Marched Out

 

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A palette of texture and color I worked with.

Sadly, much of March was “another month, another drug.” I’ve now spent nearly nine months ‘testing’ drugs, and still: the original condition continues unabated. The March drug not only does not work, it brought on some full-blown panic attacks, something I hadn’t experienced before. They were scary, quite physical and exhausting. Luckily, now that I know what the hell is happening, I am able to shut them down before they truly begin. I also discovered (by accident) that I was prescribed (and am still taking) a second med for a different condition that was, in fact, a side effect of one of the earlier ineffective drugs. This was never mentioned, and when I brought it up, I became truly cognizant of the term ‘mansplaining.’ I’m fed up, and have left that doctor. I have an appointment in a few days with a new primary care doc, who, though still within the same big-pharm-driven system, is a woman. Meanwhile the arthritis has invaded three new locations. I hate writing about this all almost as much as experiencing it, so hence: no-blog March.

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There were a lot of these lovelies mid-month.

Those oddities aside, there *have* been good things: it *is* spring and things are popping up in the gardens and the daffodils and hyacinths are blooming and the early trees are beginning to bud. I’m watching and waiting and hoping to see my milkweed return. We humans have new phones and can text each other, which is another blessing.

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And I did get into the studio to to finish up work for ZIA Gallery’s spring exhibition: Of Materials, Fiber and Book Arts. And I did go out to the opening reception, which was nicely busy and bustling. I enjoyed seeing a number of old friends, and meeting several new folks. It was all quite lovely and a rarity these days. The show runs from March 19th – April 30.

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And since it’s been announced, now it can be told: my single ‘outside’ project this year will be participating in Hand Papermaking magazine’s newest portfolio, which pairs established (old) artists with emerging (young) artists. Though we haven’t met in person yet, I’m working in collaboration with Katharine Lark DeLamater, who’s been just great. Exciting!

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And of course there is Vivi! Vivi! Vivi! She came through a March of difficult teething like a champ; her milk teeth just didn’t want to let go. For awhile she had double teeth and a cartoon – crocodile grin, till the baby needle teeth were forced out. Often they broke first; I found shards of little teeth everywhere and her frozen chew-rags were spotted with blood. None of the other pups I’ve lived with went through that; usually, it’s simply been a process of noticing a milk tooth gone, and then seeing the bud of the adult tooth emerge. Though she had (cute) cranky moments during the process, usually just before nap time, she remained a sweet pup no matter how much her mouth irritated her, and now she has all her growing adult teeth. She also did great on her last day of puppy school, even though we had missed the two previous sessions. She even did some things she hadn’t practiced, walking up and down ramps, and past toys and open bags of treats, which truly impressed me.

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She is a happy, funny little dog, very bright and inquisitive, and no matter what is happening out in the world or inside my body, she brings joy (and she and the rest of our pack bring comfort, too.) Tomorrow, she’ll be six months old.

And now…

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A good place to chop up a stem harvest on a hot day, with assistant.

Home a bit over a week now and beginning to feel…fresh, as if this is a new time, a new paradigm. A lot of clearing out has happened indoors, making way for some fine, needed changes. Unpacking happened. A great deal of chopping back and chopping down and a few harvests were completed outdoors. Though the big harvest is past, I did get home in time to eat some tomatoes and more are ripening here and there. The indigo plant has its new home. Chance training goes on daily and mostly well, and of course there’s been inevitable bouts of admin.

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I still pause every year as school season starts, but this year it’s with not a single pang at all, just gratitude. As soon as I began to breathe in this no-teaching year, to feel it peacefully settling around me, there were three tempting requests in my inbox. I’ve been contemplating (and constructing some initial parameters for) just one of them: a new reprisal of an old way of working that seems to be falling into place after falling into my lap. I had just barely begun to think of it as a future possibility when I was asked to try: win / win. That’s all I’ll say now but the potential is excellent.

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Jalapeño, nigella, lupin, lunaria.

