Friday, March 27, 2015

Making Paper at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens



I was fortunate to teach Papermaking from Plants last week at the Berkeley Botanical Garden, as part of their Fiber and Dye programming. For the class, I decided to prepare some fibers that grown locally, so participants could learn how to make paper from their very own gardens. I also invited participants to bring plants from home, and asked the garden for any cuttings they could spare.

One of the fibers I prepared was yucca - that's what's beating in Dulcinea above. It's from my yucca plant that I grew in Richmond - you can see it in the picture here - that I'd harvested and dried before we moved. Winnie had warned me that the fiber would foam in the beater, but I didn't realize how much it it would foam! Even dried, the fibers were full of saponins.

Below, the beaten fiber, still sudsy.


I posted a picture of the suds to Facebook, and I think some people found it pretty gross. However, I found the suds almost like a luxurious bubble bath, and I was so enchanted I decided to write about it for Mary's "Eat Your Words" zine.


Every time I do a class like this, the prep exhausts me and I wonder if its worth it. Then I teach the class, and watch how people are transformed by making plant matter into paper, and realize it totally is. I've been thinking about how making paper from local fibers connects people to place, and how paper from local plants has what I think of as hereness - the sense of the landscape in the very fibers.

Along with the yucca, I prepared New Zealand Flax (which really isn't flax, it's phormium), daylily, and corn husk, and during the class we coaked and blendered some pampas grass leaves. It was so, so , so great to teach people how to make paper from scratch from their own gardens.

We started out with everyone making a sheet of each of the fibers from the pure botanical, and then added a little abaca so that we didn't run out too soon.


It was a full class, with very enthusiastic participants. The garden also gave us some banana cuttings, which we didn't get to, but they let me take them home.

Below, Lisa experimented with incorporating fresh plant matter into her paper.


I had been pouring our waste paper onto the plants, and took the press outside to press, hoping the water would drain into the garden - but then was chagrined to learn that the plants were under controlled watering conditions for study. Oops.


We went through almost all the pulp, and I let Christine take the remainder home - she used it up right away.

We ended the workshop with the pampas grass paper - completing the cycle of plant to paper in a day. We didn't have enough for everyone to make a sheet of pure pampas, so it was a pampas grass-abaca mix. All of my prepared fibers has been dried, so the bright green of the fresh fiber excited the participants and felt to me like the grand finale of the workshop.

Tomorrow I return to Half Moon Bay to teach at Judy's again!

In other exciting news, I've been invited by the San Francisco Center for the Book to make a book for their 2015 Small Plates Imprint! I'm going to work with a variation on the flag book structure.

I was also selected for Creative Capital's "On Our Radar" program!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Artist Book Review: "Driving Distances" by Cynthia Nawalinski



Ok, this post starts with a bit of boasting - at Codex, the UC Berkeley Environmental Design Library purchased a copy of Population Dynamics for their Special Collections. I'm thrilled. It's always wonderful to sell your work, but it's especially great when it goes to a collection that is conceptually appropriate.

As a book artist, I should visit collections regularly, but I rarely make time for it. So I offered to deliver the work in person as a chance to peruse some of their collection. I selected ten books to view, and I'm hoping to write about several of them here. The first of which is Driving Directions, by Cynthia Nawalinski.

Above is the cover. The book is an altered sketchbook, in which the artist has adhered maps of US states to the pages. Each map is cut through, leaving only waterways and major highways. For larger views, click on any of the images. Below is Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Despite the alterations, I can still pick out the intersections of Routes 80 and 15!


The book asks the viewer to consider how much is seen from the windows of a car, and how much goes unseen. This seemed particularly evident below, for Maine.


Paging through the book, a viewer also discovered the moments when the images overlapped, such what happens below with Texas.


Below, the wide open, flat spaces of Kansas are suggested by the straight highway cuts.


A small clarification on this map reminds the viewer that distances are measured in kilometers in Canada.


For some reason, all of the books I selected to view had some sort of repetition, either in the text or the design. Here in Driving Distances it's a bit obvious, each page is a cut-up map. But it got me thinking about the significance of repetition in design, and how repetition can suggest and construct ideas for sequence and structure.

Monday, March 9, 2015

So you are thinking about art school...




