I’ve been hiding away in my little concerns for the last while; and to anyone out there who has been following my posts here and who might have been looking forward to new ones, all I can do is belatedly thank you for your interest. But, I don’t think I will be writing here anymore; I have transferred my interest. I am trying to take what I have learned from studying zen into outward things, into the world. And I have come up with the idea of developing a website, found here, for the purpose of helping the artists and crafts people in my local community promote their work. This idea is predicated on the notion that when artists/craftspeople are actually doing their work they enter a state of awareness that is not unlike the state we aspire to in zen. But most artists either have no interest in or no skills in marketing their own work. Having a little skill in that area myself, I thought that helping everyone along might not be misplaced. Well, the idea that I can help may well be misplaced, but I’m going to give it a go. And to that end, attached to the website, I will also be writing a blog about arts and culture on Galiano Island (and the world in general, and to how art helps us be aware and awakened to the moment). You can find it here.
It’s been about two months since I wrote here. And the book is done. It was done shortly after the last post and it has been sitting in the book press ever since waiting for the person who commissioned it to come back from Europe. He has family matters to attend to and I have no information re: date of his return. No matter. The book is a book for all that. I’ll not be able to get to another one for a while as the summer is the time to work on the house to try to get it finished. Today I did the final coat resurfacing the bathtub.
I got up on stage and played bass and sang in front of 200 people a week ago. Conquering an old fear has changed my life. Tonight I have a opening of abstract drawings; no fear.
I am starting to remember people’s names. Something I’ve always been bad at. This is so I can start doing a little community organizing with all the many wonderful artists on the island. Can’t talk to people if you can’t remember their names.
When one knows nothing about a topic, it is not necessarily a bad idea to jump in head first – as long as one is willing to put up with all the mistakes one is invariably going to make. In my case all the things that I could do wrong I have done wrong. The process of putting this rather large format book together has been a process of screw it up and fix it.
My Iaido teacher, sensei Ken Manecker, always talked about the importance of the beginner’s mind: One can only learn when one is in the embrace of the beginner’s mind. I wonder if, as in zen, the practise is not so much getting to the point that one does things perfectly, but rather one gets faster and faster at figuring out solutions to the problem of the mistake at hand.
The book is now sewn and glued. Next I will finish the spine and make the case.
The picture above is of the end papers, done with acrylic paint, that keep sticking together whenever I put the book into a press. Then I repair the paper. Why can’t I remember to put waxed paper between the pages? The solution: I thought to write a reminder on each press: “Wax Paper”. I wonder if I will pay any attention.
If I had bad days any more this would be one of them. But not being a bad day, it is merely one beset with fear and trepidation. Everything is sure to go wrong. What have I gotten myself into? I know nothing about book binding. Reading books on the subject is no substitute for having a good teacher who can direct one away from the most common errors. Me, I decide to go it alone. Figure out what I am doing as I go. So today I suspect that my signatures are too thick. When I press the signatures into my gluing frame, it looks like the glue will run down at least an eight inch between them. Is this good or bad? I have no idea. After procrastinating for hours, I go ahead, and glue everything up. If it doesn’t work, I have enough paper between the spine and the pictures that I can sew through the face of the paper. There is always a solution. Sometimes it just takes remaining calm in the face of habitual panic and self-loathing while waiting for the solution to come. So I procrastinated by going for a walk with my companion, in the sun, on the beach. She said, “Everything is shining.”
It still is.
So I’ve been making things needed to bind my book of drawings. The latest is the book press. Crude and haywired. I used a square screw from an old bench clamp, a bunch of re-purposed 2 x 4s and melamine from old shelving. Today is a holiday or I’d go out and buy some bolts to strengthen up the joints. That’s where patience comes in. Waiting for tomorrow. Knowing tomorrow will come and forgetting about it.
And then I will sew my signatures and assemble the book. Maybe the press will even work.
But what I’ve noticed in this whole process, being completely ignorant in respect to book binding, is how instead of doing things to a fine degree, I do haywiring. Why didn’t I make a cabinet quality press. I don’t worry about it, I just say that I don’t know how many books I will bind so good enough is good enough.
