The same weekend as our show opening in Oakland, ProArts hosted its annual open studio tours and we were asked to participate. Jenny Williams, who has facilitated other great workshops at the space arranged for us to lead a papermaking workshop. Though one of us is a meticulous papermaker, some of us are a little more loose with our methods. Also, holding a water-intensive workshop at a bookstore posed a few issues but we brought some prepared kozo fiber, demonstrated ways to use it sculpturally without beating it. We also beat some of the fiber by hand with mallet, pulled tiny sheets, pressed them between boards and brushed them onto the bookstore windows to dry. Overall, a successful day.
About a year and half ago, a friend talked me into attending a conference of papermakers. Sometimes I am not confident in my skills and identity and so around papermakers I tend to identify as a printmaker and vice versa. I once declared myself an enthusiast of mail art, because I love postcards but I didn't realize there is a community of people who participate in mail art and though in some ways it has influenced what I do, it is not the most accurate description.
At this conference I met other papermaker-printmakers and we started a critique group, a salon if you will. We met, ate food, shared what we were working on. A new member joined as one left, and then another new member to make 4. We decided on the name subset as a reference to the overlap of our abilities and interests (including an interest in Venn diagrams). We applied for residencies and had shows on our own and then decided to get a show together.
We started with the idea of showing our individual work maybe linking them together by theme, like an exquisite corpse. Then we had the idea to try a few collaborative pieces. For one meeting,w e each brought something we had started but couldn't finish, blank paper, abandoned prints, half-finished books. We lay them on the table and then watch chose a few pieces to try to work on. We brought them back to the next meeting, lay them on the table again with additional unfinished pieces and chose again. Over 2 months we met about 5 times to exchange work and in this way created a body of weird paper works that somehow worked together, a bit of a pleasant surprise as we hung the show hours before the opening.
As we began this project, we also played the parlor game exquisite corpse, each starting a drawing, folding it over so only a few lines were visible , then passing it around to the next person to add to it. I made letterpress prints of the finished drawing and spent nights before the show opening hand coloring them with water color paint and a gold pen.
Of course I made a postcard that fit in this theme.
Keep Writing number 87, exquisite corpse. I can't wait to see what is sent back to me.
EXQUISITE works by subset is open at EM Wolfman Books in downtown Oakland through the end of June.