Saturday, July 31, 2010

Closer and closer!

I woke up today too early, but too wired still to go back to bed. I kept trying and trying to nap and alternated with admin and reading, and finally managed to sleep for a little bit in the afternoon and then got to work around 4pm. Turns out I should do that all the time: Tom got so much done! Suddenly, the transformation. Amazing. Inside I was close to ecstatic but still too tired to function much.

I love hanging out INSIDE the vat but got bitten 5x by the same mosquito while reading inside of it--even though I had put a fan inside by running the cord thru the drain. There is still a bunch left to do. I helped Tom check piping to run a gas line to a spot where the new cooking stove will go. The oyster knives we got for a different purpose are actually perfect for scraping bark, so I was able to cross more things off of my big list. But mostly I was totally useless today for anything besides reading.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Even though I work every day, TGIF

I didn't get enough sleep but was able to glue on the last pieces of the new moulds for smaller Korean-style screens (after routing them like the "I'll rout anything in sight" person that I've become) before getting Spencer to sand them and then

varnish them. He did the same for the belly board/mould lip for the front of the vat. Tom and I also talked more about the guides for the couching table and then where we'll place the whole vat and studio.

Melissa came in and we got to do lots of catching up and hanging out while working--it has been over four years! Here she is behind Tom, when Marcus had dropped by for a second. Tom and I had put new 2x4 center legs onto the table that will support the vat and added a 1x3 to shore up one of its edges.

Tom also dry fitted the drain and we placed everything roughly where it will be for class.

Melissa had two beaterloads of abaca going--one in Tom's studio (above) and one at the Morgan. We were finally able to get away later in the evening for a great big Vietnamese dinner on the west side. So much catching up! It was unspeakably wonderful to be able to spend time talking to Melissa again instead of just checking blogs and sending emails for the last several years. She even brought me mosquito repellent wipes (though I didn't use them soon enough so I got my requisite bite of the day)! I'll treat myself to sleeping in tomorrow since I should just stay out of her hair since her workshop starts in the morning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everyone at work

I started pressuring Tom more today b/c of my nerves, to get more building into swing. He had started on his own yesterday in his wood shop but since I was at the Morgan, I was worried about our progress. Power tools always make you feel like you're getting more done than sewing with needles. He's trimming a piece of wood that will become the top of a couching surface.

I routed the pieces for the top framework of the vat. This bit makes a smaller round so it wasn't as satisfying as routing the vat itself, but it was good to clamp and go on three nice pieces of wood. This was after we had a big studio clean to prepare for Melissa's class and also to consolidate our work area b/c it had been creeping onto every single surface available and was making me crazy.

Jim worked on pulling all the staples out of this old piece of wood. Later I had him help varnish one of the side pieces of the framework before he headed out.

Cameron had the nasty task of using PVC cement to assemble the parts of the drain and plumbing. That stuff was TOXIC. A whiff of that was enough to get you hi ii i igh. He was cranky when I asked him and Jim to weed in the morning, but then he got to tool a bunch and work in Tom's wood shop all afternoon and evening, so I think the tradeoff was fine.

While dealing w/computer problems, Lauren took a break to help remove more stray staples in the soon-to-be couching table.

Then Spencer did a super job sanding it down and putting on a coat of varnish. I got nervous about it not being enough so I ran back out and did a second coat when no one was looking, after I gave him a one-on-one tutorial on three simple structures. I got a little driving tour of more parts of the city from Tony's car, and had a lovely dinner with him at Lolita. A late night, but at least I finished reading Water for Elephants this morning, so I am not as compelled to make huge headway into another book tonight. But there's still a bunch left to do before I sleep!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"We didn't do anything today"

I slept in even later today, until 8am, and got to work right as Cameron was pulling in. We both wore purple shirts today, weirdly, and were at work until 8pm, but felt a little bummed by how little we got done. At least, that's how it felt. I had him iron the fabric to sew onto the screen edges in the morning.

