Exhibit Columbus University Installation: Synergia

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Synergia at night, Columbus, Indiana. The building in the background is the North Christian Church by Eero Saarinen. Photography by Tony Vasquez

Installed on the site of Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church in Columbus, Synergia is a public pavilion by the students of the IU School of Art, Architectuare + Design in Bloomington, who were directed by me in my D475 design studio in Spring 2017 and in the summer of 2017 as volunteers. The graduate students of the IUPUI School of Engineer and Technology in Indianapolis, directed by Professor Andre Tovar and myself in our ME59700 course in Spring 2017 on designing complex origami-inspired structures, also participated at this project by conducting the structural analysis and optimization. Synergia is open to the public at Exhibit Columbus between August 26th and November 26th, 2017 in Columbus, Indiana.

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Synergia during the day, Columbus, Indiana. The building in the background is the North Christian Church by Eero Saarinen. Photography by Tony Vasquez

Synergia embodies the reality of life, community, and harmony through its simple parts working together to create a complex and light-filled space. Sitting next to Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, the translucent quality of the light found in Synergia in the daylight alludes to the hushed secondary light radiating from the perimeter of Saarinen’s structure. Colored LEDs further illuminate Synergia at night, creating an ephemeral atmosphere as Saarinen’s concrete façade serves as a backdrop. The interplay of light and shadow, acting in conjunction with the movements of compression and expansion, creates a space that fosters peace and reflection.

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Synergia during the day, Columbus, Indiana. Photography by Tony Vasquez

The generative seed for Synergia is a bisymmetric space-filling polyhedron that tessellates the space when stacked in interlocking layers. Over five hundred of the polyhedrons, measuring about two to three feet each, work together to form elongated hexagonal units. This hexagon geometry echoes the overall geometry of Saarinen’s mid-century modernist architecture and at the same time serves as the building block of a complex and diverse structure in a way that is similar to the development of biological forms, soap bubbles, and crystal patterns.

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Bisymmetric space-filling polyhedron, the generative seed for Synergia. Photography by Tony Vasquez

Synergia is constructed of translucent corrugated plastic sheets that are made from recycled plastic and are one hundred percent recyclable. The plastic boards were laser cut at Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus Indiana and then hand folded like origami to form each of the structural units in the studio at IU. The origami folds add the structural strength to the otherwise light and flexible plastic sheet material without the need for additional framing and assemblage. These units were then bolted together to create the overall installation. The fold lines of each unit thus form an interconnected space lattice that is light and yet structurally sound.

The IU School of Art, Architectuare + Design is participating in Exhibit Columbus as a part of the University Installations together with five other schools including Ball State University, Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Michigan. For more information about university installations at Exhibit Columbus, visit https://exhibitcolumbus.org/exhibition/university-installations.

Credits:

Faculty: Jiangmei Wu (with Andre Tovar)

IUB Students: Amy Cunningham, Marguerite Fisher-Heath, Siqiao Gao, Hannah Holloway, Kylie Knipscheer, Guanyao Li, Tristin Moore, Anna Mui, Ariana Nunes, Michelle Smith, Emma Walsh, Ye Wang, Zhanhua Yan, Simin Yu, Lu Zhang, Jin Zhu

IUPUI Students: Aaron Berndt, Ryan Comer, Shweta Daule, Shantanu Sabade, Ashutosh Salunke, Pratik Shelke

Special thanks: I would like to thank many individuals, including my colleagues at IU SoAAD (Kelly Wilson, Marleen Newman, Peg Faimon, Ryan Mandell, Tai Rogers), Exhibit Columbus members (Janice Shimizu, Josh Coggeshall, Anne Surak and Richard McCoy), community members of Columbus (Tricia Gilson, Jerry Karr, and “Bill” who lives near the North Christian Church and who is helping to ensure that the lights are on every night), and my most dedicated students Tristin Moore and Guanyao Li. Thank you all very much  for helping with this project during its ideation, fabrication, construction, and installation process.

Surihaku and Washi Workshop at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center

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Mikado Suzuki demonstrated Surihaku techniques at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana.

Japaneses artist Mikako Suzuki led a engaging hands-on workshop to 14 participants, including IUB art students and Bloomington community artists, at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana, on Friday September 1st from 1:00 pm to 4:00pm. The workshop was translanted by Rowland Ricketts, who is a professor in Textile at IU School of Art, Architecture + Design, and who has spent years studying Japnese indigo techniques in Japan.

