A Broadside for Terrance Hayes ~ process

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I’ve admired the poetry of Terrance Hayes since a friend recommended him a couple of years ago so when I got word he was coming to my part of the world I took note, and made a few inquiries. I had done a broadside for Robert Hass when he came to Interlochen Center for the Arts in 2006 so had already set a precedence for the project to happen and they were very receptive. Then the game of working with an author and their publisher on a short schedule for selection and proper clearance began!

I was sent the piece Bower which is excerpted from the poem Arbor for Butch in the book Lighthead. I was familiar with the poem as a whole and struggled with what sort of art or ornamentation this fragment of a poem should/could have accompany it. In the end I decided to let these four lines of text stand on their own and this was probably influenced by the fact that I had a linocut I’d done but hadn’t used for anything “bookish” yet which fit well with the poem especially after hacking a bit off the top of the block. Also, time was short, I had to work with materials and paper I had on hand, no time to order anything in.

finsigned2

So here it is as it turned out. Three colors on mould-made German Zerkall Frankfurt cream paper, 15 x 8.5 inches, hand set in Garamond in 24 and 72pt type and printed on my Vandercook 219OS with an additional bit of text on the back commemorating the evening and credits. The paper was not ideal, it is a beautiful sheet but the pronounced laid lines from the mould made printing the solids on the linoleum block quite difficult solved by being diligent with ink, a soft packing and running the sheet through the press twice. The Frankfurt paper was the only nice stock I had in enough quantity to do 100 broadsides so the dimensions of the broadside were more or less dictated by how the sheets could be divided and since it had such a lovely deckle edge from the mould, 100 is a small enough quantity to tear down by hand.

From the beginning I planned on the text running into the linocut so had made paper cut outs of the proofed text and moved it around with prints pulled from the linocut to plan my composition. I printed the lino first but now, to my eye, I feel the text crowds the image and would have benefitted from being moved a bit further away but stubbornly decided to keep my left margin equal − these are the hazards of only having a couple of days to devote to something. I prefer to have various proofs just hanging around the studio for a few days or a few weeks to look at. It’s fast enough to put some ink on the slab bust out a brayer and tweak the print or play with word spacing in the type, add leading, move elements around and “play”.

 

My approach on book and typographic composition comes from my fine art background first where typically a painting or print evolves over a period of time. Blocks of text are tones of color or shades of grey, how they work with whatever other non-typographic elements might be present and the space of the page spread and the overall book design. My early books were far more “experimental” with type I think but not always in a good way, so much forever to learn. I have an advantage, I think, in my book production because I do every part of the process here – I envision the whole of the book from the beginning from material selection to what the cover will look like. Knowledge of paper and bookbinding informs much information on creating the page layout and selection of stock for accompanying art, doing the artwork for the project gives me flexibility in design, and there is no reason why anything can’t change as the project progresses.

this is analog design.   this is letterpress.

 

For those who don’t know, (taken from Wikipedia) Terrance Hayes first book of poetry, Muscular Music (1999), won both the Whiting Writers Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His second collection, Hip Logic (2002), won the National Poetry Series, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and runner-up for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He won the National Book Award for Lighthead.

Hayes poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New YorkerThe American Poetry ReviewPloughsharesFenceThe Kenyon ReviewJubilat Harvard ReviewWest Branch, and Poetry.

In September 2014, he was honored as one of the twenty-one  2014 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – one of the most prestigious prizes that is awarded for artists, scholars and professionals.

 

A Return to Process and Dialogue

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First off, having recently returned from a most encouraging showing of my books at Oak Knoll this past week, I must say thank you to many who have followed this blog and whose friendships I continue to make and cement in the “real” world. I was amazed how many mentioned reading this or the social media bits of DWP’s online presence and I feel I must apologize for this blog having turned more into a PR tool or travelogue. It was my intention from the beginning for this to be more about process and dialogue. So let’s begin again and I will attempt to stay more on track though I will still mention new work or events but direct you to other sources for more details. This will be a somewhat longer post to get things rolling.

type hand-set on a curve

type hand-set on a curve

Dialogue – what is letterpress printing?

