AT HOME Residency: Counting Down to the Exhibition…

It has finally dropped down to 45 degrees F at night…though we will probably have an upswing before we really get into autumn…It’s one of my favorite times of year—sweater weather, crisp fall air, the beginnings of moody skies and falling leaves (but with a residual wash of summer’s greenery). 

A time for knitting…

It’s a great time for knitting, and brisk long walks, and hot tea and snuggling under a blanket and reading a book.  It’s a time to make those stews and hearty soups I’ve been pondering.  A time to enjoy the warmth of the kitchen while the loaves are rising…a time for candles and firelight…and more candles…

Kladdkaka (Swedish Sticky Chocolate cake). I decorated it with a handmade stencil…
Candles…

I’m getting ready to weather proof the greenhouses. My strawberries are just beginning to form…Almost time to move them to the protection of the small greenhouse.  Soon it will be time to harvest large bundles of herbs to dry and freeze. It’s also a great time to work in the studio, but I am thrilled that I finished my photo-documentation before this brisk weather set in.

My newly planted strawberries and raspberry canes.

I baked a chicken pot pie and a cloudberry apple crumble, Sheet pan Chicken with Roasted Plums and Onions, Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Croutons and fresh parsley (close to the last of the year), peach hand pies, shashuska with smoky eggplant, and kladdkaka (Swedish sticky chocolate cake) I had fun making a hand-cut paper stencil for the decoration on top.  I also made a yummy licorice syrup. I know, I know it’s not for everyone, but I happen to really like it…I made a point of sampling upwards of 20 kinds of hard and soft licorice in all manner of forms while I was in Iceland last year. 

Cloudberry and apple crumble
Spicy pumpkin soup with homemade whole wheat croutons and fresh herbs.
Peach pie

Soon I will be sharing my AT HOME EXHIBITION with you.  Here is a sneak preview of one piece.  I’ve included a studio selfie to give you a sense of scale.

A sneak peek at one of the pieces in my upcoming exhibition (photographed in my studio.)
A studio selfie to give you a sense of scale…

AT HOME Residency: frukost, fika, and frogs on the window…

fika (coffee break in Swedish)

I’ve begun my fall planting. Over Labor Day weekend, I cleared and weeded beds and topped up the soil. Yesterday I planted three blueberry bushes (to add to the pair we’ve had for a few years that produced several cups of fruit this summer), two different kinds of raspberries, and three kinds of strawberries. When it cools, I will put in my radish and arugula seeds, and more butter lettuce.  I’m hoping to extend my growing season into winter with the help of the greenhouse.  After one of the storms ended, but the ground was still wet, this tiny frog caught my eye as it clung to the window screen for a few minutes.

Working around the rains, I’ve at last completed the photo documentation for my AT HOME Exhibition.  I have been working on edits this past week. I’ve winnowed my photos from 1,665 photos to a gallery of 84.  Next, I will work on exhibition associated writings.  For a show like this, I get to be curator and photographer (not to mention many other roles,) as well as the artist.  For an artist with an art history background, that’s fun, though I miss the interaction with other arts professionals that usually happens around an exhibition.

I have art in exhibitions in WY and ME currently, but most shows have gone online or been pushed to 2021.  My next solo show–at The Maria V. Howard Arts Center in Rocky Mount, NC–is currently slated for summer of 2021. Fingers crossed…

Cooking wise, some of the recent hits were an apple crisp, a stone fruit crumble with lots of nutmeg, and a roasted artichoke spread with feta and fresh oregano from the garden.

Minted Pea Danishes, garden veggies, and fruit…

I also made a weekend frukost/Swedish Breakfast…with homemade honey nut granola, muesli, sliced peppers, rye crisps, spiced apple chutney, savory yeast rolls with minted pea filling, fruit, and plenty of coffee.  This would usually be a breakfast for guests, where you put out a bit of everything and people help themselves as they like. 

frukost/Swedish breakfast…

I miss having people over.  I’ve decided that in this pandemic induced hiatus from having guests it is still important to have events even if just for two.  It also means we have some nice breakfast options made for the coming weeks…I love to cook, but I like to make things in batches so I can be prepared for those frequent busy days when it’s wonderful to spend just a few minutes warming things…

Homemade muesli and a bouquet of onion and thistle flowers (grown from birdseed)…
Homemade cardamom-honey granola…

Ok, back to the studio…It feels great to have my next project underway…More on that soon. Also coming up, my first ARTIST to ARTIST interview with a composer…Stay tuned…

AT HOME Residency: Kraftskiva

I harvested my first sweet peppers this week.  And by the looks of it, I will be elbow deep in them soon… I have schemes of pickles and sauces, and a simple tapas dish where you serve them in a skillet with just a touch of sea salt.  The cucumbers have peaked, and I think I’ve harvested the bulk of the last batch of them.  Cherry tomatoes are still coming in handfuls…

Kittikens starts the day with a nap…dreaming of crayfish???

