09 December 2009

Memorial Hall Borders

In October, I travelled to Fredericton, New Brunswick, for Ross Leckie’s Sixth Annual Poetry Weekend at the University of New Brunswick – or Leckiefest as I’m want to call it. Founded largely by accident, it’s the world’s most down-to-earth and dead-simple literary festival. Readers ranged from Leckie’s promising creative writing students to Griffin Prize winner A.F. Moritz. I met a pile of interesting writers. It was the first time I’d heard Sue Sinclair, Kevin Connolly or Zach Wells read, for example, or met Arc magazine’s Anita Lahey. I wasn't reading, but Gaspereau authors Michael deBeyer and Ross Leckie read, and Halifax poet Matt Robinson read from a letterpress-printed broadsheet he commissioned me to design and print for him. Gaspereau’s long-time proofreader, Christina McRae, was there too, reading from her new book published by Wolsak and Wynn. I can’t say enough good about this folksy little event.

One of the great things about Leckiefest is the venue. The readings were held in Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of New Brunswick. Built in 1924 to honour the 35 UNB Alumni who died in the First World War, Memorial Hall was originally designed as a science building. When my architect friend John Leroux heard that I would be spending the day in Memorial Hall, he raved about it and emphasized that I must check out the stained glass windows. (John, author of Building New Brunswick: An Architectural History, is a bit of an expert on New Brunswick’s built heritage.) And John was absolutely right. It’s an astonishing space. And the stained glass windows inspired me to design a new suite of typographic ornaments. John graciously went back to take some detail photos of the windows for me. This week, I completed a trail version of the font. No doubt I'll use these ornaments in some forthcoming Gaspereau projects.

Also this week, Gary and I, and my son Adam, knocked down some walls in the printshop in order to dedicate more room to letterpress printing. In this renovated space we will install two Vandercook proofing presses, an 1833 Albion press and perhaps a Chandler & Price or Pearl platen press or two, as well as type drawers and the composing stone. Gathering these tools together from various corners of the shop where they are presently dispersed will effectively create a quiet, well-lit letterpress studio – a better place for printing and perhaps eventually for teaching as well.


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