Mineral School Artist Residency

Mineral School Artist Residency
Daydreamer's Journal – installation at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mountain Women

My friend Ann was visiting me from Vashon Island this morning so we could talk about future projects together. I guess this is why this blog post took a big left turn from what I thought I would write about.

In 1998 I made a book where I/we tried to capture the spirit of a place. That book is called "Volcano Blue."

Volcano Blue came about when I was invited by Seafirst Gallery in Seattle to participate in their show celebrating the centennial of Mt. Rainier National Park. I think I had about 6 months to create a book, which for me is a very short time. My solution was to make it a collaboration. I invited Ann Spiers (poet) and Kim Newall (visual artist) to help create the book.

It was unanimous we could only begin by taking a trip to Mt. Rainier together. Until then all ideas were off the table. The three of us drove up the NW side of Mt. Rainier near the Carbon River Glacier. We hiked up so when we got to the lookout cabin we could turn and stare eyeball to eyeball with the mountain. Ann would sometimes feed us informational tidbits, having grown up in the area and spending much of her time on the mountain hiking and with her geologist husband. Ann knows the native plants, native stories, and much of the geology of the mountain. I wondered how we would ever get all this depth and richness in the book.

The cuts Kim did for the book are patterns of cedar trees, rocks, topographical maps, and geological maps. The many transparent colors overlay, usually with one pattern dominating from each view. There is a cool blue north view and warm red south view. And of course more an in between of greens for east and west. The horizon shaped mountain and foothills were designed from a computer program that let us pick any two points and it would give us a condensed horizon line. We chose points that allowed us to create flanks of the book that would correspond to places on the mountain which inspred Ann's poems and printed the poems accordingly. Ann was often called to the studio during printing to cut a word or flesh out a line so I could register everything properly.

Ann is such a gifted poet. The poems are so lovely, and she even wrote some of them so you could read the stanza order both ways. I printed them in steps, so whether you were climbing 'up the book' or 'down' the poem would work. The book is about 19" high and spreads out about 4 1/2 feet, but you can also read it in your hands, turning the accordion pages as you go.

I met Ann Spiers when I lived on Vashon Island. I was there for 19 years. I met so many women who shaped and inspired me. Most of them older and showing me how a woman can enjoy her 40's and 50's (and now their 60's). Ann was (and still is) one of these women. Rayna Holtz is another. Rayna is the person who started me with letterpress and book making. An amazing series of coincidences brought me into her living room where a C & P was at work, printing books for Laughing Dog Press. I was immediately enchanted and thus began my career as a letterpress printer and book artist.

Here I am when I am still printing at Rayna's on her 8x10 C&P. There was no treadle or motor, so I had to turn the wheel and feed the paper at the same time.

Here's one of the poems I wrote while learning to print at Rayna's:

I learned faith at the wheel of the press
To roll ink across the chase
I must believe in the poem again
and again and
again as it appears
kissed on to each white wing of paper

Rayna is a political and environmental activist. She pays attention to nature, to culture, and to the poetic use of words. She taught me to think about what I was writing and wanting to print. I met Ann through reading events on the island, and because she is a friend of Rayna's. Ann is also a writer, naturalist, and gatherer of stories. She makes me laugh till I am going to pee my pants. Her own life is usually funnier than the stories she tells about other islanders, which are already side splitting. I hope I am in at least one of them. If not, I have work to do!

Rayna is cleaning press rollers and talking while I am taking pictures. We had so many profound and personal talks over many months of Tuesdays when I would come and help print.

Ann and I made seaweed paper in her kitchen for a book of her poems I printed called Tide Turn. It was a lot of fun and took many months to do. It required a lot of beach walks to gather seaweed, and Ann always entertained me with island stories.

What I want to say about these two women is that they helped me move into nature more deeply. They taught me native plants (including seaweeds!) and to soften into the ways of butterflies. When I came to the island I was 27 years old. I had been living in Asia, Canada, and before that, Seattle. I was so immature and just treading water in so many respects. These older women (not that much older, but just enough) were role models of creativity and living with respect for nature. They were grounded in the community and held wisdom that comes from learning through observation of how nature collaborates. They were feminists without giving up their femininity or sense of humor. Married with children, they were committed to shaping a beautiful community vision, a place they wanted to raise their families, devoting many many hours away from home and family (on top of their jobs), and they continue still.

As I wander in the wilds of nature (and into the nature of self) I think of the diverse community of island women and thank them all. For somehow, without me planning or trying, I learned from them a way to be in the world that feels grounded and true. The way I learned to be is brazen, sustainable, rich in experience, and holding a vision with heart.

