We’re getting toward the end of our first week here in Point Arena and have had an eventful few days! After our exploratory forage, we decided to make our first batch of paper out of the abundant meadow grass. We harvested both fresh and dry grass so we could experiment with 2 different methods.
We cut the dry grass into 1” pieces and the fresh grass into 10” pieces, then soaked it overnight before boiling it with soda ash to break down the fibers. Later in the afternoon we paid a visit to our neighbors over at Windy Hollow Farm where we’ll be teaching 2 papermaking workshops during their farm camp. We’re so inspired by their beautiful property where they grow flowers and vegetables, as well as run their non-profit, ACORN Partners in Education.
The next morning we scouted waves along the coast and ended up surfing at Big River, Mendocino. Nestled between cliffs, where the river meets the ocean’s glittering edge, this spot feels a little like paradise. After anointing ourselves in the cold pacific, we boiled our fibers in an alkaline solution and prepared to make paper the next morning.
Our bodies exhausted from surfing and carrying vats of water and fiber, we turned in for the evening. Fellow artist-in-residence, Ellie Lobovits, made two beautiful loaves of challah for shabbat, we drank dandelion root tea, and went to bed with the sun.
Rested and rejuvenated, we started our morning with a strong cup of coffee and got right to “work.” After rinsing the boiled fibers, we beat them until uniform, first with wood beams and then with rubber mallets. This process sheds new light on the phrase “beaten to a pulp.” It was definitely the most labor-intensive step, and by the end of this trip we’re going to have arms of steel.
Finally, it’s time to turn this stuff into paper. Moment of truth.
Success! We are really excited about the golden color of the dried grass, the way the light shines through each sheet, and the textural qualities the less-processed fibers and seeds make.
While pressing the paper under cinderblocks we invented “paper aerobics."
We got the idea to make use of some glass windows Ben and Tara collected to dry the sheets in the last of the afternoon sun.
Today we woke up to the sight of golden meadows and cypress trees veiled in a thick fog. It’s our first day at This Will Take Time where we’ll be artists-in-residence for the next three weeks. While our project focus has evolved in the months leading up to our time here, this morning was one of clarity and purpose.
One of our goals for the residency is to make paper from an invasive or abundant native plant that grows on the 80 acre property, so this morning we set out to start identifying species whose fibers can be utilized for pulp. Our first instinct was to visit Joe’s pond where we hoped to find strong reeds and grasses.
We came across a number of promising plants, but are most excited about a hearty and extensive sedge, or maybe bunching grass, that grows right along the water. The harder it is to break crosswise, the better the pulp will be, and this reed is incredible strong.
What felt like a half hour was actually 2 hours of exploration - time has a way of passing quickly in this place away from the distractions of city life.
The next step is to identify our samples.
So far we’ve identified Erechtites minima (Australian fireweed), Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle/spear thistle), Kniphofia uvaria (red-hot poker/torch lily) and Eucalyptus globulus (blue gum/common eucalyptus), with the help of our copy of Invasive Plants of California’s Wildlands (University of California Press), and the interwebs, of course. We are finding the field and wetland grasses the most challenging to identify.
Stay tuned for updates as we learn more about the flora, hone our papermaking technique and engage with the town of Point Arena. We’re elated to call this place home for the next three weeks.
As some of you may know, Alexandra moved to the East Coast earlier this year and is in the midst of a 9 month herbalism apprenticeship. We're excited to share with you some of what she's learning with a new blog segment called 'Herb of the Month.' Each month she'll post a monograph that goes in depth about a particular herb and its medicinal qualities. For our first month, we bring you Dandelion!
Family - Asteraceae
Parts used - root, leaves, flowers, sap, seeds
Energetic qualities - cooling, drying, tonifying
Taste(s) - leaf: bitter, salty / root: bitter, sweet, earthy
Tissue / organ affinities - liver and kidneys, urinary system
Foundational / clinical actions - Leaf Properties: diuretic, alterative, nutritive, digestive stimulant / Root Properties: alterative, nutritive, choleretic, cholagogue, mild laxative
Preparations - decoction, tincture, food, vinegar, infused oil
Contraindications and cautions - be aware of over-dryness and pair with moistening herbs. The diuretic qualities can be pronounced, and stimulate bladder function.
With spring in full bloom, I chose Dandelion as my herb of the month, both for its tonic and detoxifying qualities, as well as its abundance in my neighborhood. In the last days of April, I collected enough flowers to start a tincture and was delighted to find fields of plentiful Dandelions. Taraxacum officinale is a perennial herb that thrives in temperate climate zones. It has a strong tap root, and spreads easily due to its aerodynamic seeds, making it a plentiful and readily available herb. The bright yellow flowers open with the sun to attract pollinators, and close when the weather turns grey.
