29 November 2011

Blue



Today, as well as working on the paperwork for a grant application due this week, I had jackets for the Gaspereau redesign of George Elliott Clarke’s poetry book Blue. Gaspereau adopted a number of books from Clarke’s backlist (Whylah Falls, Blue and Black which is due out next spring) when his original publisher stopped publishing Canadian books.

Actually, that’s an interesting story. Clarke was originally publishing most of his poetry with Polestar Books, a very fine west coast literary publisher owned by Michelle Benjamin. In 2000, Polestar got swallowed up by the gigantic west coast book distributor and repackager Raincoast Books. Raincoast was awash in cash; they had a very profitable stake in the Harry Potter franchise as the books’ Canadian publisher and distributor. At the time of the takeover, Benjamin told Publisher’s Weekly that the purchase would give Polestar “the kind of financial security that is hard to achieve as a small press.”

How’d that work out? Turns out that Raincoast’s interest in publishing with a bit flighty. In January 2008, Raincoast announced that it was ceasing its Canadian publishing operations. The imprints and authors they had adopted through their various acquisitions were being turfed. Raincoast brass intoned that publishing books in Canada simply wasn’t economically viable. Ouch! Even after selling us all those millions of dollars worth of Harry Potter books to Canadians, Raincoast felt no commitment to reinvest in publishing Canadian writers for Canadian Readers. Too risky. They just took the money and ran. Did I mention that the decision to stop publishing books and refocus on being a distributor and repackager was announced shortly after the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series? It has to be one of the most cynical moves in the history of Canadian publishing (if you ignore the present elephant in the room, that self-loathing farce of pretending that the once proud flagship of Canadian publishing, McClelland & Stewart, is anything other than an mere imprint of Random House).

And so, as i was saying, Clarke’s marooned poetry titles have landed now at Gaspereau and we are gradually bringing them back into print.

Today I was hand printing the jacket for Blue, a stark departure from the photographic cover of the original, but very much in the Gaspereau style. The paper is a dark blue felt stock. I printed the oversized type in black, and the small text in a silver ink tinted with PMS 301 blue. The type is Plantin, but with extenders modified to match those Sir Frances Meynell commissioned from Monotype for his Nonesuch Press.



When I was goofing around taking photos of the silvery blue ink, I caught my reflection in the ink knife.



Here’s a peek at the finished jacket, and some other stuff kicking around my press-side table:

1. A litho stone collected by my friend Jack McMaster.
2. A bone folder.
3. A photo of my father with the poet Peter Sanger; two Petes in a pod.
4. A funny, handwritten note from Will Rueter at the Aliquando Press.
5. The photopolymer plate for the black form of the Clarke jacket.
6. The Clarke jacket (the hero of our tale).
7. Make-ready sheets.
8. A single piece of type cast by the late, great type designer Jim Rimmer.
9. Some film canisters of copper spacing material for fine letterspacing capitals.
10. A bunch of Linotype mats and a space band, frozen together in some sort of casting midhap.
11. A broken rib from Chestnut canoe.

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

25 November 2011

Don McKay and The Shell of the Tortoise



On the press this week is Don McKay’s The Shell of the Tortoise, the third collection of literary essays we’ve done by Don (Vis à Vis and Deactivated West 100 being the others). The Shell of the Tortoise continues Don’s investigation into the relationship between poetry and wilderness, particularly into the characteristics of metaphor as a tool. “Art occurs whenever a tool attempts to metamorphose into an animal” asserts McKay in the title essay, which is built around the myth of Hermes and his tortoise-shell lyre. Tools that metamorphose into animals? We’ve certainly seen some animal behaviour from some of the antiquated tools we use here in the printshop.



The book is set in a digital revival of Deepdene, arguably the best book type F.W. Goudy ever designed. Goudy drew the roman for Deepdene in 1927 and the italic the following year, and both were released for use on Lanston’s Monotype casters. It is a typeface I associate with the books of my childhood, and with my late friend Jim Rimmer, who admired Goudy and whose own type designs (Amethyst, for example) were greatly influenced by Goudy’s. Like so many faces from the letterpress age, it is like a fine-limbed race horse which requires careful management if it’s to survive on a modern roadway; it can wilt and fail in the digital environment or the flatland of modern offset printing. I know. I’ve failed and failed again to use it well, but I think I’ve finally started to understand its personality and adapt to its quirks.