Surihaku is a Japanese art of gold foil painting. Eacho of the participants learned to create stencil designs and transfer the design to three Washi paper postcards susing gold foils. The Washi paper postcards were made in Japan in Professor Shibazaki’s paper making lab at Aichi University of Arts. Professor Shibazaki alse gave a talk on Washi paper during the second part of the workshop. The participant learned about the difference in the fibers that are used to make different types of Washi, Gampi, Mitsumata and Kozo.

The video below shows Mikako demonstrating how to apply the Nori, a type of Japanese ahesive to the stencil.

 

The video below shows Mikako demonstrating how to apply the gold foil to the stencil.

 

Washi Art + Design

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Washi Art + Design at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, Bloomington, Indiana

Washi Art and Design, an international paper art exhibition, is the first group exhibition I curated and organized. The exhibition runs from August 26th to September 21, 2017 in the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana. The participating artists are Yuri Kawai (Japan), Sachiko Kinoshita (Japan), Amanda Ross (U.S.), Rowland Ricketts (U.S.), Koji Shibazaki (Japan), Jenny Stopher (U.S.), Mikao Suzuki (Japan), Ruigan Zhou (China), and myself.

The Exhibition is focused on the theme of Washi and other paper art. Washi paper is made from the long inner fibers of three plants: kozo (mulberry tree), mitsumata and gampi. Due to these raw materials and the traditional craft techniques, Washi papermaking has no negative environmental impact. The paper is very strong and can last as long as a few hundred years.  In Japan, Washi has played a major role in the life style and culture of the Japanese people. In addition to its more common uses in stationary and in the fine arts, Washi is used in many different cultural activities such as in religious and ceremonial events. Its fabric like quality makes it suitable for applications in fashion, interior lighting and interior furnishing. Though there is long history of Washi papermaking in Japan, today only a few Washi papermakers are continuing their papermaking traditions and Professor Koji Shibazaki’s Washi research lab at Aichi University of Arts is one of them.

A Surihaku (gold foil painting) workshop was conducted by artist Mikako Suzuki at the Waldron Arts Center. For more information about the workshop, please visit here.

The exhibition and workshop are supported in part by a workshop grant from Indiana University’s College Arts & Humanities Institute.

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Washi paper light by Professor Koji Shibazaki of Aichi University of Arts
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Jiangmei Wu explaining to Professor Katy Borner about the intricate Kirikane art by Japanese artist Mikako Suzuki as Professor Hamid Ekbia watched on
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Japanese textil artist Shachiko Kinoshita’s Swing Circle is made of yarn and Kozo paper fiber

Ruga Lumina at Detroit Center for Design + Technology, Detroit, Michigan

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Ruga Lumina, 2017, Coroplast, Video Projection, Digital Sensor, Detroit Center for Design + Technology, Detroit, Michigan. Photography by Kyle Overton

Ruga Lumina, an ongoing design research project, is part of my solo show, Jiangmei Wu: Folding into Rhythm and Algorithm, that was on display From January 10, 2017, to February 10, 2017, at Detroit Center for Design + Technology in Detroit, Michigan. There was a closing on February 10, 2017. As part of the solo exhibition, I spoke at School of Architecture and Planning at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan on January 12, 2017, at 4:00 pm.

In Ruga Lumina, the latest iteration of  Ruga Interior Skin, interactive digital projection techniques are used to actively engage body-space relationship. As the viewers move in the space, their movements are captured by the Kinect Sensors and the information is translated into color changing information in the digital projections to be projected onto the translucent interior skin that is fabricated from 4 mm Coroplast sheets. A scaffolding that was made of cardboard and wooden rods was used to frame the somewhat flexible topology of the interior skin to facilitate the positioning and connecting of over seventy individual panels. Since the folding mechanism in each of the Coroplast panel is a flexible hinge joint, the edges of the interior skin are reinforced with fixed braces to give rigidity to this otherwise flexible topology.  Both flexible and rigid,  the interactive interior skin draws the connection between the body and the interior space, placing the dichotomy of permanent vs. ephemeral, solid vs. light, and materiality vs. digital fabrication at the center of the concept.

Acknowledgment: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and Center of Arts and Humanities Institute Fellowship, Indiana University. The artist will also like to credit Kyle Overton for his work on interaction technology.

