Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, Nature printing

Thursday

Continuing with the prints on cement. I didn’t arrange this. I think that the squirrels did. Under the black walnut tree. This is a fairly new parking lot, and since it is under a black walnut tree and a hickory tree and a pecan tree, it has stained to a dark color very quickly.

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It is difficult to manage my anxiety unless I block out the news completely. It seems to me that the whole planet is in chaos and at least half of Americans have lost their damn minds. The Co-vid rules where I work and in my city are insufficient to say the least. There is no way we should be here when we could have started remotely until this big surge is over. At least I have a box of N95 masks to wear – not that my employer has provided them.

The state of this country’s politics makes me feel that it is more urgent than ever to move forward with our plan to move to Portugal. I am nervous that we will miss our opportunity. After I retire we will have to get our house cleaned out and ready to sell, or find a rental management company to rent it. Either way, a lot of work will have to be done.

I really miss going out to eat and to the brewery for a pint.  In a way it might be good because I have cut down on my drinking so much and I’m saving money, but going out to eat was one of my favorite things to do.  I wish that I could jump forward in time!

I’m thinking about this for my next tapestry:

lake tapestry idea

I’ve been working on the most challenging part of my job for the past two weeks. I told a faculty member that it is like working on a puzzle that constantly has pieces taken away and new pieces added. Putting together the puzzle is actually quite satisfying, but the long process of tweaking it gets a bit tiresome. And frustrating when some of the rules and demands are unhelpful or illogical. Now that I am a year and a half away from my planned retirement, I’m starting to look at all the things I do and I’m getting pretty nervous about training the next person. It’s a lot to learn. I’ve pulled all this together over 18 years and take a lot for granted. But I need to focus on my future and not let this idea add to my stress.

Diego has started throwing up again (on my bed, damn him) and he and Pablocito turned down their Greenie dental treats this morning. They weren’t happy about the canned cat food yesterday. Why, I ask them, WHY do you prefer plastic? But giving them the pill pockets a few hours after they eat dinner seems to be working.

A three-day weekend is coming up and there is a pretty high likelihood for a big winter storm, which is not unusual for this time of year here. My guess is that whatever bread and milk that was on the grocery shelves is gone by now!

agoraphobia, depression/anxiety, Nature printing, Studio talk

Monday

I’m not doing a lot of photography these days, but I am fascinated with the shadows that leaves cast on the sidewalk  early in the morning. This is a ginkgo branch, and while I don’t have the patience or skills to make the shadow any darker because of the mottled sidewalk, I thought that it was cool the way its shadow morphed into a caterpillar. It has made me consider relearning the caterpillar stitch in bookbinding.

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I put this one up on my Facebook page: if you are a beginner at natural dyeing and leaf printing and don’t know what leaves might have pigment, here’s a tip. On your walks, notice what leaves leave a print on freshly laid or recently laid (within a few years) cement. Also, any tree that bears nuts should be a good choice.

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Yesterday I went to the print studio at the arts center, and although it was nice to have it by myself, I couldn’t bear the heat. It must have been in the upper 80s in that room. I peeled away as many clothes as I could, and fortunately I wore a t-shirt under it all, because the last time I had been there it was roasting hot. I found what looked like a room thermostat, but it didn’t have a temperature and it was set in the middle. I turned it all the way down after I broke into a sweat. No difference. I wonder what it felt like this morning because I forgot to turn it back. My bet is that it is either broken or not the thermostat or the heat is controlled by a central office. Since I am of a certain age, I never know if this intolerance to heat is just me.

I took advantage of the paint drying really fast to paint some panels and old book boards with black gesso. I ditched my plan to iron some fabrics and weave cloth strips. I packed up some of my stuff and brought it home. I can’t handle that kind of heat. So I’m going to call them and see if it really is a technical problem, and cancel my membership if it is an ongoing winter thing. Bring home my stuff and consider rejoining in June after I come back from Portugal.