Dandelion assists poor digestion and water retention by supporting healthy liver, kidney and gallbladder function. The leaves are a diuretic, the root is a mild laxative and the flowers are an exhilarant so it’s helpful in stimulating stagnant conditions. Its cooling and drying actions also help to drain stagnation from the liver, which is prone to heat. The bitter leaves are a powerful digestive bitter, and when eaten regularly before or with meals, they stimulate the production of stomach enzymes and bile, helping to maintain healthy digestion.
Dandelion is also extremely nourishing, containing vitamins A, B, C, D and phytonutrients such as iron, potassium, manganese, carotenes and calcium. In addition, Dandelion is high in inulin, a prebiotic starch that feeds healthy gut bacteria, aiding in the restoration of healthy gut flora.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Dandelion is its versatility. Since all parts of the plant contain beneficial properties, there are a multitude of nutrient dense forms this bright beauty can take. The flowers, which are high in lutein, can be tossed into a salad or battered a fried into dandelion fritters. The rich, milky root is a delicious substitute for coffee and also works well as a tincture. The bitter leaves can be added to any meal as a nutritious green, blended into a pesto, or dried and used for tea. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Scientific studies at the University of Windsor are looking at Dandelion for cancer treatment, and for many herbalists, this is already a go-to for supporting cancer patients.
I found dandelion to be very helpful while I was traveling abroad. Eating most meals out, moving constantly, and staying in unfamiliar places can often lead to uncomfortable digestion. Drinking a strong blend of gut-heal tea that was heavy on Dandelion leaves and root alleviated any issues and was a helpful grounding ritual while I was on the move.
Herb Mentor, May 2016 Featured Herb: Dandelion by Rosalee de la Forêt
Herb Mentor, May 2008 Featured Herb: Dandelion by John Gallagher
University of Maryland Medical Center, Dandelion by Steven D. Ehrlich, NM
On Saturday March 25th we gathered to share new work by Derek Macario... what an incredible night! A big thank you to everyone who showed up, ate tamales, danced, and partied with us.
The space held more people that it ever has, including supportive members of Derek's family and lots of friends.
Derek is the first photographer we've shown, and we're amazed at how his images transform the space. Looking at his framed photos from around the Bay Area is like looking out the window on a sunny day.
Another first for us was a live DJ set by the talented Chulita Vinyl Club who spun incredible vinyl all night long. We highly recommend inviting them to your next event!
Derek is a San Francisco based artist working primarily in film photography and the zine format. He earned his BA at SF State University in 2015, studying studio art with an emphasis in photography, and minored in journalism. Derek's work can be found in his self published zines at local zine/book/art shops, including Needles & Pens, Little Paper Planes, and Rare Device.
Derek (b. 1992, San Francisco) constantly reflects on growing up in San Francisco. Filled with childhood nostalgia of growing up in the 90s and being immersed in public spaces, the subjects of Macario’s images are emblems of resistance to the rapid changes of the city. He's celebrating and preserving his environment- nature, landscape, and people less prominently observed today. Derek’s recent work examines the immediate surroundings of San Francisco’s physical peripheries.
His work can be seen at Open Windows Cooperative for a few more weeks. Please email for an appointment.
We were lucky enough to be present for Maria Popova’s conversation with Rebecca Solnit at the Nourse Theatre on December 12th, 2016.
Maria Popova, an eloquent and engaged interviewer, is the woman behind Brain Pickings, a (highly recommended) weekly newsletter that delves deep into a myriad of subjects. For example, just a few days ago I received this gem of a subject line in my inbox: “A beautiful love letter to Oliver Sacks and love itself, Hannah Arendt on our only effective antidote to the normalization of evil, and more.” What I find so incredible about Popova’s work is her ability to resonate on a very deep level to current events without speaking to them directly. I’m having a hard time with the extreme negativity that pervades mainstream media. I know it’s important to expose the incredible darkness that’s upon our country right now, that it’s important to stay engaged with the truth of the situation, but I find myself feeling defeated and angry sometimes (let’s be real, most of the time). Popova’s approach is to highlight and comment on scrupulously researched current and historical content such that there’s a clear correlation to what’s happening here and now, but it gets me thinking on a much deeper level than scary CNN reports. I always learn something new, often about women who shaped history, but were never given credit at the time, and instead of feeling scared I come away feeling hopeful...