At these events and exhibits I have the pleasure of the company of fellow printers as well as a cultivated relationship with private and institutional collectors of my books. It is with interest I have noted a recurring theme of discussion which has been raging in the fine press world for over two decades but it seems the buying public is just starting to wonder: What is letterpress printing? Allow me a couple of paragraphs to cover the general process and history, neither exhaustive or fully concise:

  By definition I suppose it is printing from a relief surface via letterpress. Letterpress is a term that has only come into existence really in the past 50 years and has morphed into both verb and noun use. Prior to this time it was the only widely used reproductive process as innovated by Gutenberg in the 15th century and it was merely “printing” and those who printed were “Printers” Today, those of us who continue the tradition, draw on this legacy for better or worse.

  Gutenberg’s legacy is that of the matrix from which type is cast in a mould. Type is something you can pick up with your fingers and compose into words, form sentences, paragraphs and pages with. It is the famous “26 soldiers of lead” which conquers ignorance and tyrants. Type remained in this form until the late 19th century when machine composition became a possibility with the technology and resources made available by the industrial revolution and manifested by Monotype composition casting equipment and the Linotype and Intertype line casting innovations. Both of these new means of putting words into page form allowed for composition to be done via a keyboard and then cast into type metal from that action to form the composed page. With this innovation and increase in production some compromise was made in typography as compared to hand composition but refinements could be used to help negate and bridge the narrow gap. This technology remained in place essentially until the 1980′s with the advent of the ease of modern desktop publishing with the dark days of film composition enjoying a thankfully brief stay in the 60′s-70′s.

So why is the question being asked now – what is letterpress printing? What is new now and not part of the 500-year-old tradition of printing is the advent of polymer plate printing. Arguably this technology is what may have saved letterpress from near death and made it accessible and popular with small presses offering wedding invitations, business identities, packaging, ephemera and – books. Printing from plates is relatively easy and they are created predominantly on computers. No knowledge of the history or the art of printing is necessary nor are many of the skills ingrained in producing printing with metal types needed.

Nearly everyone with a computer can compose text, add illustration and even make a book. True also that anyone given a box of paint and a brush can paint a picture. The quality of the product created is the sum of the individual’s understanding of the process, their artistic abilities, level of craftsmanship and, I would add, their understanding of the history of their craft and those who shaped it. There are countless programs now in higher education across the US, the UK and beyond teaching letterpress and book arts courses in degree programs and, thankfully, almost all of them start teaching students the basics of hand typography – assembling type you can pick up from cases and composing the project as has been done since Gutenberg. The polymer machine sits in the corner biding it’s time and offering sweet promise of relative ease and speedy efficiency to be utilized later.

I fully acknowledge that now, at this point in time, it is very difficult to assemble a letterpress shop. The machines, fonts of type and supporting industry revolving around letterpress ceased to exist in the 60′s for the most part. Twenty two years ago when I started printing book forms I received the bulk of my equipment for free or little money merely to make room in more progressive established print shops for more storage or that new all-in-one color laser/dye sub/inkjet thing that did 90% of what their customers wanted. What is left now of the equipment is often quite expensive to purchase and, while type still exists, it is not the sturdy foundry type of the days of old and still commands a premium prices as well. Printing from plates also has the potential of producing work of the highest quality indistinguishable from metal type except maybe for being “too perfect” – not a guarantee but full potential if used by a typographer and designer skilled in better than average desktop publishing software.

WHAT IS LETTERPRESS PRINTING?

Is it merely printing from a raised surface? Or is it more?

What is it to you? To what do you give value?

Off to Oak Knoll Bookfest XVIII

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This weekend, Oct 3rd-5th, I will be in New Castle, Delaware for Oak Knoll Fest XVIII. I ‘ll have plenty of my books, broadsides and a bit of ephemera along with me so if you are so inclined to make a journey to this little village that time forgot (George Washington slept here) come to the fest for a weekend of fine books from 39 other fine press printers from around the world.

