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Exciting is opening up an email from one of your favorite galleries & realizing, ‘Oh, hey, I wrote this.’

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If you’re going to be in Brooklyn any time this Feb/March, I really recommend hitting this show up, especially on Feb 12th, when Burgerman & Avignon will be doing a live painting performance. You can read more about it here. & here. & here.

I killed a roach today. Twice.

That’s one roach, two deaths.

Mathematically impossible you say? Ha! This little bugger DEFIES mathematical impossibility! Defies, then lays a bajillion roachy little eggs in its face. TWICE!

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Perhaps you’ll note the way the antennae are blurry – that’s because they were STILL TWITCHING when I took this.

Though I’m sure this photo will land me a spot at National Geographic, the jury’s still out on if I’ll ever sleep again.

I took my first-ever course in letterpress a part of a (very, very late) modified Assignment #5, Andrew Huff’s “take a course at Columbia College’s Center for Book & Paper Arts“. Andrew is one of those people who probably doesn’t sleep, instead staying up for weeks at a time creating things like this & this & these. He also has amazing muttonchops, endearing him to man & animal alike. He’s great. Andrew was also the first person to ever trust me as a printable writer, so you can either thank him for that or spit in his eye, depending on who you are. Anyway, Andrew was quite alright with me finding a NY substitute for Columbia College, & after some thorough searching we agreed on The Arm.

I went with the class at The Arm because it was:

1) an independent establishment
2) close by, &
3) hundreds of dollars less than a class at the New York Center for Book Arts.

Part art studio, part letterpress studio, The Arm is a big, beautiful, incredibly drafty shop located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, though a big part of me felt like it would have fit just as well in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, or Portland, Oregon, or any place artsy & laid-back & filled with people who really want to make nice, pretty things but don’t have the money to make them.

img_0347 It was a small class, with only seven students (myself included) & our Fearless Leader, Dan Morris. Dan owns, operates & lives in The Arm (which, just so you know, is a very large studio with beautiful French doors. I say this just so you don’t get the wrong impression that Dan is curling up beneath a Vandercook press every night – though if the image amuses you as much as it amuses me, then, by all means), which features six fully-functioning presses (& a couple of less than fully preses as well). The back room is filled with drawers of type, & the walls are papered with old posters for Japanther, printers’ conferences fliers & one giant letter from two British designers who were interested in taking a letterpress class. It is all old, & it is all beautiful.

The class catered to every skill set, taking us through the basic functions & capabilities of first the Vandercook press (which is the big-un you would use to make band posters & such), then allowing students to run free & sample the C&P Pilot press, as well as the various types, inks & papers available throughout. Every person got as much or as little one-on-one attention as they desired, which was great because I am really needy when it comes to relationships learning environments.

img_03264We broke for lunch late in the day. Everyone sat around on the musty couch in the front of the shop, drinking coffee & talking. There was a couple there who wanted to start their own letterpress card company; another woman was making custom wedding invitations for as a gift for an engaged friend. Dan told us he’d gotten started in letterpress when he was a kid – his grandfather had been a printer & when it was clear that the family trade was dying Dan took up printing himself, learning to repair all the broken presses he bought for his studio. He’d selected the space at 281 North 7th Street because of its street level access, but the huge window storefront proved to make it a great gallery space – something Dan had also been looking for. He now puts on irregular shows, moving things about the space as needed, even constructing new walls so that each exhibit is displayed in a brand new, fully functional environment. It’s incredibly inspiring, just sitting & listening to his ideas, & seeing the way they’ve been so beautifully executed.

There wasn’t much time left after the break, so everyone got straight to work on their final projects – for me, that meant working with the Vandercook one-on-one. I had struggled with the larger machines throughout the day & decided that, if I was really going to be getting something out of this, I owed it to myself to navigate as much of the machinery as I could. Dan paired me up with a Vandercook SP-15 which had been broken over the Thanksgiving holiday, making the crank more than a little stiff. Because I am generally incapable on normal, functioning machinery, this made me very nervous. I wound up applying too much ink (because I kept dicking around with colors: “Yellow green? Blue green? Soylent green?”), which left my first letterpress poster looking like this:

mess

which was not exactly what I was going for. Dan was really kind about showing me how to clean everything up & fix the machine, & after a few goes I finally had something that resembled a real, live letterpress poster!

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Ok. So it’s not the most technically complex design ever concocted. & the letters spill off the page in parts. & the ink is sparse on some tiles. & the photo is blurry & my nailpolish is chipped & blah blah blah but I made it & goshdangit, I’m damn proud I did.

Now that I’m trained on the machines, I’m able to rent out time at The Arm to complete future project as I wish. It’s pretty cheap – $15 (compare this to the New York Center for Book Arts, which charges $25/hr, not including costs of inks & papers) & Dan is usually around to supervise, should you be as generally inept as I. This assignment was definitely one of the best I’ve undertaken thus far, & it’s been very helpful in the “what shall I make everyone for Christmas?” department. Hope y’all got frames!


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If anything ever screamed “HIT SERIES!” louder than Baby Savers, I don’t know what it was. Quick – someone call Tom Selick. He needs to get in on this.

Dear Internets,

Oh, am I behind. Numbers 5 & 6 pending, & now 7 in swing? Oh gracious.

I’ll tell you now that the Elton John ballad is still being rehearsed, War & Peace is still being read (SO MANY PEOPLE DYING EVERYWHERE IN THAT BOOK) & just today I took my first class in letterpress – an adventure I’m working on logging as we speak.

