Germinating

I was slowed significantly for a couple of days with a low-level sinus thing; runny eyes, nose, achy, energy-less. Better today and back to quiet, intense background labor: production for (S)Edition, putting together a proposal, necessary painstaking research for a looming deadline, prep for classes.  Through it all, thinking about both my gardens and the next pieces I will make.

I fell in love with these last summer at I-Park; they’re tritoma, aka ‘red hot poker’. Two dozen are germinating in seed trays in a sunny bay window, along with delphiniums. little violas and all the herbs (the only seeds that have sprouted so far). There are also three batches of mystery seeds, gifts from folks whose plants I admired, which I forgot to label. Everything I’m doing right now feels a bit like what’s going on in those seed trays.

Mid Ragdale Ramble, with pulp.

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Photo: Regin Igloria

We’ve now had two nights of very fine readings/ open studios/ performances, with one more to go. This is a great, fun group of folks.  Alas, one of the residents left tonight, and tomorrow is the last full day for everyone but Nora and myself. This means that our residencies are half over, and I have yet to make any paper!

Granted, I just returned with the pulp on Saturday, and the largest of my deckle boxes, plus pellons, felts and press boards to go with it, and the drying rack.  There was no getting around that; I need it all to make what I want to make. I couldn’t get much done during the rains; nothing would dry. Not even straight PVA, which is an exceptionally  fast-drying adhesive. So, late Friday afternoon, I gave up, re-packed all but a few of my summer-ish clothes (leaving only the dirty laundry) and went home. Of course, as soon as I got there, the three-day rain ended. Paul took me to dinner and I stayed the night, finished up an application, packed up a few warmer layers of clothing, and loaded up again in the morning.

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It was good to go home; it was a needed break for other reasons than equipment. I’d gotten sucked into distant events and the grey wet days added to an oppressive mood. Paul let me talk it all out of my system and lent me some perspective, which helped me to lose the awful sensation of rubbernecking at a disaster: appalled, repulsed, yet unable to look away.

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After the rain, Chicago (and Lake Forest) apparently decided to skip September altogether and go straight from late August weather to late October. Last night’s studio was all fumble-y cold hands, and I was wearing four shirts, including a flannel shirt and a sweatshirt. Forecasts thankfully say we will soon morph back into early fall, at least, and I WILL be able to make that paper!

However, I did decide to take advantage of the gorgeously-lit long blank wall in the studio, and brought back the piece (or rather, the fifteen pieces that comprise one piece) that I made at both Women’s Studio Workshop and I-Park, installed it in the chilly space yesterday, and got my very first look at the entire thing. It needs a bit of tweaking here and there, but just a bit, and I like it. It successfully manages to be beautiful, funny, slightly creepy, absurd and somewhat obnoxious all at once, and that’s, well, just ideal.

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I documented it, added it to the application at the last minute, and watched it interact with its first viewers at my open studio; I went first this evening, before dinner, so it could be seen in the fine studio daylight. We then went on till nearly ten.

Afterwards, I decided to take care of the still-dirty laundry instead of returning to the still-chilly-tonight studio. During a break in the readings, I’d noticed a slight sour smell in my room, like over-ripe socks, or maybe the first stages of hey-you’d-better-use-that abaca.  I’d forgotten a big, nice black leather bag in the kitchen at I-Park when I left ; they mailed it to me awhile ago and it arrived today.  I got the laundry started, then  opened the box.  On August 11th, I had thrown my vitamins and some snacks for the road in there…including part of a bag of baby carrots. I had told I-Park I didn’t need the contents, just the bag, but:  you guessed it.  Squishy, orange, over-ripe-sock-smelling pulp everywhere.  Fortunately, I Am A Papermaker. Pulp, even smelly pulp, is just pulp (and Ragdale has a nice stock of that Febreeze stuff).  Apparently, if I’m slow to get to my own pulp, the universe will send me some.

