Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Elevator: A History... And a little Print too

Setting: UA Amelia Gorgas Library.
The main library at the University of Alabama consists of seven floors. Seven. Due to the ridiculous numbering structure imposed upon this building, many believe there to only be five. My departments both live on the "fifth" floor which is actually the seventh. Why the confusion? There exist two "mezzanine" floors which happen to be numbered the same number as the previous level with a delightful M pulling up the rear. The levels are labeled as follows: 1, 2, 2M, 3, 4, 4M, 5. Confusing? Indeed, particularly when the expectations of the average freshman student exclude their ability to form an argument. The building consists of two public elevators and one staff elevator which will henceforth be the only elevator I occupy. What follows is the story of my day...

I arrive at school at 8:43am. Tired from the previous day where I had spent eight hours working the press for my first print from my Suicide Linoleum block, I lock up Lady and realize I have forgotten the plastic grocery bag I usually bring to cover her seat in the daily event of rain. Slightly perturbed but determined to be optimistic about my day, I walk into the library to find the elevators swamped with librarians with galleys and galleys of books to be shelved in different areas throughout the library. No Worries, I thought. I'll just take the stairs, a little more exercise won't hurt. After 103 stairs (I counted), I arrive in the Type Lab ready for my second print.

A little shop talk and off to the press. Luckily I jump at the chance and get to use class time to print. I can't find the color in the swatch I wanted to use yesterday, so I find another I don't like as much and get to mixing my ink. After a few minutes and some bating from my professor, I change the color mixture towards what I had originally wanted (he found the swatch in 3 seconds). After a moment later I realize I made a much better color than either and am not too discouraged about my day. Finding, mixing, blotting and warming up the ink has taken half an hour to forty-five minutes.

Next I clean the five rollers on the press to make sure there is no residual ink from who ever used the press last. The day before I skipped this step and had to clean off all the ink I had put on because my blue was coming out green. Always clean the rollers first! Wait fifteen minutes to let the rollers dry. Then I get the ink on my pallet knife, bead the ink onto the idle roller of the press, flip on the motor, knock the press into "Trip" position, and lower the idle roller and the oscillating roller onto the two rubber inking rollers and watch how the ink slowly covers the rollers. A couple more beadings of ink and I'm ready for my proofing. But before I can move on, I have to arrange my linoleum block.

The print I run must match perfectly with the print I ran the day before which can be tricky. Thankfully, I made a map of my furniture and quickly I can arrange the press bed just as I did the previous day. Soon I have all my furniture set up, the appropriate amount of packing under my block to get it type high, and have tightened the quoins so my block won't move. Another twenty minutes.

I "Trip" my block twice to get plenty of ink on there, place my newsprint paper in the paper guides, knock the press into "print," and roll out my first proof. I am ecstatic. The ink is beautiful. But I have a lot of work left before I can print. There is a lot of chatter in my proof. Chatter is the lines left on the block that are relief enough so they will print. Some of my cutting was not deep enough from the previous night. I take out my block, get my cutting tools and work out what chatter I want to keep and what I want to cut out. This takes another half an hour to forty-five minutes. I run another proof and decide I want to take out the very thinnest piece of packing. Another five minutes getting that out. Now I am ready. I print.

4 hours, 2 press cleanings, 50 prints drying. Not too shabby. I stick around, helping others carry their prints to drying racks, carve my block for the print I must do again in a few days and by 2:45pm I'm beat, sick of the Type Lab, and ready to go home to my Kiddo.

I go to the public elevators. Remember, I am on the fifth (seventh) floor. I get in and press 1 and silently hope that by some miracle it will not stop on any other floor. What is about to happen is not exceptional which is exactly why it is irritating. The elevator stops on floor 4M (the floor immediately below mine, also known as the true sixth floor). A girl gets in, goes to press 1, sees I have done so and stands in her respective opposite side of the elevator. The elevator stops on 3 (fourth). Bama girl walks in wearing Bama girl uniform (Nike Dri-Fit Tempo shorts, oversized T-Shirt almost as long as shorts) and confidently presses 2M (third). Immediatly, Bama girl realizes she doesn't know what the hell she's doing...

BG: Shit! Oh God! Shit y'all, what floor do I want?
Me: What do you want?
BG: Blank Stare
4M: What are you looking for?
BG: Blank Stare
4M: A book?
BG: Blank Stare
Me: Circulation?
BG: The desk. I need the desk.
BG: The big desk, you know, outside the elevator?
Me: The circulation desk. Its on 2.
BG: Laughs as she hits 2

The elevator doors close, we travel one floor down to 2M (third), the doors open, no one is there but a girl sitting at a table and we all avoid awkward glances. The doors close again. Down to 2 (actually the second floor now), BG gets out, the doors close again. 4M girl turns to me, "You just saw every floor, huh?" "Pretty much." "That probably happens to you every time, huh?" "Pretty much." We arrive at 1, the doors open and floods of people invade the elevator before 4M and I even have a chance to get out. 4M shoots me a glance which says That sucks, I'm sorry, and walks away.

I go out to Lady only to discover it has rained. Her seat is wet. I wipe it off as best I can. Get on and ride home with a wet bum, and find this waiting for me...
Caption: Here's a treat for my Bebe.

Moral of the story: Chocolate and boyfriends make everything better :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So What Have I Been Up To...

Two weeks of school down and what do I have to show for myself?

Here are some stats:

Days of the week I have class: 4
Additional hours required per week for studio work: 10
Number of rooms I occupy at the Library for class, studio and homework: 3
Number of pages read thus far: 401
Number of people in my largest class: 29
Number of people in my smallest class: 9
Number of stairs to the fifth floor of the Library: 106
Pieces of letter press sorted: 900+
Sandragraphs I've printed: 40
Paper Sections for books I've cut: 20
Single pamphlets I've made: 2
Double pamphlets I've made: 2
Money spent on tools and supplies: $98.49
Hilarious Drooling incidents in class: 1

Using these tools, I made...


I know it may not seem like much now, but just you wait. Bookbinding I will be making a new book every week. This doesn't mean I'm only making one book either. Several copies need to be made in order to turn in for my assignments. Practice makes perfect, right?

This is a print I made in my Printing class. Thick glue, scraps of fabric, thread and muslin glued onto a block of plywood and set to dry. Once dry, set it up in the bed of the press, ink it up and away you go! This picture is only a proof so the actual print has more detail and is not quite finished. Tomorrow I print them all again, but with text! Once I have the final product I'll put up a better picture.

My lecture classes, while not as physically fun, are equally interesting and stimulating. We talk of censorship and restoration, what makes a book a book, learn how to identify the format of a book, if it is made with handmade paper, and if a section or gathering of leaves is comprised of one piece of paper folded and cut. And we read read read.

So this is what I have been doing so far. I haven't even gotten dirty yet. Give me a couple more weeks and I'll be in the thick of it. So until I have more lovely hand-made goodness to show you I'll leave you with the deep thoughts of the trio sitting behind us at Jason's Deli...

*Imagine a soft, somber, reverent voice*

"I mean, I just don't think anyone really understands...understands what Alabama Football means to my life."