I spent most of today wanting to stab myself in the face with a fountain pen but the Mr., with his astonishing tenacity, saved me, yet again, from yowling despair.
After some weeks dithering in the stagnant pool of procrastination I woke up yesterday knowing what to do to pull my exhibition together; I could at last get on with the job of forming an actual thing. The utterly delectable photo paper I’d ordered had arrived on Saturday morning, I had the ink I needed (for stamping, writing, and printing), the tools, the supports, and an idea I could barely wait to try. It involved printing fifteen six and a half centimetre, square cropped, photographs and arranging them like tiles on a rather nice chunk of old wood (from some lost item of furniture) I have, before writing over the whole lot. I spent some time choosing and cropping the images before lining them up for printing; it would take only two sheets of paper. The first one came out brilliantly – good paper makes such a difference! – but the second sheet wouldn’t go through the printer, or, rather, the printer couldn’t grip it. I googled. Sometimes the coating on photo paper can make the rollers of the printer slippy I was told, clean them and things should be fine. After about three hours I worked out how to clean them, cleaned them, and tried again. The paper still didn’t go through. I tried with ordinary cheap paper, it worked, so I tried photo paper again (a precursor of the delectable stuff) it didn’t work. I googled some more, then gave up. I fell into bed last night totally spent.
This morning the Mr. tried from his computer with a photo of his own but my super paper, it worked; maybe the printer had just needed to compose itself after being harrowed by its cleaning the day before. I set up my shots again, put a sheet of paper in the printer and pressed print; the paper wasn’t taken up. The Mr. tried again, ditto. I looked at the pieces I’d made so far, and pulled out every printed image I had lying about: nowhere near enough for an exhibition; how, I wondered, was I going to get past this problem? The Mr. kept trying, but I felt sunk.
I gave up and went outside to fill two old chimney pots with rocks and compost ready to plant with summer bulbs. When I reentered the house I found the Mr. bent over his screen still trying to solve my problem, and getting nowhere but frustrated. Now I felt despair and guilt, so I went out to buy tobacco. While I was at it I got some paint stripper and chatted to Davy in the hardware store about the weather; picked up some chocolate and talked to the women who served me about hair (theirs is gorgeous, mine is the sort children point at), and, as I passed, noticed cheese scones in the deli window so went in and got one for the Mr. (and grabbed myself one of Julie’s Tarte Tatins). I also dropped into the bookshop, having been struck by an idea, and after a calming browse left with some ancient, shabby sheet music. By the time I returned to the house I had resigned myself to never printing another photograph again, while ideas for making the prints I already had fill a gallery were percolating like sewage in a heatwave. As I stuck my head into his room to give him his cheese scone the Mr. told me he’d found a way round the problem (multiple exclamation marks). Gentle force.
Sometimes with heavy paper the printer’s rollers struggle to get purchase; the solution is to give the paper a shove as they spring into action. My first attempt at this was not good, I must have pushed off centre, and the image came out squiffy. For the second I made sure to push precisely in the middle and it was better. I guess I’ll get better at this with practice, but now what am I going to do with all those new ideas (not to mention the sheet music)?