In one essay, Don takes the reader over a buggy, boggy portage with the canadian poet Duncan Cambell Scott, surveying Canadian poetry’s complex relationship with wilderness. The genesis of this journey is a photograph found in Canada’s national achieves which depicts Scott, an agent of the Crown, standing at one end of the portage over the height of land between Lake Superior and Hudsons Bay, on his way to settle a treaty with the natives in that area.



I don’t care how often you do it, or how well you understand it. I’ve been printing books for nearly 15 years, and I still get a kick out of the way so many small dots, arranged in varying size and intensity, can through a sort of slight of hand, an illusion, replicate the continuous tone of a photographic image. This is a close-up, shot through my microscope, of the fellow on the right in the photograph, with the bug net on his head. This sort of reproduction, this trick of representation, is a sort of metaphoric, poetic act. A tool becoming an animal?



Well, enough fawning over the sheets. Fold’em, sew’em, bind’em and get them out of here!



The jackets were handprinted on the vandercook 219 in my office. Two colours, black and ‘wayzgoose red’ on a nice felt-finish ginger-coloured paper stock. The illustration is by out pal Wesley Bates of West Meadow Press in Clifford, Ontario, who also did illustrations for the other essay collections of Don’s we published.

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

17 November 2011

A Movember Moment

I’ve never been a fan of facial hair as a means of self-expression, nor of punny plays on the names of months, but the ‘Movember’ movement (a well-intended yet goofy media gimmick aimed at getting men to embrace their inner Tom Selleck and people talking about men’s health issues) called to mind an unusual discovery I recently made while cruising the shelves at my local used book store.



What I stumbled upon was a copy of Edward S. Caswell’s Canadian Singers and Their Songs: A Collection of Portraits, Autograph Poems and Brief Biographies, published in 1925 by McClelland & Stewart. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the production. But as I was leafing through I decided to look up a local poet, Charles G.D. Roberts. My jaw dropped when I saw his portrait. Holy jumping schmoly!



Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me. I turned to the clerk and said, “Okay, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this picture?”

I flashed up the book up at her and her response was spontaneous.

“Hitler!”

“Would you believe it’s a pre-war photo of the Canadian poet Charles G. D. Roberts?”

I suppose Roberts would have looked pretty dapper at the time in his spiffy uniform and twitchy little bit of lip hair, but all I could see in that photo in 2011 was the unwitting foreshadowing of evil. I guess it’s possible for one man to ruin a look – forever. Let’s have one more look at that, close-up.



Oh yeah, that’s creepy.

I turned to the entry for E.J. Pratt hoping against hope that he would be sporting a Groucho Marx look, just then arriving on the silver screen, but was disappointed.

This morning, I shaved.

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

26 October 2011

Oh, Wayzgoose!


Marshall McLuhan at the wayzgoose

Gaspereau Press celebrated its twelfth annual wayzgoose and open house on the weekend. There was a lecture, workshops, and readings, but as usual the highlight of the event was opening our doors to the public for fun and frivolity in the printing works. This year’s special guest was Toronto wood engraver George Walker, who came with his wife Michelle and a suitcase full of prints and books.


George Walker helps a visitor print a broadside

For the wayzgoose, George engraved a portrait of the late Canadian writer and cultural theorist Marshall McLuhan and showed visitors how to print it on our 1833 Albion hand press. The text of the broadside was handprinted on our Vandercook 219. Meanwhile, I found myself (as usual) cornered in the casting room talking lead, tin and antimony and casting Ludlow slugs set by our guests. Once cast, the freshly-cast type was locked up in a parlor press and printed with the help of our young printer’s devils, and the printed sheet became the personalized cover for a hand-sewn blank chapbook. Meanwhile, Gary Dunfield and his assistants Nic (who has a Tim Inkster like obsession with top hats) and Laura had the Hollander beater and hand moulds set up for beating pulp and making paper.


Printer’s Devil Adam Steeves sets up a parlor press

In the evening, authors Sean Howard and Norman Ravvin read from their recently published books and George Walker gave an illustrated talk. We also paid tribute to recently deceased colleagues Glenn Goluska and Douglas Lochhead. We were pleased to announce that the wayzgoose lecture series will henceforth be called the Douglas Lochhead Memorial Lecture, in recognition of Lochhead’s great contribution to literary culture and the book arts in Canada.



