it’s easy to see what he initially might have drawn from…


Happy Solstice!

So far, winter has seemed to signal a long time between blahgs; partially that’s due to my involvement in more un-blog-able situations.  At one point during the past week, I was thinking further about the new-life goals, and decided that one excellent thing to shoot for would be to regain a life in which no subject was restricted except by my own choice. It’s coming closer, at least.  But, right now, I’m experiencing some things that are utterly new to me. They’ve required soul-searching.  It’s not easy, but it is good, very good: solid. I am becoming stronger.

A lot of writing went on, with much more on my plate for the next few weeks, and some organizing, resolving two more of the most disastrous rooms in the house. But, I’ve spent the past few days working in both of my studios, making a small, intricate piece that’s simultaneously a retracing of steps and a furthering. I tucked the sketches I’d made last week away, to save for another time, and went back to the book form. I made one conscious decision before beginning: to use up all of certain batches of fiber left from other recent explorations, and then I let it flow.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had the freedom to just let some work happen intuitively, without hinging expectations onto it, without worrying about the time spent as too fleeting: it was wonderful.  I used dyed kozo and daylily, both pulped and unpulped, and added some recycled abaca in with the pulped fibers; I even did some pulp-painting-ish patterning stuff with some of the daylily. Then, after the paper air-dried, I moved upstairs to the bindery, sewing onto double cords, coming up with a center-bead endband-like component. While I worked, I was thinking of midpoints, of solstice, of a glass half-full, pouring endlessly but never depleting… and unashamedly reveling in all the textures simply for what they are: succulent.

Speaking of textures: Velma has joined the blogosphere!  It’s lovely to be able to see what she’s working with, working on, and what she’s working from.  It’s also lovely to be living in this time of blogs and facebook and such: I’ve never met Velma in person, but met her through the blog, which she came to from another friend’s blog…and we’ve been corresponding off and on for awhile now, finding many surprising things in common.

Closeup of the kozo ‘endpapers‘.

Tomorrow, out and about; Tuesday, some sort of mandatory workshop at the unemployment office and some shopping; Wednesday and Thursday, back in the studios, wrapping up some holiday gifts (and then literally wrapping them up).

That 3am window is a tad more elaborate this year…

Watch it!


Abigail Uhteg was one of the two book residents at Women’s Studio Workshop while I was there; she and I shared the apartment above the studio building.  She was making a gorgeous edition of a book titled, “The Complex Of All Of These.” Fellow book resident Amanda Thackray named Abby the Studio Paparazzi, because she was also constantly photographing; often we’d see her working with one hand, and shooting with the other.  This is what she was up to, and I love it:

35 books, 3000 photos, two months. I love it so much that she gets an entire shout out blog of her own.  If you’re familiar with these processes, you’ll enjoy it too (check out the print-specific sewing), and if you’re not: welcome to our world. It sure makes me want to be back at WSW.



Abby’s lovely shot of my dye brushes.  I’m not posting the one of my ass.



Dyed kozo, flax and abaca

I am bad at the blahgin’ right now, mostly because I’m so, so utterly absorbed here, so here are random images.  Tonight is unique in that I reached a natural stopping point and came up to the apartment at 11:30.  Most nights, it’s been well after 1 am., sometimes 3 am, but today flowed so well I had forgotten to eat dinner; just did that.


The fiber stove on a roofed side porch outside the paper studio.


My two residency-mates, who were printing when I arrived, are now just finishing the sewing marathon stages of their editions, soon to be replaced with cover-printing and binding marathons, and I am all fiber-y, wet-footed, building and thoroughly happy, looking forward to my soon upcoming times of color (my dye order arrived today) and bandsaw and assembly.  I have three pieces going, currently, and little experiments here and there.


Chris and Amanda begin sewing Amanda’s edition…


…Amanda’s edition a day later.


Abby’s edition of 35.

And even when I am not in the studio, things are flowing, flowing, flowing towards me. For instance, three shows came in, in as many days, and another enormous possibility to have along-held dream realized, and more, more, more support. I keep thinking of Aimee’s “abundance is real.” It is, for me right now, incredibly so.  It’s wonderful, it’s the golden time, the flourishing.



The Hermit’s Nine Days


I finally, finally finished my gorgeous ‘new’ upstairs studio/ bindery last night.  It took nine days, though those days also included working hard on some time-consuming apps and some highly unwelcome e-intrusions, with attendant emotional baggage.  There was also a day when I got completely knocked out by citra-solv fumes; I was rendered useless. It was necessary to soften and scrape years of ancient adhesive and tape off of the now-gorgeous drafting table top;  two entire yogurt cups filled with sticky sludge. Bleah!

All my teaching stuff is now fully incorporated into my home studio stuff, except for two shelves of samples and some files that are in shared offices where I teach. (My first-floor home office is Another Story best left for later; that involves re-vamping the tech and another excruciating sorting process that will involve digitizing great quantities of material). For the first time in seventeen years, my teaching tool kit is even emptied; I will now select specific tools for certain days, and carry them in as needed.

Still to come in the bindery: repairing the slides for the large drawer on the drafting table and resolving a protective surface for the top, the arrival of a new drafting chair on wheels, and the fun of moving around and selecting the art for the walls, which I’ll keep for a day when I need a lift in mood.  But, I’ll begin working in here immediately, and it will never, ever be this clean and organized again, so I wanted to post photos.

I’ve been enjoying being a hermit and selfishly focusing on my own needs. I think that’s another reason I like residencies; my immediate social circle is mostly limited to the pleasure of getting to know a few fellow residents.  I feel absolutely no desire to go out, and even (OK, slightly guiltily) missed two lovely annual parties…but those were also the citra-solv day, and the day after.

Now, back to three more I–want-these apps, and (S)Edition.  I’m ready for them all. What I’m not ready for is to have this all end in 12 more days.

Here’s my virtual circular tour:










Ugh.  I am and have been slogging through the improvements in my upstairs studio/ bindery; the cheapo white shelving/ drawer unit that you see in the top photo is one of them.  It will replace the dresser on the right, which has to go so I can move a much-needed large drafting table in. Also being moved to accommodate that are the cutter (with the old drawing table as a new, better support for it), the nipping press, the Kwikprint with its stand and drawers of type. The studio’s an intricate puzzle box, and any addition to it requires a total make-over. Meanwhile, books and art from my old office are being moved in, up here and in my home office/ library on the first floor. Stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff, all stuffed into two jigsaw-puzzle type spaces.

As with the old work office, it’s the sorting that’s the worst.  I’m throwing a lot out, and planning a GIANT art-garage sale sometime during the warmer months. Too…much…stuff.  I’m a hermit while this is happening because it’s got to be done by the time I head back into the semester.  Because of that, I am sooo looking forward to a friend’s bash this weekend.  And then, back to it, and (finally) back to the art.

Still, the sorting, while essentially making room for the future, is an amusing trip through my past as well.  I don’t generally keep non-digital photos around, but I ran across these, and scanned them.  Kind of a hoot:


19 (gulp) 50s


1970s (with my sister, Laurie)