As an art instructor, the first question parents ask me about any school or program is, “Will my child be able to get a job in the arts?” There isn’t clear-cut answer to this question – the arts are a broad field that requires more skills than just being able to draw well. Many artists have to invent their jobs, which requires a creative, innovative, and disciplined mindset. A colleague of mine has described an arts career as “hacking” into the world.

More than anything, an arts career requires being able to work harder than imaginable, and the study of art requires being curious and critical about everything and anything, not just visual art.

Outside of teaching, a career in the arts does not necessarily require an arts degree. However, it can be a huge stepping-stone and open doors faster than for someone without one. While thinking about this, I pooled my collective friends about what they wished they would have known in high school.

This list came from that discussion. It is a set of questions for students and parents in evaluating the value of an art school or university art program. I encourage students and parents to push for specific answers to these questions rather than vague assurances. In addition, many stressed that it is almost impossible for an eighteen-year-old to conceive of the weight and duration of time that college debt carries to someone in the arts, and stressed that avoiding debt is essential for individuals in the arts.

Questions:

1) Does the school or program require a portfolio? What types of artwork(s) are required for admission? How do they evaluate this portfolio in determining admission? Is it possible to see examples of portfolios of students who have been accepted?

2) What sort of financial aid is available? Are there need-based or merit based scholarships? Does the financial aid office assist in finding financial aid from outside of the institution?

3) How much should a student budget for supplies each semester? Students can borrow and share books for regular academic classes, but paint, clay, or computer programs can be more difficult to share, and this can be a surprise added expense for some students.

4) What sort of technology does the school provide for students? What technology are students required to purchase? Does the school have any programs that provide discounts on technology purchases to students?

5) What are the differences between applied arts (graphic design, fashion design, video game design, illustration, animation, etc.) and fine arts? What are the differences in career options between the two fields?

6) What sort of skills will a student learn that are applicable and marketable to possible non-art making jobs, such as carpentry, welding, web design, marketing, installation/art handling?

7) What sort of business management or professional practices classes does the school or program offer? How are these introduced?

8) What sort of interdisciplinary opportunities or combination degrees does the school or department offer? Are there opportunities to minor or study in other (non-art) areas?

9) Does your school or program have regular guest artist lectures or Visiting Artist critiques from active professionals in the field? How often?

10) How does the school or program develop writing and critical thinking skills?

11) What is the ratio of fulltime professors to adjuncts? (Believe it or not, this will greatly affect the quality of education at a given program).

12) Are the adjuncts unionized? (Again, this matters).

13) What sort of tracking of alumni does the school do? How good is the alumni network? Does the school ever offer opportunities for career advancement to alumni?

14) What sort of specific networking opportunities outside of the campus community does the program offer?

15) Is an internship required for graduation? If the only offerings are unpaid internships, what networking opportunities will they include for possible career building during or after school? Does the school have any funding (such as work study) so that students in internship programs can earn wages or financial assistance?

16) Does the school have a Career Services program? If applying to an art program at a large university, how much assistance can art students and alumni count on Career Services for actual help? At art schools, a Career Center is targeted towards art careers, whereas a Career Center at a large university may be spread too thin to offer any support of value. And even at art schools, a Career Center may be limited to helping those in the applied arts - ask if they have workshops or advice on such grant writing, using Kickstarter, financial planning, etc.

Some other helpful articles:

5 Things You Must Do When Applying to Art Colleges
Art and Music Schools: Should you go to one?
The Reality of Going to Art School and the Basic FAQ For Those Considering It

Thanks to Katie Baldwin, Amanda D'Amico, Gerard Brown, Zoe Cohen, Reed Davaz McGowan, Kristi Holohan, Kara Petraglia, Michelle Ramin, Jessica Ramsay Liberatore, Elisabeth Nickles, Nova Printmakers, Kathryn Sclavi, Kathrine Worel, and Imin Yeh for help assembling this list of questions.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Upcoming Workshops for 2015



Papermaking with Plants
MARCH 22 BERKELEY BOTANICAL GARDENS
10 AM - 4 PM
$80 members/$85 non-members
Contact for more information: Mary Mworka, gardenprograms@berkeley.edu

Learn to make art from your own garden! No experience neccessary. This class will discuss the basics of harvesting, cooking, and processing plants and forming into sheets of handmade paper. We will use some plants from the Botonical Gardens themselves, and participants are welcome to bring in contributions from their home gardens as well. You’ll never look at your garden the same way again!
To register, please visit here.


