Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nanjing to Shanghai

We are on a train as I write this, from Nanjing to Shanghai. This also marks roughly halfway through our trip and in so many ways it feels like we have been here forever and other times it feels as if we just got here, especially as we prepare to pack and travel to the next destination.

Nanjing turned out to be a really great trip for a number of reasons. One was the fact that we didn’t have to think or use our brains for anything and were relieved of the previous stresses of finding our way around and getting taxis, buying train tickets, changing air tickets, ordering food, or even PAYING for food. It was quite a relief also because Luci and I were pretty fried by the time we got here, after hurtling barriers in Beijing and Xian.

Yushu Chen, my colleague who was at SDSU for one semester as a visiting scholar was our guiding angel for sure and helped us with mundane tasks like shipping boxes, getting around town, taxis, etc etc.

We got checked into a fairly swank hotel which ended up costing us a mere $38 a night – a whopping $19 per person. that was a coup. We also got picked up at the airport by Yushu and her University driver. We crashed pretty hard and on top of that Luci was getting sick so we needed the rest. The first day we went to the campus to have a tour – these people do not mess around – the forestry university really takes that subject seriously, especially in the scientific field: they showed us a wood library – literary a library with over 3000 species of wood samples, and they told us there were 1600 known species of trees in China alone. They also had an entire library of microscope slides with every tree cell and a lab with microscopes. Oh how could I FORGET, before we went on our tour we had to meet all the officials of the program – it was a bit unnerving we all sat at this large conference table, all men on one side and yushu, luci and I on the other, we made the usual pleasantries, card exchanges, gift giving, etc. and then we just sort of sat there, fidgeting, trying to make small talk, staring at our tea etc. finally it was time to do the tour. They also take ergonomic study seriously with a contraption that looked like a torture device designed by one of the professors, a woman, and they had computers in there to measure and devise the ergonomics based on measurements taken off this device. Then we went to the design room which was filled with projects by students, including drawings, paintings, CAD drawings, models etc. and another room was filled with student projects for the furniture courses. I have to add that they could use a bit of excitement in there, the projects looked like 3-D projects and the fact that they only have two weeks to do the construction doesn’t help either.

The woodshop there is a working Festool ad - they had the entire facility outfitted with Festool, with a tablesaw, jigsaw set up (the jigsaw is upside down under a table so I guess it was sort of a table jigsaw), the router table, etc. But then in the next room there are huge CNC machines - and it seems like a big jump from Festool to CNC with nothing inbetween.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Beijing Day Three

Today, Shi Jianmin, (one of the Beijing artists that is in the same show I am in "Inspired by China") came to pick us up and drove us around town. He makes this furniture that's almost calligraphic in form and gesture and most are made of made of steel chrome. Shi doesn't speak very much english but is a very friendly person and quite interesting. I most certainly appreciate his gesture and generosity. He lives in what he considered to be the "SoHo" of Beijing; his studio/loft which was quite amazing! He had a koi pond recessed in his floor, an open steel staircase that leads to their private living quarters upstairs. he and his wife lives in a converted loft/studio/showroom in a former factory building. Then he drove us to another artists' studio, Shao Fan - unfortunately Shao was in Hong Kong so I didn't get to see him but his sister showed us the living space/studio, oh my god these people must have tons of money. They have a brand new place in a sort of gated artists community outside of Beijing and it is HUGE - I'd be embarrassed to show my small studio to both these guys if they ever came to California.

We went to lunch in a very nice restaurant, the food was soooo good, and the restaurant was very modern and contemporary. it's fun to watch Shi eat peanuts with his chopsticks. I tried and they kept popping off. It is a luxury to eat when someone else orders for us.

We then went to a gallery area not too far from Shi's studio - one contemporary gallery reminded me of the old pop 70s art - large political figurines, parodying Mao - Mao in various poses and in garish colors. As luci reminded me, China lost several generations of artists in the revolution and so the art scene is just starting to wake up. the younger artists are producing the most provocative work - I have to say they are more bold than the artists and their work I have seen in Japan.

A few notes about the trip thus far:

the bed felt like several bales of hay and I swear that I have bruises from sleeping on it. However we are now staying at the Hyatt in Xian and boy am I loving it. 24 hour internet for the next few days too.

our taxi karma has been the absolute worst; mostly because of the location of the hotel but then when we flew into Xian, the cockroaches er I mean scammy taxi drivers descended upon us and I literally had to go into pitbull mode. I kept telling him to go away but then Luci would look at him and try to understand what he was staying and man I was getting pissed because its hard work to keep these guys at bay and then she undoes it. I can understand that but I think its cuz these guys are asian and back in the states most asians are pretty cool and so she feels like they are her brothers or something. Brothers my ass.

The women in general are nazis and run the show at all the businesses - most of the nicer hotel staff both here at Beijing and Xian have all been men and but the women are bitches. (except the taxi roaches and the gangs of men who have nothing to do) hate to sound like a male basher but it seems maybe it relates to the disproportionate ratio of men to women around here. And tonight Luci and I ate at this great dim sum place down the street from our hotel - and when the waitress found out we didn't speak chinese she sort of rolled her eyes.

The airport was a bit of a pain - we are both kicking ourselves for bringing too much shit. I can't help myself, but I have to admit that maybe bringing all that underwear was a mistake. the box of books doesn't help either but I can't unload this until I go to Nanjing and Shenzhen.

Someone asked me about the money - its very confusing and it is starting to feel like I am playing monopoly, "ok put a few hotels on my hutong for 500 yuan". lets see, 100 yuan is worth $12.50 US. and so a taxi tonight cost 6 Yuan, which amounts to 72 cents. but it gets complicated when something is say 6.3 yuan. then you get these baby ones called Mao, they are also called winky dinkies (my words) and they are 1/10th of a yuan.

okay so now I have to write my transcript for my lecture, I get this request from my hosts JUST THE OTHER DAY - hello, couldn't you have asked me a month ago????

