Turn and turn and turn again


Last week, I turned down requests to teach two 2016 classes at new-for-me, interesting venues. Even though I knew I was going to say no, I didn’t expect the little flurry of emotion. The e-mails sat in my inbox for an unusually long time before I replied, and there was a tiny physical frisson when I finally hit send. The replies I received were gracious (and I’m on deck for 2017 if I decide to resume.). Once I got them, there was an almost audible ‘click.’

Suddenly I put the fiber aside and turned inward and domestic, which coincided with a review of our budget. We’ve been turning out the house, accomplishing long, long overdue heavy cleaning, and getting rid of broken or no longer useful things, large and small. It feels so good; we’re finally turning the building away from its role as a ‘sick house’ in the past years, turning towards the future as we do. We even replaced furniture: two new comfortable chairs, a footstool, end tables, dog rugs. I’ve turned the studio over to staining and finishing the new tables (and refinishing an old one.) We work well together. This refurbishing will be ongoing, sandwiched in with everything else, but it should turn out to be a much, much more comfortable winter this year; that is a joy.


I’ve also turned back to another stint of bodily repair. One of my goals for the year off is to find solutions for (and eventually stabilize) ongoing health challenges. Before I left for this year’s road trip, I settled on a med that produced the desired result, but caused a sudden ballooning weight gain (which thankfully  stopped awhile ago) and uncomfortable swelling of feet and ankles. The search for better versions of meds has begun, making now quite a strange time: I’m completely unfamiliar with my own body as filtered through ingested chemicals. There are two new docs to consult in the next couple of weeks, and two new meds, one begun and the other starting in two days. Such is the work of aging (as will be learning to interface with Social Security.) On the 9th, my odometer turned over once again; it was a nice, quiet, albeit medically foggy day, the first of a new age, the first of a new drug (not to mention Chance’s first encounter with delivered helium balloons.)


Two tables (ok, nightstands that we will use as end tables) after the pre-stain and sanding.

Yesterday, the second day, the drug-fog was lessened, but was still too much for me to make the trip out to the reception for the Embarrassment of Riches exhibition at NIU. Today, it’s even less foggy, and I can put thoughts together to make this dull blog, but I’m staying close to home (and out of the driver’s seat) until I’ve completely acclimated.

I have not turned my back on the world, though: along with the domesticity and drugs, I resolved two tricky upcoming late exhibition requests. I initially thought I’d have to turn one of them down, but managed to salvage it with a quick turnover of work from a current show to the next.


And out in the world,  ABC opened in Utah, and though the website has not been updated beyond the original press release, a catalog is on its way.  Very soon, a single bookshroom will become mobile, traveling around for quite some time.  Words | Matter was quickly funded (congratulations!) but they can still use contributions for the unexpected expenses that always turn up, and there are still a few days to submit work; it’s going to be a good one!


I still have my Purdys from my set-painting days; good to have the right tools for the job at hand. I did half the staining today.



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




I like the light.


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.



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.

final with logos

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.

Midweek Equilibrium



A bit of that lovely ‘fat’ mulberry bark harvested last fall, to sculpt with…

Working away on the next show and loving it, loving the techniques and materials I’m using, loving being in the studio and knowing that it is My Primary Job to be in the studio right now. And still: that balance. Delicious!


…and I even got a good bit of this year’s crop trimmed, though my neighbor inadvertently cut down all the growth from one tree; I’d forgotten to tell him I wanted it.  Fortunately, it was a small one.

In between, during drying times or times I’ve simply needed to sit for a bit, I amazed myself by working on…web site updates. I am either re-developing some efficiency, or have been thoroughly re-trained to sit quietly and type, cut & paste by all the digital paperwork of the past few months. In any case, besides messing about with the home page, I now have the Project Journal for The Monitors up-to-date and published, and only three MakerCentric updates to go before the entire site is completely current. Shocking! However, finishing the journal made me want to make more ear-fungi too (I have plans for them), so we’ll see.


The new ‘no dogs’ cooking station (Chance does actually respect fences as boundaries, ever since knocking this former kitchen gate down and scaring himself mightily. He doesn’t even challenge the flimsy green plastic ones around the garden. This one is anchored more sturdily than it looks.

Out in the world, I am SO excited about this! HUGE congrats to the Eastern Paper Studio, and huge props to Aimee and the Morgan and David and the funders for pushing this through.  I so hope I get to use it this summer in Aimee’s class: fingers crossed!


A fantastic tail, still being written.