Update: It is an HVAC problem, not a hormone problem. I’m not the only one roasting. A work order was placed the week after Christmas when I first noticed it. I told her that I’ll go back on Sunday, and if it hasn’t been fixed, I’ll bring my stuff home for a while.

Sandy suggested that I turn the back building into my studio again. The only problem is that we’d have to clean it out and I’ll probably have to buy other window AC unit. Also, the door and the steps need repair. It’s something to consider. A space heater heats it fairly well. I’m sure that the critters nesting in the crawl space above the ceiling would like that.

Yesterday I got it together and cooked again – bacon and eggs for brunch, beef stew for dinner. On Saturday I wove about a half-inch on my tapestry. That doesn’t sound like much but it took a couple of hours. Got laundry done and put away. After I left the studio I went to Deep Roots for a quick grocery run. Cricket was there in the parking lot with the Boomerang Bookshop bus so I went in and talked with him. Maybe I should get up a box of books to donate or trade for credit with him. I love his shop, and once when he was getting very depressed and burned out I volunteered to help him with it. But he didn’t want help. I don’t blame him, and honestly, do I want to learn how to drive a bus?

Anyway, I felt better this weekend. A little more energy. This is the first week of classes for the spring semester. We shall see how things unfold.

collage, Coronavirus Chronicles, Nature printing

New Year’s Eve Eve

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I am about to undertake my yearly wrap-up post, in which I pretty much read my blog posts from the whole year and pick one or two from each month to highlight. Ugh. 2021 was so boring. And depressing. There were a few fun events though, mostly later in the year. Maybe I’ll feel better about it once I get to June.

Yesterday, after my rant here, I went to the print studio and Jay was there. Jay is there every day the art center is open from 9-6 except for Sundays, when I usually go. He is an elderly gentleman, well versed in art history and printmaking, and a very pleasant person. He didn’t have on a mask, but I just sat away from him – he doesn’t go anywhere else much and he is usually careful, from what he’s told me. I wore mine, though. We talked some about the maskholes in Greensboro. He coughed and excused himself, and said that he was coming down with a cold. I suggested that he get checked, since “a lot of people are sick now.” Then he must have realized that he didn’t have his mask on and put it on. I finished up and left soon after, mainly because it was really hot in that room, and I decided not to go back today or tomorrow. Then it is closed for three days. Oh well. I hope that Jay is okay.

Then I went to Deep Roots where there was an unmasked customer who seemed stoned out of his gourd walking around. I ranted on Facebook and let that shit go. I am so thankful that I do not have to deal with this kind of bullshit at work. My heart is with the public facing workers.

I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to mount one collage on a wooden panel and do another collage. Believe me, I will try my best to make sure the hanging mechanism holds when I put it on.

I had been printing a lot of monoprints with leaves a while back for using in collage, and I decided that I also wanted to use the leaves I printed with. The shapes of oak leaves are fascinating to me. I bet that I could go out on my street and find about ten different kinds of oak leaves.

 

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I am at that squeamish point when I don’t know whether to leave this one alone or not. I think that I’ll print it out in color and play with a sepia colored pen on the light side on the printed copy and see if that helps me decide. That way I’m not committed to it. I guess I should brush some matte gel medium over it to preserve the leaves.

That text page is from the 1896 agriculture book that I’ve been mining for years.

Here is the beginning of the next one. It will probably be mostly covered with another layers by the time I’m through with it, but it’s nice to have a before photo sometimes.

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Today, I wove on Cathedral. I am not going to make my goal of cutting it off the loom by the end of the year, mainly because I’ve decided to try for another inch or two or three. There is a section in it that I’d really like to extend if I can because it was an important part of the design to me. But if the tension gets too crazy, I’ll call it done and weave a hem. I’m trying to weave across the whole thing now to keep it fairly even across the top in height instead of weaving sections so that I can do that.

I managed to watch “Just Look Up” – half yesterday and half today. I found it very depressing, but well done satire. I love the way it skewered the media because I’m pretty disgusted with most of the media these days too. I’ve been spending too much time on Twitter.