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Ruga Lumina 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technolgy. Photography by Kyle Overton
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Ruga Lumina, 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technology. Photography by Kyle Overton
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Ruga Lumina, 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technology. Photography by Kyle Overton
Ruga Lumina, 2017, Detroit Center for Design and Technology. Photography by ManziYang

Video of Ruga Lumina deconstruction made of still photography. Photography by Joseph Caputo

Paper Folding Workshop at College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University

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Folding a piece of paper can be simple and doesn’t require any sophisticated tools. I often tell the students who participate my workshop that paper folding can do a lot more than computer CAD modeling. Since paper folding is unstable and flexible, manipulation of the paper surface to achieve depth and volume is dynamic. The fold stores kinetic energy, which allows the folded form to contract and unfurl. It can then be balanced, connected, hinged, suspended, pulled and popped up to alternate states of disequilibrium and equilibrium. Paper folding is unforgiving and honest. A folded form embeds the memory of a series of actions of scoring, creasing, twisting, wrapping, pressing, bending and folding. Unfolding folded paper reveals a patterned map of creating and generating. Paper folding is generative and evolving. It is difficult to describe an abstract folded form through its visual characteristics. Paper folding is improvisational and unpredictable. A simple fold has many possibilities and can generate many visual results, and it can only be discovered by folding.

About twenty students from the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University participated the workshop. The workshop was conducted in the gallery The students are from Interior Design, Architecture and other programs.

I often begin my process using a step-by-step procedure, or algorithm, first by hand only. I demonstrated this technique to the students.  They started by folding smaller pieces of square paper into simple designs, and they then repeated the same steps for a multiple of times to create repetitions of these simple designs. And finally, they worked on connecting the folded pieces to create a larger form. The students learned that small seeds can be compounded and aggregated to create something that is a lot of complex than the original simple design.

 

Folded Light in Beginning Interior Architecture Studio

fullsizerender-1_editedIn my Beginning Interior Architecture Studio in Fall 2016, co-caught with Jei Kim and Jon Racek, the first year design students were asked to use paper folding design methodology to understand basic design  principles, such as unity, repetition, symmetry, contrast, etc. They were also asked to use the assembly and construction process in paper folding to produce a small scale light sculpture. The project was divided into three cohesive small parts that serve as scaffolds for the students. Prior to this project, majority of students had never folded before and had never made any design objects. Therefore learning scaffolds were necessary.

In the first part, the students were asked to create small units of paper folds from pieces of small square paper based on simple line draws they made using straight edges and compasses. They were asked to explore these pattern in both bilateral and quadrant symmetries. They were given a couple of examples learn about how to assign mountain and valley folds to the lines patterns and then they were asked to turn their own line patterns into crease patterns by exploring various ways of folding and cutting by hands. The students were intimated at first as they were not comfortable working with their hands. They soon gained confidences when they observed how flat pieces of square paper changed into something that had sculptural depths.

In the second part, the students were asked to connect at least eight units of their paper folds together. The goal was to generate somewhat seamless designs. Students were taught to connect the units by using ways to make symmetric pattern in plane, such as translation, rotation, reflection, glide-reflection. They were also taught to use polyhedron geometry to connect the units into spherical volumes. They studied platonic solids such as icosahedron and dodecahedron, Archimedean solids such as cuboctahedron and rhombicuboctahedrons, as well as Catalan solids such as rhombic dodecahedron and rhombic triacontahedron.

In the last part, the students were asked to add more units to create a volumetric paper sculpture. They were graded on the craftsmanship and the final lighted presentation. Many of the students turned in interesting works. Most students did a good job creating their units design, however, they had more difficulty connecting the units together to generate structure volumes.

Special thanks to Noelle Zeichner, Abigail Stawick, Julia Gilstrap and Yuning Ding for providing some of the pictures shown in this blog. For my Folded Light Art brand, please visit www.foldedlightart.com.

Engaging body-space relationship: making of an interactive interior skin

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A prototype of To Feel the Space. Photo courtesy of Kyle Overton

Citation: Wu, J. (2016). Engaging body-spacer relationship: Making of an interactive interior skin, IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Fall 2016

Link to PDF

There is an increasing interest in interior design theory that focuses on understanding interior spaces as both the specifics of objects and environments within the interior and the subjects who experience them through their bodily presence. If a theory of interiority cannot simply be characterized by reference to qualities such as walls, ceilings and floors in a Cartesian space and by the objects and finishing contained in it, and we wish to engage physical and psychological body-space relationships as well, then what are some new spatial expressions that can affect our perception of space? What is our perception of a space? What does it mean to feel a space? According to Gestalt psychology, when we enter an interior space, what is first and immediately perceived is neither the subjective sensation nor shapes, colors, or objects, but rather, atmosphere. German philosopher, Gernot Böhme, in his seminal work, Atmosphere as The Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics, articulated the interrelationship between the subjects and objects in atmospheric space. According to Böhme, atmospheres are neither something object nor something subject. Instead, atmospheres are both object-like, articulating their presence through qualities, and at the same time subject-like, presenting a bodily state of being of subjects in space.