Last but not least: hooray for Chance, who went through his first fourth of July quite calmly (whew).  Now, if I could only elicit that stoicism from him in the presence of squirrels…

Activity / Reflection


Busy; a lot is going on, all good, but not much to write about (yet), with (of course) upcoming holiday-related things thrown in. We’ll have an extra celebration for a few days in early January. Otherwise, the snow came and stayed, our lights are up, and I’ve knocked out a good bit of 2014 prep. A nice end-of-semester interview paper came in (and also became a book). Paul brought the press platens home: heavy, sturdy and beautiful. They need just a tiny bit of tweaking; we’ll do that and install them together soon.


I did finish the mulberry and was rewarded with a bit over 3 pounds of lovely fiber. It was intense work, but good to have that quiet studio time. I sharpened up my knife just a wee bit more, and did the scraping properly. I saved some but not all of the chiri to make sheets with, mostly just because I have it and I can.  (While working, I remembered seeing chiri paper for the first time, oh, over 35 years ago. I found a few sheets in a surplus paper store I used to religiously frequent in Cleveland. At that time, I really knew nothing of paper other than as a surface to draw on. I thought it was just beautiful. Then I moved to Chicago, found Aiko’s, and learned that chiri paper was considered to be very low-quality, and was mostly used to wrap fish. That humbleness didn’t exactly alter my opinion, but all the other wondrous papers Aiko’s stocked did quickly eclipse it.)


I actually enjoyed the labor; got into a certain rhythm and a contemplative space. For the final scraping session, I had put aside about 25 wide tough-barked pieces from older branches. Back when I used to buy my kozo from a place that ordered it by the bale, I’d dive in to search for ‘fat kozo’ – those same wide tough pieces no one else wanted.  They’re more difficult to hand-beat and can be stringy, their fibers the ones most likely to be picked out of a vat. But they are perfect for building with. Most of these pieces will eventually become book covers. It was quite satisfying to shape them, to decide how each would be finished, how the pattern would be exposed, what anomaly to feature, and to realize that, later, when they are used one by one, it will be a very different experience than working around someone else’s efforts.


Tomorrow begins another wee adventure: I pick up a brand-new Mac PowerBook.  Then there will be all the fun of data migration, and then (slowly, I’m sure) a year’s worth of web site updates, interspersed with studio, and all this new fiber.  Sounds like a fine plan to me!


Checking in from underground




I took a day to do whatever I felt like when I woke up, and shopping for, resurfacing and caulking the decrepit counter next to the studio sink was what happened. 

Working away quietly as September speeds on. Mostly I’m in the studios, where I’m getting increasingly jazzed, solving problems, doing the extensive prep for a new project. There were wee bits of basement studio improvement that occupied the early part of the week, while everything was still cleared up from the press arrival. Project concentration, drawing and odd armature building took place in the second floor studio.  Now, everything’s moved back downstairs and the pulps are ready.  As always, there has been computer related work interspersed with the rest, for upcoming events happening in quick succession. I am waiting for some final info on the new project before going full-steam ahead, hopefully tomorrow.  While in the digital realm, I’ve been far too often captive to the Spinning Color Wheel.  Thanks to the summer’s work and sales, I’m ready for a much-needed MacBook replacement, but want to hold off till I settle in for the winter, to make the transition in a free-time frame.  (It will be only my third laptop ever).  The weather has turned cool and appropriately September-like, bringing with it my turn for pesky seasonal allergies, which in turns brings the need for extra sleep.  But daily, I am wholly in the studio body and mind, and that’s what counts.


A snazzy new stove for fall harvests.  The old hotplate I’d had for years died in the middle of the last cook, and I had to finish in the kitchen. There was an Amazon gift card left from last Christmas… 




Opposite of DePressed

I didn’t do much of what I had planned for the last few days, but that bothers me not one whit: with huge thanks to the marvelous Tom Balbo, I’ve been blessed with press.


Thursday, I removed cabinets and wall hooks and cleared space.


Friday, Tom arrived with the press; he and Paul wrestled it into the basement, with much inspired tilting and twisting around corners and under ductwork, at one point balancing the whole thing on a single wheel.  I scurried around moving lever boards and getting things out of their way. 


I won’t get to use it till I return home for the winter, probably.  Paul had built these lovely platens awhile ago for something that didn’t work out.  With just a little width added and a wee bit of beefing up, they’ll work nicely.  We’ll add a water collection device leading to the sink or floor drain. When Paul’s shop re-opens in a couple of weeks, he’ll do the build; when I get home at the end of November, we’ll install it. This, in combination with some experiments begun at Haystack, promises an exciting, intriguing winter in residence. I’m looking forward to that!