It seems important, somehow to find things to celebrate just now…We had a Swedish Kraftskiva/Crayfish Party with just the two of us and a very enthusiastic kitty–who approves all seafood meals.  It’s part of my current armchair travel scheme…In years past, we’ve focused on making food from Mexico, China, Thailand, Japan, India, France, Spain, and Turkey to name a few…It’s a fun way to travel without travelling, and has been especially useful recently…You can get a more in depth look at food culture by making the cuisine of a particular country or region for several weeks or months. It’s also the way I like to actually travel when possible—more sustained time in a single place, rather than the 10 countries in 10 days approach…Residencies are such a wonderful way of getting to know people and connecting to a new place.  

Our Kraftskiva table…

Inspired by a menu from the American Swedish Institute, and a pile of my favorite cookbooks, I made a feast. I miss having guests, but am in hopes of a true celebration next year. In the meantime, it made for a nice week of festive leftovers (convenient during the workweek!)

A Slott’s Mustard jar makes a great vase….

 On the menu: Shrimp in the Style of Crayfish (brined in dark beer, dill crowns, and caraway), pickled beets (with fresh orange juice and zest, apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, and cloves,) carrot rye rolls with pumpkin seeds, boiled potatoes with parsley (probably the last form our garden this year) and salt, cucumber salad, Vasterbotten cheese pie, nut cake (I used Patrice Johnson’s recipe and opted for pecans as a nod to place), and a summery drink with fresh strawberries and pink peppercorns.

Homemade party hat…

I made these silly party hats (part of the tradition) decorated with crayfish, full moons, and dill blossoms for us with some scrap paper and watercolors.  The big smiling moon lantern is a carryover from a time when people apparently hunted crayfish by moonlight.

I printed this small hat for Kittikens from the ASI (American Swedish Institute). She got a tuna treat in her hat…

On the studio front, things have been very productive.  I have been working hard to document the over 40 pieces of hand-cut paper sculpture in my upcoming AT HOME Exhibition, a process made a bit more challenging by ample days of thunderstorms and flash flood warnings…but I am finally almost finished.  It is exciting! I am ready to have a clear studio to begin work in earnest on my next project.

ARTIST to ARTIST: An Interview with Emily Lackey, Amherst, MA…

As I’ve mentioned, some of my favorite residencies also host writers, composers, musicians, and other creatives.  It makes for great dialog and cross-pollination of ideas.  This is my first interview with a writer, and I was excited to reach out to Amherst-based writer, and fellow Middlebury College alum, Emily Lackey, to talk with her about her work.  We connected several years ago when Emily and I were awarded back to back artist residencies at Newnan ArtRez in Newnan, GA (one artist or writer is hosted at a time for a one month residency.)

Photo Credit (above and below): Colin Conces.

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Ingrid Erickson: For those of us who aren’t yet familiar, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work…

Emily Lackey: Thanks for having me, Ingrid! I’m a writer of mostly short stories and essays, but last year I started writing a book-length work of nonfiction about friendship, autonomy, loneliness, and love, and it’s been my sole focus ever since.

Ingrid Erickson:  How has the global pandemic impacted your practice?

Emily Lackey:  I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to the places that I write. Some writers have little totems and rituals that are built into their practice, but that’s never been me. Instead, if I have a successful writing day in a coffee shop, library, or café, I will convince myself that I have to return there every day until the story or essay is done. So getting out of the house and going somewhere else is a big part of my process. The biggest impact the pandemic has had on my work is not having anywhere to go! It’s definitely slowed down my work, but I’m trying to orchestrate ways around it. Thankfully the weather is warm, so writing outside has become a big part of my practice.

Ingrid Erickson: As a writer, what do you look for in a residency? What do you need in order to do your work?

Emily Lackey:  I look for residencies where I can focus entirely on my work. Residencies that require a project submission or work exchange aren’t really for me.

Ingrid Erickson: Can you share some of your best residency moments? What made them so good?

Emily Lackey:  The book I’m working on actually takes place in a residency, so this is at the front of my mind these days! I think the moments that stand out the most to me from my residencies were the ones in which my confidence in my work grew. I really learned from the other artists there how to be a professional working artist, the sacrifices that requires, and the determination it takes.

Ingrid Erickson: What does a work day look like for you usually? These days???

Emily Lackey:  I try to devote my afternoons to writing. I get my paid work done in the mornings (I’m the Assistant Director of Writers in Progress, a writing studio in Northampton, Massachusetts) and teach workshops in the evenings, so the afternoons are my time to write. Right now I’m revising and working on a book proposal, so that is taking up the majority of those afternoon hours. If I can, I like to set aside one weekend day to go over what I’ve worked on that week. In the pre-pandemic days, that would involve an indulgent solo brunch with delicious food and cocktails. These days I settle for a home-packed picnic and a field.

Ingrid Erickson: Like so many of us in creative fields, you also teach.  How does this support/engage with your own practice?

