First frost this morning. Freddie the leaf has been waiting for this moment. Curled and raggedy edges are highlighted in white. Flat surfaces are iced with diamonds. I slippy-slid my way to college and it was Brilliant.

I am in studio, about to draft some stairs. I just went to buy some vellum. They call it tracing paper here. This nomenclature led to some confusion on my part at the start of the course. It was only 80 cents, which is extremely reasonable for a sheet of vellum roughly 2 by 3 feet conveniently sold in the next building over from studio. I had to think a bit before I ordered, and I still got the sizing wrong. I asked for an A3, which is roughly the size of legal paper, before I realizing what I wanted was called A1. A4 is roughly the size of our standard letter paper, A3 is twice that size, A2 is four times the size: it is exponential.

Paper is a good way to talk about the differences between Europe and America. So far in this example, we can see that sourcing what you need is surprisingly easy. Things come in logically related standard sizes that are called by different, but specific names. Everything is available nearby at reasonable (not cheap) prices. The architecture shop prices are controlled by the school. Do not even try to get odd sizes or custom orders- they only carry items for predetermined needs. Say “Tanks very much” and pay entirely in change.

The architecture supply shop, however, keeps odd hours. On Fridays, for example, they are open from 9:45 to 11, 1-2, and 3-4. It is also within their discretion to post different hours. On Wednesday, for example, they were suddenly only open from 9:30-10:30 and 1:30-3. And today when I went into the shop, there was a new sign warning me that the shop would be closed on Monday. Suffice to say, it’s an adventure. Additionally, the shop is of the kind where there is a man behind a counter and you ask for what you need. Hence my problem with what to call things… For example, if I ask to borrow a pen, I get a look of complete wonder. They are biros of course! Pens are fancy implements for drawing and you really should be asking someone to borrow one of those! Obviously I amn’t too sure about all this still. It would take a lot longer to be fully conversant in this system.

The differences are obvious to me. When I pay with change at home, I get annoyed looks. When you want vellum, you usually need to buy an entire roll and pay through the nose, or else split it with a bunch of people. But when you have your own roll, you can make whatever size you need. It really is nice that the shop is so convenient. I’m used to either a 10 minute walk from studio to a little shop where prices can get exorbitant – or a 30 minute bus ride/walk to Utrecht, Blick, or Artist and Craftsman, where prices are unreliable but generally really quite cheap, with long hours and unsurpassable variety…

Today is my last day of class, perhaps I should get back to it?

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  1. Nicola! I just now found your blog. What a tragedy. I hear you’re coming back to the good ol’ US of A. Can’t wait to see you. Henry is all a-twitter over the good news. Now when you get back, I should let you know that I expect tea at least three times a week, and for you to shave Henry’s beard — it’s even worse than it was this summer.-Oliver Clark Rickard

  2. Hey, I never knew you had a blog. It’s lovely. I heard from oliver who heard from who knows where that you’re coming back for good here sometime soon and that you Henry and might be coming up to Humboldt some time over break? I hope so, Oliver and I will have to take you guys to the snow :). Anyway, I hope you’re liking Ireland. I’ll have to bake something for you when you get back. Oh yeah, thanks for posting on my blog, it made me absurdly happy that someone noticed it 🙂