When I started writing this blog post I really thought I would just focus on Volcano Blue and some of the hikes Bill and I took this summer. We had a great time in the mountains, but I will save them for another time.

P.S. On my wish list is to make a book for Crater Lake National Park (Mt. Mazama) in Oregon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Revealing History of (Catherine's) Underwear

Okay, you are going to have to wait for the underwear. First - Party Dress!

I made Party Dress back in 2004. I still have copies to bind (and sell), and today I was working on that. I thought it would only be appropriate to wear one of my mother's party dresses while making them, so I put one on. Bill came home from work and took a picture of me.

I was pretty excited when my mother gave me this dress of hers. I remember it clearly from her closet. Party Dress is a book all about my mother's party dresses and how I played in her closet and watched her get ready to go out with my father. She was so glamorous and I ached to be like her. I have a few of my mother's dresses from when she was in high school. I love wearing them, but seldom have an occasion. It's amazing to me they fit, because my mother is 4-5 inches shorter than me. Usually the waists are a little high, but I wear them anyway.

My mother was an amazing seamstress, making many of our clothes and even wedding dresses for hire when I was young. I can't sew like my mother -- I pretty much have to stick to sewing straight lines. Still, I enjoyed adding stitching to Party Dress.

Here's some text from the book: "I played with that dress as it hung in your closet. One push and your entire rod of dresses would dance - swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swaying to a stop." and "You were a starlet with hair pinned in a French Twist. Pssst, pssst, the Aqua Net called from your vanity. Sparkles floated around your shoulders." I would like to do another edition someday with a different design. Only because I have more paragraph/pages of text to add in. I would definitely do something simpler though!

Okay, as if one cut out dress book wasn't enough, a few years later I made "A Revealing History of Women's Underwear." I have even more copies of this to bind, as it is a much larger edition. (The stitching is "knots" on this one, holding the top foredge of the folios together. Simpler.) Here are some pictures:

Unfortunately I haven't taken slides of any text pages, but there are 9 of them - a long piece of text I wrote and had edited and worked on for several years. It is justified left and right to fit the shape of the book. The history of underwear is pretty informative and can teach you a lot about politics, class, women's freedoms (or lack of), and how fads can grow from odd things like hiding a pregnancy. (There's some other juicy bits probably not allowed on this G rated blog. You have to read the book, or do the research yourself!)

And now for the history of my underwear...

It occurred to me today that I had a photo of myself in a crinoline and "bra" outfit - the same as the clothing in the last print in the book! I couldn't believe it. (Not the actual clothing. The prints were made with Barbie doll proportioned clothing that would fit into my printing press and pressure printed.) This photo was taken 20 years ago. My younger sister was standing next to me, and I cropped her out because I don't think she was quite G rated in this photo. We were going to a girl party, and asked to dress up in lingerie or something, I can't really remember. Maybe this is when my under wear book became a twinkle in my eye, I don't know, but I find it interesting to look back on this photo and give it some thought. (My sister lived with me for one very fun year when she was 20/21 and I was 28. She is super creative in different ways than me and I would love to co-create with her again.)

After taking a break from writing the blog and going to bed last night, I remembered a time not long after my sister lived with me when my mother sold underwear at women's in-home parties! So another link between Party Dress and A Revealing History of Women's Underwear. My mother has always been an amazing salesperson. I am sure I could do a book someday about it. I'll have to think on that. And there's a little bird telling me there is yet another women's dress book in my future, but I am keeping that under wraps for now.

Besides binding party dresses and underwear, the weekdays are about the subscription - yes, I swear I am working on the next issue. I am pretty excited about it and will tell you all in advance it is called "How Strawberries Came To Be: A Cherokee Love Story." If you are not a subscriber, but would like to be, contact me and I will send you the prospectus. The price goes up as the year passes by....

Weekends are rarely about books and studio work. Maybe reading books for pleasure, but usually it is about the garden, the kitchen, hiking, and the grandkids (most often Emily who lives nearest). The last few weekends have been packed full and here are some highlights.

We dug up about 60 pounds or more of potatoes - 4 varieties.

We split and stacked the last of 3 cords of rounds.

We made and canned applesauce (thank you Phil for the apples!)

There's always time for nature, exploring, swinging, tree climbing and getting close to the crawly things. Emily will pick up anything but spiders. And she loves to feed the roly-poly's to the carnivorous plants. (Note her magic wand!)

The fall garden is full of yellows and purples. So beautiful.

That's all for now -- back to work!