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…

Moisture is essential

Things grow when it’s wet; my hair included, it grows tighter, into wild ringlets, and it’s pointless to attempt to control it in any way.


I am in Cleveland, at the Church Of Not Quite So Much Pain & Suffering, the Irreverend Smith and His Beloved Lady Presiding (as well a feline high priestess), and I have one curly head. The Church is a most excellent place to be on a steamily humid Cleveland summer day (or any season).  Being here helps to negate a blog that I wrote in my brain during the long drive, or rather, makes me want to put it on a back burner to simmer into a more tender, subtler concoction.

After the last deluge, near Salamanca NY.  Relieved, I stopped to rest by visiting the National Seneca / Iroquois Museum: informative and excellent.

It wasn’t a very pleasant drive; long copious downpours had me hydroplaning across a way too large portion of southern New York state, which made me even more grateful for old friends.  I could actually hear departed friend Mr. Ed, who long before I met him had left a lucrative, company-jet style corporate job for the freedom of the road as an independent hauler, detailing his driving strategies as he did for me on one long drive during a deluge years ago. I followed his advice and arrived safely to these two folks who, like Ed did and his wife Mary still does, accept me always just as I am, as I do them.  And here we are now, close in three separate worlds, surrounded by fans moving the damp air into cool eddies all around us, clicking on our keyboards and slowly beginning a day with easy flow (and perhaps more than one blog).

(Contented sigh).

The Morgan Kozoland is now too vast to capture in one snapshot (though I will try).

A little later, I’ll be off to the Morgan, to begin some work in wet pulp in wet air.  I stopped by yesterday while it was closed just to drop off my things and check out the kozo plantation.  It can no longer just be called a garden, it is thriving in Cleveland’s fluctuations; so many things and people do.

Much ado, and Adieu.

Another excellent but very different class is finished; I’ve had today to sleep in a bit, regroup, do laundry, say most goodbyes and write this blog in little quiet chunks.

I’ve been so happy to be back at WSW.  But last night, I was left wondering about a phenomenon that’s occurred both times I’ve taught dual classes here. The first class (which is technically the second, because it is created from the waiting list for the one that fills up first) truly bonds as a group: someone creates an e-mail list before the class is half over; people go to eat or shop together, and at the end, everyone eagerly wants a session to look over and document all the work that’s happened, including the taking of multi-camera group photos of the people it’s happened with: new friends.

The second group simply doesn’t. It’s not as if there’s antagonism or unfriendliness; there’s  banter, work and laughter, but everyone remains separate somehow, with much less interest in what others are inventing with the same resources, or rather, the interest is there but is not unanimous; inevitably, several people are sadly disappointed that others just want to pack up and go. (And it’s not as if the earlier group is any less focused on their individual work, either).

It seems odd to have had the pattern repeat twice. I teach the same in both sessions, (which is pretty much the same as I always do).  There are two differences in circumstances. First, the earlier group is the only one here that week; the Summer Arts Institute hasn’t begun in earnest, so they are the sole class at lunches with staff and interns; so perhaps they spend more time talking to each other, and the next group to folks in other classes. Secondly, there was a much wider age range in the earlier groups.  In the second groups everyone was hovering somewhere in the vicinity of middle age.  That makes me wonder: is there an age at which, culturally, we just stop expecting that we will make new friends?

During the week I invited a couple of folks from other classes out to dinner; they accepted, and then at the last moment, backed out. Because of the difference in my classes I briefly wondered if there might be a similar contributing factor, as in, ‘I have enough friends in the field.’ Then I simply concentrated on having a nice (solo) evening out.

Personally, I still love meeting new people (and getting to know briefly-met people better), even though I need to do that in different, smaller ways than before my deafness. My reluctance to join large gatherings and my inability to effectively participate in group conversations are often read as indifference or hostility, and I must constantly work hard to overcome that perception, something that’s difficult to do with exhausted-from-teaching ears, so perhaps that was a factor as well.

Yet, I have to admit that during the past two weeks, I turned down multiple invitations from WSW folks to go on daily group swimming trips, and, well:  I wasn’t honest about why.  I need to swim deaf; hearing aids can’t get wet.  Water gets in my eyes and then I can’t see either, so I crash into people and things, and I hate that. I only feel confident swimming alone, in a roped-off pool lane, wearing goggles. I don’t know why I didn’t admit this, why it’s easier to write about than to say, but it is.  So most likely, all these musings are moot, and there are things other folks don’t quite know how to say as well, that make for less cohesive groups.