The theme this year is “Craftsman to Collector: Selling and Buying the Fine Press Book.” Printers, librarians, booksellers, and collectors will discuss that theme in a free symposium (registration required) on Friday, focusing on the various avenues printers can use to share their work with the world.

The book fair follows on Saturday and Sunday. See this year’s exhibitors, including 40+ printers from North America and Europe, here.

We will also host talks by John Randle of the Whittington Press, Carolee Campbell of the Ninja Press, and Oak Knoll Books owner Bob Fleck, each speaking their own experiences in the world of books.

Here are some of the special goodies that I’ll be bringing along with me for the trip, the tan leather book with the fish is the only binding I didn’t do myself, it was done by Don Etherington:

PBS feature, new special bindings and being on the road.

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Again it seems like time flies and no updates to the blog. Fear not! I’m merely busy and not slacking much aside from the occasional foray on the river.

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The opening sequence for A Craftsman’s Legacy. Look for me at around 38 seconds at the intaglio press with host Eric Gorges.

The biggest news would have to be that the television show, A Craftsmans’s Legacy, has started showing across the country. I will be the subject of episode 11 “The Bookmaker” so check your local or regional PBS television network listings as each affiliate creates their own programing schedule. The show is still being picked up across the country for the new fall season and if you happen to be near Palais des Festivals, Cannes, France next month APT Worldwide, the international sales arm of distributor American Public Television, will feature the series at the upcoming MIPCOM so there’s a chance it could be picked up for international viewing.

I’m happy to report that most all of the binding projects are finishing up – all of the edition binding work for The Mad Angler Poems and The Intruder are complete and many of the quite late presentation bindings and deluxe copies of the books are done. All this in preparation for Oak Knoll Bookfest coming up in less than a month on October 3rd-5th in Newcastle, DE as well as CODEX International Book Fair & Symposium coming up next February 8th-11th in Berkeley, CA. I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Ann Arbor, MI for the 12th annual Kerrytown BookFest which was lovely as usual. A special treat was being on a speaking panel with Ken Mikolowski who founded the Alternative Press in Detroit in the 1960s.

Some of the fine bindings recently completed

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This was a lot of hand work that I couldn’t have accomplished without my excellent assistant this past summer, Erin Murray, who is flying off to the UK tomorrow to start her MFA program in book conservation at University of the Arts London, Camberwell. Erin will be missed around here I assure you, she was my apprentice 2 years ago and came back to work for me this past summer to help out, learn some more and prepare for her future studies. Have a look at her website here to get an idea of the sort of creative talent she has.

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I’m currently waiting for a new translation for the Kafka piece, finishing a couple commissioned works and getting prints ediitioned for the upcoming series of shows. Hopefully I’ll have a prototype of the Kafka for Oak Knoll.

Diana Gabaldon keepsake completed

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Finished the Diana Gabaldon broadside. 13×10″ sheet size, 2 colors. Additional bit of a tag line and credits tastefully printed on the back side. I had to print 200 of them as the event has been sold out. I wish I would have had more lead time on this and could have acquired type or had a plate made to composed the main display font in a more historically accurate font like Caslon but some beat up Americana will have to do, only off by about 200 years…

 

Diana Gabaldon keepsake

The Diana Gabaldon keepsake for the NWS event in Traverse City, July 7, 2014.

Post Event thoughts

A little update after last nights event. I don’t always like meeting authors or listening to them speak in public about their work but this was an exception. Diana is a genuine and real human being that, despite her amazing and deserved success, came off with wit and honesty about her process and was very engaging to the audience. She also liked the broadsides and was pleased with the additional copies I made for here on the nicer paper stock. It was a capacity sold out crowd at the Traverse City Opera House. I arrived late (of course) and was stunned to see the line for the door wrap around the block – that doesn’t happen in Northern Michigan very often. We got in, delivered the broadsides and settled for balcony seats which was pretty much all that was left. I always feel a little bad about the extra printed items I make for these events as then it is just one more thing that the author might be expected to sign but Diana was very gracious and stuck it out until the end of the line.