Emily Lackey:  The workshops I teach are mostly generative, so my work as a teacher directly supports my work as a writer. I get a considerable amount of writing done in my workshops. Sometimes it’s the only writing I do! The way the workshops are run (we follow the AWA method of teaching) feels supportive and encouraging, which means I usually leave the workshops feeling inspired, invigorated, and connected. If you can find an online workshop or group right now, I highly recommend it. It’s a significant source of connection for me these days.

Ingrid Erickson: Have you read anything recently that really resonates with you right now?

Emily Lackey:  I’m deeply interested in different relationship structures, so I devoured Luster by Raven Leilani in a day. The sentences are so surprising, the plot is propulsive, and it’s funny. Like really, really funny. If you’re looking for a book you can’t put down, I highly recommend it.

Ingrid Erickson: Can you share an excerpt of your work (recent or not so recent)…and provide a bit of context for us.

Emily Lackey:  Sure! I’ve been spending this summer trying to find the right beginning to my book, and after much work shopping and revising, I think I’ve found it:

If the story of those two years of my life were to follow the rules of a traditional narrative, then it would start at the bottom: with me sitting on the kitchen floor and Sean, my boyfriend at the time, standing next to me, leaning his weight against the fern colored cabinets in the home we had been renting for the past year. We were both exhausted. I had been trying to convince him all night to tell me what it was he had been keeping from me. I was still in my pajamas, my hair tangled from where I had been twisting it between my fingers. I wanted to know, I told him. I needed to know.

When it came to Sean, I had followed all the rules. The kind of rules women in their twenties and thirties adopt in order to find love, become happy, and stay safe. Don’t sleep with a man until the third date. Relationships are hard work. Learn to compromise. I had spent the last five years of my life with Sean compromising, reassuring myself that nothing good ever came easy.

These rules had dictated my life like something inherited. And I had inherited them. Over the course of my life, I had unconsciously accumulated what my family, my upbringing, my geography, and my generation deemed good and bad, right and wrong. As a child of the early eighties, I came of age during a decade when divorce rates were at their highest—in my immediate family of six, there were seven—and I had come to believe that if I followed the rules, if I did the opposite of what my mother and father and brother and sister did, I would be saved from their same fate.

So I followed the rules, and following them led me here, sitting on the wood floor of the small ranch that I shared with boyfriend, watching the early morning light inch its way across the floor toward us. Sean was standing above me, dressed in his navy work shirt and pants, tired from an entire night of fighting. He was sick of it, I could tell, ready to give up and go.

It was March in Massachusetts. If something was going to change, we had picked the right season.  

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Photo credit above: Emily Lackey.

Ingrid Erickson: Where can we access more of your work?

Emily Lackey: You can access more work on my website: www.emilylackey.com. I’m also tweeting and Instagramming @emilyklackey.

Ingrid Erickson: Have you developed any pandemic hobbies or new ways of doing things?

Emily Lackey: I started an online support group for writers that meets online weekly, and that has been such an incredible source of strength and community. Last week, especially, I seemed to have hit a real wall in my work and well-being, and having a well-established group to fall back on and be lifted by was so reassuring.

Ingrid Erickson: What are some of your future goals?

Emily Lackey:  My immediate goals are to finish my book proposal and get the book sold! I plan to send it out in early 2021, so I’ll be spending the first half of the New Year with all my fingers and toes crossed, hoping that it sells.

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Photo Credit: Emily Lackey.

 

 

At Home Residency: Ingrid’s Bakery Edition…

 

Today I watched the rain as my loaves baked…My scallions are very happy about these days of thunderstorms—they have grown six inches in just a few days…

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Pictured above: My lefse stick for flipping flat breads…

I’ve been working on my outdoor exhibition in between the rains. Paper doesn’t tolerate high humidity, let alone torrential rain and already soaked ground…I’ve discovered that the light before the storms is beautifully diffused though.  I managed to get about a third of my shots done before the last block of solid rain.  Another aspect to working outside of a white box gallery (literally outdoors) is selecting sites for the works that don’t distract from them, while planning for a cohesive show.

The other thing I’ve had to consider is the engineering problem of building temporary invisible supports for the larger works (the four five and six foot pieces) to suspend them within the landscape.  It has been an exciting challenge.  I’m also enjoying being my own photographer.  Some of the pieces need to be photographed from underneath…

I will be sharing My AT HOME Exhibition with you in September, so I will not reveal any images now…

Another thing that I am excited about is my first collaboration with another artist. We have arranged a weekly Zoom meeting going into the fall. More details on that soon…

Pictured Below: Just-baked Nellike brod/Danish Spiced Pumpernickel loaves. I had some fun making stencils…

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In the kitchen (which I really should call Ingrid’s Bakery these days), I’ve had fun making some new things recently.  Cooking wise, we made a Peruvian roasted chicken to recreate date night at one of our favorite places, and I made cinnamon ice cream.  The list of new recipes we’ve tried since March on the side of the fridge has just spread onto its fourth page.

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Above: Homemade cinnamon ice cream.