In the interim, though, please know I am here, I am alive, I have not forsaken thee, 12×2. So for now, whilst I play catch up on my projects, please enjoy a story about my hair.

xxo

jaime

—-

A few weeks ago I modeled for Vidal Sassoon in front of a bunch of Norwegian stylists at Rockefeller Center. My fashion repertoire is usually limited to Target’s 75% off rack, so sitting still in some cockamamie Morticia Adams gown was a little out of my league. Same for the Viviane Westwood-esque heels, which did not come in half sizes & made shockingly loud noises when hitting the ground. Noises like the sound of something expensive being damaged. Or children playing with things they shouldn’t. Regardless of my lack of experience (or comfort), I had somehow secured this ridiculous gig & I was eager to see it through.

There were five models, & all but one of us were there for the lark of getting paid to have our hair done by VS’s top international stylists. Call time was 8:00am, & all of us were to arrive faces bare & hair unwashed, with mind-boggling punctuality. All of us, that is, save The Professional Model, whose gazelle-like legs ushered her into the salon an hour & a half late. Not that it was really her fault – Rockefeller Center is a big, confusing place, & the mascara which had sutured her eyes shut kept her from finding the proper door. Poor thing.

Most of my day was spent in quiet obedience, watching stylists in white lighting call out dye numbers & hair processes in their secret, hair-dresser language, brushes & bowls & scissors & discarded lengths of hair covering every possible surface. My hair was prelightened, then bleached, & it was not until I was placed on stage before the Norwegians (every one of them meticulously strapped into complicated black boots which crept high up their legs) that Richie, my colorist (my colorist) declared to the crowd, “Now, charcoal is not a color normally used in a salon setting, but today I thought, Oh, fuck! Let’s just THROW SOME CAUTION TO THE WIND!” The Norwegians leaned forward and I, frozen in the spotlight, could do little other than sit. Sit, and die a little inside.

Color in place, I was ushered back into the waiting portion of the salon (The Model Corral) where I was left to either slog through War & Peace or sit in silence & contemplate my hunger. I used to live with a model who would, as she called it, “eat for the future”, in which she would eat, say, a brick of cheese, or a six year old child, to prepare for long bookings which might not serve any food. Silly though it had seemed at the time, I was finally seeing her logic. It was getting close to 3:00pm, feeding the models not high on the priority list. What shock.

The chemicals washed from my hair & my face shellacked with a battery of powders, creams, kohls & whatever else might make me look not like me, the residents of Model Corral were invited to dine on salad & penne pasta for roughly two minutes & sixteen seconds before being herded into our respective garb – for me, this:

morticia

Which, considering some of the other models wound up in black sequined catsuits, could have been worse. The Professional Model wore a dress similar to mine &, to my tremendous irritation, looked predictably excellent in it, even while touching her hair over & over, whimpering, “Is it ok? You’re not going to dye it, are you? Is it ok? Will it be ok?” It is a weird, sad truth that I, when in the presence of models, specifically, those who are professional models because of their freakish amalgamation of features deemed desirable (even if those features seem to have been lifted from a fresh corpse), I become hypnotized in a way which is totally unacceptable in a public setting. John, a fabulous tower of a man who loved nothing more than ripping on “moronic middle Americans” (hey!) in his prim British accent, politely woke my from my dazes, cast a very English What the fuck is wrong with you, luv? look my way, and scooted me onstage once more.

“Vidal Sassoon does not razor cut,” he declared, & showers of blonde hair began to fly around my face. Think Edward Scissorhands. The Norwegians (who had all changed clothes, by the way, & now favored gray over black. You heard it here first, kids. Gray.) leaned forward, leather accessories moaning, then leapt, digital cameras blazing, oohing & ahhing, reaching out to touch my head as John batted them away, still cutting closer & closer to my scalp, fringe shrinking, fuzz flying, Norwegians snapping flashing stepping – & then it was done. AND THEY APPLAUDED. THEY APPLAUDED FOR MY HEAD. & yes. I understand that it wasn’t me. That I sat & served as a head of hair, that an English Setter would have sufficed all the same & required half the bathroom breaks but STILL. APPLAUSE FOR MY HEAD.

Following photographs & commentary (“It it ok? You must tell me. Is my hair ok? Is it dyed? Is it ok?“), I was allowed to free myself from my black sheath. High on applause, I scuttled to the bathroom as quickly as my death-heels would allow, throwing my clothes in a stall & diving for the mirror:

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I believe the phrase is, “Holy Crap.”

I can’t say I was smitten with the cut at first. Perhaps the Posh-like wisps hugging my chin was the big turn-off, or the fact that most of the back of my head was missing. Maybe the subtle eyemakeup played a part. Whatever it was, I spent the rest of the evening in shock.

The cut eventually settled down, & began to look like something that might have grown from my own head:

photo-111Not something I would have done to myself, but interesting. & hell. I made a week’s worth of pay just sitting still getting a haircut. Not too shabby if you ask me.

I sent the picture to my dad who later responded with “Don’t worry. It will grow back.” Thanks, pops. Thanks a bunch.

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Ayun Halliday, author of East Village Inky, Dirty Sugar Cookies, No Touch Monkey & other matchless works of literary wonder, will be performing with her husband, Greg Kotis & their adorable brood in Greg’s new play, The Truth About Santa, premiering December 4th at The Kraine Theater in Manhattan’s East Village.

Ayun provided me with unexpected grace & kindness when I first moved to New York & fell into what some might call a “total freak out”. Attending this play is probably the closest I’ll ever get to appropriately paying her back, & if you’re in the NYC area I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO SO AS WELL. The kids are cute, the Santa is evil, & those cookies are real. Could there be a better way to spend a December night in Manhattan? I. THINK. NOT.

Check it out & get yerself some tickets here.