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Repairing

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Now, one week of the Ragdale four is past.  The tiny maquette I made on Saturday night/ Sunday morning gave way to a larger prototype, about ¼ size, that will become a piece in its own right for smaller spaces.  It had to be restructured and added to three times before I was satisfied with its shape. The revisions are an essential bit of the process. These first maquettes were cut from paper I’d made previously; I intend to make a great number of shaped sheets for the final large piece, because I want the superb texture of deckled edges.  I’ll be working from small to large, and each time I change a shape, the custom deckle will be cut away: there’s no going back to repair.

Right now, I’m significantly slowed by rain: yesterday, today, and there are storms predicted for tomorrow. My prototype’s damp dye tests are taking hours and hours to dry. I can’t go get the supplies I now know I need till the rain stops, because the dirt road that led partway to the studio no longer exists. Everything will need to be trundled down from the main driveway (a fair distance) in a small wheelbarrow-like gardener’s cart. It’ll take several trips, and I will be bringing things that can’t get wet (and aren’t easy to wrap to protect); the damage could be irreparable. So: while it rains, I’ve repaired my schedule: I’ll work on the auction piece and finish the paperwork for a few things I’m applying for.

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But: when it pauses for a bit,  the rain makes the gorgeous prairie colors deeper, more resonant, like fresh varnish on a restored painting. And it suits the somewhat conflicted, shifting intense moods I’m traversing as I watch some predictable, sad events unfold in another world, things I tried long and hard to prevent, to repair, with repeated, repeated, repeated words that fell on ears that were willfully far deafer than my own.  Slow, revised progress or not, it makes me even more grateful to be here in the bastion of peace and support that is Ragdale.

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Last but definitely not least, Blahg has expanded its scope by bringing me contact with someone whose work I liked and published, without knowing who she was or where she was from.  Hannah Streefkerk is the artist who had stitched repairs onto trees and schisms in rocks at I-Park, and she is from the Netherlands.  She does her witty mending in situ and on photos. Check it out here!

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And now, I will repair to the kitchen and then the studio.

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Perplexing Peregrinations

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Detail of an installation by Cary Baker, one of the two residents who came for my final two weeks at I-Park.  There are several white, perfectly gesturing jointed figures walking on the highly reflective pond (which makes them difficult to shoot). From across the pond, their reflections make them look about four feet tall, but they are actually only 12″ high. It’s a nice piece.

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Whew. I’m back in Chicago, got in late Wednesday and rested up a bit yesterday…it was a busy busy busy and odd few days there.

The I-Park Open Studio on the ninth went really well, in spite of the fact that for about the fifth time during this residency, I couldn’t sleep and saw the dawn before I drifted off.  It was lovely to see Karen J and meet the friend and colleague who came up from New Haven with her. It was a long day, though. Finally, that night, I actually got eight hours of sleep, for the first time in a long time.

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I did stay at I-Park on Monday the tenth, along with three other residents. Packing up everything took almost the entire day, and there were other things and some long goodbyes happening as well, so Anneliese and I didn’t get to go be tourists in Mystic as we’d planned.  But that evening, we did make it to the Connecticut River, which leads to the Atlantic, so I waved east towards Scotland anyways.  We drove around map-less for awhile looking for somewhere to eat, and finally found a rather nice old-style hotel that was, oddly, right next to a crowded free concert happening in East Haddam.  We had a tasty meal and a lot of fun on a big noisy canvas-covered outdoor deck overlooking the river and even noisier  concert. The seafood was sweet and fresh, delivered daily by boat. Then we had a hilarious drive trying to find our way back in the dark, trying to remember where we’d turned, and then Anneliese helped me finish loading – or rather just tossing stuff into the back of the car.

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I definitely plan to go back to I-Park, and I got quite a bit of encouragement to do that, from several of the lovely folks there, which felt very, very good.

Tuesday, up bright and early; booked a two-day stay at a motel in Cleveland and shot out the door to awful traffic all through Connecticut on interstates, and long periods of sitting still in jammed up traffic on I-84 just into eastern New York.  Finally I couldn’t take anymore, and got off at the Taconic and took a longer but much more pleasant route to Women’s Studio Workshop.