The other thing that I’ve noticed is that I’m terrified of making mistakes. I make lots of them. And then I have to figure out how to fix the mistakes – the goal being, after all, a highly skilled work of art. So far, I haven’t destroyed the project, but I’ve spent more than one night unalbe to go to sleep, plagued by various problems that I don’t have any solutions to. Like how to relax the wrinkles in my end papers. I dampened them and stuck them between two boards and left them there for a day to dry. But how do I keep two pages, painted in acrylic, that face each other from sticking to each other? They can’t have glassine between them. What makes acrylic surfaces non-sticky? Anyone have an idea?
For the last few days (3-4-5?) I’ve been researching Bookbinding (youtube, Gutenberg Project. And now I’ve made my very first bound book, blank. I had to use what ever was laying round the house as I have none of the specialized tools or materials. But using ordinary paper and canvas from my painting, including an old paint rag, I cobbled together the book in the photos. Now I feel like I can go ahead and make a few more in preparation for a commission, 40 – 60 pages of abstract drawings. The reason that I needed to make my own book is that most books that are blank are not suitable for art. They are mostly used and intended for writing. Thanks for your attention to my joy at doing.
According to my deal with myself, I thought I would be posting every week, but in the midst of setting up an art show (in a small way 6) that opens this weekend, things have gotten out of control. having to let it all go. so if you are on Galiano island from Friday Nov 25 to Sunday Dec 4 you might want to come by.
And that is my Zen blog for the week last.
The Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.
I am getting ready for a small show at the Galiano Wine Festival tomorrow.
To embody the Buddha way, I must remain centred, kind, unflappable.
I must remember that I painted each picture without a thought for anything, least of all gain. If I sell nothing, that is as it is. I will meet lots of interesting people and have a good time, unless I don’t. The signs are good. The universe is unfolding as it does. What a life.
source of the two pictures above and all sorts of things
Beings are numberless I vow to liberate them.
I received a sourdough starter from my friend, Peter. I don’t know the starter’s provenance (was it started from the wild, or from a bought innoculant, or with the help of commercial yeast?), but my bread doesn’t seem to want to become sour for me. I suspect that to get a starter that is as sour as I want, I might have to start from the beginning, not that I am trying to insult Peter’s starter, but starters, as I surmise from internet research, do not travel well from one flour-environment to another. Yeasts get themselves sorted out for particular micro environments and have to adjust, evolve, to fit into new ones. It is also possible, after years of my store-bought bakers yeast bread baking and wine and beer home brewing, that these blander yeasts have leapt the fence so to speak and caused the yeast in my garden to become creamy and uniform instead of sour. And my bread now does taste sort of creamy, rather than sour. In which case even starting from scratch any new starter I might begin, using my own local yeast, will not produce that desired sour taste. On the other hand, maybe I just don’t yet know what I am doing.
What to do? What to do?
All the numberless yeasty beings floating around in the atmosphere, coating the apples on the trees, the grapes on the vines, or just floating in the air, waiting for a suitably wet environment and enough starches and sugars to act as a delectable food source to encourage their reproductive exuberance. Maybe I should just continue baking bread with the yeast I have and not worry (definitely do not worry) about how sour, or not, my bread might be. I will make the best bread I can.
Beginner’s luck for me began with a recipe for a sourdough sweet potato bread with pumpkin seeds. Everyone raved. However…. although the bread was a delight, after paying full attention to some basic critical benchmarks (as gleaned from the sourdough internet community) I must say that I screwed up the crust by not making it smooth enough and scoring it properly before baking, and what is it with all my bread that I never get that looked for large, holey crumb. I get a cake-like crumb. So what does the beginner’s mind do? Make more loaves of bread, of course, content in the realization that I may never solve the crumb problem but glad the bread tastes great. I feed it to who ever is around and thereby liberate them from the pangs of hunger.
Question of the day: quite often I have heard people say that they are on a yeast free diet and so only eat bread made with sourdough. Sour dough is, of course, yeast. So do I say anything to liberate these deluded people from their ignorance of the nature of sourdough, or do I leave them alone and let them get on with the delightful pleasure of eating yeasted bread by any other name.
For now I will go check on my loaves and maybe pop them in the oven.