Now I’m going back to reading “The Overstory” and hopefully Pablocito will not wake me up at 3:30 a.m. again tonight or I might have to kill him. Diego is doing fairly well, and taking his nose drops like a champ.

 

book arts, dyeing, Nature printing

Natural dyeing on paper

Posting these photos before I forget again! It’s been over a week since Susanne and I pulled these bundles out of a dyepot with black walnuts and a bunch of leaves we didn’t use inside the bundles. We didn’t put a lot of effort into this – it was just fun.

Susanne tried a long roll of handmade hemp paper wrapped around a copper pipe. I rolled commercial papers that I think were cotton based around copper pipes with various leaves, and a small stack of watercolor scrap pieces with sheet metal and grape leaves layered between them and bound with rubber bands between two small wood pieces.

We had some successes and some disappointments – I really expected prints from the fig leaves – but all of it was fun.

art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina beaches

Leslie Marsh’s Nature Bound workshop

I do not have many photos from this workshop, a sign of excellence for me. It means that I was so much in the present moment that I forgot to take photos. It is generally hard to get into one of Leslie’s workshops because they fill quickly, but someone canceled and I took their place. Leslie Marsh has a beautiful home and studio on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands at Topsail Beach.

A trademark of Leslie’s book workshops is natural dyeing. She studied with India Flint and developed her own techniques of eco-printing. I particularly like Leslie’s method because she skips the mordanting step and puts everything in the dye pot. When we wrap our papers and fabrics with leaves around copper pipes, all we need to do is wet them and bind them tightly to the pipes. Then she pops them into her potion and they come out transformed. I have found that I do not like the mess of natural dyeing and so this is like heaven for me – the magic without the prep and clean-up. I am not fussy and precise. I enjoy the surprise.

This particular workshop was special because it definitely took me out of my comfort zone. We learned Leslie’s method for her metal book covers, which involves liquidified solder! Leslie is a wonderful, patient teacher and gave each of us individual help as we used these tools and methods for the first time.

We spent a cold Saturday preparing the dyed and leaf printed papers and wool felt, and metal covers for our books. Then we spent Sunday binding the books with coptic stitch, which I do so seldom anymore that I always need a refresher. The second photo of the finished book was taken by Leslie.

I took a little while during the lunch break on Sunday to visit the beach and collect some shells. I love the old worn out ones with holes in them. Sandy mostly stayed in our room at the Jolly Roger because he was sick on Saturday, but he revived on Sunday and drove around exploring while I finished my book. Our room was oceanfront, and I was really impressed with these surf fishers who were out there even late at night. Because he was sick we didn’t eat out Saturday night but we had appetizers and dessert at the Beach Shop Grill on Friday night. Their crab balls are exquisite. Expensive restaurant though. We couldn’t afford to eat there often if we lived nearby.

Anyway, I would take every workshop from Leslie Marsh that she offered if I could.

art retreats, book arts, Focus on Book Arts, Nature printing, Oregon

Focus on Book Arts – Surface Design on Metal and Paper

I have so much fun with Leighanna Light’s techniques that I decided to take both of her classes at FOBA this year. I took a break on Friday because I have finally learned that I cannot go full charge for five days at an art retreat without falling apart before the end. Kathy went home. So that was the day I roamed around town by myself and took photos. Susanne and I sent three boxes full of stuff that we bought or no longer needed for classes back home by Priority Mail. I repacked everything and left the suitcase with one wheel in the garbage can.

On Saturday, Judy joined my class, so it was nice to reconnect with her. She gave me an accordion flag style book she made with her handmade paper and photos she took of the textures at Yellowstone National Park. Such a nice memento of our time together there. I’ll post a photo later. Also sitting at our table was Virginia Sumner, attending her first art retreat. She was kind enough to give us a ride back to the MAX line station so that we didn’t have to lug bags too far. You can check out Virginia’s artwork here. I love making new friends at art retreats, even though I didn’t try very hard at this one.