Tom will take the guillotine at some point in the future; I cleared it so we could strategize after he’d seen the space.  It unbolts from the stand but we might need to further disassemble it.  (Four very hefty mover guys carried it in, all straining mightily). I returned it to its role as guillotine / storage unit (which it does well).


Meanwhile: big congrats (and thanks for the mention) to Aimee Lee for this long-overdue recognition!

Yesterday, after reconfiguring the studio, I headed to ZIA for the evening, and a had a fine time, meeting, enjoying work by and talking with Fumiko (who knows Aimee) and Tim, and of course Anne and all the ZIA folks. And I met a nice person who’d just purchased some of my work: sweet evening.

Tomorrow: a birthday of workplay in the refreshed studio (also sweet).


New homes for the fridge, the additive / chemical / adhesive / pigment cabinet and the little press. I’m amazed that it all actually fit as well (and as easily) as it did.

Gearing Down to Accelerate


A harvest begins.

It’s been a GREAT week at home: lots and lots done but all at a very sane, enjoyable pace.  The only fly in the ointment has been (and actually still is) technology.  Our entire system was rewired yesterday, and we’ve had 3 different SSIDs in four days; now I need to make the also-new new printer-scanner switch to the upgrades as well.  That proved frustrating, so it can jolly well wait till I return for a longer period.


Summer studio! This is also where the scroll saw work was done, on an ancient but perfectly serviceable wee machine that Paul picked up at a local garage sale.

The majority of my time has been spent much, much more pleasurably making phase two ear-fungi, trying out new structural enhancement possibilities. I was experimenting with options, and all of them worked beautifully (and two came from the garden). I did some work nailing down and fleshing out details for fall events (here’s one I’m very happy about), and decided to take on One Thing Too Many, which will make for the kind of time-crowding I swore to avoid this year. But it’s just one week in October, and the idea is irresistible.


 A good haul of stems, yes?

There also was a bit of a watershed, a coming together of ideas that began with rich conversations at Haystack. I worked in the gardens a lot. They have never been better, more enjoyable, or more productive.  This week was the optimum time for a fine harvest of tall lily stems. I decided to use use their fiber for the irresistible thing I took on, and with that decision, I realized: the garden is not a separate, singular activity nor a guilty pleasure. Now that it’s established, it’s providing harvests at several times during the summer and fall. Maintaining it and harvesting the results is part of my work now. That’s a sweet realization.


Waiting to move indoors in the evening, after the pack walks.

So is the stretching and body awareness the garden work provides; the sciatica’s not gone, but it is much improved.  Today, after cooking up the stems, I have a day of total lazy indulgence planned with a friend. Tomorrow is packing and then off to Cleveland for a week (and a full class), better than restored and rested. Those things, yes, but with something more: a contented, calm excitement, something I had forgotten was possible.  It is, and I am there; I really am back.



Quite Quiet

…and quite content with that, though not at all about the sad state of the outside world, particularly in light of the recent shootings. Children. Teachers. There are no words, or rather, there are far too many words, and never enough actual dialogue, never enough change.

On the personal front, I’m now deeply into re-thinking Just About Everything; beginning to formulate a new paradigm. The world may not change, but we can, individually. Hence: some silence. Which may continue for awhile.


In the realm of trivial blogthings: I decided to clean, dry and weigh the kozo. Scraping has been accomplished in little spare-time bits; one more session (today or tomorrow) will finish it.  Cleaning is tedious, but is teaching me things about growing and harvesting the next batch. During our yard sale, I sold most of the extra paper-slitting knives I kept for years for my classes, but saved two of these shoe knives. One of them is now a dedicated scraper; it works great for quickly lopping off the nodes left by tiny branches and for leaving most of the green bark. If I were going for the traditional clean white inner bark, I would need something slightly sharper.


There’s still a wee bit of lingering end-of-year paperwork, though most is now done and out. After last week’s series of sunny, relatively mild days, my gardens and outdoor work spaces are more cleaned-up and ready for winter than they’ve ever been …but I also wonder: will there be a winter this year? (No, not because of the Mayan calendar, but climate change).


Judging from the parent Morgan kozo, I expected the bark to stay green when dried and some of it has; the rest has dried to an almost-black, and then there are some pieces with tonal variation between the two. Interesting.

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!