My wife and I got out early with still a long line behind us and went for dinner nearby. As serendipity and as luck would have it Diana, Doug Stanton and a few other people ended up at the same restaurant and asked us to join them, very nice end to the evening though already late. Ouch, how much do you pay your baby sitters? Not the best of pics here from the phone camera:

A keepsake for Diana Gabaldon

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Diana Gabaldon

Last fall I started doing occasional ephemeral printing for the National Writers Series and started with a poem for Nikki Giovanni. Now, with very short notice, I’ve received the “go ahead” from Diana Gabaldon’s publishers to do something for her evening of conversation at the Traverse City Opera House with the NWS.

But I only have 7 days to do it. Ah well, deadlines are fun, right? Right?

Diana’s famed series began in 1991 with her first novel, Outlander, which became a wildly popular historical, sci-fi, adventure, romance, non-fiction, and fantasy series. Readers have been hanging on the edge of their seats ever since for the next thrilling installment of Claire and Jamie’s story. The seven book series has sold more than 20 million copies and a television series based on the Outlander series is currently filming and will premiere on Starz network later this year.

So here’s the deal, apparently I can pretty much use any of Diana’s writing that I want but I’ve not read her books. (sorry) My wife is a big fan, many other good friends too so I know some of the story – one thing I recall is that the heroine hooks up with a printer at some point in time which, obviously, piques my interest. So here it is from Voyager, book three in the Outlander series:

 

It was a longish, winding close, and the printshop was at the foot. There were thriving businesses and tenements on either side, but I had no attention to spare for anything beyond the neat white sign that hung by the door.

A. Malcolm

Printer and Bookseller

It said beneath this, Books, calling cards, pamphlets, broadsheets, letters, etc.

I stretched out my hand and touched the black letters of the name. A. Malcolm. Alexander Malcolm. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Perhaps.

 

What do you think? Captures enough of the essence of the series to be a memorable little bit with the first reunion between Jamie and Claire? Do you have a better suggestion? I need it quick to start playing with type and composition!

The Traverse City National Writers Series was started back in 2009. Since its inception over 70 writers of note from around the world have come to Northern Michigan to give readings in the Traverse City Opera House, meet the local book culture and perhaps ingest enough of our region to spark their imaginations in other creative ways. On July 7th Diana Gabaldon will have a conversation with a host and talk about her book series and then, of course, you can buy her books, chat a little and, if you’re lucky, get something signed. As a bonus for buying a book on this evening you will receive a copy of the little broadside I am making for Diana and the NWS in an edition of no more than 100.

 

The Mad Angler Poems – trout, ink and paper

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I’m happy to announce the arrival of The Mad Angler Poems, the latest book of verse by Michael Delp produced here at Deep Wood Press. Twenty four poems accompanied by 5 hand colored wood engravings by Chad Pastotnik and an introduction by Jack Driscoll.

Ever since last falls release of Mike’s poem The Mad Angler’s Manifesto which I produced as a large broadside I have been working on this updated and complete body of poems that embodies the habitat of trout as sacred places and the defilement, which is man, of the balance of nature. While the theme may be angling, trout specific and a little angry these poems transcend the niche and are just as much about how we interact with the natural world and the compromises and justifications we make to do it. Most often this is also done with coyote charm and devilish delight – excerpted from The Mad Angler Speaks Truth to Power:

I say that water is better than money,
something wet and smooth to be taken in and coveted.
I say that long ago we spoke to water and it spoke back.

Water is a form of being saved, lying down,
something wise in our cells seeking gradients,
places to run and places to rest.
I claim that once, in a dream, I walked on water.
Storms came.
I entered the clouds and when I came back down,
I spit the truth.

Michael Delp is a writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction whose works have appeared in numerous national publications. He is the author of the following five books from Wayne State University Press - Over the Graves of Horses (1989), Under the Influence of Water (1992), The Coast of Nowhere (1997), The Last Good Water (2003), and As If We Were Prey (2010) in addition to six chapbooks of poetry and being the co-editor of the Made In Michigan book series from Wayne State University Press. He taught creative writing at the Interlochen Arts Academy, has twice been the winner of the Passages North/NEH Poetry Competition, and has won a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award.