...which is exactly how I felt after being present for Popova’s interview with Rebecca Solnit (a personal hero of mine and someone whose words i’ve followed closely as a beacon for truth and hope throughout this past year and a half / author of many incredible books including Hope in the Dark and Men Explain Things to Me). Their conversation was so rich that I could go on for pages, but I want to focus on three things that have really stayed with me in the months since.
First, Solnit talks about embracing uncertainty and darkness, about the wisdom of continuing to question ourselves and the danger of getting set in our ideas. Second, she highlights the importance of the collective voice and that we can shift our focus away from wondering what will happen to engaging with what we can make happen. Third is the idea of discomfort being a generative force.
In her 2014 New Yorker essay, “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable”, Solnit quotes Virginia Woolf: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” What I hear in this statement is an acceptance that despite our best efforts to plan, we don’t know what the future will hold, so perhaps it’s best to let it be dark, to embrace this moment we’re in and see what we learn. She talks about the value of connecting to the body by going for walks so that the mind can wander, because it’s in this wandering darkness that new connections form. The dark has, for so long, been portrayed as something to fear, but for Woolf and Solnit it’s a beautiful realization that the dark future is ours to shape when we choose what to shed light on. In the interview, Solnit talks about a “crusade against certainty.” When we’re so focused on what we know, there’s very little room to grow and at this point in history, we all need to grow and listen. Let us embrace the wisdom of uncertainty, continue to ask questions of those who are also resisting the current agenda, but may not share our perspective or privilege, and really listen.
When we listen deeply, let go of binary thought, and get comfortable discussing the many nuances of perspective, there’s an opportunity to find common ground. That common ground is key to developing the collective voice necessary to change the storyline. As Solnit says, “If you can change the story, you can change anything.” What if, in addition to reporting all the terrible things T***p and his administration are saying and doing, CNN (or take your pick of mainstream media outlet) were covering all the resistance taking place, all the ways that people are working hard to protest? Perhaps if civil disobedience became mainstream, that collective voice would be impossible to silence. All that is to say, I don’t think civil disobedience needs to become mainstream in order to be effective. It’s already working and each of us has the power to choose resistance; by changing our personal storylines, we contribute to the collective change.
“What if i’m someone who isn’t comfortable protesting? What if it’s just not my thing?” asked an audience member during the question and answer session. Solnit’s response: resistance is rarely comfortable and discomfort is generative. I’ll be the first to admit that the discomfort is not always something i’m eager to invite in; I’m trying hard to find my voice and navigate the intersectional complexity of resistance with openness and without ego. I’ve been wrong about things; I’ve been scared to put my body on the line and I often question my words and opinions. I return to Solnit’s words of discomfort being generative, because how else will I grow beyond what I think I know? In an attempt to deepen my experience with resistance, I recently started a personal practice of doing something uncomfortable every day. This could be as simple as introducing myself to a new person (sounds simple, but makes me pretty anxious!), supporting folks outside of my immediate community by attending workshops or meetings, traveling a little further to support a local business instead of a corporation, speaking out when I encounter hatred. What i’ve found so far is that, while I may have gone into the situation feeling uncomfortable, I usually leave feeling more connected to myself and those around me. Do you have a personal practice? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comment section!
I highly recommend the writing of both Maria Popova and Rebecca Solnit. They offer hopeful words through their compelling stories that also provide some valuable context for this strange and awful predicament. Months later I still feel a deep gratitude for this conversation; I couldn’t find a link of it to share, but below are links to a couple other gems.
On the evening of Friday 1/27, a week after the presidential inauguration, we gathered at Open Windows to celebrate the work of Ricki Dwyer. This show was unique for us in that it had 2 components; one in the gallery, the other a collaborative weaving exercise in our studio. All profits from the show were donated to the ACLU in support of the important work they're doing in this dark time.
Ricki's Printed Ghosts are the kinds of images you look at for a long time -- looking really close to see every last detail and figure out how they were created. A talented weaver, Ricki produced items woven in a variety of materials and styles, inked them like a relief block, and printed them on an etching press. From there they reprinted the ghost images, which produced incredibly nuanced mono-prints. These ghosts are now adorning our walls, watching over us as we work for the next month.
When the 14 prints are displayed together, they are like a family of unique beings. Each the same size, created with the same process, but entirely different from its neighbor.
Inauguration Re-weaving Sedative, the interactive part of the show, is a collaborative action that was designed by Ricki. Guests worked together to shred the American flag into uniform strips, then re-weave them into new objects on hand looms.
Working together as a group and seeing the flag transform into something new and unique to each person was a cathartic experience.