I sewed up one test screen with big bamboo, and another of stainless. He did his own of stainless. We had to add extra chain lines on the edges so the fabric had something to grab.

That was actually a great thing for this screen, b/c it straightened it out. The curved chain lines came from weaving w/o a jig. If this one works, I bet everyone will want one or want to use it for the curvy lines it will leave on the paper. Mistakes are so often pretty.

This is all we have to show for ourselves today. Besides a little sanding, tidying, dishwashing, and the usual antics that pop up here and there, like replacing paper towel rolls and setting up the new computer for wireless. I even set up a couple fans at the end of the day while waiting for a finance committee meeting to end so I could do some pushups w/o being molested by mosquitoes. As always, I am determined to get more work done tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A more normal work day

Stephanie took the picture and Emma helped her direct me. We were aiming for the high school yearbook shot but didn't have the neon blinds backdrop and I don't think I'm turning my head awkwardly enough. But I love this jig. I finished up my screen today, and Emma finished off the one Cameron started several days ago. We had a total of four interns today. I love them, but it's a challenge at this point in the project to delegate tasks. I haven't been able to teach structures as much, but have kept up on mentoring.

Emma glued up knots and later, she and Stephanie cut fabric to sew around all the edges. These will be our test screens.

I had Marcus varnish the side pieces of the vat that will be attached and then be the bottom of the framework structure. He's really easy to direct, which is great, and works well on his own. We had a great talk yesterday and I gave him a crash course in Korean papermaking through images and videos.

Then, he made these great bark scraping stations. Of course, I went and messed one of them up by replacing the slant with a longer board. I'm not sure how well the long boards will help, seeing as all the old Korean ones are kind of short. I guess they'll find out this winter when the Morgan harvests their first batch of kozo from their garden!

I also finished the last bit of my snail mail piece for the Morgan. This is all printed on their own handmade paper that I knitted. Last night, I stayed out late at Tom's place and his plan was to get me to drink enough to sleep soundly. Amazingly, I did. I slept in and woke up at 7:40am and took my time getting to work, making stops for errands like mail. I got to work just past 10am and left around 6pm. This is considered an incredibly short work day for me, so it was a nice treat to go home, relax with a big salad, get groceries, and run more errands. Now I get to curl up in bed with a book. I have six to get through but I have a feeling I won't get through them all in the next three weeks!

Monday, July 26, 2010


This was the jig Cameron built yesterday. Then I went home and reviewed field work footage from Korea and realized that there was a much simpler, more elegant way of building a jig.

This is the jig I started this morning, now that I love building things, and Tom helped me finish it.

I wasn't thrilled about how close the vertical supports were, so I took the partially-woven screen off and went back to the work bench.

This one works much better! Mondays are super since we're officially closed and no one comes in. So Tom and I were able to get a lot of work done in relative peace. Marcus came in, Susan dropped in for a bit, and Cameron stopped by with his mom, but otherwise it was quiet. Which meant HUNGRY mosquitoes that were all over me.

This is how you make bobbins when in close proximity to a letterpress studio. The good news is that I can tie two half hitches w/o looking at diagrams and can do a bobbin slip knot. Also, when knots fall out, you can do Korean weaving the American way, which entails taping the line to the weight. Today was a lesson in why tradition stands. So often, novices wonder, 'why do we have to do it this way?' and try new ideas. Which is great. But in cases like this, tools are the way they are b/c they work. Someone else has figured out all the kinks. Either you go on faith and follow the tried-and-true model, or you don't and learn why that model works. And if you're really lucky, you tweak and improve things.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not quite in the groove

After telling people that they needed to get things in writing so that what is in their heads can be understood by other people, I realized that I was guilty of the same communication weaknesses. So first thing this morning, I made a huge to do list of what needs to get done in the next two weeks. Not even two weeks! I am starting to panic, mildly.