We’ve been making all of our own bread since the pandemic closures began back in March.  I think it has been easier for me to sustain this practice since it brings me back to a teenage summer job in a CSA organic bakery which I loved. We made upwards of 200 a day loaves in that tiny space with just two of us working.  I learned to make tarts and focaccia during those summers, as well as hearty rustic loaves such as oatmeal sunflower, anadama, and whole wheat.  We ground fresh grain onsite.  I loved riding my bike to the bakery along the Green River, with some great mountain views.  The recent slowing down of life has given me the chance to return to baking in a way that I haven’t had time for in a long time.

Below: Tunnbrod/Swedish flatbread.

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Baking wise, I’ve made Tunnbrod (Swedish yeasted flatbread) and pitas. Naan is next…With a little borrowing from Norway, my skillet bread baking has gotten a whole lot easier. This lefse stick is my new favorite tool for flipping hot bread in a skillet on the stove top or a 500 degree oven. I haven’t made lefse yet (potato flat breads) but perhaps that is a project for the winter, when a little extra heat in the kitchen is welcome.  Right now, we don’t need any extra heat…

IMG_20200714_123813855Above: Pita dough. Below: A pita sandwich with homemade hummus and garden cucumbers…IMG_20200714_131212878

Here are a few more of my recent breads…Nellike brod (Danish Spiced Wheat Pumpernickel), Havrebrod (Danish Oat loaf), Beach Rolls with Toasted Walnuts (a modern Swedish recipe from Swedish Summer Feasts a book by two home cooks (Amanda Schulman and Hannah Widell) who are sisters. The third sister, Amelia Widell, is the photographer.) I’ve finally finished my CIA (Culinary Institute of America) course.  I think the most useful chapters for me were the one on legumes and grains, and also sauces and spice mixes.

Below: Havrebrod/Danish Oat loaf ready for sandwiches…

 

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I am looking forward to the autumn planting.  I am looking forward to growing arugula and radishes in the greenhouse once the temperatures finally take a dip…

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Coming up soon in my ARTIST to ARTIST Interview series, an interview with Massachusetts-based writer, Emily Lackey. Many of my favorite residencies also host writers and composers. It makes for great dialog across disciplines.

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ARTIST to ARTIST: An Interview with In Young Chung, Seoul…

In Young and I met at Nes Artist Residency in Iceland in May 2019. (All images are courtesy of the artist.)

Ingrid Erickson: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your artwork…

In Young Chung:  I am In-young Chung, an illustrator, bag designer and maker from South Korea.  During the week, I design and make bags at a leather brand called ‘YURT.’ I spend the rest of my time drawing people, animals, landscape, and other various things focusing on the line.

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Ingrid Erickson: What are your favorite art materials? Why?

In Young Chung: Pencil. I like the feel and touch of drawing with a pencil. And there seems to be a distinctive comfort, which I feel and enjoy when using pencils. I think one of the things that digital graphic tools can’t substitute for is the delicate touch of pencils.

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Ingrid Erickson: You were making small scale works when we met in 2019.  Do you always work on a small scale (or just when you travel)?

In Young Chung: I think most of my drawings were done on small papers. Since I had no formal education for drawing, I usually drew on small pieces of notebooks or papers. Drawing on a small paper is possible anywhere and I could easily draw without any burden. The biggest drawing for me was the animal friends and myself that I drew with crayons on my sketchbook when I was in elementary school. Since then, I have almost always drawn on small papers. (I want to show you the painting, but I can’t find it now! 😦 ) Oh, recently I worked on a large-scale painting in Iceland during my time at the Nes Artist Residency. (Ingrid, you saw it, right? Haha). Sonya,*who sat right next to me, mainly worked on big paintings, which looked so cool. I always thought that I would never be able to handle such big paintings, but I was encouraged and motivated by Sonya’s paintings. So, I took an action and I think I drew a fairly large mountain (although it is still small compared to Sonya’s).

* (Moscow-based artist Sonya Stupenkova) whom I interviewed in a July 2020 ARTIST to ARTIST Interview.

Pictured Below: a body of In Young’s work created in Iceland, May 2019.

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Ingrid Erickson: What is your first memory of making art? How old were you?

In Young Chung: Looking at my past works, I think I liked it since I was in the kindergarten. As I remember, I liked knitting so I knitted various things when I was in my 6th grade at the elementary school. Children don’t care much about the material when it comes to arts. I think I made numerous things as it was fun. When I finished making, I untied the threads and restarted from the beginning. (I think I would like to try knitting again this winter.)

Ingrid Erickson: What inspires you as an artist?

In Young Chung: It seems that I am mostly inspired by old stuff — especially the things that make me feel comfortable, which was mountains when I was in Iceland. Now, it seems to be the comfortable look on faces of the elderly. When I can depict the calmness that can be found in the old things, I appreciate that I am able to express those things in drawing.

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Ingrid Erickson: What has it been like living in your home city of Seoul for the last few months? Is life much different than usual?