Hand Papermaking and Pulp Painting
9:30 AM - 4:30 PM
March 28, Kitsune Community Art Studios, Half Moon Bay, CA
Cost: $85 Covers class fee and all materials
Contact for more information, or to register: Judy Shintani, judyshintani@yahoo.com

Learn the basics of making handmade paper in the European tradition. Students will the basics, from dry fiber to sheet formation, as well as techniques for embellishing bare sheets into works of art using a technique called Pulp Painting. Pulp painting uses finely beaten paper pulp that can act almost like paint to make brilliant imagery in handmade paper. When dried, the painting is an actual part of the paper, which can stand alone or be transformed further through drawing, printing, traditional painting, or whatever you can think of for a mixed media creation. This class will cover various pulp painting techniques including direct painting, stencils, collage inclusions, and other means of pulp-based mark-making. Techniques for making paper at home will also be discussed. Students will leave the workshop will a number of their own wet papers that will dry at home. No prior experience necessary.

To see images of previous workshops at Kitsune Community Studio, please visit here.


Hand Papermaking and Pulp Painting
1-5 PM
April 4, Rocinante Press, Oakland, CA
Cost: $80, covers materials and class fee
Offered through ExchangeWorks
For more information, or to register, please visit ExchangeWorks.

A class simliar to the one offered in Half Moon Bay, in Oakland, CA. Follow the link to ExchangeWorks to register.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Codex 2015



This past week was the 2015 Codex International Book Fair and Symposium, at which Rocinante Press had a table. During my last experience at Codex, I didn't have any sales at the event itself - they came afterwards. This year, I made my table and more on the first day!

Unlike last time, I did get a chance to get away from my table and see some books, but I didn't manage to take any pictures. However, my table was against the leather and paper dealers, so I was fortunate to spend a few days just eyeballing lovely goods.


The crowd on the first day was pretty insane - here's a shot from my table - there are tables full of books that are completely obscured by people!


I managed to catch a head cold at Codex, and my voice barely survived the week. Due to this, I only attended one day of the two-day symposium, needing the second morning to catch up on rest. However, here are my notes from day one - not always in complete sentences or thoughts:

Sam Winston, Building a Walk-Through Artist Book For the Victoria and Albert Museum

1) Trying to understand writing as drawing, use of Periodic Table and memory palaces.
2) Use of sacred geometry to create objects of worthy of worship - shapes based on everyday objects to reveal how we worship objects in everyday society.
3) How to meditate through word processing
4) All forms of externalizing memory have associations with black magic.
5) Response to a fictional book set in the future, in which objects were written about as if they were forgotten and humanity was trying to explain their history - objects such as a watch, SIM card, book.
6) Exploring the line between "crafts and concept" in contemporary art
7) Physicality of the book is increasingly significant as the physical book declines.
8) How to surmise a book in a light way?

Carolee Campbell, Chasing the Ideal Book

1) Ninja Press, launched in 1984, had no specific literary agenda at the outset, but now has an abiding interest in contemporary poetry.
2) Books should embody the author's perspective, and extend the reader's world, understanding, and concept of the text.
3) Poetry does not impart information
4) Book needs to be a container to hold ineffability.
5) Talk focused on her book, The Real World of Manuel Cordova, which she felt she attained a perfect synthesis of text and form.
6) Uses Samson typeface designed by Victor Hammer. This typeface was selected because it slows the reader down and takes them out of the everyday. However, the set she used had some wear and tear, and she ended up sawing and kerning several hundred letters to get them to fit together as Hammer's did.
7) Amazon river image didn't match type, so she returned from research to the actual text. Since she'd been away from the actual text, it was like reading it anew. Since the poem did not mention actual locations, (although it was based on an actual person and their experiences in specific locations in Brazil), she could design her own map - and used the Green River of Colorado.
8) Text follows curves of river
9) Enclosure for book is based on map enclosures Campbell saw at Harvard - very wallet-like.
10) Book should conjure forth its subject and exist as a beautiful object in space.
11) Investigative bookmaking - spiral down to a clear design principle - the time it take is transformative - divided between rational and intuitive, between materiality and concept.
12) To print on kakishibu coated papers, Campbell had to put more ink on the press than what is usually necessary - had to make a really sloppy slurry sound.
13) Remember to spend deep time with poetry, and see folding paper as a way to move through states.