Xian looks like a really fun town, sort of a miniaturized version of tokyo but munchkin size. lots of lights neon, and yes, asian people but the buildings are not tall. We will head to see the bajillion terracotta warriors tomorrow, I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Beijing Day Two

Today's trip to the Great Wall was amazing, awesome and nearly killed me (just kidding). We hired a taxi with a couple of young med students from Calgary and went to the Ming Tombs and the Wall. The tombs were a little disappointing because it wasn't the part that I wanted to see, it was the underground vaults with the giant coffins. the coffins were interesting structurally because they were made of wood but other than that it was ho-hum.

Now the Wall, now that is another story. We went to one of the more out of the way portions of this wall - there are others that are more treacherous. I was told this one isn't bad but oh my god this one was pretty damned high and the steps were tough. with my knee being in pretty bad shape I had to be careful - some of the granite steps were about 18" high, that after about 15 mins, I decided to wimp out - turned back and took a cable car to the top and walk down the whole way (it turned out to be a very smart thing because even going down there were steep inclines UP and DOWN) High school kids who chose to go all the way up were having a hard time. so I probably avoided having to be taken down in a gurney by taking the cable car up.

We took a bajillion pictures but it was best to just be able to walk and peer over the landscape, which at the moment is very dreary and drab - matter of fact, the land around here is very parched and dry. kind of depressing, its a combination of being here in winter and a lack of maintenance of the surrounding areas. China could learn a lesson or two about monument maintenance and preservation from Japan.

It took about three hours to come down the wall - of course we were taking our sweet time. But it was really great to be on this thing and wonder at how they could have conceived of this, very monumental and psychological barrier. I wouldn't say the wall was very impenetrable (sp sorry), you could scale it easily. As Luci said it was more of a psychological barrier to indicate the isolationist culture of that time.

but the way the wall meanders around the mountain peaks is quite amazing and it really does look like dragon.

check out my pics on

On a more personal note I should be in much better shape when I get home.

We had a GREAT fish dinner last night the food here is very good, I love good chinese food and there isnt much of that in San Diego.

It seems that our biggest difficulty is the fact that our hotel, which is TERRIFIC, its cute, different, cozy and authentic, is located in a Hutong (old beijing neighborhood) but is HARD FOR TAXICABS to find. we end up getting dropped off 'near' where they think it is and then we wander for hours within a three block section of town (ok not hours but after scaling the Wall for three hours and being exhausted 20 minutes felt like hours). And while luci understands some chinese its hard for her. I can't entirely blame her.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

CHINA - Day One

Woo hoo am I OUT OF SHAPE. Luci and I went to the Forbidden City - an amazing, large place and we walked for a million miles. to think that we are going to the Great Wall tomorrow, I sure hope I don't die, either of exhaustion, or sheer embarrassment as little 80 year old ladies sprint to the top ahead of me.

Lying at the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City, called Gu Gong, in Chinese, was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Now known as the Palace Museum, it is to the north of Tiananmen Square. The Forbidden City is divided into two parts.

Until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner Court, fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty had reigned here. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, it houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. There are some amazing rooms that have been recreated behind windows and of course the dragon walk is amazing and the ceramic mural of dragons is really cool. But even the vastness of the place with all its mazelike walls that seem to go on forever and ever. and the colors of the walls, the doors, the textures are so rich.

As we staggered out of the Forbidden City looking for a place to eat or a taxi stand we kept walking over vast spaces through seas of men (hardly any women) and kept walking and walking and walking and walking and we suddenly realized we were in Tiananmen Square, Red Square, and the place where Mao's picture is hung for all to see, mole and all.

About the men - its amazing that this place is not crime-ridden as it is teaming with testosterone laden gangs of men (the one child rule + favoritism for male children) - these gangs are total scammers with nothing better to do but leer, scam try to sell crap or all of the above.

After Day One we are alive and well and hopefully lost a pound or two. It did feel good to have all the exercise and Luci was a good coach. She also made sure I didn’t fall into any manholes or trip over any steps. god I am such a klutz. I tripped over a threshold last night and another today. My biggest problem is that I am too busy looking around and not watching where I am going.

Monday, March 06, 2006


We have arrived in Beijing and with no real problems except maybe getting scammed by a couple of smooth talking helpful chinese guys - they did help us out but we ended up paying too much for the taxi. Instead of $12 we ended up paying manhattan prices ($30) oh well. We were supposed to be picked up by the hotel staff and after looking around for about a half hour, some guy offered to help - at this point we realize that english is not spoken by many people, and this guy first of all offered to call the hotel for us on his cell phone which was actually helpful (despite his scammer status). We realized we were getting scammed but then it turns out that this guy was the only one who knew where this hotel was over the next few days we were in Beijing.

On the other hand with the scammers' help we got a phone card (luci did anyway) and to the hotel which is this amazing little place called the Lu Song Hotel in a very old part of Beijing.
the internet is 5 yuan per 10 mins here. The lobby is filled with wonderful chinese furnishings, and the outside of the place is very discreet. Because of its location, it was hard for most taxi drivers to find it, and we had some pretty trying times with that but I would recommend this place in a heartbeat.

The type of neighborhood we were in is called a "hutong", which is pretty much a maze of alleyways. very narrow and an unusual configuration of residences and businesses.

The word "hutong" originates from the word "hottog" which means "well" in Mongolian. Villagers dig out a well and inhabited there. Hutong means a lane or alley, in fact the passage formed by lines of siheyuan (a compound with houses around a courtyard) where old Beijing residents live. Be care not to lost in it! It was recorded that in the Yuan a 36-meter-wide road was called a standard street, a 18-meter-wide one was a small street and a 9-meter-wide lane was named a hutong. In fact, Beijing's hutongs are inequable ranging from 40 centimeter to 10 meter in wide. The longest has more than 20 turns. Either in east-west or north-south, Beijing's hutongs varied as slant, half or "

blind hutongs" cul-de-sacs. The gray-tiled houses and deep alleys crossing with each other in identical appearance like a maze.

The flight just 'flew' by no pun intended - lucis doc gave her some ambien and man did that stuff work. We slept comfortably through the entire flight, and I feel fine.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the Forbidden City, oh we can't wait. anything with the word 'forbidden' seems so tantalizing.

Sunday, October 23, 2005



Just went in again for a physical and for the first time I picked up a pamplet on menopause. I had avoided eye contact with the racks that held this info and decided ok well I am old enough I SHOULD take a look at the thing.