I want to make special mention of a few people who helped or attended: Hugh French of the Tides Institute in Eastport, Maine, who dashed over for the morning’s events in his continued effort to foster better cross-boarder cultural relations and – creatively at least – reunite that grand Fundy/Passamaquoddy community one is tempted to refer to as The Old Massachusetts; Thaddeus Holownia of Anchorage Press, who drove up from New Brunswick to volunteer; Steven Slipp, who spent his 56th birthday volunteering at the wayzgoose, and loved it; David Brewer of Rabbittown Press, Fredericton, who just finished printing his first letterpress book; Laura MacDonald, who pulled in with Yukon dust still on her bumpers to volunteer making paper; Nic, Adam, Ellis, Dan, and all the youngsters who lent a hand; Heather Kelday and Peter Williams, who helped us out with the music; and all the Gaspereau Press staff, who so generously and ably shared their craft with our visitors.

We are working on the possibility of having a New England based printer as our special guest next year. I will post details as they unfold.


Typographer and birthday-boy Steven Slipp pulls a print on the Albion handpress with George Walker


Steven Slipp and letterpress printer and photographer Thaddeus Holownia


Sewing chapbooks


Printer’s Devils printing on a parlor press ...


... to impress the young lassies


Lisa and Pam (reps for one of our commercial paper suppliers) talked to people about the importance of paper


Author Norman Ravvin inks the wood block ...


... and pulls a print while George Walker looks on


Nic Dunfield making paper


Nic Dunfield and Laura MacDonald beating pulp


Locking up a form for the parlor press


Bibliophile Joseph Stevens and guest artist George Walker at the book table


George Walker


Oh, Marshall! How crisp you look!


George Walker at the Albion


Gary Dunfield drying handmade paper


Basma and George setting up the Vandercook 219


Andrew Steeves setting up the Ludlow caster

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

06 October 2011

Wayzgoose and other things



Well, the details are sorting out for our wayzgoose and open house on October 22nd. Toronto-based Wood engraver and letterpress printer George Walker is packing his bags and sharpening his tools in preparation for his trip to Kentville, where he will be giving a workshop introducing printmaking techniques, doing demos at the open house and presenting his illustrated talk “Printmaking and the Visual Narrative.” The workshop requires pre-registration, and there are still a couple of spots left. The poster below provides most of what you’ll need to know.



In the meantime, we are (as usual) scrambling about and working hard to get books completed and out to the first of the fall’s launches. This week, we finished the first copies of Heather Jessup’s debut novel The Lightning Field, which will be launched on October 13 on Gabriola Island, BC, at an event hosted by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers. The story of the scrapping of the Avro Arrow is the backdrop to the novel’s plot, so retro images of the Arrow were featured on the book’s handprinted jacket.



Those of you, like myself, who were unable to be in Montreal or Toronto for recent tributes to our late friend Glenn Goluska will be interested to note new materials that have recently been posted online about his life.



There was also a great obit in the Toronto Globe & Mail:

I’ve got a backlog of material amassed for posting to the blog (including a report about my spring roadtrip to Willowbank, an architectural school in Niagara on the Lake which focuses on the restoration arts, and a whole lot of sleuthing about in old books), but I’ve been so socked-in with deadlines and projects this summer that I’ve had no time to write the copy and post them. I’ll soon get back in the habit again as the workload finally begins to return to normal crazy.

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER


22 August 2011

Wayzgoose is Coming!


The 2009 Gaspereau Press Wayzgoose

Gaspereau Press is preparing for its twelfth annual Wayzgoose and Open House, which will be held on Saturday October 22 at the Gaspereau Press printing works.

This year, we are pleased to have letterpress printer and wood engraver George Walker. George is presently promoting his new trade book, A is for Alice, which was published by our good friends at The Porcupine’s Quill in Erin, Ontario. Click here to see an amusing video of George and the Inksters at The Porcupine’s Quill.

We’re going to keep George pretty busy while he’s here. He’ll be give a workshop in the morning, help entertain guests during the open house in the afternoon, and present an illustrated talk on the future of the book in the evening.

The evening will also feature readings from new books by Montreal novelist Norm Ravvin and Cape-Breton-based poet Sean Howard. I will also be giving brief tributes to two important and recently lost figures in the constellation of Canadian letters: Douglas Lochhead and Glenn Goluska.

video

The great Canadian typographer and letterpress printer Glenn Goluska, who died last week, was a great frequenter of the Gaspereau Wayzgoose. I stumbled on this short and truly amateur video clip of Glenn at last years’s event, when he met his Alabama counterpart Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., who was the guest artist at last year’s event. Shortly after this video was taken, Amos informed Glenn that all the wooden type in the world belonged to him, but that he was okay with Glenn using it for a while if he treated it nicely.


