Thursday, May 31, 2012

Upcoming Papermaking Workshops

I will be teaching a series of papermaking workshops this summer with Rhiannon Alpiers at her Bryant Street Studio in San Francisco. To register for any of the workshops, please visit here.

Papermaking Basics: Pulp Painting Techniques
June 9th, 2012 from 10-4pm
Class fee: $150, Materials fee $10
Taught by Michelle Wilson
Held at 1890 Bryant, Studio 308

Finely beaten paper pulp can act just 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.

Sheets will be air dried and some left to dry under pressure for several days and mailed to students. Materials are included, and there is a short tool list which will be emailed for the class once you are enrolled.

All materials will be provided. Please wear clothes that can get slightly wet/dirty and shoes with traction.

Papermaking Basics: Garden and Plant Fibers

July 14th, 2012 from 10-4pm
Taught by Rhiannon Alpers
Class fee: $150, Materials fee $10
Held at 1890 Bryant, Studio 308

Learn the basics of creating your own handmade paper with exotic fibers from your garden, grocery and local florist. From harvesting to finished sheets, we'll learn the process for making paper with unique fibers (such as grasses, vegetables, and flowers). Students will get to cook, beat, form sheets in this one day intensive. All needed materials are included, and there is a short tools list for the class once you are enrolled.

Please note that this is a hands on class, students will get wet in the process. Please wear clothes that can get soiled/wet and shoes with traction.

Papermaking Basics: Watermarks
August 25th, 2012 from 10-4pm
Class fee: $150, Materials fee $10
Taught by Michelle Wilson
Held at 1890 Bryant, Studio 308

Watermarks are a mark-making technique unique to hand papermaking. In this class, learn the secret of turning your own images into watermarks - images that hide within a sheet of paper but be visible when held up to the light. The class will cover various ways of making both invisible and visible watermarks. There is a short tool list which will be emailed for the class once you are enrolled.

All materials will be provided. Please wear clothes that can get slightly wet/dirty and shoes with traction.

Papermaking Basics: Sculptural Armatures and Basic Technique
September 15th , 2012 10 - 4pm
Taught by Rhiannon Alpers
Class fee: $150, Materials fee $10
Held at 1890 Bryant, Studio 308

This is a hands-on class for students to learn about creating custom shaped paper sculptures from armatures. Students will*learn building methods for armatures and covering techniques for varied transparency effects. Examples of the work to be created can be seen online. Students can bring sketches and simple wire structures or sewn ideas to work from. The sculptures will be small because of time constraints, but techniques and skills will be discussed for larger scale sculpture.

All materials will be provided. Please wear clothes that can get slightly wet/dirty and shoes with traction.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It was a productive weekend of fiber preparation. I decided to go ahead and make paper from some of the dried plants I'd been hoarding, although I'm not sure what I'll be doing with the paper once it's made. Meanwhile, it provided a lovely opportunity to spend time in my garden. Above, the fiber is cooking, near plants with paper potential - yucca and rose-of-sharon, with some calla lilies that appeared, as well as white sage.

I began the weekend by stripping the bark off of the stalks and soaking them in water.

After stripping, the bast fiber is cooked in soda ash, as seen in the image at the top of this post. It cooked for several hours, and then sat in the liquor overnight. The next morning, it was rinsed, and then I commenced to pick off the remaining little bits of bark on the fibers, in a practice the Japanese call chiritori.

It was the first time I ever really spent an extensive span picking chiri. I've done it before, but never this intensely. I kept thinking about how in Tim's book he mentions that for a single batch of pure white paper, it usually takes about nine hours to pick it clean. At Shikoku Wagami, it takes them about two months for their entire yearly paper production.

I lost track of how many hours I spent. Yet, it was such a gift to slow down, sit quietly, calmly focus, and pick chiri. And to feel that all I had to accomplish was clean fiber. I was resigned to beating and sheet formation for next weekend, so I didn't pressure myself to rush in order to squeeze in the entire process. And after watching this, I was trying to enjoy the moment I was given to work, and to work well.

While picking, I kept thinking of the song Simple Gifts. It was a simple task to pick bark, to clean fiber, and let the part of my mind that has a continual to-do list running be quiet.

I managed to pick through about half of the fiber. Have to admit, I'm in love with the clean fiber just as it is. Of course, after all this gentle labor comes the beating.

On a humorous note, I made mention of chiritori on Facebook, and Marie, using Google translate, was told it meant "dustpan." So now I'm wondering about the etymology of the word...anyone out there who could explain it to me?

