09 October 2012
I drove through Tennessee and Mississippi on Sunday on my way to Alabama. There was a major cold front moving through so the weather felt like home, but I knew I was somewhere quite different when I started seeing fields of cotton ready to pick.
I stopped to see the printshop that John Freeman (who I met in Iowa) is setting up in the museum at Green Frog, Tennessee, on a plot of land his grandfather once farmed. He has a Linotype Model 8 he is hoping to get running again.
And look! Below a table I spied a Nowlan proof press. This seems to be evolving into a theme.
After a my visit at Green Frog I drove south into the night, through northeastern Mississippi to Gordo, Alabama. Somewhere amongst the hellfire sermons that clutter the southern airwaves (it was a Sunday evening, after all) I finally found a blues program on the radio dial worthy of my location.
Amos Kennedy’s printshop is located in an old hardware store in Gordo.
Among his functioning presses, Amos has a number of Vandercooks (his go-to press is an SP-15), a Hiedelberg windmill and a number of vandercook-like Italian proof presses called a Fag. Combined with his collection of wood and metal type and cuts, he’s got enough gear to make some pretty serious trouble.
Monday morning, Amos and I made some repairs on a big Vandercook 325.
Once the Vandy 325 was good to go, I set up to print on it and Amos went back to some poster work he had underway on his SP-15. As it turned out, I’d received an email about a last minute rush letterpress job from someone in Toronto, lamenting that I was out of the office and would be unable to do the work. No problem, I replied, I’ll print it in Alabama and ship it Tuesday. It actually felt nice to have some real work to do. Of course, I didn’t make it easy on myself.
I designed a four-colour job, which I hand-inked. The design required parts of the form to be printed at 45 degrees to the bed, so I got out Amos’ chop saw and made some jigs. The printed sheets are pretty, but the printer knows the real beauty resides in the well-assembled type form locked in the bed of the press. I think letterpress printing answers a compulsion I have for pattern making.
A sheet (black and orange ink) coming off the press.
Amos Kennedy’s ink concession. One of the strength of Amos’ poster work is he fabulous, brazen sense of colour.
Amos Kennedy and his other studio guest, bookbinder Myra Kalaw of Chicago. Amos wrestled up a meal of grits covered with shrimp, mushrooms and gravy. Yum.
Local wild letterforms, Gordo, Alabama.
ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER