Willapa Bay AiR wrap up

My time here at Willapa Bay AiR is winding down and I find myself with a mix of emotions.  This has been such a great experience for so many reasons.  One of the best things about this month has been getting to know the other residents. I believe some real friendships have been formed, and I am going to miss these people!  Late last week the goodbyes began.  Our poet in residence, Jim Bertolino, had to depart for a trip to Italy, (sigh).  Not only are those of us who remain very jealous we are also missing the nightly recitation of the poems Jim completed on any given day.  And last night we said goodbye to our chef and all around renaissance woman Jill Trenholm, (in addition to excellent culinary skills Jill is a singer/songwriter and artist.  How can one person possess so much talent?).  Conscientious person that she is, Jill left our refrigerator well stocked with healthy meals and scrumtrilenscent treats. 

 The Fortuitous Five, left to right: James Hurley, Christy George, Me, Jim Bertolino, David Nechak
Jill Trenholm and James Hurley performing at the Willapa Bay AiR open house.

A number of visitors stopped in last week as well.  My friends Pam and Sheryl, and Sheryl's dog Sully, paid me a visit on a very rainy day.  In spite of the inclement weather we were able to take a walk by the bay and along the ocean shore.  Pam and Sheryl also enjoyed some famous Oysterville oysters.
 Sully and Sheryl and moi standing by one of many lichen covered Oysterville fences.

 Pam and me on the porch of my cute cabin.

On Saturday Willapa Bay AiR hosted an open house.  The community was invited to roam the grounds, see what the artists have been up to and ask questions.  There were also readings and musical performances by residents and staff, (see photo above).  It was quite fun to meet the locals and see their enthusiasm for this new venture.

In the studio my self directed mokuhanga refresher course continued.  While I did carve blocks for another practice print, most of my attention was directed toward actual printing, (which has been the more challenging aspect for me).   I think I finally hit on the correct approach for dampening paper, (hallelujah!) and was able to reprint the Sitka print with a much better outcome.  In addition I spent some time printing the aforementioned practice print blocks. 
 A comparison of my second and third attempt at printing the Sitka.  Much better, no?

 The result of practice print #3, although...

I prefer the luminosity of the color before printing the key block.  
When I return home I'll be addressing this conundrum.  

Over the next few days I will be tending to the administrative duties associated with my 'job' as a Willapa Bay AiR beta tester.  The five of us were asked to write down each and every complaint and idea we have that might make this a better experience for when the program begins in 2014.  We all agree that it will be a short list.  From the philosophy and mission; to the facilities; to the administration; to the meals;  all has been well thought out. When I add in the lovely locale and the interesting and supportive Oysterville community I don't know how it can get any better.   I began this post by saying I have mixed emotions.   I know that nothing lasts forever and all good things must come to end, (blah, blah, blah).  And I DO look forward to being 'home,' and sleeping in my own bed with my cats curled at my feet, but I will be truly sad to leave this place.  My best and fondest wishes for success go to Cyndy Hayward and Nina Macheel, founder and executive director of WPA, although I believe their success is assured.  And I applaud the lucky 2014 residents, (whoever they may be!) and hope their experience will be as good as mine! 


Moku Hanga is hard!

I'm into my third week at the Willapa Bay AiR.  Tonight all of the residents were interviewed for the community paper by Sydney Stevens, local author, historian and the go-to gal for all things Oysterville, (her grandparents were the renowned H. A. Espys). (If you are interested in history and wonder what life in an historic village is all about, you should check out her blog.)  During our interview we were asked what has made this such a rich and wonderful experience and our answers included the following: the delicious and lovingly prepared meals, the cozy cabins, the peacefulness and beauty of this maritime landscape, the luxury of work time uninterrupted by the demands of daily life and the absolute coolness of sharing time, meals, stories, ideas and struggles with artists from a variety of disciplines.  Poets, writers, musicians and visual artists may produce different products and our approaches to the work we do may differ greatly, but we all know the frustration of hacking away at a creative obstacle.  In my time here I'm reminded that sometimes  the encouragement and/or inspiration needed for 'getting back at it,' comes simply from sitting down, breaking bread and sharing stories.  I am here with David NechakJames Hurley, James Bertolino and Christy George and all have shown me a thing or two about being an artist.  Goshdarnitall, I'm having a great time.