Robert Bringhurst and Glenn Goluska at the Gaspereau Wayzgoose

We’re still ironing out the details, but in a week or two we’ll be posting a schedule of wayzgoose events and happening. The only two activities that have limited space and require preregistration are the workshops. They will run on Saturday October 22 from 9:00 until noon. There is a $40 registration fee for the workshops. Each workshop is limited to 10 participants and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. You can register for them by emailing info@gaspereau.com or calling us a 902 678 6002. This year’s wayzgoose workshops are:

BOOKBINDING. Participants will complete a binding with the help of expert conservationist an binder Ruth Legge. Materials are provided.

THE JOYS OF PRINTMAKING. George Walker will demonstrate and discuss a number of letterpress printmaking methods. No experience required. This workshop is intended to introduce the participants to the history, tools, techniques and artistic possibilities of printmaking.

Other activities in the works are a letterpress-related film screening in cooperation with Wolfville’s Fundy Film, an author’s salon, our famous offcut paper sale, and the usual hanging-out in the printshop, talking, printing, papermaking and typecasting. The wayzgoose is always an amazingly good time, even for those of us who host it, so I hope that you’ll be able to join us.


Casting slugs at the 2010 Wayzgoose

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

15 August 2011

Glenn Goluska

June 26, 1947 – August 13, 2011



Glenn Goluska, one of Canada’s great typographers, died in Montreal on Saturday after a brief battle with cancer.

Glenn grew up in Chicago and came to Canada as a student at the University of Toronto. After graduation, Glenn worked briefly in the United States before landing (on a whim, while on vacation, his then-wife Anne waiting in the car) a job as a typesetter at Coach House Press in Toronto. The work Glenn did at Coach House Press constitutes one of the most important bodies of book design in modern Canadian publishing, on par with the accomplishments of Tim Inkster, Frank Newfeld or Allan Fleming.

Glenn left Coach House to pursue letterpress printing full-time, producing many influential books and broadsides and completing commissions for people like Margaret Atwood and the Bronfman family in Montreal. His imprints were Imprimerie Dromadaire and Nightshade Press.

Later in his career, Glenn relocated to Montreal, where he worked for the Canadian Centre for Architecture and then as a freelancer for McGill-Queens Press.

Glenn was diagnosed with lung cancer last fall. I was able to travel to Montreal twice this spring while he was still relatively healthy, including in May when he was awarded the Robert Reid lifetime achievement medal by the Alucin Society of Canada, recognizing his considerable contribution to Canadian design. Glenn is survived by two brothers, his first wife, Anne, and his second wife, Bernadette.


Bernadette, Glenn and Stan Bevington in Montreal this past May

A number of tributes to Glenn’s life are being discussed by his friends and colleagues, including an exhibition and some sort of publication (a catalogue or a book). One tribute is more immediate: Glenn’s long-time friend Rod McDonald has designed a typeface named Goluska, which will have its first public showing in the forthcoming issue (No. 21) of Parenthesis, which I am producing for the Fine Press Book Association in my shop this very week. This issue contains a spread of reproductions of some of Glenn’s design work and a short tribute by Chester Gryski. When I was designing the jacket, which I printed letterpress on my vandercook, I was aware that Glenn’s life was winding down; its somber tones are a quiet tribute to the passing of a friend.

Glenn had a strong bond with Gaspereau, and was a frequent attendee to our wayzgoose and open house. There was a kinship in the swagger of our design styles and our love of fine typography; admiration that was mutual. I was surprised and honoured a number of years ago when Glenn asked me if I would take on his letterpress shop once he died and move it to Gaspereau Press. At the time, Glenn’s death was a distant, abstract idea to both of us, but now it is as bold and black and real as oversized wooden type inked and slammed into a piece of dampened paper. We’ll sort out the logistics of that move in the coming months and think about how we will keep his memory alive by using the machinery and type that he loved to make beautiful things.

This is a short and incomplete tribute, and I will write more of Glenn and his work as I have time to reflect. For now, I think I’ll just find a little Scott Joplin to play and raise a glass to my great brother in letters.




ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

18 May 2011

Best (Small) Publisher in Canada



Last Saturday, May 14, while I was inking up letterpress lobsters in Maine, The Canadian Booksellers Association announced the winners of its 2011 Libris Awards in Toronto. Gaspereau Press was named “Small Press Publisher of the Year,” an honour it has won twice before. On behalf of everyone here at Gaspereau Press, I want to express our gratitude for all the booksellers who voted for us.

