Ohi:yo, The Morgan, Chicago


All the photos are from the Morgan Conservatory.  This is a gigantic architectural detail (salvaged from the Hanna house) over the entrance to the studios from the front  office area.

Interstate 86 is now my favorite way to drive across the broad width of NY state (though doing so three times in as many months is quite enough for a wee while).  It hasn’t been very crowded on any of my trips, seems to have a minimum of trucks, and it weaves through beautiful, relatively unpopulated hilly / mountain-y country its entire length. The only downside is that if you don’t like fast food, you’d better bring your own with you. Towards the western end of the state, in the mountain range spelled Allegany in NY state and Allegheny in PA, 86 cuts through the Seneca nation, pristine-looking land dominated by a single, enormous glass and steel casino.  Some of the interstate signs are bilingual, in English and Seneca.  The word Ohi:yo appears several times.


I’d booked a motel in Cleveland Ohi:yo instead of asking to stay with friends because I predicted that I would be as utterly exhausted as I was, after fifteen hours on the road. Alas, it turned out to be THE worst place I’ve ever paid to stay in. Ever.  I was too tired to find somewhere else at 1 am, but as soon as I woke, I cancelled the second night, checked out, and headed to Tremont for a decent cup of coffee and internet access.

My old poet/ artist/ publisher friend Smith came to meet me, and I spent the day with him and his lovely poet /artist /publisher wife, Lady K.  We haven’t seen each other in person for several years, while they traveled to 10 different European and northern African countries, and then lived in Mexico.  We had a fine time just talking; then, while Lady stayed behind to work on a web site , Smith and I went to visit the Morgan Conservatory.


WOW.  WOW. WOW. I was amazed!  It’s huge, light-filled, and jam-packed with more papermaking, letterpress and bookbinding equipment than I have ever seen assembled under a single roof.  The big gallery featured “Art of War” curated by Bill Drendel, and included the Combat Paper project.  As I wandered around with my jaw sort of scraping the floor,   I saw at least six beaters, some up and running, some awaiting installation, and a lovely delicate copper machine just for display and historic value. There were at least five hydraulic paper presses of varying sizes, a vacuum table, C&P presses, Vandercooks, a Heidelburg Windmill, board shears, guillotines, book presses of all shapes and sizes: nipping, standing, job backers…! If you can think of it, and it’s related to books, letterpress printing or papermaking, it’s very likely there somewhere (and if it isn’t, Tom Balbo is surely working on getting one). And, in the back lot, the thing that just sent me over the top: a lush, thriving young kozo garden.


It still has that somewhat chaotic feel of something coming together, of course, with all this equipment still pouring in from all over the country (a room-sized chunk of the paper studio is still a jumble of stuff, including a HUGE unassembled beater once used in the tobacco industry to make cigarette papers, a bathtub, and a kitchen sink piled on top of another kitchen sink; things everywhere are still up on pallets or on carts).  But: I visited Tom just 17 short months ago when the whole enterprise consisted of an empty building and a lot of ambitious plans, and what has been accomplished of those plans during that interim is absolutely astounding.  I’m thrilled that this is happening in my hometown, and it also seems like the local community is beginning to realize that a singular facility has been added to it; there was a very fine article by Douglas Max Utter in the free paper recently.  There are workshops that have already been held, and many more planned, taught by some of the top folks in the land.  It’s exciting!


Four “small” presses – there’s another gigantic one not shown.

Tom came in while Smith and I were wandering about, and spent an hour or two graciously showing us even more, and talking. I can’t wait to get involved in some way; we discussed a few interesting possibilities.  I’ll very likely be going in for the next big benefit in October, and you should, too, if you can.  I’m predicting that the Morgan is quickly going to become one of the most important places, internationally, in the book and paper arts world.


GREAT drying racks in the paper studio – and there are more to be installed.

After that, I was overwhelmed by a need to get home, and probably to mull new ideas over during the drive; I contacted Cindy, and told her I needed to head home instead of hooking up; she was fine with it, and so I took off.

I still stuck carefully to the speed limit, but I had yet another police encounter in Indiana. I had a REALLY scary deaf moment after he pulled me over. I had no idea why I’d been stopped, and he kept demanding something over his loudspeaker that I had absolutely NO chance of hearing. I turned and gestured frantically and repeatedly towards my ears, and finally he caught on, and came to the car window to tell me to pull up another three feet.  I sat there a long time while he ran my registration and license through. Then he told me that I hadn’t moved over far enough when I’d passed his lone patrol car with its lights flashing. But, he wrote me a warning, and not a ticket. While this was going on, we were passed by several cars that didn’t move over at all.

I was SO glad to get home, even though since I’ve been back in Chicago, I’ve been besieged by allergies.




The kozo garden!

4 thoughts on “Ohi:yo, The Morgan, Chicago

  1. OMG!!! Thanks so much for sharing. I had been utterly curious for a long time about the Morgan, first hearing about it thru Oberlin library peeps. I LOVE the garden part. It bemuses me to no end that it’s in Cleveland, too!! But truly wonderful. I’m so glad it has come to life.

    Good luck w/the allergies. They’re so brutal in Chicago! [and I had thought Ohio was rough] And rest up^^

  2. WOW. Good lord, that’s a lot of equipment! I especially like the little copper Hollander. Looks like a beautiful space, too. If only I weren’t so profoundly attached to northern New England, I’d be making my post-graduation moving plans for Cleveland.

  3. I’ve been to Cleveland a grand total of once, but was really impressed with it, as opposed to everyone who told me that it narrowly missed winning an “Armpit of the Earth” or some such award.

    Seeing all that book/paper equipment tells me that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn’t the only place for an equipment-head to visit there….

  4. cops are arrogant s.o.b’s.

    read poetry last night in detroit and the audience murmured appreciation of my line “the true organized crime called police.”

    i’ve got even worse lines about them but will be kind.

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