In Young Chung: There was no change in the large scheme — working on weekdays, resting at home on weekends, or going to a cafe. Some of my friends worked from home and sometimes took a month off. In my case, I had to go to the studio to make bags, but it was fun to go to the studio because there were only 6 of us working together. Little changes that made my life difficult was the fact I couldn’t enjoy cultural life and socializing after work as much as before. Of course, I spend more time at home. Well, the fact that I can’t travel abroad seems to be affecting me more than I thought.

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Ingrid Erickson: Who are some of your favorite artists?

In Young Chung: I like an illustrator named Eom Yu-jeong who also motived me to search for artist residencies in Iceland. I like the power of her paintings. When you look at them, they give you a calm and magnificent feeling, which makes it difficult to take my eyes off her works. I also like Ryuichi Sakamoto’s works.  I mostly listened to his music when I drew in Iceland. I liked his music even more since then.

Ingrid Erickson: Have you learned anything new recently?

In Young Chung: What I’m learning recently… Yoga! I started it for my health, but I actually found mental relaxation ever since I started Yoga. I’ve been a little lazy these days because of the pandemic, but it is something I want to do for a long time.

Pictured Below: In Young at work in her studio, Nes Artist Residency, Iceland.

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Ingrid Erickson: Can you describe your creative process for us? (How do you get ready to draw or paint? Where do you do your artwork?) 

In Young Chung: I tend to record a lot for my drawing. Rather than selecting and searching for a specific object, I draw when there is something I want to draw in my daily life. So, it is important to keep recording what I see every day. I take a lot of pictures of things I want to draw. Even while watching videos, I tend to take note of colors, facial expressions, and clothing. These records become my drawings.

Ingrid Erickson: What are some of your future goals for yourself as an artist?

In Young Chung: Having a healthy and strong mind, which can help me keep drawing, is important. It may not seem like an ambitious dream, but I want to have my own studio and a small gallery where someone can stop by and appreciate my paintings at any time. And, if possible, I want to establish an artist residency. I want to build a great residence and help many artists realize that they can maintain a healthy life while enjoying a healthy work of art.

Ingrid Erickson: Thank you, In Young!

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You can see more of In Young’s work on tumblr and Instagram. See below:

Website : https://chunginyoung.tumblr.com/

Instagram : @inyoung.chung.art

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At Home Residency: A Year of DIY…

Just over 5 months in, I’ve decided that this is going to be my year of DIY (Do-it-Yourself)/Making.  It is a comfort to make things by hand.  For me, it’s right up there with digging in the dirt. I’ve been doing lots of that too recently in the form of gardening.  It’s a great way to be outside, and I’ve always found that getting a bit messy (as long as I can get clean once again:)) is great fun.

Making things is also my percolating time…it helps me work through complex studio problems, while my hands work away on something completely different. It is also sometimes very helpful to my practice to engage in making that is completely unrelated to what I am doing in the studio.  Working playfully (or purposefully) in another medium helps even if that medium is dinner…

On the DIY front, I’ve been knitting again after a long hiatus. I love how quiet wooden knitting needles are…you can just hear the gentle slip of the wool as you go.  Kittikens has been keeping me company, and she has been remarkably well behaved (if I discount two strategic nips at my knitting needles, that is…although spread across 30 naps on my lap, I think that qualifies as quite restrained, especially when I consider how much she seems to like the aroma of my newly wound wool…) Also on my list for the fall and winter: crochet (something new to me), sewing, pickling, smoking fish, and wood carving (also new)…

Pictured below: Homemade green tea ice cream.

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Pictured Below: Pickled Radishes and the first California Rolls we’ve made in a very long while…super tasty if a bit misshapen:)

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On the cooking front, recent hits were green tea ice cream, sushi and a chopped salad with sriracha mayo and black sesame seeds, pickled carrots, Swedish Scones, anniversary wedding cupcakes with berries and homemade whipped frosting, homemade pitas, and watermelon granita with fresh mint.  Keep in mind this was spread across a month’s time…

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Above: Pickled Carrots. Below: Swedish Scones.

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As I was looking through my photos, I noticed a trend towards heart shapes…Waffles, and lemon raspberry cheesecakes, cookies with fresh ginger, and of course the heart shape on our sweet and feisty little calico cat.  It seemed somehow appropriate in this time of social distancing, as we are often geographically far from the people we love.

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I look forward to a time when we can travel again in safety.  In the meantime, it as a great time to get together virtually.  Many museums and organizations have excellent free content.  I’ve taken free cooking classes, listened to lectures about a wide variety of topics, joined in with maker’s mornings, and video chatted with friends and colleagues all over the world.

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Join me next time for an ARTIST to ARTIST interview with visual artist In Young Chung, as we head (virtually, of course) to Seoul.

Many of my favorite residencies host both visual artists and writers…It makes for great dialog. Also upcoming is my first interview with a writer…more on that soon.

ARTIST to ARTIST: An Interview with Sofya Stupenkova, Moscow…

I met Sofya Stupenkova (Sonya to those who know her) when we shared a studio at Nes Artist Residency in Skagastrond, Iceland for the month of May 2019.  (All photos are courtesy of the artist.)