Robert Trujillo - The Challenge of of Collecting and Curating the Modern and Contemporary Book

1) Librarians should not just collect for their constituents, they should collect for the world.
2) Collections should be in-depth - have to collect for research, for teaching, for the future, for the world
3) Collect what is evidence of our culture - artist books are that - libraries need to collect expensive books - budgets are not reasons to not collect artist books - digital books are not reasons to not collect artist books.
4) Museums don't collect artist books like libraries do, although they should
5) Stanford stores some of its collection in state-of-the-art facilities in Liverpool, CA.
6) Important for teaching and research to collect artist's archives.
7) Regional collections should talk to each other - not all collect the same stuff - divy it up so the region is more enriched. Collections should also do this nationally.
8) Libraries should also collect archival aspects of making book - such as printing plates and digital files.
9) Libraries should collaborate with museums in lending out artist books for exhibitions
10) Libraries are caretakers, not owners, only owners in the broadest sense of the term.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Master Cheng's Catalog of Ink Cakes



In light of Hand Papermaking's issue on China, it seemed appropriate to share these now. So sorry for the crappy phone photos, but I couldn't help but be captivated by these historic ink catalogs! I came across them on the closing day of the Berkeley Art Museum's old building. I find it fascinating how something used to sell art materials becomes a relic and art work on its own. I wonder if the ink-makers ever envisioned that.

Click on the images for a larger picture.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Artists' Advice, A Compilation



During 2014, I started an information gathering process to better my survival as an artist. I've been fortunate to receive a few grants over the past couple of years, but I've also gotten plenty of rejections, like everyone does. Since I'm also the breadwinner for my family, I started thinking about financial planning, networking, and how to move on to more comfortable living.

Most of this advice is US-based, if any international readers, or other readers, have suggestions, I welcome them!

Mindset:

Ask Polly: How Do I Make A Living As An Artist?

Molly Crabapple's 15 Rules for Creative Success in An Internet Age

Sustaining a Lifelong Creative Career


Work-Life Balance

Healthcare:

Planned Parenthood - because sometimes you need to get your bits checked.

How to locate low-cost mental health care in the US and Canada - by the ever-wise Captain Awkward, because sometimes you need to talk to someone.

What is a health insurance subsidy and do I qualify?

Networking:

How to Brazenly Ask for Favors to Boost Your Career - by Jen Dzuira

Bullish Life - also by Jen Dzuira. Not targeted towards artists, but a good deal of it can be applied to managing an artist's career.

Financial Planning:

A Beginner's Guide to Repaying Student Loans

Hourly Wage or Project Fee - from Freelancer's Union.

Artists U - free downloadable ebook about making your life as an artist by Andrew Simonet. Includes advice on developing a budget and financial goals.

Dealing with a Fluctuating Income - by Christina Empodocles

Sm*Artly - Christina Empodocles' blog on financial planning for artists.

WAGE Fee Calculator

Career Advice

Should I Work for Free?

Standard Deviation: Should I Work for Free? (PDF)

The Artists' Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement (PDF)

To Exhibit or Not To Exhibit: A Decision Table

Freelancer's Union

Tips and Tools for Artists: What are Award Panelists Looking for?


Kickstarter School

Kristina Wong: "What lengths of self-humiliation am I willing to go through to meet my Kickstarter goal?"


Advice from a Juror

Copyright for Collage Artists
- specific to collage, but also a great overview of copyright law and common myths.

Ask a Manager - again, not targeted toward artists, but a source of information that can be used.

Tales from the Public Domain - Free PDF on the public domain told in comic book form, from Duke University's Center for Study of the Public Domain.

Intellectual Property and the Arts - from the College Arts Association

Fair Use or Infringement? - from the Graphic Arts Guild

Arts and Labor

Grant Space

Grants and other funding for individual artists

As a final note, I thought I'd include links to three artists' projects who have made selling their work an integral part of their studio practice:

Imin Yeh - BenJams

Lisa Anne Auerbach - Days of the Week Clothing


Andrea Zittel