^^^On Saturday morning we concentrated on the techniques that would have to dry for a while. The first thing we did was make gesso photo transfers on metal. It’s a very simple technique but I always have problems with any kind of photo transfer. I think that I will try to rub a little more paper off.

^^^I had some extra tin so I played with gesso and stencils again.

^^^We went out and picked leaves to do leaf prints on copper and brass. This is a technique that Leighanna developed. The brass turned the copper a bluish color where they were stacked – or was it the copper turned the brass blue – aw heck, I’m mixed up, but it was cool. I think that the brass is the bigger piece.

^^^We spent the afternoon painting and stenciling and stamping watercolor paper with gesso, let them dry, then painted over them with dyes and chalk paint. I could do this for weeks and I don’t know why I don’t do it more when I am at home. I am resistant to getting paint on my hands and I hate gloves so I guess that is it, but if I am somewhere else in a workshop I am happy slapping wet stuff on paper and getting it all over me. I kept going back and adding more color here and there.

^^^The following day we tore our papers into signatures and bound them into a book with a canvas cover with a longstitch binding. I can make three more books with the extra signatures I made.

^^^Then came the tough decision – what metal plate to use on the cover? I would have been fine with several of these. It helped to cut down the leaf prints into smaller sections. Once I did that, one stood out and I went with it.

We attached the metal with a metal punch and little nuts and bolts. I originally bound the book with red thread to give it a pop, but after I attached the plate I rebound it with black thread. Part of the look was to hang ribbons and yarns and odd bits to the threads hanging off the spine. I like that kind of thing, but I didn’t go for it with either of my books. I preferred the simple look of the plain black thread on the spine, so I brought the ends of the threads to the inside as in a pamphlet binding.

I still need to glue the back and front papers to the cover, but I’m very happy with the results I had in both workshops. I don’t expect to come home with something that I am so satisfied with, because the idea is that I am learning and playing, so this was great.

Susanne and I flew back on the redeye from Portland to Greensboro late that night. PDX is a great airport, with good shops and restaurants at normal prices. I end this series with the amazing banh mi from Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, which I washed down with a “Made Marion” marionberry cider from 2 Towns Ciderhouse. I will miss the food and drinks in Oregon.

art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

This past weekend, Susanne and I went to a wonderful Zhen Xian Bao book class at Topsail Beach, NC, taught by Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller. The first day we spent natural dyeing with plant materials and indigo on paper and fabric. The next day was spent constructing the book, which is made with glue, scissors, and folding. The book structure is a traditional Chinese thread book made for the purpose of holding embroidery threads, needles, and the odd bits that might be kept for different projects. Ruth Smith researched this extensively and published books about it, and it is being taught by artists in the United States now. I took a class on this structure at Focus on Book Arts last summer, which I absolutely loved. Kim and Leslie put their own spin on it by adding more layers and the natural dye/shibori element. Of course, Leslie acknowledged the instruction of India Flint in her teaching of eco-printing techniques.

The big dilemma in making this book is that you have to sacrifice some images that you might love to be on the side that is glued down. The biggest one for me was the big box that makes the base and the cover. Both sides had their charms, but I had to pick one. The other can be seen on the bottom of the lowest box when the book is opened. I thought about embellishing the cover further, but I think that I will leave it alone other than brushing some Dorland’s wax medium on it to make it a little stronger and more weatherproof.

above: unbundling, trying out cover sides and the finished cover

I added the 70% silk/30% cotton thread to every bundle. I now have some dark and bright indigo threads to add to my tapestry, once I get them untangled. One groups of the threads I laid inside a bundle made a portrait of two humans. Fortunately I was able to preserve this image in the bottom of one of the boxes near the top.

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

Update: I don’t do Pinterest too much – too overwhelming and I don’t need another rabbit hole. If you are into it, here’s a great board on the Zhen Xian Bao book structure.