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Ingrid Erickson: For those of us who don’t know you yet, please introduce yourself and your work.

Sofya Stupenkova: I am a Russian artist and graphic designer. For the last year I’ve been a teacher and a student more than an artist. I teach graphic design at Moscow High School of Economics and study theater direction and acting at Moscow New Cinema School.

Ingrid Erickson:  Why did you become an artist/designer?

Sofya Stupenkova: I’ve been drawing and painting all my life, couldn’t resist it). Now I`m trying to discover a new tool — performing arts. I think it’s based on the same principles as visual arts, but involves your whole body in the process and it’s something new for me.

Graphic design has always been more as a job for me than an avocation. Though, since I`ve started teaching, it has become more important for me than before.

Ingrid Erickson:  Do you often work on a large scale? Tell us about that…

Sofya Stupenkova: Unfortunately, I had no chance to work with large scale till my residency at Nes. But I look forward to making some new things after the pandemic. I love the physical process of working on a large scale. It keeps you thinking more about the whole thing, than about the details. And keeps you more active during the work. I love that.

Pictured Below: Sonya’s Mural at Nes Artist Residency.

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You can view the artist at work on this mural in a short film by Julien Doigny.  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0r9Zt_A_Zg&t=71s

Ingrid Erickson:  What have the last few months been like in Moscow? Have you had to put any projects on hold?

Sofya Stupenkova: Moscow had been a really hard place to stay at. I don`t want to go into details, but the safety precautions and promoting public awareness were organized really badly. But I’m used to spending a lot of time with myself, so the isolation wasn’t a stressor for me.

I had no big artistic plans for this period, so there was nothing to be put off. Though the first three month were really productive. I was trying to stay tuned and made some new works, which then gathered into a small home exhibition (only for myself, haha)…

I’ve also been working as a director with the students from cinema school on a small drama piece, which they lately performed on Zoom. It was a great experience.

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Ingrid Erickson:  What are you working on right now?

Sofya Stupenkova: Nothing. Trying to let everything go and relax.

Ingrid Erickson:  What are some of your influences (artistic or otherwise)?

Sofya Stupenkova: So hard to select! I would say Giotto, Henry Moore, Russian avant garde artist Natalya Goncharova, James Whistler, Andrew Wyeth. I think my works also have some influence from films by Werner Herzog, Roman Polanski, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Ethan and Joel Cohen.

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Ingrid Erickson: What is your process for designing and creating one of your murals?

Sofya Stupenkova: Nothing special. I think about the particularities of the place, about the wall, it’s size and texture. Then I make many sketches and select the main one. Then I take my graffiti markers and draw. The final work always differs from the draft — it’s a living process, very flexible and intense.

Ingrid Erickson: What materials do you use most often?

Sofya Stupenkova: Oil painting, graffiti markers…

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Ingrid Erickson: Why do you make art? What motivates you as an artist?

Sofya Stupenkova: It may sound plainly, but for me art is one of the main ways of exploring the world. I read a lot of pop-science issues on anthropology and neurobiology and in some inexplicable way it all sound so close to what we artists are doing. Some people say that art comes mostly from subconscious. But for me it’s totally the opposite — it’s a very conscious process of investigating different processes of our life.

Ingrid Erickson: Who is your audience?

Sofya Stupenkova: I’ve never thought about that. The perception of the art is so personal for everyone, I can’t decide for the audience.

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Ingrid Erickson: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Sofya Stupenkova: I’m always confused when someone asks this question. It’s better to think that my desires and interests will lead to some unexpected and interesting result.

Ingrid Erickson: Any advice for young artists?

Sofya Stupenkova: Don’t be afraid to look foolish, to ask questions. Talk to people — creative person is not a synonym for an introvert. Know your boundaries, but don’t close yourself from others as they are a big source of learning and inspiration.

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At Home Residency: Juniper Butter & Jaws (Bear Jaws, that is…)

The most interesting thing I made in the kitchen this month was probably the fresh cheese that I seasoned with tons of fresh herbs and fresh scallions from the garden. I didn’t have any cheesecloth on hand, but a clean linen towel worked just fine for straining my baseball-sized orb.  Black pepper was also good as a seasoning.  I had never made cheese before, because I had assumed it was a lot of bother and not well adapted to a home scale…The recipe that I tried was pretty straightforward…and you just need whole milk and vinegar (or lemon juice).  It was fun! A good project for a special occasion when you have an hour or so…

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Above & Below: Homemade fresh cheese with garden herbs.

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Next, I made some homemade crackers (knackekex or Swedish crispbread crackers) to put the cheese on.  I toasted up my caraway seeds and fennel seeds to add more flavor, and added some sea salt and chopped fresh thyme to the dough.  You have to make them almost paper thin to get crisp, crunchy crackers.  You roll them out first with a regular rolling pin, then with the kruskavel (textured Swedish rolling pin, see picture of me holding it in the image above the title of this post) to get the characteristic dimpled surface.

