Monday, April 18, 2016


Some new pieces recently completed. Woodcuts on Sekishu, chine colle'd onto found wallpaper. Click on the images for enlarged view. Inspired in part by my recent pieces for NIAD.

To see some of the making of these prints, check out my Instagram page.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Win Win 4 at NIAD

NIAD Art Center has a benefit to support their programs every year, called Win Win. Since they started four years ago, I've donated every year. Not only is it a great cause to support, the chance to do these little experiments each spring always really opens up some ideas that find ways into my current work in progress. This year was no exception.

Actually, I think I like these more than any other year. The pieces are called Distance I-III, with I above and II and III in descending order below. Click on the images for a larger viewing size.

NIAD has some great exhibitions coming up - including a show curated by Robert in March, and a solo show by yours truly in their Annex Gallery in June!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Dipped versus Wrapped

In papermaking, there is a type of paper sculpture that uses "overbeaten" abaca. This term, which some say should really mean that the fiber is beaten "just enough," refers to the fibers spending a long time in the beater, sometimes as long as 6-8 hours. This long beating allows the fibers to absorb a great deal of water, and when draped over an armature made of wire or reeds, the fibers shrink dramatically. I swoon over sculptures like this. Papermakers like Rhiannon, Megan, and Helen are amazing at using this technique their work.

Despite assisting Rhiannon when she has taught this technique, I haven't explored it that much in my own work. I've been more a cast paper person myself. Rhiannon usually has students start by making small armatures to use, before working up to something larger. During one of our workshops, she mentioned when she started exploring this technique that she made a whole series of little forms to see what high-shrinkage abaca could do. I decided to try this myself.

Two techniques for working with armatures and high shrinkage abaca are dipping and wrapping. When dipping, an armature is made, then dipped in the vat and fiber is allowed to collect over the structure. When formation aid is added to the vat, the paper sculptor can dip multiple times to build up more fiber.

Wraping requires a papermaker to pull sheets first, then press them. The pressing gives the handmade paper almost a "wet-noodle" quality, so it's easily handled while draping over an armature. Wire and reeds will give different affects, and there is a whole variety of gauges and reeds to select from that will also vary the end result.

I decided to make pairs of similar forms to try both dipping and wrapping, and see which I liked better. I wasn't too exacting, so there are some differences in the forms, but they were close enough for my purposes. The armatures are made from 24 gauge wire from Dick Blick. I chose that wire because I had it around, and after seeing the results, I think they might have been more interesting with something finer.

I also realized that I failed to photograph these with something for scale. The pieces below are all around the size of the palm of my hand, so not that big. For the four photos below, the wrapping is on the left, and the dipped is on the right. For the fifth, my tired brain confused this order, so the wrapped is on the right. Click on the images to see them larger.

A few I dipped and immediately didn't like the results, so just ended up wrapping them, like these:

While playing with the wire, I ended up coming up with this form, which after the experiments above I chose to wrap. I'm not sure what I think of it right now, or even if it's a finished piece or a study for something larger, not sure.

These forms were inspired in part by Nami Yamamoto and Allison Smith. The cut paper projects linked seem to me about how the act of isolating an object transforms it into a specimen, a representative, or a fetish object. Yet, it's out of context. So much of my work is always about site, location, hereness, considering the opposite direction is raising some interesting questions that I find myself thinking about.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Banff Recollections, Part 2

Work continues on my print about the mountains around Banff. Each panel is a reduction print, first two layers are the uppermost image, with the addition of the third layer for the bottom. The imagery with this third layer of color doesn't quite make sense yet, but it will soon.

While at Banff, I had the fortune of watching an Islamic World papermaking demo by Radha Pandey. She pointed out that there is nothing particularly Islamic about this style of papermaking, it's the technique that was developed in the Middle East by papermaker prisoners of war, adapted from the traditions that had developed in East Asia.

Her demo took place in the paper studio, which I described in a previous post.

Like a su in Japanese papermaking, Islamic world paper is made on a flexible screen called a chapri. In India they are woven from grass. Radha here is showing the chapri she wove herself, adapted from bamboo splints. She writes about her experience making her own chapri here.

The chapri rests on a frame, and then deckle sticks are place on either side of the chapri, which fit against the wooden dowels at either end of the chapri.

Seeing this contraption, it was easy to see how, as the craft of papermaking spread from East to West, the tools adapted as well. Instead of using deckle sticks, Western papermakers transitioned to using a full deckle.

The process of pulling a sheet also suggests the shift in papermaking from Eastern to Western. Rather than the multi-dip system of nagashizuki or webal tteugi in Japanese or Korean papermaking, or the single dip method of Western (tamezuki), Islamic World paper is made in systematic, controlled, double dip system.

In her demo, Radha said she was using a cotton-abaca fiber blend with no formation aid. To use the chapri, the papermaker first dips into the vat, much like a Western-style dip. After pulling the sheet, the chapri is then placed on the surface of the water and carefully pressed down until the fiber just floats off the surface of the chapri. Then the papermaker lifts the chapri. The chapri is then dipped to make a second collection of fiber. According to Radha, traditionally, a second float is not performed, however; she has added that to her practice of the process.