The Libris Awards recognize the best in the Canadian book industry. Nominated and voted on by members of the Canadian Booksellers Association, the Libris Awards single out the best in 13 categories including best writer; best editor; best sales rep; best publisher; best small press publisher; best distributor; best fiction, non-fiction, children’s book, and young reader books; and best campus, specialty and general book retailer.

While I’m grateful for the honour, I have to admit that I always have mixed feelings about this particular award, for I feel every one of the publishers nominated in this small press category was equally deserving of nomination in the ‘big boy pants’ category, “Publisher of the Year,” which is reserved for larger firms. Separating honours into specialized categories by region, gender, ethnicity or size is always a double edged sword. While it broadens the potential for the recognition and encouragement of those whose hard work might otherwise go unrecognized, such qualifiers (best left-handed Black Saskatoonian canoeist under 40) always limit and exclude more than they foster and include.

Excellence in publishing does not reside in the number of employees a company has, or in the volume of books it produces each year. It resides in the quality of the work and the public’s response to it. On this front, there are no small or large publishers, just those who strive for the best and those who can’t be bothered. It strikes me that in a small country like Canada (already a protectionist qualifier) that the need to divide excellence into the excellence of the big and the excellence of the small seems questionable. The Alcuin awards for excellence in Canadian book design do not make such distinctions, and the remarkable balance of big and small firms whose books win their honours tells an interesting story, one the CBA might be interested in considering.

For now, I’ll revel in being the best right-handed letterpress printer residing in Black River, Nova Scotia (as far as I can discover).

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER

17 May 2011

Letterpress & Maine Lobsters

I met Hugh French on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, in 2009 at a meeting which aimed to stimulate more cross-border cultural exchange between New England and the Maritimes. When I learned about the work that Hugh was doing at the Tides Institute in the tiny town of Eastport, Maine, I resolved to find some excuse to get involved. Too often the American-Canadian border inhibits interaction between artists, musicians and craftsmen and the community institutions which support them. But the same tides rise and fall at Eastport as those which push up the Cornwallis River to Kentville, and a letterpress printer from small-town Nova Scotia often has more in common with his fellows in rural Maine than he has with those urban printers in Toronto or Vancouver.


Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., and Hugh French at the Tides Institute, Eastport, Maine

Or, for that matter, more in common with rural Alabama, for what finally drew me across the border was the news that my letterpress compatriot Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., was coming north to spend a week at the Tides Institute. Amos had been our special guest at the 2010 Wayzgoose, and the chance to see him again was too good to pass up.

For a Canadian making his first foray into the United States in over twenty years, Eastport was an excellent destination, for only a little water separates it from Canada; home was never for a moment out of sight. But the journey was not without its discouragements. A letter from the Tides Institute explaining the nature of my visit did not ease my entry into Maine. In fact, quite the opposite. The US Customs officers who searched my pick-up truck, though respectful and polite, seemed not to share the notion of a binational fraternity of small-town printers and artists, or, for that matter, the notion of altruism in general. They did, however, after a time, let me pass and genuinely wish me well.


The Tides Institute, Eastport, Maine

Eastport itself was more welcoming. It is a working harbour town, not a kitschy tourist trap. Once affluent, recently depressed and languishing, Eastport now appears to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance, thanks in part to an upswing in business at its port (shipping live cattle to Turkey and constructing apparatus for conveying wood chips onto ships) and in part to the innovation and tenacity of its more entrepreneurial and community-minded citizens, like Hugh French. Several years ago, Hugh purchased the decrepit remains of the Eastport Savings Bank, a three storey brick structure erected in 1887, and set about raising funds to refurbish it into a museum, gallery and arts centre. The work on the building is well underway and the project’s momentum and its effect on the community are already in evidence.

The building hosts a gallery space, a sort of ‘great room’ which houses the Tides’ library and items from its permanent collection, and a studio space and printshop. Hugh had been sending me samples of the posters which the Portland-based printer David Wolfe and others have been producing for the Tides under the imprint of Hand Line Press.


Over the side door

When I arrived in Eastport on Friday morning, I found David Wolfe and Siri Beckman busily working in the printshop. Both were participating in short residencies and working on commissions for the Tides. I was familiar with David’s work, but was intrigued to discover that he had once been a press operator at the storied Stinehour Press of Lunenburg, Vermont, and acquired much of Stinehour’s letterpress material for his own studio when Stinehour discontinued that department. Siri was proofing a colour block for a large engraving she was making of Eastport’s waterfront.