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Pictured Above: Rolling out the knackekex. Below: My freshly baked crispbread crackers with toasted seeds.

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Other favorite bakes from this month were a plum tart and a peach and strawberry cafloutis (see below).  I’m partial to anything you get to make it a cast iron skillet.

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Perhaps the strangest thing I made this month was Finnish Juniper Butter which smells and tastes deliciously of the pine forest. I have made it to page 980 of my Culinary Institute of America chef course, and am really excited about the section on making fresh pastas, since I plan to make some this summer and autumn.

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We’ve been eating tons of fruit and veggies, especially lots of fresh lettuce from the greenhouse.  I made a salad of crunchy radishes and cloud berry vinaigrette.

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We ate our first homegrown fig—soft and flavorful! Also our first eggplant from the back garden (there are 8 more ripening now) and I’m looking forward to roasting some as eggplant “caviar.” I also gathered a handful of sweet peas, and a cucumber.  We built a larger greenhouse (it measures 12×7 or so and I can’t quite touch the ceiling.)  It is completely solar, so it will extend my growing season through the fall to the first wintery weather, and jump start my spring planting by several months. I am very excited!

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My sunflowers are especially popular with the Goldfinches.  They also like the zinnias.  I don’t mind…there are plenty to go around. I love seeing the Ruby throated Hummingbirds zip around my flowerbeds…

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Above: Morning coffee and teddy bear sunflowers. Below: A garden bouquet of zinnias and parsley flowers…

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I find it relaxing to make things in the evenings, when it is finally too dark to be outdoors.  I finished sewing my two aprons, and am now making simple braided place mats from repurposed fabric…

Below: Kittikens helps with quality control…

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In the studio, my bear is taking shape…I have just constructed the lower jawbone, and articulated the lower incisors to meet the upper jaw line…it’s like a 3-D puzzle.

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My studio ceiling is beginning to fill up with life-sized creatures suspended from sections of the jumbo heavyweight fishing line that I brought home from my residency last fall at Surel’s Place in Boise, Idaho.  It has been extremely useful during this time of working from home.  It will be an interesting challenge to find a spot to work on the cut paper whale and baleen that I have been developing on my drawing board…

This continues to be very productive studio time.  I can almost duplicate the intensity of a residency here at home if I am intentional about it…though it is hard to make up for the meeting of new people and exploring of new places that are the hallmarks of the residencies that I have loved (when coupled with intense individual studio time.)  There is a freeing element to traveling and being in a new place that facilitates the generation of new ideas…almost like a “reset” button.

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At times like this it is especially important for artists (and all of us, really) to have community even if we have to communicate in mostly new ways (virtually).  It has been good to keep in touch with friends all over the US and the world.  I am looking forward to continuing my ARTIST to ARTIST Interview Series this summer and fall…It seems especially important right now to reach out and share stories and ideas with each other.

Be on the lookout for an interview with visual artist, Sofya Stupenkova soon as I “visit” Moscow (virtually, of course)…

 

ARTIST to ARTIST: An Interview with Justina Kochansky, London…

Pictured Above: Fragile Barrier. Chicken eggs, gauze. All images courtesy of the artist.

Ingrid Erickson:  When we met at The Rensing Center in Pickens, South Carolina in 2015, you were making miniature sculptures in eggshells and embedding/installing them in the landscape.  In viewing your recent work, I notice that the eggshell continues to be an important material for you.  How did that come about? Is there a significance to this material for you?

Justina Kochansky: I had occasionally used eggshells as containers for art previously, but it wasn’t until my residency at The Rensing Center that I became struck by them for their own sake. The potency of the form and material just spoke to me. It’s fragile, but also very strong. It strikes the balance of protection vs. being brittle enough that a baby bird can break out of it. I’m still very drawn to that contrast.

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Above: Defence Mechanism. Duck egg, rose thorns, gold leaf.

Below: Flu Virus. Duck egg, rose thorns, gold leaf, entomology pins.

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Ingrid Erickson: What drew you to work on such a small scale? What appeals to you about working this way?

Justina Kochansky: I’ve always loved small. From doll houses to portrait miniatures to cylinder seals, I’ve been drawn to tiny things since I was a child. Big works are great and they have their place, but I prefer a more personal moment with art. To really see one of my sculptures you have to pause at about an arm’s length or closer to it which results in a much more intimate connection.

Ingrid Erickson: What has it been like in London the last few months?

Justina Kochansky: On a personal level, it has been quiet. My husband and I have been social distancing since early/mid-March, about two weeks before the UK government announced the lockdown. Joe (my husband) and I isolate together very well! It’s been lovely having lunch with him every day. Our cat Smudge has been enjoying the extra attention, too. We are fortunate enough to have a flat with a small garden/patio, so we’ve been able to stay at home with ease. One of the uncanny parts of the lockdown was the lack of planes in the sky. We’re in the flight paths of six airports so I’m used to seeing planes flying low, but for about a month we had clear skies.