Like the printed ghosts, no two weavings were the same and it was inspiring to see how each person went about their transformation of the flag.
A huge thank you to Ricki for their incredible work, and the community they brought to Open Windows. We successfully raised $95.00 for the ACLU, and came away from the experience feeling empowered and connected to a larger cause.
December-- it's the season our culture has dedicated to certain values and institutions. In a deeper sense, it's dedicated to love-- to spending time with family and loved ones, to practicing self-love by taking much-needed relaxation and leisure, to expressing love through the act of giving.
But our culture of giving is manipulated by the capitalist agenda, promoting consumerism as the way to show our love. This is of course not new information; we are confronted with droves of consumerist messages every day, we practice media literacy, we tune out ads as much as possible.
We know that buying won't make us truly happy, that it is a tool of the elite to keep the masses complacent, that it's environmentally destructive and wasteful. We know all this, and yet, we cannot escape it, and maybe kind of enjoy it, because it feels good to give, to receive, because there are so many wonderful *things* out there that help us show each other we really *get* each other, and because, well, we take joy in beautiful things. There's a tension here, clearly, that may manifest as guilt, or in psychological terms, "cognitive dissonance"-- when our actions don't quite match up with our values.
Many artists, feminists and leaders dedicate their work to breaking down consumerist culture.
This winter, we've been reflecting on our relationship to material. We've been trying to hone in on how to be makers, who rely on material, without acquiring or using more than we need. We are hyper-aware that whatever we make will add to the excess of *stuff* out there, so we want to feel that what we're making is intentional, contributing to our values and not someone else's. At the same time, we also want more than ever to give and express our love, because the world needs that more than ever. This season, this moment, is particularly difficult for many of us.
That's been the inspiration behind recent projects like Literally Anything, an art show/silent auction (in collaboration with Mia Christopher) where all proceeds were donated to Planned Parenthood. The auction format made it possible for folks to buy art that they might not normally be able to afford.
We've been printing items that encourage folks to, when they do buy, to buy from a source worth supporting, whether that be a local artist, a group in need, or an organization. Our "You Mean The World To Me" card prompts the giver to donate something (time, money, whatever) to a cause that's important to their loved one, in their honor, instead of a material gift. And we've committed to donating the proceeds of those items to causes that are important to us-- most recently, Planned Parenthood and the Ghost Ship Fire Relief Fund.
We wish you a restful, rejuvenating winter season. We send you love and support. Treat yourself kindly. Hold your loved ones close. Reach out to strangers with an open heart. Practice small acts of kindness. This is the biggest gift we can give ourselves and each other. In the upcoming year may we restore our faith in humanity. We can do this.
Ava and Alexandra
Calling all artists, healers and activists:
Open Windows’ mission is to be a safe space, community space and creative space. Located in the Bayview district of San Francisco, we offer letterpress and bookbinding facilities, and hold sacred space for ritual and contemplation. We’re committed to open sharing of ideas, skills, and support.
We are seeking up to 2 new members to share the space with us on a longer-term basis. As our name suggests, we are a cooperative in that we work together towards a common goal. People of every gender, color, orientation, origin, and faith are welcome.
The available personal space is 14’x7’ with a large window and 20’ ceilings. Total rent including liability insurance and utilities is $350 if we find 2 people, or $500 if you’d like the space to yourself.
We want to emphasize that this is a very sacred space for us where we can explore contemplative practices like ritual, meditation, art, movement, connecting with nature, and anything else we are into at that moment.
In this painful time, we are feeling more committed than ever to using our energy to take action, and empowering ourselves and each other in whatever ways we can. We hope to establish a flat-file program, a workshop series, and community events. We are excited and open to any ideas you may have about how we can use the space in a way that benefits the community!
In terms of facilities, we have a fully functional letterpress and bookbinding studio on one side and more personal (although still shared) space on the other. We are blessed with tall ceilings and lots of windows with a view of the bay. There is a washout sink down the hall.
If you want to get involved in any way, please reach out to us. Things we’d like to know about you are:
(a) something about your personal/spiritual background;
(b) your personal practice(s), whether it be art, healing, organizing, etc., and how that might take shape in the space;
(c) what you have to offer and what you’re interested in learning more about; and
(d) how you envision giving back to or building community (in the space and/or at large).
Looking forward to connecting with you kindred spirits!
Alexandra and Ava, Open Windows Cooperative
Literally Anything was both a celebration of the work of Mia Christopher and a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. Constantly inspired by the strong brave women all around us, a big part of our mission is to hold space for women and their art. Mia is one of them, a high priestess of painting, whose sense of humor and playfulness with texture and color acts as a beacon in a dark moment.