David Wolfe in his Portland studio

Amos Kennedy arrived back at the Tides by late-afternoon. He had spent his week lugging a small poster press and two cases of type around to Washington County schools, where he introduced students to letterpress printing. It had been an intense week. “You-all got your 50 cents out of me,” he teased Hugh, but it was clear that he was having an excellent time. To say that Amos is passionate about letterpress printing would be a gross understatement. He spends a good portion of his year on the road, as sort of travelling evangelist for our inky profession. After talking for a while, we headed downstairs to the gallery and pinned up Amos’s colourful and provocative boxboard posters. There was a reception in gallery, and then we moved back up to the great room to screen Proceed and Be Bold, a film about Amos’s experience as a letterpress printer. The audience was small but attentive and appreciative.


A wall of Amos Kennedy’s posters displayed in the Tides Institute’s gallery

About half-way through the film, I realized that I had forgotten to eat supper and that by the time we were finished the screening, Eastport’s few eateries would most likely be closed. And I was correct. After futile investigation of the late-evening dining prospects in the town’s two drinking establishments, Amos, Jude Valentine and I ended up back at the Todd House B&B, where we combined our modest stores – fresh eggs, broccoli and sardines, which Amos fried up in the little kitchenette in his room. This meal was supplemented by some homemade cookies which I had picked up at my mother’s on my way through New Brunswick. It was a meal well-seasoned with companionship and conversation.


Amos Kennedy cuts a lobster out of box board while David Wolfe works in the background

On Saturday, we held a sort of symposium of letterpress printers in the Tides Institute printshop. There were only two items on the agenda: 1) the collaborative creation of some sort of printed item, and 2) the securing of a lobster for Amos’s supper. Participates included: Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., of Kennedy Prints, Gordo, Alabama; David Wolfe of Wolfe Editions, Portland, Maine; Siri Beckman, printer and wood engraver, Stonington, Maine; John Vincent of A Revolutionary Press, Brooklin, Maine; Bill Schaefer, sculptor and Tides Institute’s ‘carpenter in residence’, and Hugh French and Jude Valentine of the Tides Institute. I was there too, of course.

I’m the first one to admit that I am a poor collaborator, at least when it comes to this sort of crowded hot house approach. Besides cleaning presses and tinkering with equipment, I stayed on the sidelines and let others plan the piece, set the type, and crank the Vandercook No. 4 cylinder press. Amos demonstrated one of his techniques for laying down colourful backgrounds on his posters. He locked a sheet of plywood in the press that was just about type high and toned it up with ink. By placing shapes cut from box board under the mylar top sheet of the impression cylinder, he is able to force the press sheet into contact with areas of the inked board and print the box-board shapes. These box-board shapes can be shuffled to different locations under the top sheet to alter and build-up patterns over multiple passes. In this case, we cut box board in the shape of lobsters. It is a quick, simple, and inexpensive method of making a mark.


Amos positions a box-board lobster under the mylar top sheet of the Vandercook No. 4

Amos likes to lay down a lot of ink and alters the appearance of his posters across a print run by gradually adding different colours to the rollers. This method leaves much up to chance, but can yield rewarding results.


Inking the rollers. Note the plywood sheet locked in the press


Jude Valentine feeds a sheet into the grippers


Mixing inks

In the meantime, type was set for the text and David cut a quick version of the Hand Line Press hook in a piece of plywood using knives and gouges. These were printed in black and blue inks respectively.


Setting the type


David Wolfe cuts the image of a hook into a piece of wood

Through the day, there was ample opportunity to talk about inking, paper, cylinder packing, make-ready and printing techniques. It was a symposium in the best sense to the word, not a meeting or a workshop but rather an hands-on exchange of working knowledge and ideas between practitioners and enthusiasts. Everyone contributed, and everyone learned.


David Wolfe prints while Jude Valentine and Siri Beckman sort and stack sheets


Amos holds forth while John Vincent prints


Amos in the printshop

As the last colour was being printed, Amos was whisked off to select his lobster, and after cleaning up we descended to the great room for a banquet. We ate, and we laughed, satisfying to be among friends.


Lobster at last, bib and all

I am a reluctant traveller with little wanderlust in my heart. There is a hemlock post in the centre of the house I built, and to a certain extent my health and happiness seems to bear a relationship to my proximity to it. Yet there is something important about stepping off your well-worn path from time to time, leaving your home place and inserting yourself in the company of strangers who share your passions. And if this past weekend is any indication, I feel confident that the Tides Institute in Eastport will become a more frequent destination for such wanderings.

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER


Wild letterforms, Eastport, Maine