Fermentation, afternoon tea, and other February notes

I’m a bit radio silent because I’m starting a food history business (more info on that TBA!) and finishing my book manuscript for Rowman & Littlefield’s Food Culture and History series (more info on that TBA too! I have some great ideas for afternoon tea-related events and so many things to share with all of you).

I also have a few other exciting announcements (beyond starting a business and publishing a book which, I know, are already pretty big announcements):

  • Fermentation residency: I’ve been accepted to be a part of this amazing workshop, fermenting food and learning to build outdoor ovens (so I can then build my own in my yard and make all the baked goods). The workshop ends on my birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it! This is especially exciting since the food history business I’m starting will (eventually) also be coupled with a nonprofit, so I can use my business to build connections between people and the past through hands-on food instruction, and bring food-making and art-making skills to parts of our community who might not normally have access to such classes. I’m very excited to learn some new skills in this workshop and to deepen my appreciation of fermented foods so I can use that to inform my work moving forward.
  • Ink making: I’ll be joining my friends from Explore Wildwood, The Homestead Atlanta, and Eventide Brewing again this month for the Wildcraft Palette Curiosity Club. I’ll be talking about ink making using natural pigments (I just finished making an ink with cloves, for example, which smells amazing!) If you’re around on 2/20, come out to Eventide and see us!
  • Common Good 10th anniversary: I am so very excited to be celebrating my colleagues at Common Good for their 10th anniversary this Sunday. They have transformed the lives of so many incarcerated scholars, and bring such a passion to their work. I count myself as very lucky to know Sarah and Bill, and am so happy to have a chance to celebrate them and all they do.

 

 

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New adventures

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front, but not because it’s been quiet over here! A few weeks ago I decided to resign from my position as a rare books curator. I love the work I did and the collection I worked with, but it was time for a change, so after some soul searching, I’m setting out in a new direction. I have a really big business announcement coming later this year, but at the moment I’m finishing my book manuscript for Afternoon Tea: A History (due 3/1!) and offering individual consulting for academic colleagues looking for some guidance as they do their own career-related soul searching (one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my post-PhD life has been articulating what I want and identifying transferable skills to get me there, but now that I’ve done it I hope I can help others too!)

I’m very excited about all the great things I have in store this year, and am excited to see where the collection I helped shape is going next. Prior to leaving, I initiated work on the museum’s next exhibit, which is on the Harlem Renaissance (a topic near to my heart). Specifically, it is on Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston, but it touches on the experiences of discrimination faced by all Black women writers at this time. It’s still in its early stages so I’m not sure how it will change as it develops, but I’m hoping that lots of folks will go see it and learn about the really incredible Harlem Renaissance-related collection that Mr. Williams built, and to learn more about two of my favorite authors.

Life beyond work continues to evolve in some exciting ways too–traveling to see friends (or hosting traveling friends), building a garden full of native edible and medicinal plants, and adopting one of the neighborhood community cats.

That’s it for updates for now–here’s to an adventurous 2018!

Gallery representation!

I’m very excited to announce that my work is now being represented by two galleries,  both international:

1340 Gallery (Netherlands) is hosting some of my smaller works, and has them available for sale on their website.

PrimoPiano gallery (Italy) is carrying some of my smaller works (and one large piece, which is a personal favorite), and exhibiting others at shows in southern Italy.

How’s the job search going? (Every academic’s favorite question)

The academic job search process is…complicated, to put it mildly, especially since many programs don’t prepare folks to think about their work outside of the context of one (or maybe two) career paths. There are many, many studies and media articles related to the lack of tenure-track positions, postdocs, etc., and it can feel (really) overwhelming. I’ve gone through the academic job search in tandem with alt-ac and non-ac searches multiple times, and it has given me some great tools, both in terms of practical resources (e.g. which jobs databases I like best) and a healthy perspective about all the great things academics CAN do with our degrees beyond working as tenure-track faculty.

Gir
My cat (Gir) making the same face I made during most of the job hunt.

As some of my readers know, I’ve been doing one-on-one career coaching informally for some time. With the new year, I’ve decided to refocus on this work, after hearing the concerns of many fellow academics whose searches have them feeling unmoored and frustrated, and unsure how to begin feeling unstuck. My approach is highly personalized and collaborative–I tailor my recommendations to each person’s situation and together we come up with a set of goals and actionable items related to those goals.

The thing many clients struggle with most is the feeling that they’ve somehow failed (I get it, I felt the same way too when I started searching for TT jobs). I’m here to remind you that 1. you haven’t and 2. Your degree and yourself still have immeasurably great value no matter what career direction you choose. My goal with each client is to help them identify what matters to them in a career, and how to get over the paralysis of the job search to start moving in that direction.

JChild
The thing to keep in mind during the job hunt: It’s your career and happiness, not anyone else’s!

Stay tuned for some exciting updates, and if you want to talk with me more about how we could work together, get in touch!

 

 

 

Show in Brindisi, Italy

If you follow my Instagram account, you may have seen me gush about sending my work off to my first international group show in Brindisi. I just got the initial photos back from the event, and it looks amazing: Riccardo did a fantastic job curating the show and wrangling us artists and our work (and handling all the international shipping drama). You can see the photos, including the press conference and opening night here!