So far I have had no HOT FLASH symptoms (KNOCK ON WOOD) but did come across a list of "35 symptoms of Menopause" and I admit to experiencing a few of these, (IN BOLD)

1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
2. Irregular heart beat
3. Irritability
4. Mood swings, sudden tears
5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
6. Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
7. Loss of libido
8. Dry vagina
9. Crashing fatigue
10. Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
11. Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom (see note)
12. Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
13. Disturbing memory lapses
14. Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence (ONLY WHENI AM ON AN AIRPLANE)
15. Itchy, crawly skin (see note)
16. Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
17. Increased tension in muscles
18. Breast tenderness
19. Headache change: increase or decrease
20. Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
21. Sudden bouts of bloat
22. Depression
23. Exacerbation of existing conditions
24. Increase in allergies
25. Weight gain
26. Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
27. Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
28. Changes in body odor
29. Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
30. Tingling in the extremities
31. Gum problems, increased bleeding
32. Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
33. Osteoporosis (after several years)
34. Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
35. Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing,' buzzing etc.

Whoa some of these are scary, itchy crawly skin and the electric shock under the skin is freaky. I think I had one of those under my skin in the back of my head. Felt like a muscle spasm. According to my chiropractor, Georgiana, she says my estrogen levels are high since I have not had hot flashes. She gets them all the time now and my neighbor across the street says she can't sleep without a fan going anymore.

Why is it that after all these years, those Mammograms still hurt like hell? Isn't it enough that we have to get used to those cold steel speculums for the pap smears? Speaking of which why don't they preheat those those things, or the plates that smash your breasts?

The process of the physical seems to have streamlined a bit - it went rather quickly and smoothly - Kaiser has gotten the system down - one person does all the initial testing rather than going from one floor to another. With the exception of the mammogram though - one person is stuck doing that all day long.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


David Lee (Christine Lee’s brother) came to pick me up from the hotel in the morning and I met his new girlfriend Junghyun – David has grown up considerably since I last saw him two years ago in San Diego – he has been living in Korea – working for an English language Korean tv station - his main job is to make sure the English that is used on the show is properly formatted for grammar. He has been learning Korean and I would say he gets around quite well. His girlfriend is really sweet, kind of shy and quiet. Anyway we were to meet David’s parents at the Stilla Hotel for a Sunday brunch – this hotel is on top of a hill and the restaurant, located on the top floor has an incredible view of Seoul – and the winds from a typhoon off the coast of Japan has blown away most of the smog and so you can see quite a distance on this clear day.

It was the first time I met Mr. Lee, and the first impression was that he looks so much like Christine!! The resemblance was uncanny!! I was amazed. Both he and Christine’s mom Lucy looked great, and we had a really nice time at lunch. Mostly talked about Christine and what an amazing artist she has become. It is really great to be able to honestly brag about one of your students to their parents. No faking necessary. Christine is going to go places if she plays her cards right.

After lunch we went to a palace just as what appeared to be the changing of the guards was taking place. Stern faced guards in their monkey suits marching not unlike the Wizard of Oz guards. Come to think of it their suits looked exactly like the ones in the movie. Bright red longish waistcoats. Hats with feathers in them, and quite un-korean looking, to tell the truth. A real contrast from the folk dancers and musicians yesterday. We barely had time to go to the Museum so we went into the gift shop and browsed – Mr. Lee purchased a nice book about Seoul for me. Then we went to Insadong, and I made the mistake of commenting that I was looking for a few things – well from then on out the excursion turned into a rabid hunt for these items. What was a bit disconcerting was the fact that whenever I did find something nice for mom or for my aunt, the Lees would not let me pay for these items!!! This led to the awkward ritual of my giving said gifts to my intended recipients back home, saying, and “it was paid for by the Lees”. On the other hand it was all an incredibly generous gesture on their part and I was extremely grateful for their willingness to take me out on the town. Another reason we shopped like maniacs was because we had a small window of time to do this before the dinner show. In less than 30 minutes I had found something for mom and dad and auntie tae.

So we drove to the Sheraton for the dinner show – I was told that it was a traditional folk dance presentation. We go into a large auditorium with tables, I’ve actually never been to a dinner show my whole life so this was exciting for me too. We had drinks, and just as dinner was being served, the show began. The Korean danccrs were all very beautiful ,graceful and lithe. It was a bit like ballet – I am not sure how traditional it is but it struck me as being more modern than traditional Japanese dance. The women were all, of course, beautiful, and I would say that their hand movements were the most interesting. Fingers were so long and they moved so daintily. It was so mesmerizing that I forgot to eat and at one time, I glanced over, and both Lucy and Janghun were finished with their dinners. Then there was intermission. At this time even more people came in, some just for cocktails (no dinner) and I noticed it was mostly men. The next show apparently was an international collaboration and was most definitely contemporary dance, the costumes were beautiful – some sort of pirate theme. Mostly women dancers but also some males. Suddenly, 20 minutes into the show, the women were topless. I was shocked, not because I am some prude but that I hadn’t expected it, and especially since the Lees were bringing me to this show. I doubt if Mom and Dad would have done something like this for their daughter’s teacher. This also explains the presence of the mostly male audience up front, But the dancers were quite good and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was a really wonderful and full day.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Today, Jinwoo (Lupina) Kim (one of Professor Choi’s former students and organizers for this event and Boyoung Kim, Mr. Ahn’s assistant who works for the American Hardwood Exports Council (my hosts) took the day off to take Alessandro and I out on a tour. We all met at my hotel and then took a cab to Leeum Museum – the Samsung president’s name is Lee and he collects art and opened a museum with only his collection in it – and the museum is a combination of his name and “museum”. I don’t understand why he couldn’t just call it the Samsung Museum.

It was a brand new museum. Designed by three architects, Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas. The design of the museum was an interesting combination of the very different architects’ vision – the Botta section was a little boring – reminded me of a cross between the SF MOMA and the Guggenheim in NY. The Nouvel section was interesting in that it was architectural but incorporated organic elements such as rocks, trees, etc. The Koolhaas section was closed for an installation but was very angular and a little on the cold side, reminiscent of the 60’s.

