23 October 2012

Wayzgoose 2012!

Gaspereau Press held it’s fourteenth annual Wayzgoose and open house this past weekend. The event, which featured Montreal papermaker David Carruthers (Papeterie Saint-Armand) and fledgling Fredericton printer David Brewer (Rabbittown Press), was well attended. We also had readings by authors Hether Jessup and Carmine Starnino. Thanks to all those who helped make the event a success.

I spent most of the event cloistered in the casting room casting slugs for our visitors, so thank you to Jack McMaster for taking these pictures of at the open house.

David Brewer supervises visitors pulling a proof on Glenn Goluska’s Vanvercook Universal I proof press. David made a Bliss Carman linocut forthe event.

David Carruthers attracted a great crowd all day as he pulled sheets of paper with a mould and deckle dating to Canada’s centennial in 1967.

David Carruthers inspects a sheet.

Matt (in the back) demonstrated CMYK colour printing on our Heidelberg offset press.

As usual, I spent most of the day explaining hot metal linecasting using our Ludlow.

Slugs cast on the Ludlow were then printed on a little parlour press.

David C. beating pulp on out 4-pound hollander (he has a 1000-pound hollander in his own shop).

The ever helpful volunteer Steven Slipp ran the parlour press.

After using the slug they cast to print text on a cover, participants handsewed their own blank booklets.

Gary Dunfield demonstrating the Chandler & Price clamshell press.

David Brewer and a participant printing the Bliss Carman broadside.


17 October 2012

Tramp Printer Report No. 12

I arrived back home in Nova Scotia on Tuesday evening after a whirlwind journey through New England. Here are a few photos from the last few visits I made in New Hampshire and Maine.

Election signs everywhere.

On Sunday night, I stayed with the ‘retired’ New Hampshire papermaker Richard Langdell in Lebanon, NH. Richard ran a hand papermaking business for about twenty years which catered primarily to the wedding invitation crowd, but he has recently decided to walk away from the vat and try something different. His papers were wonderful, and it sounded to me like he several years of stock still available for sale.

Monday morning I headed to Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, where Stephanie Wolff was kind enough to show me around the book-arts holdings in the Baker-Berry Library (and to show me a few of her own bookworks too). They have a couple of Vandercooks, a Pearl and a couple of iron handpresses. I was happy to see a copy of Carl Dair’s Design with Type on the table in the press room.

Then I drove through the very perfection of a New England autumn afternoon to Portland, Maine.

This Portland election sign was one of my favourites, at least as an example of local wild letterforms. (Note the spur on the G and the serifed peak on the A.)

My second (though alternately spelled) Wolfe of the day was David Wolfe at Wolfe Editions in Portland. David has been a letterpress printer since 1979, including a seven-year stint at the famous Stinehour Press of Lunenburg, Vermont.

After David moved to Portland in 1997, he acquired a great deal of the Monotype casting equipment from Stinehour’s defunct letterpress department.

David does most of his casting on an Intertype linecaster, the competitor and imitator of the Linotype.

David and I first met at The Tides Institute in Eastport, Maine, which was where I headed next. The Tides is an impressive initiative spearheaded by the quiet, wry-witted local impresario Hugh French. When I got there, Hugh lead me up many lifts of scaffolding to see the new sandstone cap recently placed atop the building’s facade.

Hugh believed that the new stone was from the same pit in Wallace, Nova Scotia, where the original stone was likely quarried. The view of the bay from the peak of the roof was quite impressive.

Hey, nice letters.

Back inside, we looked over the Institute’s modest but expanding letterpress holdings in their temporary home (they had recently been boomed down from the third floor). The Tides Institute is presently in the midst of renovating a second historic building across the street which will, among other things, eventually house the letterpress studio. I noticed that they had a Nolan tabletop proof press, so my printshop tour ends where it began. How convenient is that?

I’d planned to spend the night in Eastport, but once I had that salt air in my lungs I was hellbent on getting home that night. It had been a long journey and I wanted to see my family and sleep in my own bed. The seven-hour’s drive that lay between Eastport and my own threshold seemed inconsequential, and I would not be dissuaded. Before I struck out, Hugh took this photo.

This concludes my tramp printer reports. I’m back in my Kentville shop where I belong, preparing for our Wayzgoose this coming Saturday October 20. On Saturday evening, I’ll be giving a short, illustrated talk about the trip as part of the Lochhead Book Arts Lecture. I’ll also be writing a more detailed article which will appear in an upcoming issue of Canada’s foremost book arts journal, The Devil’s Artisan (also known as DA).

Thanks to all those who welcomed me into their shops and into their homes.


15 October 2012

Tramp Printer Report No. 11

Sunday morning I spent a few hours at the typefoundry of Michael and Winifred Bixler at Skaneateles, New York. The press and foundry are located in a beautiful old mill building not far from Syracuse.

Michael and Winifred both studied at Rochester Tech and initially founded their press in Massachusetts in the 1970s. The started by doing a lot of produce comp work for photo-offset printers (that is, they composing books on a Monotype caster and printed a sheet on a proof press to be photographed and made into plates for an offset press).

Here are some of the Bixler’s Monotype casters. Over the years they have built up an impressive catalogue of British Monotype typefaces, including rarities like Octavian and Joanna.

Their presses include a number of Vandercooks and two Heidelberg cylinder presses. This is the press I really ought have at Gaspereau. It is essentially the sister press to out Heidelberg KORD offset presses.