While the printing/drum leaf workshop was in full swing today, I used this saw to make these beautiful notches to start a screen weaving jig. But then Cameron came in unexpectedly and I let him take over the job based on my video from Korea of master weavers, Tim Barrett's book on Japanese papermaking, and his own experience trying to sew it himself. I still haven't mastered the art of giving people the appropriate amount of responsibility, supervision, and freedom, but I sure am trying.

I was incredibly scattered today, so it was a relief to be able to sit for a while for Cristine Rom's lecture on artists' books. It was like a blast from the past: back in grad school book arts lectures! It was sad, though, to have to say goodbye to Eleanor, one of the summer interns. But Marcus finally dropped in after being gone for a while, so it was good to see him again.

All of my pics of Cameron's new jig came out badly so I'll reshoot tomorrow. For now, we'll see if he's able to get a decent screen done tomorrow. Tom cut down the wood for the vat framework, and I wiped on the last coat of epoxy for my large mould. Student sugetas are in the works and I am going to hope that I am less distracted tomorrow so I can really work.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A real day off

Today was my first day off since I can't remember. I finally got to sleep past 7am and had a wonderful time with my family--turns out that my cousin, her husband, and daughter all live not too far away, and that her parents are visiting from Korea. I haven't seen her for years and my aunt and uncle since I left Korea last year. So I saw her home, caught up, had a huge family lunch, and then did some grocery shopping before I came home. Then I went with my hosts to see "Inception" (which had a scene in a huge old printshop-y space--you could see all the presses and type cabinets and whatnot) and have sushi and drinks afterwards at Sasa. The red grapefruit sorbet was perfect.

Tomorrow I'll head back to work and deal with the screen. More pics are online. I now have about six books to read, since Treva and Trinity came over last night to drop off four more. Life here is rich.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Naked boys

Today's humidity is and was ridiculous. I did last-minute tiny epoxy touch ups and the vat is ready for its framework, placement, height adjustment, and drain fitting. I had another super convo w/Jim at West System, who said it's been fun to help me with this project and nice to be in touch w/people who are passionate about their work. I felt like a dead weight today, so it was funny to hear that, but I had just given a couple of tours in the morning and got Cameron started on his screen weaving. This was the beginning of his set up.

The start of the screen was gorgeous. John and I went to Chinatown for bamboo screening, but after hitting a bunch of places, came back w/only a few tiny sushi rolling mats. Not enough but a small start. We got caught in a downpour that did nothing but get us wet and make the air more humid. Jala came in for her first volunteer day and I felt badly b/c I forgot to tell her about the bug spray before she went into the garden. She was mauled by mosquitoes. I got a few more bites, too. It's inevitable; the Morgan mosquitoes go after the women. She admired my paper knitting, so I gave her the swatch I was working on. She said, "if you teach that in a workshop, I would totally take it." It'll be great when she comes back next week and I can show her more.

When we returned from shopping, Cameron had changed his setup after building a makeshift jig. I can't show those pictures yet b/c they're almost too inappropriate. He and Tom were topless most of the day b/c it was so hot. But the screen took a turn for the worse, so I'll come in Sunday to either fix the damage or build a proper jig. It's hilarious that a young American man of Swedish, Irish, and Polish descent is making the American version of a Korean screen that only about four people still make in Korea.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

At the price of our brain cells

Eleanor came in today, which was a great surprise, since we thought she was done w/her internship and wouldn't be back until the workshop this weekend.

She started sewing the stainless screen and did some fun rigging. Cameron will take over for her tomorrow and has already figured out how to improve her system.

Meanwhile, he and I did three more coats of epoxy after I consulted two different technical specialists at West System (I love them). Cameron also did some extra dremel-ing of the drain, which Tom will fit later.

Tom returned, straight from the airport, and cleared up a MAJOR piece of miscommunication: I thought before he left that he wanted us to varnish and epoxy in areas that were enclosed, with still air, to keep dust from flying into the wet stuff. Turns out he wanted us to set up in places like OUTSIDE to get lots of ventilation. I feel so badly for my interns, myself, and everyone else who had to deal w/the fumes locked inside. On the upside, the outside of the vat is dust free.