Mostly, my mind is on the immediate future in the studio. Early last week, I managed to quickly harvest the daylily stems on a very hot day (a smaller crop this year, taken about a week later than I like.) Working in small increments during the week they were cut, soaked, cooked, rinsed and are soaking again, ready for the beater today. A fiber prep mini-marathon is underway: the stems plus abaca, flax, water hyacinth root and backyard mulberry to begin a few August-to-October projects. The weather has been fabulously mild the past several days and more sweet days are expected all week, so the late summer studio (which includes the outdoor spaces) is in full glory.

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I’ll grow these again; flavorful but definitely mild enough for the other human. This one was 9″ long. It’s a pasilla-type pepper called Holy Mole (which I admit I chose just for the name.)

Out in the world:

Here is an article about Unusually Natural which opened Friday at the Guenzel Gallery of the Peninsula School of Art up in Door County, Wisconsin; I hope there will be photos! And here’s one about An Embarrassment of Riches which opens tomorrow, August 25, at the NIU Museum’s Altgeldt Galleries in DeKalb, IL (I will see this one; two of the other artists and I will be carpooling to the reception and panel discussion on September 10.)

And, if you make books and you’d like to show them, this call for entries opened Friday and runs through September 15th for an October Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition.

Kozo and Fawns and Bears, Oh My (Peters Valley)

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I am at Women’s Studio Workshop, my second stop of the summer. Peters Valley was unusual in a number of ways, but also quite good (not for blogging: wireless only in the studio where I was working, or outdoors on picnic tables, where Flying Biting Things were during my free times.) It’s literally a craft village located in the Delaware Water Gap national park in New Jersey; several of its buildings are a town that was evacuated to be flooded, but then wasn’t. I stayed in a house I liked with another instructor, Beth, who I had met before at Penland and liked (and liked again.)  We drove to the studios, which was the most unusual aspect. The studio complex I was in was not part of the original town, but was purpose-built a couple of miles away along a rutted dirt / gravel road a mile and a half long, through dense woods and past strange-ish ponds with dead trees sticking up out of them. Three times a day, I made the drive there and then back: so did everyone who worked in the woodshop, photo and fine metals studios, and my group in fibers: surface design.

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A scary pond, and a not-so-scary pond below, on the way to the studio (at top.)

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Each morning I woke, made coffee, and skipped the dining hall breakfast in favor of the Early Animal Show that went on in the big mowed meadow outside a convenient picture window. Two wild turkey moms, each with a flock of seven chicks, one group teenaged, another much younger (this morning, just the younger flock appeared, and sadly, it was reduced to six chicks.) There were also a varying number of deer with their young  every day, and the fawns were much fun to watch, playing, leaping, tearing around for the joy of it, reminding me of Chance-pup. And two bossy lady bluejays, feasting on the stunted blackberries growing up over the side porch of Lloyd House.

Deeries

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I never got a shot of any of the bears, but Karen One (we had two Karens) did, on her phone.

I also saw black bears: a cub just melting into the woods the first day, a lone adolescent standing dreamily in the road, who stared curiously at me in my four-wheeled creature for a minute or two before deciding it was a good idea to run (while I scrabbled for my camera, but missed the shot.) And then one evening I drove round a bend and surprised a big mama bear with a roly-poly cub looking exactly like a glossy stuffed toy. They each shot away into cover on different sides of the road. I stopped the car and waited. A few minutes later baby bear came zooming across the road to mama, at an amazing speed for such a plump little thing. My city-dwelling self was purely delighted by all these sightings.

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One of the dorms, and a visit to the forge, inside and out. It pleases me when there are women blacksmiths; in this case, like at Penland, the blacksmith instructor was female, though this isn’t her.

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The class was lovely, five women hailing from eastern locations from Maine to Maryland. We cooked, dyed and manipulated kozo, and beat some and incorporated it into western sheets we pulled from 50-50 cotton rag and abaca I brought along; there is no beater. But there were moulds, deckles, pellons, good felts, a nifty small press, good hotplates and an amazing variety of dyes. JoAnna was a rocking Studio Manager / Fellow / Resident who made it all flow smoothly.