As soon as I walked into the WSW office, they asked me if I wanted to stay and teach, beginning immediately!  One of the summer institute classes had begun the day before, and that morning, the instructor had a sudden family emergency, and had to leave.  It was a class on ‘collage techniques’, which included some embroidery, which I know nothing about, but also included some book structures, which I can teach anytime, anywhere. The class ended Friday (today).  I was kind of blind-sided and road-dazed, and didn’t know what to do.  I really do want to teach there, and I also really wanted to help out WSW, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the class description, couldn’t imagine what to teach; I just drew a blank. Also, I absolutely needed to stop in Cleveland on the way back, so staying till Saturday would have meant only two days at home before Ragdale.

Finally, I went and spoke to the people in the class, to see what, if anything, I might be able to help them with.  They definitely did not want to learn any book structures, they wanted ‘Collage Techniques’. I kept thinking, “What the hell is that?  You cut things out and you glue them down: presto, collage.” In any case, they seemed to be quite fine with just having a week of studio time, and a couple of folks seemed decidedly unenthusiastic about me taking over, so I thought it was a bad fit and they’d be happier on their own. (One woman, though, said, “I love your work!  Can you stay and do a slide talk?”  That was nice. I wrote down my URL for her.)

So, I apologized profusely to WSW, rearranged everything much more efficiently in the back of the car, and Kristen and I loaded up my cutter, and I took off again, feeling a bit stunned.

Almost immediately, I had my first police encounter, a weird one.  There were two light-flashing cars randomly stopping people heading into or out of the town of High Falls, and they chose me.  I rolled down the window and the officer said, “Hey, Illinois!” Apparently he  wanted to talk about the state, because he was traveling there in the fall, and he asked me a series of ludicruous questions while a line of traffic piled up behind us.  It was bizarre, and punched up my dazed-ness factor a couple more notches.

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Maybe two hours later, I was skirting the lower edge of the Catskills on NY 52,  a smaller road, a very nice drive for both beauty and amusement.  The landscape is gorgeous and the man-made bits still have that corny borscht-belt flavor, and I love it.  There’s a place called Loch Sheldrake, where there is a Stage Door Manor summer camp, and Hassidic vacationers in sober (hot!) black mix with their t-shirted ‘n’ flip-flopped counterparts. Shortly after getting on the more highway-like route 17, I stopped for gas and went across the road for a frozen yogurt in a 50’s-style stand that also served all the usual junk food like hotdogs and burgers and nachos…and knishes.

Maybe it was the sugar in the yogurt, but, back on the road, I suddenly began to think of things I could have taught the WSW class that could be used for collage: lifting images with acrylic mediums, solvent transfers, paste-paper technique, even woven longstitch embellishments to take the place of embroidery; I could have gotten some Lasertran FedExed in.  I started to feel extremely guilty…and also to wonder, sadly,  what has happened to my lifelong ability to think on my feet. Things seem to blind-side me so easily these days. A spontaneous class wouldn’t have been problematic even momentarily a few years ago, and I wouldn’t have let WSW down…

And so, preoccupied with that, I wasn’t paying much attention, and was doing 80 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone, which brought me my second police encounter.  He had me red-handed, but he wrote me a ticket for not putting my flashers on when I pulled over, instead of the moving violation, which would have messed up my insurance rates.

I decorously drove the entire rest of the way into Cleveland very near to the speed limit, which got me in well after midnight.

(next: The Morgan)

Cheers!

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I’m all done!  And the work is installed on a 10′ tall, 8′ wide wall.  I really like it – but whoo, is it obnoxious!  It’s supposed to be, but I might have been a tad too successful at that, and will hurt peoples’ eyes. I’ll see it in daylight tomorrow and re-assess.  Could just be the studio lights, they’re kind of hot and yellowish.

I’m not posting photos yet, for a variety of reasons: 1. the entire piece isn’t here; 10 feet of it is hanging in an upstairs room at home, and 2. I’m showing it in Chicago this fall, and I would like a live audience to see it first; people who come out to support galleries should get the first take, I think, but I will post it to the web site right after the opening in early November, and 3. I’m not entirely convinced it’s done yet.  It may need some tweaking and / or a more toned down addition or two to allow you to rest your eyes. It’s a departure for me, and is Not A Book (or a Bok Choy, Aimee).