After another long, hot, humid work day, Treva picked me up to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." I had no idea what we were walking into b/c if I did, I NEVER would have gone. Now I won't be able to sleep b/c I am traumatized. I told the interns that I've been losing sleep from vat/hanji studio worry, but tonight it will definitely be b/c of the movie. But I still love Treva.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Now we have met epoxy

I've had a hard time sleeping so I'm tired each morning, but at least have been reading more and carry Alice Walker with me, which is a huge comfort. I have been mopey about my vat so this morning I took a break and did snail mail stuff for the Morgan to donate art to their auction (for their Oct open house).

Spencer helped a little in the morning with some sanding and I did as much as I could stand, and then Cameron and I did some wiping down of the vat before we broke for lunch and then faced the thing I have been so scared of for the last month: marine epoxy.

It wasn't so bad! In fact, w/the rollers, it's super fast and easy. Here I was, worried the HUGE containers wouldn't be enough for three coats. But we'll be just fine. I think we'll have to get new rollers tomorrow since we only have enough for one more coat, but otherwise, it will be okay.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I have no idea what bit my back, but it's a huge welt. Strangely with no itchiness or pain or anything. A mosquito got me late in the day, though, while I gave Katie (big sister of friend of Ben) a tour. Here I am after the final coat of polyurethane. I was happy to see how it dried when I came in today, except for a few little spots, but I think that is inevitable, esp when you work w/o enough light to be able to see anything. It's so beautiful that I am loath to flip it over to reveal the part we will actually see since it's not as gorgeous. I'm also a little bummed about the drain hole location. But I have to let go of these things b/c all I can do now is move forward. Nothing will ever be perfect enough for me.

This morning I indulged myself in a drive back to Chagrin Falls to get two things I coveted: a ring and a necklace. I stopped in their lovely book store and got three books, too. This is unheard of b/c I never acquire books on the road unless they are to use as teaching and reference tools if absolutely necessary, but I was getting desperate. I haven't read since I got here, and it makes me feel the same way I feel if I don't eat enough fresh fruit and veggies (maybe these things always happen simultaneously b/c I need more fruit right now...). I was able to have a nice talk with Ben and talk about differences b/t the American camps vs. the German one, and then rushed into work to find no one at all. Which makes sense, since it's closed on Mondays. I got a bunch of work done and then noticed two young men walking around barefoot. Apparently they were former interns. One was picking up paper and the other said he was back to work! So it will be good to have another young person on board to finish this vat.

Katie came by later and after the tour, she took me to Koko Bakery, which was super. The owner was so nice and gave us free things to eat to accompany our bubble tea, and we had a good conversation before we left. It's nice finding all the little gems around here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To fiberglass tape or not?

I never thought that would be a question I'd be asking myself. This vat business is serious stuff! Here's Susan, the office manager, helping her husband Kevin (the hand with the ring on it), turn the vat around to re-right so he can make the drain hole. I did three tours today, one for a stranger and two for old friends and new friends. Gaelyn and Gustavo came up from Akron to visit the Morgan and catch up over dinner (we met in 2007 at our Guapa residency). Funny timing, since Treva had invited me to see GroundWorks DanceTheater tonight. The coincidence? Gustavo is their music director. Treva had been invited by Pam, who also turns out to be good friends w/my hosts here.

I made two books today from the paper I made yesterday, which is still quite stinky. I am keeping the cheesy starred one (that I sewed all wrong, but only realized after it was done) and gave the papyrus one to Susan. She's going to call it "Aimee's stinky book." It's so great to have the chance to teach the interns over time--I have to brush up on my own skills and jog my memory, as well as have fun coming up with good things to teach them given their skill sets and how much time we all have. The vat is looking good, but unfortunately I will have to come in one more time tomorrow myself and do another sand and polyurethane job. I didn't want to (I thought 2 coats would be enough) but even w/o help I'm hoping I can get it done in a few hours and get out of there. Unless the whole vat is still right side up. Then I can't do anything since it would be way too heavy for me to flip over by myself.