Friday, May 25, 2012

1000 Artist Books

1000 Artist Books
is out! I have work featured in this publication among many other artists I respect and admire. And I want to especially thank Peter Thomas for inviting me to be included. I can't wait to see it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Growing Flax

I'm growing flax! Above, you can see what it looked like just as it was sprouting.

Actually, I grew some last year, which "pond"-retted in a plastic bucket over the California "winter" (no snow-retting here) but due to other deadlines and responsibilities, I've yet to make paper from it.

Denise had originally inspired me to grow flax after giving me some that she grew. So now I'm onto a second round that I'm hoping to harvest in June/July, and then maybe get a second harvest out of 2012.

So now I'm trying to figure out what to do with it, and getting over the voice in my head that says I grew it from seed! It has to be special! I'm also at a learning stage on how to process it - I didn't have a clue of how to tell when the flax was done retting. I just sort of guessed when most of the green plant matter seemed to be gone, leaving what appeared to me inner bast fiber.

Additionally, I'm not sure if any breaking, scutching, or heckling is needed. I remember seeing a video of Helmut Becker processing his flax which included a some heckling, but I can't seem to find a copy. Menawhile, in this video, I was reassured to see Howie Clark cooking up stems that look very similar to mine.

After John's talk at CBAA, I came across this - and found the idea of a fibershed (like a watershed, but with fiber) very appealing. Not just from a localvore/sustainability perspective - I'll never forget my time at Moore, and some of the Asian students who came to study in the Fashion and now-defunct Textile programs, who had mad sewing skills, because they began learning in sweatshops when they were children.

So...growing flax. The questions that come to mind, other than being environmentally conscious, why do this? As an artist, what does it mean to me?

I'm growing flax partially because, well, I can in my current situation. As a papermaker, I felt I should give it a shot. But also because I see it as a form of Land Art, that can be transformed into a more portable form. It's grown out of the soil where I live, where I also grow some plants I eat. It ties me more closely as an artist to the soil and the sun and weather of my locality.

As a form of Land Art, I see it turning around the question of the carbon cost of making (pieces like this one are visually beautiful to me, but talk about carbon footprint!) Instead, it could be asked of this piece (when finished), how much carbon did it absorb?

I'm not sure how to calculate that. Though I'll note that according to Growing Flax, Production Management and Diagnostic Guide, from the Flax Council of Canada, it states that flax is carbon neutral in regards to burning - it releases the same amount of carbon dioxide that it absorbed while it was growing, and that same amount of carbon dioxide will be re-absorbed in the next harvest.

To me, growing the fiber will be part of the final making of the piece, though I shy away from it in a way because it seems to cast me as the Human Lording Over the Earth. I'd rather think that I collaborated with the earth to make the piece, by clearing some soil and planting seeds. Which I guess also means I collaborated with the sun and rain, though most of the "rain" came out of my hose since we received so very little this year. I also recycled some papermaking graywater into the garden, creating a sort of mobius strip of making and growing.

I'm currently reading A Sand County Almanac, and thinking of making my own record of a year and my observations. Those ideas may play into whatever these fibers become.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A vist to Lost Coast Culture Machine!

The focus of my trip to the North Coast was for Lost Coast Culture Machine's first invitational portfolio, of which I'm a part. LCCM is stationed in Fort Bragg, a lumber mill town that in recent years hosted a Georgia Pacific/Koch Brothers mill, the remains of which dominate the most of the downtown coast. (Image above is from a 2008 article on the Mendo Coast Current, which discusses how to properly remediate the soil on the GP site).

With the town's legacy as a mill for paper products, Anne Beck and Dietmar Krumney founded an alternative exhibition space and a sustainable hand paper mill, Lost Coast Culture Machine.

Click on any image for a larger picture.

In the spirit of DIY, they've built all or most of their equipment. For instance, this couching table:

They did admit to hiring a woodworker to build their molds, though Anne sewed the screens on. Below is one of their molds with a an multiple envelope deckle.

Their paper press:

Their beater, which came from Chillicothe, OH!

Something I thought was completely ingenious was their drying system for pellon and felts. It's a hanging rack system that can be raised and lowered so that it doesn't take up workroom. I wish I had the space for something like this in my basement studio, but alas.

These papers are offered for sale through their store. This table shows just a selection of what they offer:

As part of their sustainability program, they are harvesting local fibers. They recently worked with the Mendocino Land Trust to harvest pampas grass.

Some local fibers they get at the thrift store. Here's where they store them, sorted by color:

Other papers they've made:

No studio is complete without a poet hanging around. LCCM has Virgil to guide them.