She has a video of the process here.

In India where Radha has done her research, water is limited, so papermakers use vats that are angled at the bottom to lessen water usage. She compensated for this by placing a block under the vats. Coming from California where we may just be starting to recover from the drought, I thought this was a brilliant idea.

I tried this recently while pulling sheets Western style, and it worked amazingly. In fact, I think it actually worked a little better than with the vat flat on the table.

Radha also gave a presentation about her research, and discussed how the mill operates in detail. Some of what she discussed can be seen here. She also described their intricate system of cleaning and recycling their water, which I scribbled down in my notes but my description just doesn't do it justice.

I'm interested how Radha's artwork is going to develop as she incorporates this research. I'm also thinking about how crafts can build bridges, and wondering how Islamic World papermaking could develop understanding when Muslim intolerance appears on the rise in this country. One demo does not make me an expert in this tradition, but I wonder how this tradition could open up conversations. Something to think about.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Collaboration is...

I've been working on an article for the upcoming issue of The California Printmaker. The issue has a focus on collaboration, and I'm writing about Book Bombs!

Collaboration is such an important part of my work. Not only have I collaborated with Mary, I also have collaborated several times with Marie Elcin, and am currently working on a collaborative project with Anne Beck. And I can't forget my recent collaboration with Robert! The image above is from one of Anne's and my tests. In fact, one of the first artist books I ever made, which convinced me what I really wanted to do was make books, was a collaboration between sixteen artists.

As I was writing about Book Bombs, I was trying to capture the essence of what a collaboration really is. It's more than just working with others to make art in some way. As I was brainstorming, I ended up with the following list, which I decided to share here.

Collaboration is working together
Collaboration is an environment for growth
Collaboration is a loss of ego
Collaboration is exciting
Collaboration is a form of evolution
Collaboration is learning to listen
Collaboration is embracing the process
Collaboration is opening up
Collaboration is new insights
Collaboration is unexpected turns
Collaboration is a form of giving
Collaboration is a form of receiving
Collaboration is a form of gratitude
Collaboration is an act of love

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Banff Recollections

I've been enjoying my holiday break, catching up on some studio projects and starting a few new ones. The piece above is an in-process shot of the center panel of a print triptych I'm working on, based on my experience at Banff for the Dard Hunter Conference. The final piece will be a series of reduction linoleum blocks on handmade paper with pulp paint - the blue in the image above is actually a pulp paint stencil.

As the print progresses, I find myself remembering not only the mountains there, but the studios as well, and the integration between inside and outside as an artist's space.

All the studios at Banff either have skylights or large windows that look out towards the mountains. Even the studios for individual artists. It was so bright that the view from the windows in this pictures is overexposed, but the mountains are there.

The print shop is divided into multiple rooms. Below, the screen print area:

The screen print area is part of a long room that also houses the etching area, divided by some enclosed rooms for screen exposure and for acid. Along one side are windows that bring the light and mountains in.

I loved this guide to their ink colors:

A door in the etching area leads to the litho room:

Passing through the litho room leads to letterpress:

Next to letterpress is a clean room that can serve as a bindery or print curating space, which I neglected to photograph. Off of that room is the digital printshop - please excuse the slight blurriness.

The paper studio is in the basement. Radha Pandey was doing an Islamic papermaking demo during the tour, I'll dedicate a post to that soon.

The beater room.

The studio building is built into the side of the mountain. In the paper studio, there is still one wall of windows, but on the other side of the room, the mountain literally comes into the studio.

Raw fibers, half stuff, linters, and odds and ends on the wall of the paper studio:

The print and paper studios are coordinated by Wendy Tokaryk, whose work I was fortunate to see while in Banff.

This is just the studios I saw. The entire three days was so full of energy and revelation, it would be too long a post, so I will have to share the rest in other posts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Surviving the Final Critique

Image Source

With the semester winding down and critiques heating up, I've been thinking about how to advise students on handling a final critique. One of my recent mentees recently went through her Post-Bac thesis critique, (with flying colors!) but beforehand, I realized I needed to put something together to teach students to prepare for the actual event so as to get the most out of it. After putting the question out to several artists and educators, I've gathered the following. Some readers may find parts of this advice contradictory - there wasn't a consensus on how much a student should speak about the work. From which I'd conclude: it depends on you as the person being critiqued. Do you have a lot to say about the work that you feel is a necessary component of understanding the work? Do you feel the work stands on its own? Consider your specific questions regarding your work and find ways to ask them during the crit.

In addition to all the advice below, I'd add two things. First, if the crits are open, and time permits, take the opportunity to watch others. You will learn much more about art making and also gain some insight into your critics. And secondly, try to avoid being the person critiqued right before lunch.