Tonight's show was gorgeous. Treva and I were sitting there missing dancing (her more so, since she actually was a professional dancer with Urban Bush Women). The first piece had music composed by a guy I went to Oberlin with. The second piece, about Virginia Woolf, totally made me cry. It was stunning. A group of eight of us ended up going out afterwards to eat and drink and it was great to chill out and talk to new and old friends. Yay.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Fume box"

That's what Eleanor called the Morgan today. Which was entirely accurate, given the closed space, polyurethane, and turpentine. The last, AWFUL! I don't know how oil painters deal w/that. We put her on "save the ink" detail today, which will be great, b/c then people can see, identify, and use the printing inks, instead of trying to pry open old rusty cans full of ink trapped in thick layers of dried-up wrinkles. I taught her and Jim a new structure today: single-sheet, double-needle coptic. Next week we'll brave adhesives and start cased bindings. Susan also gave me a crocheting crash intro b/c I forgot how to do it since learning a couple years ago at Haystack. She also brought in samples of her work, one of which I sent immediately to Ben in Afghanistan. Then Jim and I finished the topcoat and stumbled back to the office to de-fume. He cut down 270 steel rods to sew into a test screen. I felt so full of toxins that I was compelled to make us both toast with melted cheese.

Today I also met: 1. Yuko Kimura, whose show I hope to see while I am here, since she made much of the paper at the Morgan, 2. A grad student from my old program in Chicago, and 3. a friend of Janice, who was the interim director at my residency last summer at Weir Farm Arts Center, and Janice's friend's sister and brother-in-law: the three came expressly to visit me, so I gave a tour of the Morgan, the hanji vat and screen/mould, and my suitcase full of hanji goodies.

This morning, I was alone at work and in a funky mood, so I strapped on my boots, donned an apron, and made some big, messy sheets out of a stinky vat (I added OxiClean to reduce the worst of the smell). I'm coming out of an unwise series of decisions that I made about sharing my work, research, and personal life with someone who has taken it for less-than-noble uses. I'm divorced from the whole encounter but occasionally there are kickbacks. Making paper helps a lot in moving through the negativity. And so does being here, which is exactly where I need to be right now. I haven't felt that way since I was in Korea on my Fulbright. Yesterday, after dinner with two board members where we talked about Korea b/c one has visited several times and the other will visit for the first time this fall, I mentioned to one of them how amazing it was that at least six people from my past have all converged here, from all different walks of my life. Marjorie said, "you're supposed to be here." I am.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The fumes begin

After being the graduate assistant in the paper studio in Chicago, years ago, I have developed a huge fear of polyurethane and all other related things (like Bondo) that smell horrid and don't wash up with water. But here I am, sanding yesterday's spackling and getting ready for the first coat of varnish. This is the "before" picture, before I get polyurethane on my new shirt. Of course this happened as I was talking to an intern about how all of my clothes slowly become studio clothes. I still haven't learned the art of having trashy work clothes.

I love having Jim help me out on this project: he's patient, focused, polite, never complains, and isn't afraid to do new things. I wish more kids turned out this way. He was a huge help while prepping the area to varnish, since it was crazy dusty, and we were able to do the first coat pretty quickly. After so many years of doing things by myself, I love being here b/c I get so much help and it makes the job doable.

I also started Jim on the task of trimming the stainless steel rods from Jon to test for screens.

These are the teaching samples from yesterday's lunchtime tutorial and my next batch of hanji yarn to knit. I have about five or six panels ready to print on and started to rifle through wood type cabinets today. The narrow fan-like book is from when I did a demo of a single-sheet book and Eleanor asked if you could make more pages. It had never crossed my mind, but when I tried it out in front of them, it worked!

That, and THIS zine are two things I love about teaching and sharing in healthy environments: Eleanor came in today and got to work immediately assembling a whole edition in different colors of a zine she came up with this morning before work b/c she was so excited by yesterday's lesson. So this was a gift from her. How fabulous is that?