Human skin is the interface between the body and world: it is our outermost organ that protects our physical bodies, it is sensuous to touch and constantly gives us information about our surroundings. In design history the concept of ‘skin’ has been used as a site for rich metaphors referring to the clothing that wraps around the body or the building walls that enclose and protect our body. In fact, ‘second skin’ is often used as a metaphor for clothing or fashion while ‘third skin’ is often used as a metaphor for architectural cladding and surface interiority. An architectural skin, referred to generically as the boundary between indoor and outdoor, has to negotiate with both exterior and interior presences. In contrast, interior skin, mediated by architectural skin, can be understood as a series of layers demarcating various interior enclosures: inside and outside demarcation is erased and dichotomy becomes relevant only to the presence of the body.

Directly borrowing from the metaphor of human skin, this art installation To Feel the Space, is a full scale interactive interior skin that is produced by using folded plastic corrugation boards and digital technologies. It attempts to explore the potential object-like and subject-like expression of interior atmosphere by focusing on the ephemeral status between subject and object and capturing the fleeting moments of body-space experience. Situated within a large public space, for example, an exhibition hall, the form of the interior skin, digitally fabricated from folded plates is not the result of the design generated from a specific program, but the result of parameterizing the dome-like structure to the bodily dimensions and movement. The interior skin, as the object in space, actively engages with the subjects as they walk into the exhibition space. Digital cameras capture the colors palettes from the clothing people wear in space and add the live color information to a database to be live project-mapped onto the interior skin. As the people move closer to and within the interior skin, the additional digital cameras will capture people’s movements in space and allow for the interactive plays between the bodies and the space. When people move outside of the interior skin and the exhibition hall, they will leave their color information behind in the space and therefore the space is present with the traces of bodies even if the bodies are absent in space. As a result, the atmosphere is neither objective nor subjective, but infused with the fleeting interplay between the object and the subject that is felt through the body and met with the eyes.

Acknowledgement: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and Center of Arts and Humanities Institute Fellowship, Indiana University. The author would like to thank Kyle Overton for working on aspects of the interactive technology.

Gold and Silver Foil Painting with Mikako Suzuki

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Gold and silver foiling painting is a very special traditional Japanese art form. One of the masters in foil painting is Mikako Suzuki. A graduate of Aichi University of Arts, Ms Suzuki has been practicing foil painting in her studio in Nagoya for almost of a decade. I was very fortunate again to learn the technique from her during my visit to Aichi University of Arts in the summer of 2016.

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Detail of Mikako Suzuki’s gold foil painting

Before I arrived at Aichi, I designed a set of abstract and generative diagrams for the making foil prints on hand-made Washi paper. The first step of gold and silver foil painting was to use silk printing technique to print a very thin layer of Nori, or Japanese paper glue, to the Washi paper. A small amount of yellow oil paint was added to the Nori so that the original pattern would be visible after silk screen printing. The next step involved transferring a foil sheet and layering it on top of the silk screen printed sheet, a process turned out to be a lot more difficult than I imagined.

A pack of silver foil of 50 pieces usually costs over $100. Comparing to silver foils, gold foils are a lot more expensive and precious, often costing twice as much. Separating a single piece of foil sheet and picking it up without breaking or tearing it required very special tools and very soft and steady hands. Ms Suzuki uses sets of bamboo tweezers. She first burnished one of the corners of foil stack to separate sheets of the foil and then picked a single sheet up using the bamboo tweezers. She then moved gracefully and laid the foil on the top of the silk screen printed patterns. Since this process needed to be accomplished before the Nori dried, Ms Suzuki, Professor Shibazaki and I had to work simultaneously together. As we worked on the foiling, several of Shibazaki’s assistants were working on the silk screening simultaneously. Since the foil was so delicate and could break easily, I learned never to directly touch the foil using my hands. I learned to blow on the foil slightly so that the foil would stick with the Nori glue patterns.

The next day we were ready to brush off the part of the foil that were not glued to the Nori pattern. By doing this, the initial patterns with the design were revealed as the foil painting. We then pieced together hundreds of the foil painted Washi to make large tapestries to be shown at Ozu Washi gallery in Tokyo.