We’ve taken the occasional bike ride down to the heart of London. It’s been like Christmas Day with everything closed and empty streets, the only difference being warmer weather. We’re both still wary of crowds, so even though things are opening back up, we’re going to give it more time before resuming normal activities. And we’ll continue to wear masks!

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Above: Nature Social Distancing. Rose thorns, gold leaf, embroidery thread, fabric.

Ingrid Erickson: What have you been doing during the pandemic lock down? Art-wise? Otherwise?

Justina Kochansky: I worked from home already so while the details of my life changed I didn’t have a huge transition. I have been doing a lot more sewing than I expected! Masks, scrubs, and embroidery have been the main occupations.

My art degree was actually in puppet and mask based performance, so I think Covid-19 has caused me to go back to my roots a bit (although I’m now making masks that cover the lower half of the face rather than the upper). There’s been such a burst of global creativity based around masks and I’m really enjoying seeing what patterns are out there and how people are playing with the idea of this new accessory.

One thing a group of friends has established is a regular video chat crafternoon. We all log on and do our own projects. One friend paints, another makes cards, while I spent one afternoon attaching eggshells to a mask. There’s no pressure to chat, it’s just companionable work. We’ve all agreed it’s something we want to keep doing even when things open up again.

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Above: Depression. Chicken egg, sweet gum seed pod, paint.

Below: Whisper. Duck egg, cat whiskers. (Naturally shed whiskers only. No cats were harmed or even annoyed in the making of this sculpture!)

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Ingrid Erickson: Tell us about the work you have been doing for the NHS…

Justina Kochansky: When the pandemic hit, The National Health Service put a new protocol into place that required everyone working in a hospital to wear scrubs, not just doctors/nurses. This meant there was a sudden shortage. I’m a member of an organization called the Women’s Institute (The WI), and my branch teamed up with local costumers to produce as many sets of scrubs as we could. Some people sourced the fabric, some cut the fabric into pattern pieces, and some of us, me included, sewed the scrubs together. Organizations all over the UK set up their own scrub sewing groups, so many of them that at one point there was a national shortage of appropriate fabric!

Ingrid Erickson: How are you viewing art these days? Have you been viewing/consuming/reading anything that particularly resonates with you?

Justina Kochansky: My art viewing is mostly online these days! I do miss being able to pop down to museums when the mood strikes. My current book is a reread; it’s called Doubt: A History, by Jennifer Michael Hecht. She examines doubt throughout history and the world, how it has changed and also strengthened ideas. I always turn to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius in times of stress, so I’ve dipped into my copy quite a bit over the past few months.

Ingrid Erickson: Tell us a bit about your creative process…

Justina Kochansky: My creative process is mostly keeping my hands busy so my subconscious can work away in the background. Sewing the scrubs ended up being great for creativity because the activity was challenging enough that it kept me focused, but I could still chew over ideas. The hardest thing for me is avoiding distractions. I love listening to audio books and podcasts, but I have to put them aside regularly to really focus. And the internet is a dangerous time thief!

I generally let ideas sit around in my head for a while. I’ll make notes about them, but will wait for a few days to see which images really stick with me. Sometimes I mentally rehearse how I think I’ll go about doing part of it. Then something will click into place and I’m consumed until the piece is finished.

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Above: The current status of Justina’s desk. She notes, “I realized after taking this photo that most of the eggshells waiting for future use are hidden behind the sewing machine.”

Ingrid Erickson: Which tools and materials would we typically find on your work table?

Justina Kochansky: At the moment, my desk is dominated by my sewing machine, but I’ve also got eggshells at the ready, different rose thorns, gold leaf, and some dental tools and files. Entomology pins, feathers, and branches fill other containers. The wall in front of my desk is a busy collection of images and phrases that I either find comforting or inspiring. In addition, I have a mirror on my desk. This is a holdover from when I sculpted faces regularly, but it’s still important to look at your work from different angles because it reveals potential lopsidedness.

I’m unsure if this is a cause or an effect of small scale art, but no matter how often I clean my desk I end up with only a small space for actually working!

Ingrid Erickson: Can you share some of your future goals for your work/artistic practice?

Justina Kochansky: The lock down has been an interesting time and I’m curious how it will be reflected in future work. I feel like everything is so up in the air right now that my main aim is to try to make sense of it all. Previous goals like art fairs aren’t as feasible now and if I’m honest hadn’t been working financially for me so I’m reconsidering how to put my work out into the world.

Ingrid Erickson: Any advice for artists/makers during this time?

Justina Kochansky: At the moment, I am embracing the image of a field lying fallow. I seem to have creative cycles of about five years and I was in a slow patch even before the pandemic started. I’m trying not to worry and instead think of it as letting things rest, mentally letting clover grow to set nitrogen into the soil as fertilizer for the next cycle of growth. So my advice is to absorb and allow things to percolate as they will. Don’t force it. Keep your hands busy and the ideas will start flowing out when they’re ready.

Ingrid Erickson: Thank you, Justina.

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Above: Protest. Chicken eggs, polymer clay, paint.