I truly enjoyed both classes, and each of the individuals in them, both years, but I have to admit that, as groups, I liked the earlier classes just a wee bit more, simply because they appreciated each other so thoroughly. That enthusiasm is simply contagious.

Tonight, I had a nice dinner and great conversation with incoming instructors who did accept an invitation: Dorothy and Catherine. I only heard oh, about a third of the talk over the noise in the cafe, but what I heard was lovely and rich.

I’d like to stay at Women’s Studio Workshop for weeks more, and I’m sad to leave.  I inevitably come away with much more and very different insights than I anticipated. Maybe it’s time to apply for another residency. But for now: I’m back on the road.

Today’s images are only three of the works by Merike Van Zanten, an artist I first met at PBI in 2010.  It was great to see her again in the second class, and especially to see the many, many fascinating things she came up with: experiments, finished works, and prototypes for new work as well…it will be very interesting to see what happens when these materials are incorporated with her already formidable palette.


Leap day.

Happy February 29th!  I’m making some (quiet) leaps, and I hope you are too.

(There’s no reason for this photo except that it is decidedly a February image.)

As you can see in the side panel, a 2012 class at the Morgan Conservatory is now also open for registration…and many other exciting classes as well. Wish I had time to take some myself, at every place I’m teaching.

Slow fireworks at Lughnassadh

Possibly my favourite place in Chicago.

One of the reasons I haven’t looked forward to blogging the past few months has been frustration with all the medical stuff, with months of limited mobility, and  (I can admit it now) a whole lot of physical pain. But, last week the health care system finally shunted me into a place I can understand and embrace: physical therapy. Right from the start, during my consultation, things began to look up. I learned that, though I can’t heal back to square one, I can arrest this condition, prevent further degeneration, and maybe even improve it a bit. I’m a few days into the daily therapy practice, and I can already feel a highly encouraging difference.

Of course, I’m generating feel-good endorphins, but it’s also simply the action: of the positive energy of contributing to my own healing, of discovering what I can do and how and that I can do a little more each day. It’s not an endeavor that has anything to do with my artwork directly, but it will keep my body able to produce what the rest of me needs so very much.  In remembering that very simple truth (yet again), I’m reminded of my all-time favourite Lynda Barry piece…particularly the aside, “has no memory of having solved this problem before” …and I used to hand out a copy of this to my thesis students regularly!)

I also did all the serious initial groundwork for a fall show of local artists I’m co-curating with Shawn, had a great visit from my old friend and a sweet warm lovely time at a dear one’s big formal wedding, where we were all bathed in purple light at the reception. At home, the summer gardens are full and lush, the tomatoes are ripe enough to begin eating, and now I have a couple of relatively free weeks with only a (possible) bit of teaching, a short road trip, weekly P/T appointments plus another medical specialist, and follow-up on co-curating duties. Otherwise, it’s The Studio and getting ready for an unusual-for-me new experiment / project I asked to be able to do at Ragdale, which will extend beyond my residency.  They said yes. Ragdale always, always, always comes through for me, and I am so grateful and excited to –hey-! be able to step off into the unknown.

Here’s a listing I’m happy about for this fall.  I was pleased to be asked to take this particular show on an out-of-town trial. If you know someone who lives nearby, pass it on. And it will happen in a bindery!

Happy kozo! It’s gotten big enough to begin exhibiting the distinctive bark pattern.

and so forth

An utterly spectacular strobe-flashing all-night lightning storm brought a five-hour power outage and delayed my knowledge of the horrific events in Norway; belatedly, my heart went out.

In my own wee microcosm, nothing blahg-worthy. I’ve been busy: garden projects are finished, till fall. Meetings happened, more but not enough data recovery happened, more medical stuff happened with no conclusions yet, and a great huge pile of admin made its way out the door.  A weeklong heat wave happened, and now we’ve entered a period of multiple storms and multiple lengthy power failures. We were lucky in the above-mentioned storm and didn’t flood, though friends and neighbors did. We only had some seepage into my paper studio. Power hasn’t been reliable enough to (over) beat some prepared fiber, but soon.