Ellen Owens
I'd ask them to try to look at their work using the perspectives of 3 other, actual people - maybe one is an art professor, one is a person that knows nothing about what they are doing (an aunt?), and one that's part of an audience that would connect with the topic. What questions would each person have? How would you explain the work differently to each one? And what are their perceived strengths and weaknesses about the work? If they can answer these, then they should be well-prepped.
Also, I'd tell them to bring tissues.

Marie Elcin
Don't be a victim of bad critique! If you just stand there and let people say things it hurts. Take charge of the critique. Be able to explain your intentions and have specific questions of things you want to have help on. Like I was trying to say this but I'm not sure that's how it comes across to the viewer? Or I've been struggling with this technique. What could I do differently? Or I'm not sure if I have the best resources for working out this concept, where should I look next? For notes have someone else take them and record what you say and what others say. Especially since your adrenaline gets worked up, you won't remember anything.

Jenifer Wofford
Yes, own it. If you (the general "you") go in with the understanding that the purpose of critique is to help work grow, it can be easier to be proactive in soliciting and recording feedback that will help you do this. This will make even the harder comments a bit easier to take, and will prevent you from feeling victimized. Also, have a trusted friend grill you first. As far as talking about the work yourself, have a grab bag of active, specific words that really matter to you when you think about your work. You can't (and shouldn't) memorize a monologue to define your work, but you CAN have key words that you can anchor and organize your thoughts around.

Jillian Contreni Sosko
My advice to students is to try to identify what they want from the crit, and to know their work and process well enough to direct the experience and get what they need. I always ask my upper level students to write about their work anytime they make a serious investment of time in the studio (after every session of work)- and to read those notes consistently+ try to distill information prior to having a review with other folks.

Lucy Childs
If you're really nervous, it helps to know the audience's eyes are on what you're presenting and not on you. So, if a student can direct the group to look at the art as they talk that will help them relax. Also to anticipate what questions may be asked, write down the answers to think of pertinent details, and then rehearse the answers to prevent becoming tongue-tied. [Students ahould] think about [their] feet -- this helps to feel grounded, literally. And lastly, find something in the room that is soothing to look at (the view out the window, a picture on the wall, etc.) to look at when feeling stressed. PS. It's one experience in [their lives], not a defining one.

Melissa Jay Craig
Figure out what you really want / need feedback on, and ask for it. Run the meeting: you are chair. (Hopefully by now - a final critique - you have also read and are familiar with The Critique Handbook.)

Emily Bicht
I actually think it best to keep your comments to yourself unless asked directly - you may find yourself in the terrible position of defending something you have said and not talking about the work. It happens all the time. Don't enter the critique with verbal information. You've given them the work and probably a statement - that should be enough. Let the audience lead the conversation and if you don't like the direction ask questions. But be wary of making declarative statements of the conversation stops referencing the work - which ideally speaks for itself.

Shelley Thorstensen
Control the crit if it starts to go south. Two specific things: if you don't like the way conversation is going between the people critting and a certain work, jump in and ask them about a different work. Maybe someone else will have something to say about something else. Some people just like to hear themselves speak. Second, if you are talking and you feel uncomfortable or whatever, maybe you feel you are not making sense, stop. You can stop even in mid-sentence. Usually people won't even know you did it. Just continue on with something else. A lot of times, especially if it is a large group, they are more busy thinking of their next thing to say.

Louise Philips Richborn
[Remember] you are never a victim, you want something from these people- you are a sales person! Sell them, and you can only sell by being positive, receptive and accepting of different opinions, remember everyone comes from a different up bringing and culture. If someone tells you that your work is a piece of shit- ask them why? How? Never be negative- and have a big bottle of wine or bowl of ice cream waiting for you at home.

Kara Petraglia
Have a friend/colleague take notes if at all possible, otherwise try to record the conversation. I agree with Shelley in trying to control the conversation - if it's moving in a useless direction, try ask questions to clarify points or to move the conversation along. Others are providing the feedback, but it's ok to move things along that aren't helpful or have been beaten into the ground. Come in with specific questions about how things work or read to help prompt the others to provide helpful feedback.

Meg Escude
Never apologize. Never talk about what you were gonna do...the direction it didn't take. Just commit to what it is.

Miriam Schear
Listen, try not to be reactive and remember-this is a conversation. So-also have questions YOU have for your audience that you would like feedback on. Don't talk about work you are going to make: that is what I call an 'air crit'. Definitely record the session-use your phone if necessary and have someone take notes if possible. Sometimes things that sound harsh or super critical in the moment are just simply questions. Consider it a barometer about how people are perceiving your work.

More Advice:
How To Survive a Critique: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback
How to Survive an Art Critique
Fine Art Views: How To Survive an Art Critique

Also, for educators, critics, or visiting artists, on giving criticism, I recommend:
Dealing With Unhelpful and Unsolicited Critiques of Creative Work
Liz Lerman Critical Response Process

For other artists' advice in this series, visit here.