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The regular edition is quarter-bound with a brown Harmatan Moroccan goat with a cotton/linen Asahi book cloth. Gold title on spine with a varnished panel on the cover cloth overprinted with the brown drake fly wood engraving and Hahnemuhle Bugra in mocha colored flyleaves back up the book blocks which are hand sewn on straps. The book is composed in 11 and 14pt  Janson with Garamond in display sizes and printed in 2 colors on Magnani Revere Book cotton 120gsm paper. 8 7/8 x 6 7/8 x 1/2 inches, 33 pages.

Edition of 71 books, the first 5 are reserved for the deluxe edition and one special copy for the author. Signed, numbered and available for purchase on the Deep Wood Press website for $350.00.

from The Prayer of The Mad Angler:

“I pray that the water in the heart of Jesus might wash away the sins of fools who erect dams, channel rivers, build levies
and create false cataracts in the lobbies of hotels.

I pray for eddies, backwaters, the slow places where current cannot find its way and I pray for shallow riffles where gravel churns up new words constantly,
the river a book spoken in all kinds of weather.”

The wild flurry that is DWP

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Ok, so I’m a bad blogger but I’ve been busy enough. I am currently wrapping up the new book The Mad Angler Poems by Michael Delp (details of which will appear in a blog post this coming week) having just finished the wood engraving press run last Friday. I’ve got company for the summer in the studio – my old apprentice, Erin Murray, is here to help before she heads off to graduate work at the University of the Arts London, Camberwell this fall. Erin is a big help in the studio, I trust her skills and judgement in the bindery and she is creating her own little wonders of paper and ink while she’s here as well. That is another future blog post – I will feature some of the apprentices I’ve had here at DWP from the last 15 years. I’ve lost touch with some of them but many are still kicking out some wonderful prints, bindings or books and are making their own way in the art world.

Probably the biggest news since New York is the PBS film crew that came to shoot a segment for a new national series that will premiere this fall – A Craftsman’s Legacy. No idea when it will air on television and a quick internet search doesn’t turn anything up yet either. I’ll be sure to let you know when I know. It was a long day of shooting, not sure what parts of the 11+ hours will make the show. Here’s a couple pics of the host, Eric Gorges, and some of the crew in action.

 

On another note, last fall I had a visit from James Spica who is the editor for Michigan’s Trout Unlimited magazine Michigan Trout. James was amused enough to write a story about the visit and I’m happy to say it will be appearing in The Flyfish Journal in this falls issue along with some artwork or studio pics that FFJ requested which will help cement some of the mythology surrounding DWP. James stopped in again a couple weeks ago when he was back from Philly, we got out on the water and were properly skunked. It’s been a slow start for trout here in the north this summer.

 

A Deep Wood Journal is also coming along nicely though there is still nothing to show for it that I can share at the moment. Let’s just say that the quality of writing and the writers themselves won’t disappoint you and I’m anxious to be able to disclose more information with you as soon as some more details are taken care of. Can I tempt you with a new translation by Daniel Mark Epstein?

This fall I have a couple events lined up. On September 7th I’ll be part of the 12th annual Kerrytown Bookfest again in Ann Arbor, MI and will be on a panel of Michigan based independent presses in addition to demonstrating intaglio printing throughout the day. In October I’ll be in Newcastle, Delaware for Oak Knoll Fest XVIII from the 3rd-5th. Oak Knoll Fest is another show sponsored by the Fine Press Book Association and, like our NY show, will draw fine printers from around the world to once again gather to sell our books and have a small symposium, a few drinks and a lovely time in this village that time forgot.

new castle

 

Once again, for those of you who aren’t smitten, sorry for all the trouty stuff that makes the recurring visit on these pages. Regular literature that everyone enjoys is coming soon. Ok, here’s one teaser prototype title page for the new book before it comes out this week:

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