Pleasant personal things also happened and are happening: visits, a gathering, another unexpected check in the mail and a spot of sheer indulgence: being treated to a closed-captioned, air-conditioned movie (a real one in a theater) in the middle of a hundred-degree day. A dear old friend arrived last night for a five-day visit. Though the weather was fine, power mysteriously went out again promptly upon his arrival, so we had a fine candle-and flashlight-lit back porch party together. The power went back on just before it rained again, after midnight. It’s a mild, productive time under the radar, and I’m grateful for that.

Here is a wee nice review/article from last week.  And so it goes.

Suddenly it was mid-June

Here’s my wee happy kozo tree, thriving in its new home.  It’s in the ground, surrounded by the sunken rim of a 20″ clay pot that broke over the winter, homage to the Morgan‘s trees, each surrounded by a ring of bricks.

I realized today it’s been a month since I’ve blogged. I’ve mostly rather enjoyed it; it’s been a bit like having a vacation.  I’ve gotten a lot done in the never-ending realms of gardens, house, research for various art and non-art projects and a lot of planning for upcoming artwork, shows and classes.  I still have not applied for anything, anywhere. This is partially due to the fact that for two weeks now, I’ve been dealing with a frustrating physical problem. It took awhile for me to realize it wasn’t going to go away on its own, and then a while longer to realize I’d best get it diagnosed.  That will happen early next week; then we’ll see what sort of treatment is involved.  Meanwhile, it’s caused me to withdraw from a group show; I couldn’t complete the work I’d planned. This is not something I’ve particularly wanted to write about, but working around it is making my world much slower at the moment, including the blahg, so there it is: the reason for my absence. This is still happening; next up.

How I Relax

The May back garden. All these alliums started from two initial bulbs years ago.

Something else that inevitably happens when I get home is a period of being overwhelmed, of being hit with the weight of all the physical stuff of my own life and Paul’s contained in this house, of all the unfinished work on the building itself. It can be numbing.

Usually I lament it but then need to take off again, and very little gets resolved.  This week I got moving, and at least a small percentage of it is now out of my life, making way for the new.  It helps that it’s been raining / storming/ cool.  When it hasn’t been wet, I’ve slowly begun to address the gardens. That’s essential to me; working with growing things has so very many perks, not the least of which is an insight into time.  The tritoma I started from seed last year survived the winter and should bloom this year; so did the wee kozo tree, which will soon get its permanent home. Hollyhocks I’m trying to establish in one area reappeared where I wanted them to, but several also came up in the middle of the back lawn.

Below: ‘Spring: Concentrated’, made for the Penland scholarship auction. 

It went to a very good home.

I’m thinking forward these days, so still no writing about even the recent past.  Not very far forward, yet, mind you: just a personally exciting way to realize a project I very much wanted to do that was turned down a few weeks ago, including a way to tie it to two previous commitments.

I’m still making these and thinking about them.  The one on the right also went to the auction, along with a conventional blank book and a martini glass.

When I put up my summer schedule, it pleased me, a good slowed, steady pace with plenty of time for these other things, plus a significant family event in July;  but then a (thankfully) persistent curator reminded me of something else I’d committed to that had simply fallen off my radar. That was highly embarrassing, so I’m grateful to her (and will add it to the online lists soon). Though I’m thinking forward, I’m still not inclined to apply for anything and yet there are four nice things booked for 2012…I think this is all good.

The annuals, fewer every year, await a dry day.  

Another Interlude

I’ve been home since Tuesday night, and am still quite tired and so am blissfully relaxing. For the first time in six years, I’ll be home till late summer (except for a nearby solo show), and I’m very happy about that.  The past nine weeks gave me a great deal to write about, but at the moment, I am just not in the mood for words, nor for the various manifestations of the internet. Mostly, I am thinking about the gardens, about what to plant and about being here to enjoy the growing, and of working in my own studio, which is lovely and cool in summer: perfect. 

Brian Dettmer sent me this photo last week.  It was part of a feature on books in the Sunday magazine of El Periodico de Catalunya, a large newspaper in Spain. It’s titled “Books with Interior Lives” and tells where to find Brian’s work in Barcelona, talks about the DCCA exhibition, and says: “Visual lesson for those who question the future of the physical book. Example: book-mushroom by Melissa Jay Craig.”  Muchas gracias.