So, the above photo is a detail, but I’m not really teasing you.  Honestly.

I’ve been working hard and steadily for the past three days; of course, everything took much longer than I thought.  The final, final bits went onto all 14 pieces simultaneously for most of today, which was a a lot of fun. Then I had dinner, cleaned and rearranged the studio all spiffy for the open house, including a good amount of packing, and installed.  Then I messed around a bit, and actually came up with a possible new piece incorporating Roger’s snakeskin, the paper that wouldn’t go outdoors, a lovely dried turkey-tail fungus Anneliese brought me, and a book / hull I made at Women’s Studio Workshop.

I’m going to ask if I can stay an extra day.  Apparently, I-Park is unoccupied for the week to prepare for the two big environmental art sessions.  Anneliese isn’t leaving till Tuesday, so hopefully I can do that too, and she and I can hang out some more. I haven’t gotten to the Atlantic!  We want to go to Mystic harbor on Monday, where I can wave across the pond to Angus and Mrs. B on Lewis (Old Saybrook and Old Lyme-of-the-disease are closer, but that is Long Island sound, not the same.  I have no real desire to wave at Montauk, remembering exhausting family trips there). And then I can also build a temporary crate  and load Sir Baroo at a relatively leisurely pace. If all goes well, I’ll be relaxed, ocean-satiated, and will leave bright and early Tuesday morning, stop at WSW for an hour or two, and then head to Cleveland and spend a day; home for a week, and then Ragdale.

Right now, a glass of red wine.  Ahhhhh. Life is good today. Slainte’!

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A corner of the ready-for-visitors studio.  Below: I’m liking this…

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The It It Is*

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*Title stolen from poet friend Smith, because I like it so much.  And because that’s exactly how I’m feeling / thinking, and that is Good.

Big gorgeous full moon out there tonight, and I discovered that I will not contribute an outdoor installation this time around.  Sigh. Not because of time constraints; I’d actually figured how to get it and the 14 studio pieces finished, and got a FedEx today to help with that. But, I was using paper for the outdoor piece that I’d made and shaped awhile ago, and brought with me.  (It was originally for another project, one that morphed instead into the big thing I’m hoping to do at Ragdale).  It seemed heavy enough to do what I wanted, but it was weaker than I thought, and started to disintegrate in the dye bath, which means it wouldn’t even survive till the end of the summer. So, no go.  I don’t want to do this as such a temporary piece.

I’m fine with that.  It wasn’t what I originally came here to do and  I’m not giving up on making something similar. I like the idea way too much, and that in itself is a fine thing to come away with.  I’ll do some outdoor tests over the winter at home, where I can watch it closely  (I-Park was going to photograph the piece seasonally for me).  Maybe I will even re-apply here with this piece as my focus. Best of all, even though the paper wouldn’t hold up to the elements as is, most of it was salvageable for indoor use.  Though I have no idea what it might turn into, I  really like the dye pattern that happened with it:

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So, now I will still be working intently, but not insanely, for the next three days and I’ll have time for walks and breaks.  There’s a farewell dinner for us tomorrow (all we have to do is show up at the outdoor grill at 7:30), the exit questionnaires appeared in our mailboxes tonight, and we’re told that about 40 people have RSVP’d for the open studios on Sunday, with two more days left to make reservations.  And I will actually know one of them!  (Thanks, Karen!) I might even have time to do a lot of the packing before it starts, and leave early enough on Monday to make it to the daily WSW potluck lunch.

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To The Wire…

Yow, I really, really didn’t need to lose that time.  Now I’m wondering if something will have to give, if I’ll have to forego either the outdoor piece or completing the studio ones (I really don’t want to carry those over to Ragdale, I have something else I want to do while I have a big space)…but anyways:

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C’mon over!

(And check out Anneliese’s work! At one point we talked about collaborating, and though there just wasn’t enough time, we may still do that someday).