It’s up through early January, so if you’re in the area go take a look (and let me know what you think!)

Current food events

I have been posting more art stuff and less food stuff lately, but the food stuff is still happening. Here’s a quick run down:

-A dear friend and I have decided to conduct a study on the archaeological evidence on my property of foodways past. My yard has the remains of lots of former buildings, as well as the remains of many past pig roasts, etc., so I’m gathering and labeling bones in the bit of landscaping I’m doing, and then we’ll do a more comprehensive exploration later.

-I’m still plugging away at my next book, due to be published by Rowman and Littlefield next year. As with any research project, there are a million rabbit holes I want to go down that I just don’t have the space for–once I get a second to come up for air from writing the book I’ll get back to blogging about all the cool stuff I’m finding

-I’m bringing this 1615 wafer recipe to the holiday celebration for the prison classroom next month, which is a great opportunity to connect food history to some of the early modern lit and history they’ve been working with. Added bonus: If you click the link you can enjoy my neglected old food blog I made for my first book.

-In totally random news, I was interviewed for Mel Magazine.  I appear at the very end, but the sources I pointed to in my interview are scattered throughout. It also made an appearance in the Dollar Shave Club newsletter, so same story, two different pubs (but owned by the same folks). Enjoy!

Calligraphy class with incarcerated scholars

Week One:

I just got back from teaching my first calligraphy class at the prison, and since so many colleagues have expressed interest in hearing how it goes, I wanted to put down a few quick thoughts:

-Applications: There are a lot of useful applications for teaching calligraphy in a college-level class (either within a prison or not). The main one for me in today’s discussions was using it as an additional way to help the men contextualize and find relevancy in historical documents and time periods. By gaining skills to understand how the letters were made, they are able to think about the process of sharing and creating information, and in so doing think about the impact that has on society.

-Tools: We used an affordable starter set of items, including graph paper pads for practice, plastic rulers, no. 2 pencils, and chisel-edged markers (much easier to bring in than a pile of nibs and pens. Cheaper, too). The men get to keep their supplies so that they can practice. For next week, we’ll be using slightly heavier-weight paper (we’re using sketch paper) to do projects.
N.B.: bring your calligraphy inks to class in plastic jars, not glass, if you do want to do a demo with nibs and ink. I’ll be doing a demo with ink next week…

-I structured today’s class to focus on learning the basics of calligraphy (pen angle/pen width, using ductus, etc.) so the men could focus on getting started with practicing right away and have lots of time to experiment and ask me questions. This seemed like a good approach, since everyone wanted to try all three hands I hoped to teach them, and having so many questions and answers helped everyone learn and improve more quickly than they may have if I just talked at them. You can find the materials I’m using for these classes in the ‘art instruction’ folder, which has the handouts and three ductus sheets I made.

-The handouts I made cover two main areas: the history of calligraphy, and how to do calligraphy. Next week, we’ll be discussing the history stuff while we work on creative projects using the letterforms we’ve learned, which will be helpful for contextualizing what they’ve been practicing.

-Today’s class reiterated some critical points about this kind of instructional work, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post: namely, keep the format loose (I bring in the ‘bones’ of the class and we build on those bones together based on students’ needs and interests), be flexible, have a sense of humor, and leave a lot of space for informal discussion and brainstorming.

-One thing I’ll add is to be encouraging (without being overwhelming) as well as encouraging experimentation and making mistakes. Calligraphy is a skill that no one learns overnight, and all our first attempts at new letterforms look sloppy. That can be defeating if you’re on your own, but in a supportive and curiosity-focused classroom space, that can be a fun challenge (at least for a lot of folks!)

-For designing these classes, one of my focal points is simple basic techniques and low-cost materials. That makes the class scaleable for me if I decide to do more such classes later, keeps it fun and engaging (and challenging, but not defeating) for students, and offers ideas for creative skill sets that are accessible. Calligraphy is great because the tools can be flexible (markers instead of nibs, etc) and once you have the skill down for making letterforms, there is a lot you can do with it. We’re brainstorming about future classes next time, but my suggestion will be something to do with zine making and collage.

Week Two:

-I had an amazing second week working with the guys–they practiced the letterforms quite a bit and came back with fantastic examples and great questions. We spend the second session as another work session, where we talked more in depth about materials and where I helped them troubleshoot their letterform construction. I brought them each a piece of Arches hot press paper (which is the standard in a lot of my calligraphy classes for either final projects or for solid draft pieces) so they could use it for an art project, if they so desired, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

-One of my big goals for the second session was to incorporate a brainstorming session where we would decide what to cover in our next session(s) together. I had the idea for a zine making and collage session, as I mentioned above, but prior to doing that they wanted some grounding in composition and design. So our next class together will probably be a design fundamentals + composition course, which will be great both for them as artists and to give them a good head start on a marketable skill to bring to employers when they are released.

Thanks as always to Common Good for bringing me in to teach–it is consistently a joy and an honor. And thanks to my mentor and friend Cheryl Jacobsen for endless hours of calligraphy instruction, as well as support and advice as I designed this class. To close, I’ll point you to this Instagram post, which may be one of my favorite teaching moments ever.