The museum collection was impressive in that it is a personal collection but as far as museums go its rather predictable collection. Went through all the levels quickly, nothing really exciting to recall at the moment. The only piece that I can recall is a Louise Bourgouis (sp) and a homeboy’s work, a Nam Jun Paik piece.

Afterwards we had lunch at a very nice little restaurant – it was not exactly a vegetarian restaurant but it struck me as being healthful with lots of tofu and kim chee. I admit that I was pretty burned out all day and straining to hear everyone talk all day was hard and I pretty much gave up at 11 AM. I was happy enough to just follow everyone around. Next, Boyoung had to go back to work and so it was the three of us – Lupina (she is Catholic and prefers to go by her given Catholic name – Catholicism makes up a small percentage of the population but the presence of nuns and churches makes it quite visible) decides that it would be ‘fun’ for us to go on the subway. I was frankly too tired to be dealing with this but whatever. To make matters worse we got lost and so we were walking all over the place. No big deal but its no fun fighting the crowds and the subway was hot, stinky and crowded, like NYC in July. It was no different than the Tokyo subways. We finally got to our destination, Namsan Folk Village and just as we arrived a dance performance was about to start. I wish I asked what kind of performance it was – I suspect it may have been a summer celebratory dance or some sort, and it definitely was a folk dance. It was a very happy and joyous dance, all the dancers looked very happy and enthusiastic, big smiles and with sincerity. The audience was also very involved and cheered the dancers – a wonderful expressive group altogether, very different from the somber serious Japanese performances I have seen. (other than Taiko) – Speaking of taiko, this group had a wonderful percussion group – small hourglass shaped drums, some cymbal-like instruments. The costumes were brightly colored. After standing and watching for a while (I was mesmerized and drawn in by the happiness that exuded from the troupe) we went to look at the folk houses – the construction of these houses are up on stilts kind of, some similarities to Japanese structures but with a stucco like substance on the outer walls – the shapes of the houses were varied with a porch around the circumference, and no sliding doors. The striking difference between these Korean houses and the Japanese structures is the presence of furniture. I saw examples of large chests, tables, chairs and stools. Japanese spaces are nearly empty and minimal by contrast. Again as mentioned before the furniture is much like the Chinese furniture that I have recently seen. Outside the buildings I saw groups of large ceramic vessels, all of a brown colored clay body and about 4’ tall – for Kim Chee. After browsing through the village, we went back out where the troupe was STILL DANCING – god they must be exhausted.

Next we went to Insadong, the equivalent of Tokyo’s Asakusa but more modernized. Apparently at one time it was more village-like and picturesque but now it seems that the buildings are all new. At that point Jinwoo, I mean, Lupina, had to head back home, she lives about and hour and a half from Seoul – and I can tell Alessandro was anxious to get back to the hotel since he was flying back to Milan the next morning. We did a little bit of shopping and then we parted ways. I knew I was going to come back here with the Lees (Christine’s parents) the next day so I just browsed a little and headed home.

I can’t remember what I did for dinner that night – OH yes I went to Lotte department store, which was only a few blocks away and had a hunch that maybe the department stores here in Seoul are like the ones in Tokyo: with huge food sections in the basement. My hunch proved to be correct and boy was I happy. Even the food is nearly the same – sushi, pickled everything, kim chee, chicken skewers etc. I got myself a huge selection of foods and a big bottle of water and hauled it back to the hotel room. I would venture to say that the Korean sushi is even better.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I was picked up in the morning again by Kyoung-Ho and at 11 I was to check out the AV situation for my lecture at 2 that day. As I had feared, there were problems with the fact that mac computers are not used in Korea and none of the gearheads were able to figure out how to get the projector to recognize the Mac. It was clear to me that these guys had never even seen a Mac and despite my telling them that the commands for a Mac is NOT the same as a pc and I was afraid he was going to fuck up my spankin new G-4. So anyway it turns out that the fucking thing didn’t work and of course I am stressed because the translator was late and I had not had a chance to go over my notes with him. In the meantime we are scrambling to find a small USB flash drive to transfer my material to the goddamned PC. Did I say was getting stressed? Having to be the first one to give the talk didn’t help a whole lot. Finally a drive was found and then the translator was some kid that was born in Korea but moved to the US as a kid, grew up there and then returned to Korea. As it turns out he was lousy at both English and Korean and it was clear that the translation was not going well. In addition, he was taking too long to translate, it was obvious that he was going from notes from my text that I sent for publication and not necessarily related to the show, god I could have strangled him. Unfortunately time ran out for Part III so I was not able to conclude my talk very effectively. I felt like a failure.

So then I had to sit through the final three talks which were all in Korean – (Alessandro’s talk was in Italian and was translated to Korean)

Then there was the question and answer period – and all the questions were for me, and the translation nightmare continued. Scott (the ‘translator’) could not clearly translate the questions, and to compound the problem, he kept whispering the questions, and I couldn’t hear the questions. Oh god it was awful. I did answer the questions, some took some time to think about, they weren’t the easiest questions to answer ‘on the fly’. As I am writing this nearly a week later, I can’t even remember the questions, I probably just wanted to delete this from memory, so to speak.

Finally the ordeal was over and we are all herded (sans the bbw) upstairs again to the same Chinese restaurant for a ‘congratulatory’ dinner. And yes the same exact menu. I wasn’t hungry – probably just due to the lecture and then the same menu was not appealing, and no, I did NOT touch the sea cucumber thing again. Icky.

I couldn’t wait to go back to the hotel and just FLOP. Thank god the day was OVER.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pomp and Circumstance

It seems that its been nonstop since checking into the hotel. after a fitful sleep I woke up at 6 (after waking up at 2, 4, 5 and finally decided 'fuckit I'm getting up') and was met at 9:30 by Kyoung-ho Ahn, the director of the American Hardwoods Export Council. He is a very friendly talkative guy (the Koreans are much more friendly, compared to the Japanese, in my book) and it was about an hour drive to Kintex, the convention center. His english was very good and we had a fun conversation, in fact so much so that he missed the turnoff to Kintex. (he had never been there before).

As soon as we enter the building (huge, about the size of the Anaheim Convention Center) we are greeted by a bevy of beautiful suited Korean women, given flowers to pin to my non-lapel and directed to a waiting room.