We recognize that owning art is often a luxury many of us can't afford. Our goal for the event was to raise as much as we could for Planned Parenthood, and to enable Mia's work to continue to light up dark corners. That's why we decided to sell the work in a one-night-only silent auction.
The event featured new paintings by Mia Christopher; live music by Pete Fields of Slow Motion Cowboys and Trainwreck Riders; collaborative foil stamped buttons by Mia Christopher and Open Windows; and printed cards and posters by Open Windows.
Friday was an immensely joyful evening. People showed up-- all different kinds of caring, fun, talented weirdos-- the place was packed. The elderberry toddies were flowing, buttons proudly flashed "LISTEN TO WOMEN" from every shirt collar and dog sweater, while the art auction silently unfolded.
Together we raised over $900 for Planned Parenthood. We are so inspired and empowered by everyone who came out to support. All our little drops create a wave, a surge of energy with form and momentum that has a lot of force to shape our world. Let's keep that momentum going!
Lastly, we want to thank Pete for his gift of music. It was exciting to hear brand new songs, to hang onto every word and melody. The requested old favorite he ended his set with, "Chug Along," resonated with us on many levels: chugging along in our daily lives despite the crazy scary world at large; chugging along in the work that we do and the ways we chip away at oppression and injustices; and, as Pete sings, "tryin' to shine a little light on a dark room." We must continue trying to shine our light into the darkness: the unknown, the void, whatever you want to call it. Whatever you love to do, whatever gifts you have, share them, use them to bring people together.
Collapse Sonata explores how we navigate through ambient spaces.
There will be a sonic component and an interactive exchange of objects with the artist on opening night, intended to alter participants’ mood or enhance their personal environment.
Ari Bird produces work in Oakland, is California-born, and may have grown up in a cult.
Open Windows is a new gallery, letterpress studio, and artist workspace located in the Bayview District and operated by Alexandra Williams and Ava Rosen.
aribird.com, ig: @ariibiird
We're so honored that we got to participate in Kiosk Fest!
Kiosk Fest takes over the green newspaper kiosks along SF's Market Street from the Embarcadero to 5th Street.
The curated indie book festival pulls together popular booksellers, printing presses, magazine publishers, zine distros and local writers to run their own pop-up shops, with books and art prints for sale, poetry readings, workshops, live music, and even a downtown scavenger hunt.
The fest will feature 50 vendors in 30 kiosks, including Green Apple Books, SF Public Press, Incline Gallery, SF Zine Fest, the Grand Newsstand, Kerbloom! and Rad Dad. Full list of vendors released soon.
Kiosk Fest will be held on July 23rd-24th from 10-6. We will have a kick-off party at The Grand Newsstand on July 22nd from 7-9!
We gathered with friends to celebrate the release of new creative projects.
Ava Sayaka Rosen and Alexandra Jane Williams
THE STAIRS is a limited edition book of poetry and images. A collaboration between Ava Sayaka Rosen (of four eyes press) and Alexandra Jane Williams (of Triangle House), the edition was letterpress printed and case-bound by hand in San Francisco/Oakland, California. The work speaks to the ways in which physical space and architecture affect the psyche, particularly the ways that women inhabit, or are expected to inhabit, domestic space. The outward form of the book is integral to the inward content, and the texture that's added by the printing creates ghost images throughout the book, reminding us of the past and future.
Roberto Martinez S/T is the first solo album by Roberto Martinez. It is six songs long. Some songs are really old and some are really new.
Classification is a collection of semi-autobiographical poems organized by the Dewey Decimal Classification. The book includes the essay True North, which discusses mapmaking, Thomas Jefferson, and ground sloths. There is also a play.
WOO WOO is a solo exhibition of works by Savannah Rusher, inspired by New Age rituals and the skepticism they conjure. She is intrigued by the contrast between bohemian mysticism and the digital age and how the two are currently colliding in San Francisco. This selection of work is about awareness and finding your happy place, even - and especially - if others believe it is irrelevant.
Savannah Rusher is a multi-media artist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Rusher’s work focuses primarily on escapism. Raised in seaside tourism destinations on the East Coast, her work is inspired by coastal architecture, the entertainment industry, and consumerism. Nostalgic images are abstracted with bright pigments and inorganic shapes, creating a muddled contrast of familiarity and illusion. The viewer is encouraged to reconnect with their own memories and decipher how semiotics induce the feeling of contentment and transcendence. Savannah has published several books and shown her work in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Charleston, South Carolina.
We're so pleased that you've found us.