I'll be posting updates as they get the portfolio online. Sales will support LCCM, in particular, the artist-in-residence program they are developing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A visit to Stanford and the Cantor

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit Stanford University and see the Cantor Museum. This precedes my trip up north, and I thought I'd take a break from my irregularly scheduled programming to post about it. Stanford, if you have to ask, is a gorgeous campus. The picture above is their church, which is designed in a mixture of Romanesque and Byzantine styles, and executed in way that feels authentic rather than imitative.

The Cantor has a small but impressive collection. For instance, it was my first time ever seeing a Duane Hanson sculpture in real life.

It was positively creepy - I keep seeing the figure out of the corner of my eye and thinking there was a real person there, even after I'd read the label and with knowing who the heck Hanson was to begin with!

Get a load of the details:

Another artist I had heard of, but never experienced their work outside of photographs was Richard Serra.

I'd never been too impressed with him from photographs (C'mon, big steel things! I'm over Big/Overwhelming=Good Artist). But I'll grant that actually walking through a Serra changed my mind. Due to the tilted nature of the walls, you have to be cognizant of space, otherwise you'll hit your head.

Which I'm sure was his intention - to make the viewer uncomfortable.

However, I also found myself intrigued with the labyrinthine nature while inside it.

In front of the Cantor was their newest - installation? Acquisition? Not sure. A work by Andy Goldsworthy.

I usually love Goldsworthy, but this piece felt lacking. On one level, its winding nature speaks to the Serra a few hundred feet (and behind a high wall) away.

I wasn't sure how I felt about it being sunken. I walked down into the piece and around it, and it didn't seem to add to the piece at all.

In fact, I like the piece better in these pictures than I did when I was actually there - I'm not sure what that means. It felt to me that this piece, in this arid, sandy environment needed to engage the landscape more - like there should have been water rushing through it, and the reason for the wall's curves was to guide the water. On the Cantor's website, it states, "Set in a trough in the earth, the sculpture gives the appearance of an archaeological excavation. Over time, the land around the work will return to its natural state and animals will settle into the site. The stone has traveled full circle: quarried initially for Stanford University buildings, it now returns to the earth in another form."

I like that idea, so...maybe I'll like the piece more later.

I know I've chosen to write here about three white guys, and the museum, like many, is pretty white-guy heavy. In deference to this, I'll say I really enjoyed the exhibition of contemporary Chinese Art - particularly the Xu Bing - but out of respect for works on paper I didn't take any pictures. The collection of Native American art - both historic and contemporary, is pretty impressive and I was glad I got to see that as well. There were also statements posted by Stanford students reflecting on the work for visitors to read, which contained some pretty insightful and eye-opening revelations. It seemed to also emphasize that university museums like the Cantor really do belong to the students, as much as their libraries and classrooms should.

The Cantor has free admission, you don't have to be part of the Stanford community to go see it, and I recommend it!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mendocino and Fort Bragg

Last weekend, Robert and I headed up the coast to visit Mendocino and Fort Bragg. It felt very spontaneous, as we decided to do and went two weeks later, which probably says more about my life and my definition of spontaneity than anything else. It wasn't just a getaway, I was part of an invitational portfolio for Lost Coast Culture Machine, which I'll write more about later. Meanwhile, here's the post on making that print.

We treated ourselves to a stay in a cute little bed and breakfast - which was basically across the street and down a short path from the cove above. Below is another part of the cove.

The village of Mendocino is on a peninsula, surrounded by the Mendocino Headlands. I took a few walks around parts of it.

I can't get over my fascination with arch rocks. Geology and negative space just enthrall me.

In "downtown" Mendocino, I was intrigued by the architecture - I'm not sure they are still in use, but several buildings seem to have their own water towers or window's walks of a sort.

I also headed up to MacKerricher State Park, which has one of the few beaches that you can walk on. Most of the Mendocino Coast is dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean. At McKerricher, there's a seal colony, and they were whelping.

By and far my favorite thing was shown to us by Anne and Ditmar of LCCM. It was a capacious tidepool north of the city of Fort Bragg.

Viewing the waters of the North Coast was the first time I ever fully recognized the ocean as a complex living entity. Intellectually, this was something I recognized, but it was never something I felt down to the core of my being like I did on the shores of Mendocino County. The waters are so full of life there, it feels like one living thing. Its almost as if the tide is its breathing.

As we reached the tidepool above, the tide started coming in, bringing new water. Anemones, urchins,mussels, seaweed, and other things I didn't recognize woke up and started feeding.

Click on pictures for larger views.