Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Apprentice

A little more than a week ago I started my internship at the Morgan. Actually, it's more of an apprenticeship, as the work I'm doing is more focused than what a regular intern usually does. I'll be working exclusively with eastern papermaking and I'll be doing research and reading about  the history of the techniques related to my hands-on learning. I'm so excited to have Aimee Lee as my mentor and everyone at the Morgan is so nice and helpful.

On my first day, Aimee showed me around and then I got right to work scraping the bark of the kozo trees
Dried kozo bundles from Novermber's harvest
that were harvested at the Morgan in November. A local blacksmith dropped by that very morning to deliver a set of scraping knives he made for the Morgan, based on a prototype of a Korean knife Aimee had given him. I was the first person to try out one of the new knives and I am happy to report they worked quite well.
I also got to spend a good amount of time beating fiber, which is exactly what it sounds like. Literally, you stand there with some wooden mallets and beat on a wet clump of fiber that has already been scraped and cooked. The idea is to get the individual fibers to loosen and separate, but you don't want to cut them because the longer the fibers, the stronger the resulting paper will be.
Bundle of kozo fiber with mallet

Scraping kozo with the Morgan's new knife
 After spending my first day beating and scraping, I got to actually practice making some paper on my second and third days. It's a skill that's easy to pick up but I can tell it's going to take a while to master. But even though I'm new at it, it's nice to see a finished sheet after all the work I've put in so far.

Some people might find the repetitive work tedious but I find it kind of meditative. There's something calming about working with your hands and creating things that just feels right.

Between work and school and the apprenticeship, I don't have any days off, but I've been able to cut my hours at work in half to make more time doing the things that I love. My bank account may not be happy about it but it's good for the soul. It's funny how, when you're working really hard doing something you love, it becomes energizing rather than making you tired and drained. I'm working harder than I ever have and I honestly don't think I've ever been this happy in my entire life. On the days I go to the Morgan I wake up cheerful and excited to start my day and at the end of the day, when I drive myself home, exhausted from working on my feet  with my hands in cold water for hours on end, all I can think about is how completely lucky I am to be doing this. I feel fulfilled. There were times in my life where I never thought I would move forward, where I was either lost or stuck, or both, and I didn't have any hope for the future. But then I see that I've managed to get myself to a place where I can be content and take pleasure in the work that I'm doing. It just makes my heart sing. I feel so fortunate and grateful to be given the opportunity to work at the Morgan and to be Aimee's apprentice.

No comments:

Post a Comment