14 October 2012

Tramp Printer Report No. 10

On Friday I was in the shop of Gray Zeitz’s Larkspur Press near Monterey, Kentucky. I have known and admired Gray’s work for some time, largely because we both employ one of the continent’s greatest living wood engravers, Wesley Bates. Wes had told me so many stories about Gray and his press that by the time I arrived I felt like I’d known him for years.

Here is Gray in his bindery loft. Just this month, Gray was presented with the 2012 Artist Award from Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. He was one of nine recipients of the 2012 Governor’s Awards in the Arts, the state’s highest achievement in the arts.

One of the things that I admire about Gray is that he employs traditional tools (letterpresses, metal type and hand bindery equipment) to publish affordable books by writers in his own neighbourhood. His books are beautiful, but they are simply and efficiently made. The print run (usally about 400 copies) and materials of the main edition of a book are such as to make them affordable for normal readers, not just for collectors. Gray first learned to print on a traditional platen press like to one in the foreground, but he favours his two C&P clamshell presses.

One of the anchor authors on the Larkspur list is the influential poet, novelist and essayist Wendell Berry – who also happens to live more or less in Gray’s neighbourhood. Wendell’s writing on local economy and agriculture had a significant influence on me as I was formulating the rational behind Gaspereau’s ‘subsistence farming’ approach to literary publishing and book production, so I was pleased that I was able to swing in and meet him when I was in Kentucky. I was gladder still when Gray, his wife Jean and his assistant Leslie Shane came along. I’m a poor tourist and a worse pilgrim, and I am reluctant to bother people without proper cause. So I was happy to turn my visit with WB into, in effect, someone else’s visit in which I could relatively quietly tag along.

When we arrived, WB pulled up in his pickup and invited us to come with him while he went to look for a break in his fence through which two horses had recently escaped.

Leslie jumped in the cab while Gray and I got in the bed with WB’s dog.

... and with his briefcase, strapped to the side of the truck bed beside the chains, buckets and chainsaw.

The fence mended with twine, we drove back to the Berry’s kitchen for a visit. Mostly the talk was of local folk, projects, and WB’s new collection of stories (published by Counterpoint), but Tanya and WB also had fun recounting the funnier parts of a spring trip to Washington, D.C., where WB received a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama. Pictured in the photo (L to R) are Leslie Shane, Tanya Berry, Wendell Berry, Jean Zeitz and Gray Zeitz.

Saturday, I drove north and east through Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to Auburn, NY, where I lucked into what appeared to be the last hotel room in town (it was raining, and the idea of pitching a tent in the dark and the rain after 14 hours of driving didn’t appeal to me). Today I visited the Bixler type foundry, but more on that later. I need sleep.


11 October 2012

Tramp Printer Report No. 9

Today I was in Nashville to visit the folks at Hatch Show Print. Founded in 1879, Hatch survives today by using its archival collection of wood type and cuts to make show posters for a broad range of clients, many in the music industry. Its iconic neon sign welcomes visitors on Broadway.

I had actually come to Hatch for a sit-down with the shop’s guiding light, Jim Sherraden, but he was having the kind of day I too often have in my own shop – juggling the needs of too many people and job deadlines. So I left him to his own devices, and he left me in the capable hands of his wonderful, youthful staff – which was perfectly cool by me.

Some historic Hatch posters.

A giant shelf lines one of the shop’s walls, housing oversized wood type and hand-carved blocks.

An intern lays out a form for a poster job at the composition table.

Much of the printing is carried out on Vandercooks, like this one with a power carriage.

“Put that camera down and put some type up,” I was told by the Hatch crew. So I spent part of my day putting type from completed jobs back in the cases. Too bad they didn’t ask me to design a poster! Maybe next visit.

Printmaker and Hatch staffer Laura Baisden (in the stripes) patiently explained the organization of their type cases to me and chatted away while she also supervised the work of several interns. In this photo they are pulling a quick a dirty proof of a poster layout by inking the type and using a spoon to hand rub tracing paper over the form.

The pleasant ginger intern with the ornery ginger shop cat.

Hatch staffer Carl Carbonell (in the hat) and a Canadian intern chowing down on some excellent cajun takeout.

After leaving Hatch I drove into Kentucky, on my way to Larkspur Press.


10 October 2012

Tramp Printer Report No. 8

Today was the Gordo Symposium of Lowly Country Printers. Myra, Amos and I were joined by the exceptionally gifted letterpress printer Terry Chouinard of Athens, Alabama. Here we are (minus Myra) in front of Amos’s shop.

After several hours of talking shop and working up a right manly hunger, we drove in to Tuscaloosa to get some authentic Bar BQ at Archibald’s. The place is literally in the guy’s backyard.

The signage was a hoot, especially the digital-clock style phone number.

Following Terry’s lead, I had the ‘large half-and-half’, a pulled pork sandwich, ribs and white bread. Nary a vegetable to be found.

Happy, sticky-fingered patrons Terry and Myra. (Amos, a vegetarian, sits patiently and hungrily out of the frame.)

While we were at Archibald’s Bar BQ, a small New York film crew was shooting a segment for a Comedy Network show (or a pilot – beats me, I don’t own a TV) called “Food Show” which seems to have consisted mostly of insipid, ad-libbed chatter. The guys were funnier and more likable when the cameras were off. That’s showbiz for you.

I’m off to Nashville and Kentucky!


Tramp Printer Report No. 7

Amos Kennedy heading to the post office to mail a job to a client in New York City.

An homage to a vowel – a broadside I printed in Gordo, Alabama.