I was probably the only woman in the whole group and realized to my horror that the ritual of business card exchange is de rigueur here - and me with my handmade cards made of recycled gallery announcement cards with my address printed on self stick labels and slapped on the back looked SOOOOO cheesy. The humiliation of returning the favor of an offered card was repeated for the next three days.

Suddenly the bevy of beautiful women (bbw) begin to herd us all out of the room to a staging area, and there an audience is waiting. We were to stand behind a rope like barrier and take our places. To my right is the podium - the chairman of KOFURN is giving a long speech in Korean, introducing each one of us, upon which we step forward and bow, and everyone claps. As time goes on the claps become sort of weary.

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Then the BBW step forward with trays of white gloves and gold plated scissors, a very unexpected presentation, so I am awkwardly trying to put the gloves on while holding the scissors under my armpit. I received NO prompting or itinerary or schedule so I am completely winging it at this point. So I finally get the gloves on in time to take the scissors and hold it, poised to cut the ribbon (not the rope) and at the count of three we cut the ribbon.

Then the BBW begin to usher us into the convention hall, where apparently there were scheduled introductions by various booths. We went quickly from booth to booth - no scraggling behind, I was shooed ahead by a bbw to move forward. At one booth there were these heated stone beds, the bedframe was low, with a slab of granite and evidently there is a heating element under the stone and I guess a thin mattress type of thing goes over this. It must be a little on the hard side but I would guess that some houses in Korea are as cold as the ones in Japan. Just when I think its over and we are free to look around we are herded by the bbw to an escalator, all of us, to a restaurant on the top floor, hosted by the director of KOFURN.

So we are all at this long table, and again, the director begins speaking and introducing various people (I at this point realize I am the only girl at the table) and they begin to toast.

(to be continued)

I can’t remember where I last left off but I think I was talking about the Chinese lunch and there are about 5 or 6 courses served, one at a time and individually served, as opposed to the large shared platters that we are all mostly familiar with. I was pretty hungry for some reason so I ate just about everything. This particular Chinese food was not particularly remarkable and some were suspect but I felt that it was best not to ask what it was and just dive in. One dish was particularly hard to eat, in that first of all it was hard to pick it up with chopsticks, and impossible to impale. It was VERY SLIPPERY and even I got it to my mouth it nearly slithered out of my mouth. Is it still alive?? It looked like it was chopped up. Didn’t really taste that good either, and the worst texture of anything that I had to chew. Come to find out later that it was sea cucumber; I had heard some gross story about those things from Michael Hurwitz.

After lunch we went back down to the convention area and I was able to look more closely at the booths. The most interesting work was actually in the student booths; I took a bunch of pictures of some of the work, which shows the range of what was there. Hongik obviously had the most creative body of work although the most garish booth design. Apparently Professor Choi insists upon the RED theme that I thought was unattractive. I asked him a few days later why he used this theme color and he said he wanted to make sure their booth stands out. Well in that regard it is true you don’t forget their booth very easily.

Again I saw the prevalence of square/geometric shapes in nearly all the student work – a reliance on geometry as a base for design – with the exception of the Hongik work. The work from Hongik definitely utilized more creative forms and seemed to have an organic bent, even with their plywood work. In some of the other booths there were some unusual pieces, such as a figure of a girl on her back, her legs forming the chair. It was pretty weird even by my standards.

As for the other areas, there were the typical Victorian themed pieces along with the mundane office designs, and the traditional pieces; there were what seemed to be antique booths, some of which were quite nice. There were low beds or platforms similar to the Chinese furniture I had seen at the Peabody a few months ago. There were these strange beds with stone bases with these electronic consoles – apparently these stone (looked like granite slabs) surfaces are heated and have nothing more than a pad of some sort. It was explained that elderly Koreans prefer this sort of sleeping surface.

There is also the Korean Furniture Society, started and headed by Byung Hoon Choi - seems that Professor Choi is the 'Wendell Castle' of Korea. I am impressed with his efforts to bring the forefront of studio furniture to the public eye in Korea. Through the course of my trip I was able to meet several individuals who were in this exhibition.

Suddenly it was decided that we would go to Professor Choi’s studio, to my delight. Jinwoo (Lupina) Kim drove, and Alessandro, Kyoung-ho and I drove about 30 minutes further north to the studio. What appeared to be a pretty small structure was deceptive – the interior was quite spacious and the lower floor was the studio, with several works in progress and tons of wood slabs. Byung-Hoon uses both wood and stone, and a bit of steel. It appears that he has a studio guy working for him and i seems that he has quite a bit of his work made for him. His work is reminiscent of Noguchi, and it is pretty clear that he emulates Noguchi – his studio seems to have been modeled after Noguchi’s Long Island space to some degree. Upstairs was his gallery and offices, and perhaps a kitchen/living area which we did not see. I was shocked to see a piece that was similar to one I had made for the UCSF campus - I know it was completely coincidental – he had never seen my benches and I had never seen his. Strange.

The only downside to the visit was that the studio assistant has a dog that he kept chained outside the studio, it was kind of dismal – he/she was a sweet dog, looked like an akita/shiba-inu but was apparently some sort of Korean dog, I remember seeing pictures of one. But the poor thing was starved for attention and very dirty.

After the studio visit we headed home. I was exhausted.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Welcome to Seoul"! You know, sometimes these last minute trips can actually be more exciting - because of the short time I had to prepare for this trip I had to treat it no more than a regular trip to NYC or to some school here in this country. There are times when I planned a overseas trip for MONTHS, bought books, maps, language tapes, the whole bit and not been able to put any of that to use.

I was worried because at the SD airport they cancelled all flights to LA so I had to take a van shuttle to LA 'uhoh' not a good sign. however the whole way up there was NO TRAFFIC, not even in Orange county. got there in two hours flat.

got on the plane, there was no line, and straight into business class - I can really get used to flying all the time if I could afford business or first class all the time. this trip was much easier than the one to NY a few weeks ago. the time literally flew by.

As soon as we touch down it was nonstop, it seemed.

I was picked up by a young man (note, anyone under 50 is considered young in my book) named Eun Baik, one of Rich Tannen's former students, a really nice guy and we had a rather enjoyable conversation about the travails of Rochester. He also worked for Wendell for a time.

The drive to Seoul from the took about an hour, my first impression is that the air is so dirty, smoggy. I had an headache this morning. And this morning if you look out the window everything is a grey haze.

When I got to the hotel last night, I just flopped on the bed, nearly face first. My hotel was in the Myeongdong (sp?) area, and what kept me awake was the giant screens (like in Tokyo) flashing off and on all night long.

woops gotta go, more later

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ok. its now 11 PM - and I just now finished my slideshow for Korea - and with hopes that it will run smoothly without a glitch. If not I will kill myself by gorging myself with Kim Chee. The show looks good, I edited, and changed things around, it most definitely is a shameless plug for SDSU. I didn't have a good picture of Bob but found this one taken at the Philly conference, and stuck it in the show, I know the Koreans will probably frown upon this one, but I am sure its for me when I am choking on my words as I go through this show. Kim Kelzer with her hula hoop is especially fetching.

I am relieved that I was able to take today off - not sure what I was thinking when I told everyone I would meet them for their first class. I would have been a basket case for sure. It wouldn't be so bad if my lecture wasn't scheduled so shortly after I arrive but there is no time for fiddling once I touch down in Seoul.

It hasn't really sunk in that I am going to a foreign country - it feels like another routine trip to NY or something. I just hope I brought the right clothes and that I didn't forget anything. My suitcase is bulging - filled mostly with books and other gifts - am proud of the fact that I packed lighter than usual other than that.

Sweet Pea attacked Deanza twice tonight - when Christine was here - seems that when the three dogs are too close together in a confined place and Deanza grows or snaps at Tazzie, Sweet Pea rips him apart. There was blood all over the place this time - its awful. At one time tonight I accidentally stepped on Tazzie's tail and he let out a yelp and Sweet Pea came running over again, ready to attack Deanza. I grabbed her and had to convince her that it was me it was me. Dog dynamics have run amok.

good night.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ok so I did a test run of my Korea slide show on my students. They seemed kind of bored. They laughed hysterically at parts that were not intended to be funny. I admit I did have pics of people who have less hair or are fatter or in some cases skinnier than they are depicted in the pics I found. Hell my own dad didn't recognize me in a picture of me taken when I was 30.

Worst of all, I ran into a HUGE glitch with the powerpoint show, it groaned to a halt after about the 150th slide. Discouraging news, indeed. I'll be damned if I have to start all over again.

Oh and yesterday was a helluva long day. And Convocation went well, I guess. I sat on the stage and Mom of course was upset that I wasn't wearing a suit or a skirt with heels etc. Frankly I don't even own a suit and even if I did, I wasn't going to wear it in 90 degree weather. I felt like I was dressed nicely enough - the tank top I was wearing WAS made out of silk after all. and the pants were handmade from a Kimono I found at a fleamarket in Tokyo. Isn't that nice enough? The video of me sucked but was less traumatizing than other videos I have had to suffer through, although they ended up using segments from two separate shoots, which has me switching outfits within nanoseconds. The lunch at Dr. Weber's place was nice enough although somehow I just don't feel like I fit in with the rest of the blowhards here. There were several people I recognize from the Senate meetings that can't seem to shut up and are total idiots, and except for Dr. Weber, who I think is a really great guy. These other people are faceless to me. The Dean introduced me nicely enough although she did mention the "huge machines and the little girl" commentary to which I said 'but the buttons that operate them are really small'. No one seemed to think that was funny. Oh well. I blathered on about being back at State. I was sweating like a pig.

Immediately after that I caught my flight to SF and arrived JUST IN TIME to the panel discussion of the Convergence show at the SF Museum of Craft and Design. Froze my titties off, weird to be sweating in 90 degree weather in SD and arriving to a cold windy SF in the same said outfit. Damn another fashion gaffe. And I spent an hour before planning my outfit and making sure that both would fit both the convocation and the panel discussion.

Again the question "What is Studio Furniture" came up - its odd at times, like someone asking what a navel is. But having wrassled with this slide show for Korea, it was a compelling question, what the hell is it? It basically has to do with furniture made in studios, as the name implies but studio meaning artist/designed work. But even to foreigners its an perplexing issue. I recall feeling that the English would definitely know what it is, but they were more bewildered than interested in the slides I showed.

The History of Studio Furniture starts out reasonably well but then suddenly just around the part in the 1980's it splinters out in all directions. Directions that makes sense to me but to describe it to the layperson, its mind boggling. I can't even begin to start on that here.

Had a nice visit with JoAnn Edwards - she and Ken have such a nice little house, absolutely filled with crafts, I love it. Makes me want to get all my little objects out of storage and put it all around. She has a few of my pieces which really look cute in their house. The museum is keeping her busy - I think its great that she's started it.

so now I am back, finished up the lesson plans for the semester, and am getting this other business done.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

This slide show that I am working on is taking frickin' forever. zillions of images going back to Esherick - I did find some cute old slides of Bebe and Warren when they first opened Pritam and Eames and also portraits of various artists - this of course has me going back on Memory Lane.

I also am getting a nice new stash of images for my various lesson plans - was wanting to update that and this is giving me a chance to collect new material.

Ten more days before I leave for Korea. My new passport came in the other day, and so did my FIRST CLASS ticket for Seoul. So much more to do for this trip. The text for the lecture is now about 15 pages, with an additional 10 with a list of galleries and other resource info. After my last lecture in Australia, I learned that it would be best to provide a text. the last time in Perth, they simply tape recorded our lectures and transcribed it, and it was awful because we make references to slides but without the visual information the text meant nothing.

Need to go get more images from the kids.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

WHAT is the big deal about The Hamptons??? I admit that while the estates are impressive, and the fact that many places sit right on the ocean, it seems that they took a bulldozer to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, scooped up a couple of blocks, and planted it in the middle of this beach town. Stores like Tiffanys, Coach, in the midst of what seems like a quaint village. It also looked like every other woman had a facelift and I was expecting to see Paris Hilton show up - all the younger women looked like Paris Hilton with varying degrees of plastic surgery. And kids, all of a sudden it seems that EVERYONE has 2.3 kids per family, and I saw four sets of twins in the time I traveled from San Diego to the Hamptons. Are people having "litters" of kids?