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The first sheet-making day. The big recycling bins are full of the discarded dye baths and cooking water with soda ash.

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Rumor has it that a New Jersey species of ear-fungus appeared, too: if you should find yourself driving along Thunder Mountain Road towards the fiber/ metals/ photo/ wood studios, you just might find one. Or if not, maybe you’ll see a bear.

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One of the best reasons to love being at craft schools: the intersections.  This is a bit of bark lace impressed into copper and then annealed, made in the fine metals class by Lauri, who is from Cleveland. She made a beautiful necklace using kozo-textured metals, and then made this for me!

Progresses

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A visit to ZIA and my part of Anne’s current back room installation.

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Accommodations.

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I like the light.

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Building with the landscape and an eye to the work’s eventual deterioration.

It’s been a full, fine marathon. The summer studios became operational instantly, and I realized that they had already evolved to accommodate the back arthritis I didn’t consciously know about before this year. I have things with wheels so that full buckets don’t have to be carried; instead of attaching a hose, I use a milk-crate stand for draining the beater so full buckets don’t need to be lifted up from the floor. The studio transforms like lightning now from beater room to production to wood shop to reasonably comfortable seated task space. I still keep looking ahead to next year as I work: not only the garden but the studio is in full glory in the summer and I’ve never yet had the opportunity to use it for the whole season.

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These eyes follow me, like living with an owl (I would like to live with an owl). Chance has become a sweet calm studio dog, just wants to be with me, stays out of my way as I do my working-dances, but observes everything. Often, when I bend down to the floor, there is just the lightest touch of his nose sniffing the top of my skull. He apparently approves of what happens in – or exudes from – my head while I’m in studio mode. He will occasionally do a full-body twitch when a machine is turned on, or when big things move as the space (frequently) changes shape, but he reacts no more than that. These things would once have sent him into a fear-frenzy. Now he will even take a good long nap while I am at an extended seated task like casting ear-fungi.

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Whatever I get done today finishes the studio time this session (sigh), tomorrow is packing and shipping two shows and a few last-minute outside errands, Monday to pack everything and square away, Tuesday, load and road.

Bliss

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Calligraphy is everywhere on the prairie and in the woods.

I’m home; got in Friday during the late afternoon, very tired; unloaded the car yesterday, am not yet unpacked. The final 10 days of the residency were absolute bliss; I pleaded a bit and was temporarily excused from all but the most urgent outside admin till this week. And so I was able to let myself surrender fully into the flow. Not only was I able to I get to that place that seemed so far away during the first bit of the first residency, I went way, way, way beyond it.

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There was a second piece that insisted on being made. The final Saturday morning, I brought food for lunch and dinner out to the studio in the morning and then spent eleven straight hours of what can only be called perfection, quietly bursting through any last shred of trepidation to a complete understanding of all the work, where it is headed, and most importantly, what it means to me and why.

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The overbeaten milkweed was terrible to cast with, at least with the sheet formation method I had to use (it did, however, make lovely sheets; I air-dried several to use, and restraint-dried some in the wee press.) But, oh, the beautiful pale glowing color!  Moon-like. I’m not giving up yet, but further experimentation was best left for the home studio.

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The final week wasn’t without a few physical struggles in the making, but it was still wonderful, purposefully moving forward, happily solving those problems, fully engaged.

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It was a time like the beginning of my work with paper, in this same geographical location in the old Meadow Studio: like music. What the current Meadow Studio gives me, among many other gifts, is the ability to spread out, switch processes, work on several things simultaneously, and to see all the work in relation to itself, the space, the prairie, and: my worldview. I repeat: bliss.

Aopenstudio

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(Final tally: just under six weeks in residence, not counting time spent at home, seven new works, counting the ear installation. Only two are ‘finished’ – one of those gets a wee bit more tweaking then heads out into the world in ten days – but I know exactly where each piece is going!)

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This Single Species (working title) is by no means finished, and will probably never be seen again this way, but I had to see them together on a wall for myself. They will not be for sale for a long while, if ever; they’re going to be tweaked, then move around.