 

Paper Making at Aichi University of Arts, Nagoya, Japan

I had a very special and fruitful paper making workshop with Professor Koji Shibazaki at his research lab (labo.z-mz.com) at Aichi University of Arts in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture, Japan this summer. Professor Shibazaki’ researches and creative activities are centered on the traditional Japanese Washi paper, a type of paper that is hand made from the barks of various mulberry pants, such as Kozo, Gampi and Mitsumata. He has been giving workshops and lectures on traditional Washi paper making and exhibiting his amazing lighted art pieces that are made out of hand-made Washi paper in Germany and France.

I arrived at Aichi University of Arts in mid-July and the temperature during the day had been in the mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Though it was not the ideal temperature for making traditional Washi, Professor Shibazaki and his students had managed to conduct a very successful paper making workshop. We made a variety of paper from outer barks of Mitsumata, a mixture of outer barks of Mitsumata and inner barks of Kozo, and from fine inner barks of Kozo, using several different techniques Professor Shibazaki demonstrated. The papers that were made from outer barks of Mitsumata and the mixture of Mitsumata and Kozo were used to create three large tapestries that were finished with gold and silver foil printings and were later exhibited at Ozu Washi Gallery in Tokyo.

Though I have learned about paper making by reading and watching videos before this workshop, I had no idea how time consuming the entire process took, from the preparation to the actual paper making. However, after this experience, I realize that how important it is for an artist/designer to start at the material level. Working with the material directly opens new opportunities for me to discover novel ways and new processes to design, a topic I hope to focus in the near future.

To speed up the process, Professor Shibazaki and his assistants had prepared different batches of the raw material before I arrived in Nagoya as this part of the process typically took about two to three days. To prepare for Kozo paper making, about 1.5 kg of raw material Kozo and 300 g of soda ash, another name for Sodium Carbonate, were combined and soaked in a large water pot for one day (it would have required two days of soaking during the winter months). These Kozo fibers were then boiled for about three hours and were left to soak in the water pot overnight.

When I arrived in the lab, we started the process by washing the Kozo fibers to get rid of yellow and brown coloration and other impurities.  The results were the soft, long and strong Kozo fibers with beautiful off-white color. I could hardly believe that these raw fibers were able to be turned into beautiful translucent sheets of paper at the end of the process.

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Washing Kozo fiber (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki)

After washing, I learned the most labor consuming process of breaking down the fibers by hand using large wooden mallets that were made by Professor Shibazaki himself. According to Professor Shibazaki, this labor consuming hand process couldn’t be simply replaced by machines as the hand techniques would produce finer and stronger fibers than the machines. Several of us took turns pounding and smashing the fibers for a few hours using two different mallets.

Preparing Kozo fibers ( (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki)
Preparing Washi fibers (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki)

After we prepared the Washi fibers we then worked on preparation of “Neri” by crushing “Tororo Aoi” and then by beating and mixing it with water. We put the “Tororo Aoi” in a cloth bag and squeezed it to remove sticky liquid that was then used in the paper making. This sticky and gooey liquid was the true secret behind all papermaking. It was hydrophilic with a negative electro-chemical charge, helping to suspend the paper fiber evenly in the water and produce strong molecular bonds between the fiber, water and “Neri”. Besides obtaining “Neri” from “Tororo Aoi,” Professor Shibazahi also used ready-made powders he purchased from handmade paper shops to simplify this process. The “Neri” was then added to a large water vat, also called “Sukifune,” with a mixture that was made of about 400 grams of Washi fiber and 200 liters of cold water. Before the “Neri” was added, the mixture had to be stirred skillfully so that the fibers could be separated evenly.

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Preparing “Neri” ( (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki))

The last step in the preparation of paper making before actual paper making was to prepare “Shito,” or the plate to put web paper. Professor Shibazaki used simple alignment methods to make sure that the set up would allow each wet paper sheet to be aligned and separated properly. In one instance, he used thin gauges to separate the paper in a grid, and in another instance he used nylon threads to keep each of the wet sheets of paper separated.

After all these preparation, we finally started making paper. The goal here was to keep the paper fiber to spread evenly and smoothly on “Su”, or the bamboo blind that used by Japanese traditional paper makers. The “Su” were in various of dimensions, depending on the sizes of the paper one was making. There were only a very few handmade paper artisans who could produce high quality “Su” these days and the one that Professor Shibazhaki used in the workshop could cost up to $2000 and would allow us to produce two pieces of A2 paper simultaneously. Using “Su” to make paper was a very artistic, rhythmic and beautiful process. I was told that I must listen to the sound of the water movements. Smooth water movements would produce beautiful and smooth paper. After about twenty tries, I felt that I was finally able to adjust the forward-back and left-right movements of “Su” and hear various sounds of the water splashing and flowing. And I knew I was far from being a paper making expert.