The OTHER thing that bothered me was how I was so keenly aware that everyone was white and the minorities that were there were obviously from the workforce. It made me even more acutely aware of my minority standing and normally that is not even an issue. WEIRD. It made me feel like everyone thought maybe I was a maid or a housekeeper and that I iron shirts or something.

BUT I digress. I had a GREAT time with my friends, James/Karen, Judy/Todd, with Warren and Bebe, the show looked REALLY GREAT, James and I really were amazed at how good our work looked together, I felt like it looked balanced, and not a gallery "full of furniture" - although it bothered me that someone else's table was in there, right next to James' table. As Todd said, they "should get that thing out of there". I sold my announcement piece to Ron Abramson, and that made me feel good. Some other clients might be interested in a piece like the same one - he asked a very good question about 'editions' and was wondering if the prints were editions or if the entire piece was an edition. I explained that the prints were an edition but if I were to remake the frame it would not be the same as the others.

Warren is quite the cook and has a rather zen like presence in the kitchen - frankly I love men in kitchens. James was the bartender for two nights, making Margaritas Friday night and "Mojitos" on Saturday night. All from scratch of course, juicing the limes and smashing the mint leaves. Karen looked great of course, she wore the cutest outfits - the skirts looked terrific on her - Judy and Todd looked totally relaxed and it was fun to just hang out. We were hoping that Alphonse could make the drive down but he didn't.

Some clients and friends of BB and Warren's invited us all to lunch at their home - and then we walked to the beach - we had a nice lunch out on their wide green backyard with a pool in the foreground, it was really nice. Mark and Elizabeth Lavine have collected furniture for a while now, and they are really nice people - turns out that they have my red cabinet called "Candy" in their collection, Elizabeth keeps her lingerie in it, which was exactly what I intended for that piece to do.

The beaches here are really different from the San Diego ones. First of all the sand is coarser, more like 80 grit, if you will, whereas the sand in San Diego is more like 220. And the waves are really odd - they break really short for the lack of a better term - they 'churn', rather than 'undulate'. James got completely tumbled and hurt his back. When they said a great white was spotted a few days I chose to stay out of the water. it was weird to go to a beach on a hot muggy day - there seemed to be little respite from the heat other than sticking your feet in the water - the air was so heavy and hot. It made me appreciate the San Diego beaches all the more.

egads the time I have to get ready for the shop - need to get ready for classes in addition to the trip to Korea.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

How is it that some people can pack so lightly? I am debating on whether to take the minimum number of clothes to East Hampton - but I've got three pairs of favorite pants. which pants to take? white ones will get dirty right away, jeans seems too casual - and shoes...which shoes??? and airplanes are always so cold, a jacket too? And my laptop, where is it all going to fit if I take a carryon only? Who's going to help me shove it in the overhead bin???? Oh the agony. Ah fuckit I ended up going to the pet store tonight and getting treats for the dogs and cat, some new flea stuff (I got flea bites again) - and a bit of food for the flight - you know how on Southwest Airlines you are in the air for 6-7 hours and all you get is a teeny bag of peanuts. I don't like eating on flights anyway but I got some cheese, smoked almonds, a bottle of water, and crackers.

God I hate flying. And to think that I have a 14 hour flight to Korea coming up in two weeks.

Said goodbye to yet another grad student - Bob Marsh and I had coffee - sat for nearly two hours talking. Turns out that I will see him in October at the Appalachian Center but I admit I had a big lump in my throat when it came time to say goodbye to him. He drove away and I walked back to my house - and as I turned the corner, who would be driving back around again but Bob again, waving like a lunatic. made me laugh.

Ok I guess I better finish packing.

Monday, August 08, 2005

oops got an email from Roscoe Straker reminding me about SOFA Chicago, the 28th and 29th of October. nearly forgot about it. Aghh.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Birthday Parties can be fun
Rocio's 50th birthday party was lovely - got there at around 3 PM, had a nice little drink called the Hard Raspberry Lemonade, mingled with Rocio's cousins and aunts and uncles, all a very nice group of people, a lot of them came down from LA. I saw a lot of Rocio's colleagues from work, she seems to have a very supportive base of friends despite the turmoil she is going through with her job as a Vice Principal. Rocio was radiant in her size 2 red summer dress. She has the body of a 20-yr old, I swear. The food was fantastic of course (Rocio would not settle for less), Dave's buddy Chris came down from LA and of course they sat there talking about renovations, pouring concrete, foundation work. I sat with some of Rocio's cousins and her mom and sister, it was fun. I just about died when I saw Rocio's nieces. Holy Toledo - they are WOMEN now, they used to be little girls. one is 17 and the other is 16. This is when you can really watch time march on, is watching little kids grow into teenagers. It's scary indeed. I remember when my cousins Doug, Ross, Gregg, Derek and Ryan were all little babies and I was in college - now they are all over 30, Doug is married, Ross is married with a kid, and little Ryan ("eenie" we used to call him) is now engaged.

So, I was going to tell you how my hopes of having three relaxed weeks before school starts has been DASHED. I told myself that I was going to manage my commitments more carefully, space things out a little, give myself more breathing room etc.

my little list was shaping up accordingly:
  1. after a bit of debating, I decided to go to East Hampton to the opening of my show at Pritam and Eames. Am hoping to make it into a vacation of sorts.
  2. I get the Monty Award from SDSU - walk during convocation on August 25, in the morning.
  3. I am in a panel discussion in the Bay Area at the museum of craft + design - a little discussion about Tasmanian furniture makers - turned out that the only day they can do it is the same day as the convocation. Ok, I can deal with that - the convocation is in the AM - panel discussion is in the evening, plenty of time. Heck I love the Bay Area, I will stay for two days to relax, visit with friends.
  4. School starts August 29th. get ready for classes. three weeks to go after my last crate goes out, plen-ty of time.
  5. Inspired by China piece has to be designed and ready by February - the deadline was too soon, and as much as I have been tempted to make a bed, I decided I didn't need another TeaHouse debacle so have scaled down to a cosmetics box, which looks like a miniature bed anyway. will explain that some other day.
  6. sometime in the spring, go to Korea, I received a grant from the Office of International Programs to visit Hongik.
Well two weeks ago Susan Working informed me that the grant for me to return to the ranch was approved and that I could go to Colorado again this winter to work in the digital lab. Very exciting news, and I love going to Colorado in winter. I was going to continue the Men In Kimonos series but create them in Final Cut - dvd movies instead of stills. I will go in January.