My little cabin

I needed a lot of the above mentioned encouragement and/or inspiration for my work in the studio this past week.  My project for the week was to complete a print requiring some precise registration.  I spent four days carving four blocks and then had a go at printing.  My registration was a bit off and, in a repeat of week one, I struggled mightily with printing.  This time I think the paper was too dry, (last time it was TOO wet) and again this time, I ended up tossing the first day's work.  The second attempt was only marginally better, but I think I learned a bit about the paint : nori ratio. 

I printed only three of the four blocks; used three colors and made six passes.  Oh, how I wished I had a sensei at the ready to tell me what I was doing wrong!  
Yesterday I stepped away from my tools and paints  and spent the day drawing.  I ended the day with a number of ideas for work to do when I return home. Today I was back to carving blocks for another go at moku hanga.  Again this week I will be working on a four block print and hoping for better results.
On Saturday the Willapa Bay AiR is holding an open studio/open house.  Folks from the community are invited to roam the grounds, meet the artists, see what's going on in the art studios and listen to live  performances by the residents.  Saturday, September 21, 3:00 - 5:00p



Willapa Bay AiR - week one

I suspect the Willapa Bay Artist in Residence program will soon be a highly sought after residency opportunity for artists of all kinds.  I happen to be one of the fortuitous-five who were asked to beta-test this program by attending for one month and then providing feedback to the founder and director.  Here I sit in spectacularly beautiful corner of Washington state (a pristine bay on one side and the mighty Pacific Ocean to the other) with four other artists, (two writers, one musician and another visual artist), in my own little cabin,  a private studio just steps away,  a fully stocked kitchen with two meals a day prepared for me and treasure of treasures, an entire month to work.  How did I ever get this lucky?!?
My goal for this month is to reacquaint myself with the printmaking technique I learned in Japan, several years ago, called moku hanga.  Simply translated moku hanga means, wood print.  This technique differs from western woodblock printmaking in that water based pigments are used instead of oil based inks, and the blocks are printed by hand and not with a printing press.  It is a very wet process; the wood block must be wet, as must the paper, and this area, with water all around, has the perfect climate. 
To begin my re-acquaintance with this beautiful but challenging technique, I brought along the blocks I carved in Japan, to re-print, along with all my notes which made perfect sense four years ago but have become cryptic and completely inadequate since then.   After four days of struggle, head scratching, starting over, and a few ah-ha moments I was able to finish my practice round.  It took a while but I managed to remember a lot of what I had forgotten.
Moku hanga practice session, day one. Definitely a learning day.

Moku hanga practice session day two. In progress prints are resting in their damp book comprised of damp blotters and newspaper sandwiched between plastic.  I learned the hard way that there is damp and then there is TOO damp.

 Moku hanga practice, complete.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

My initial idea was to reprint the entire triptych, but I think that will wait for another day.  I am anxious to do some new work inspired by this lush area. My next challenge is attempting some detailed registration.

It hasn't been all work this past week.  On Saturday we donned our rubber boots and went on a clam dig. We roamed the tide flats of Willapa Bay and collected a bucket of little clams that were to be prepared for our dinner on Sunday evening.  Unfortunately, novice clam diggers that we all are, most of our bounty had to be returned to the sea for they weren't worth eating.  Still we had a wonderful morning, and last night, a delicious meal of linguine with clam sauce.  Yum. Wish I'd taken a picture of that but I was too busy slurping it down.

 Willapa Bay at low tide.
Clam diggers extraordinaire.

 Our wholly inadequate haul.