Prairie dance

Odder Still

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The papermaker / clicker trainers’ privacy screen.

A few days ago, we reached a point in our ongoing situation that makes our days even more unpredictable than before, and we will likely stay at that stage for the next couple of weeks. I am neither booking nor promising anything during this time, just staying home and available to quickly address what comes up, while working on my odd assortment of tasks in a jerky forward motion, bits here, bits there, in the office one day, upstairs the next, an hour or two in the studio or the garden, running out to fetch things, and caring for my pack.

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Training goes that way, too: short sessions, some at regular times, others random. I am learning as much or more than Chance. We need to limit exposure to his fear triggers for awhile, so I found a new use for abaca half-stuff, above: he can’t see the sidewalk where many of his imaginary monsters patrol, but we tall humans can see friends and FedEx arriving. If Chance jumps up and rips the panels, they’ll still make lovely pulp: win / win. It’s early days, but I can definitely say that Chance is already noticeably calmer. He and I are both enjoying this; Paul joins in today or tomorrow.

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Cecile harvested near some railroad tracks in her neighborhood, and this milkweed had some stories to tell, apparently.  Lupe found it immensely interesting, and thoroughly, methodically checked out every. single. stem. Chance stole a dried-out stem and tossed it around the yard.

Sunday, Cecile generously brought me another milkweed haul! She got a wee bag of frozen hollyhock blooms in a rather unequal exchange. I got the stems trimmed and steamed that day, and stripped the fiber yesterday. But there was more: a giant bag of seedpods. I’ve never processed those before; but two large pots full of them were steamed yesterday and are now waiting to be stripped of their fluff.  The fluff by itself makes a gorgeous, smooth, shiny pale gold-ish paper: beautiful, but not the qualities I need for my work, so I’m going to have fun pushing this around and combining it with other fibers to see what I can get that will suit what I do: another first.

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When the processing is finished, I’ll have *five* types of milkweed fiber.  One that I’m finding most intriguing is milkweed chiri:

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Oddtober

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I made an October shortlist of tasks and am happily going about them. Except for the next stage of the milkweed (which will resume over the weekend) the order in which things get done isn’t important. That lets me take advantage of weather; I’m acutely aware of the impending winter. So, my self-determined work plan is a little goofy, but satisfying and comfortably productive.

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Monday’s main task: the older back garden. Thanks to a gorgeous day and my desire to try to grow milkweed, it’s now cleared more extensively than I usually do, and much earlier. For my new fiber this year, I harvested, chopped, steamed and stripped the French hollyhocks to see what happens (I’ve seen hollyhock paper, but not handled it). If I like it, I can take two small harvests a year from the yard. Tuesday, a lot of admin, including a visit to the genius bar, and though I didn’t plan to, I cleaned all the hollyhock fiber, because it was super-easy. There were some other harvests, too.

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Yesterday, I cooked the hollyhock, and then we humans met with our new trainer. She’s a vet and animal behaviorist. We’re radically changing things up,  starting Chance with clicker training. It had become very clear that while traditional correction training worked well for some things, it worked against his fear aggression, and in fact has intensified it. We’re training ourselves one tiny step ahead of Chance, but we have experience with that: any teacher of humans has, whether or not they admit it. I began today and Paul chimes in in a few days’ time, after Chance understands the basic foundation. He’s very interested in this new activity, focused. I am too: I’m already liking the process, and as I read more, I’m also intrigued by the premise (and predict I’ll end up reading the theory). Best of all, it can and should happen in short bursts throughout the day, easy to fit in (and contributes to) the pleasing odd range of October tasks.

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Out in the world, a very nice blog by Ann Martin, also exhibiting in Pulp Culture at the Morris Museum, who was able to attend the opening reception in Morristown, NJ. Ann provides artists’ credits; the museum’s Facebook album has lots more photos and shows more works, but gives no information: still very definitely worth the viewing. This is another show I’d love to see in person.

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Installation photos courtesy of the Morris Museum.