Whoa. but wait. don't I have to make a piece for 'Inspired by China' by February? ooops. Ok so I decide instead to change the movie theme to something more relative to the Chinese culture or maybe a generic Asian issue. ok. whew. that could work.

So: the schedule changes:
  1. go to East Hampton to the opening of my show at Pritam and Eames. forget the vacation, do some designing for the China piece.
  2. get the Monty Award from SDSU
  3. the convocation in the AM - panel discussion is in the evening, August 25
  4. School starts August 29th. get ready for classes.
  5. Inspired by China piece has to be designed and ready by February - Start the piece in September, make the video for it in Colorado, finish the piece in the Anderson Ranch Arts Center woodshop in January.
  6. sometime in the spring, go to Korea, I received a grant from the Office of International Programs to visit Hongik.
This Week:

Sandy Simon reminds me to buy tickets to the 25th reunion of the Appalachian Center for Crafts in October. OY, it sounded like a great idea last month but.... oh god. I did promise to go. and I told myself I should go, this is a place that launched my career and added spice to my love life for five years. I should pay tribute to this place.

Got an email from Professor Choi of Hongik University in Seoul and they are inviting me to be a speaker at their conference/symposium, and offered this with all expenses paid. This supplements the grant I received nicely which barely would have covered my expenses. It is really GREAT news. I am to give a presentation about the evolution of American Studio Furniture. However, the downside is that this event takes place SEPTEMBER 1-5, which means I have to leave on August 30th. ARGGH. The first thing I did was check to make sure I had plenty of antidepressants and valium, I will need that.

The list now stands below:
  1. collect images from artists for my Korea presentation between now and August 12th.
  2. go to East Hampton to the opening of my show at Pritam and Eames. forget the vacation, write my Korea presentation on the plane, interview Bebe and Warren about the history of Studio Furniture, and design the China piece on the flight home.
  3. I get the Monty Award and rush through convocation on August 25. rush to the airport after the luncheon.
  4. Change the return flight to go back to San Diego from San Francisco from the 27th to the 26th.
  5. panel discussion for the Museum of Craft and Design in SF.
  6. Meeting with grad students about subbing for me on the days that I am in Korea.
  7. Meet with the grad class the week before classes start since I leave for Korea on the day of their class.
  8. Leave for Korea on August 30th.
  9. Appalachian Crafts Center Reunion October 15th.
  10. Inspired by China piece has to be designed and ready by February - Start the piece in September, make the video for it in Colorado, finish the piece in the Anderson Ranch Arts Center woodshop in January.
Looks like I have my work cut out for me in the next three weeks.

the good news is that I SOLD ONE OF MY PIECES ALREADY, YIPPEE. got the news from Warren at the gallery.

Nearly done

the last piece will be photographed today, thank god. a very exciting and fun series to work on though and only wish I had more time to work on each one. seems like I am always in a hurry to finish work.

My friend Barbara turned me on to this site, I have seen blogs, they seem to be self indulgent but at the same time they are also a great way of recording thoughts and sharing ideas.

at the same time I am hesitant to share all of this with the internet world but I guess as long as I don't publish, it won't go out? who knows. do I care? possibly not.

identity issues? what? who me? oh no.

Today its Rocio's 50th birthday - she is having a private party at Region - I envy her decision. It will be great fun! When I turned 50 I chose not to celebrate and in the end was given a surprise party and I wish now that I had celebrated with gusto instead of whimpering. having the party turned out to be a blessing and I appreciate my friends for doing that for me. After all you are 50 only once, and it gets worse.

Well I am about to meet the photographer to shoot this piece (pic attached sans cabinetry) My life is about to become tumultuous and I intend on blabbing to the world. I seriously told myself that I was going to R E L A X after this show.

But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. for reasons out of my control, that is not to be. the story shall unfold. But until then there is work to be done.

Saturday, January 04, 1992

La Napoule

January 4

La Napoule itself is sort of a sleepy seaside villa resting on the shores of the Mediterranean. Sort of boring, actually and appears to be a retirement community. Because it is off-season, many of the restaurants and hotels have shut down. Susan and I walked to the mall to have a look around. They have a great grocery store, sort of like a Super Ralphs. It is all very quaint - stone walls and cobbled streets.

I have this huge studio, which ironically is only designed to do design work (drawing, painting etc) It's kind of too bad because it could be a terrific machine room or something of that effect. The one occasional problem for some of the artists is that is is chilly in some of the studios. I sort of lucked out because my studio is attached to the chateau and is actually just off to the kitchen. I have a space heater which works okay for me since I just sit at a table and draw. There is a strange here in this studio since there are these huge towering figures all around me, peering down as I work.

Friday, January 03, 1992

My France Residency

I received my first residency abroad, which was awarded to me by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991. Just after I return, I am going to have a solo show at Peter Joseph Gallery - the residency period will be for drawings and sketches in preparation for this exhibition. The residency was sponsored by the Pew Foundation at the Henry Clews Art Foundation in La Napoule, France. for more information, go to

January 3, 1992

The flight was horrendous - would almost NOT ever go to Europe ever again because the trip was pure agony. To make matters worse, I sat next to a Frenchman, who I swear, had never bathed in his entire life. Thought I would die.

Other than that, getting through customs was nothing and the La Napoule staff picked us up. The other artists (met at the airport) are quite nice. So far, Americans only. Funny thing is half of them are from Philadelphia. (3) and the other 3 are from North Carolina. 2 painters, 3 sculptors and 1 writer. The folks from Paris are also sculptors.

My bedroom overlooks the ocean - I love it -my bed is really comfy. The Atelier is huge. I have Henry Clews' (the guy who started this place) original studio. My intent is to design as much work as possible.