31 January 2012

Sortin' the sorts

I can now check quite a few items off of my letterpress to-acquire list. I discovered that, in fact, I already had a chase for my press. Silly me, I'm still getting the hang of identifying all of these cast-iron press parts; and what I had assumed was one piece was actually two--the chase being released by a little hidden lever at the back. Next, the rollers which had been held for me by my personal letterpress godfather, master printer Mike Kaylor, have come home. So I ordered the roller trucks from NA Graphics and they arrived a few days ago. Things are really starting to come together.

Then, on Martin Luther King Day (a blessed day off work), Mike invited me to come along with him to move a local press and some type from a fellow printer looking to downsize. It was a cold day hauling type cases from a cold garage; 
A strikingly similar Golding Pear
but inside the house where the press (a beautiful Golding Pearl) lived, it was warm and cozy, heated by a lovely woodstove and periodically punctuated by ringing from the antique black rotary phone hanging on the wall. This press was a beauty, with a flywheel on its left side to crank it. And it was small, so small: so delicate and so heavily industrial at once. 
This press we moved to the Print Shop at the Rose O'Neill Literary House, where it will certainly be put to good use. Possibly moved around to different literary conferences for demonstrations.

And lucky me! For helping him move this stuff, Mike let me have my pick of the type we hauled away. There was some good stuff in there, too. So now I have a couple drawers worth of Century font, in various sizes and styles; a case of 14 pt. Garamond; a fancy 12 pt. font called Rivoli; and an art deco style one, 18 pt. Bernard Fashion.

So now that I have those empty type drawers waiting in my cabinet and type to fill them with, I have begun the transfer process, which is a bit long and tedious. I'm moving this type from the larger California style job case to my two-thirds California type drawers; so the layout is a bit more compacted (a much better fit for my tiny living room). And I also need to check each piece of type (also called sorts) to make sure that it is what and where it's supposed to be. I'm also cleaning them up a little in the move because other people's type is dirty! Dust and dirt and dead insects and mouse poop. That is the usual debris in old type cases. But they get to start fresh now with a good dust off and re-sorting into cleaned-out drawers.

But of course, all of this means that between working seven days a week, taking care of the dog and cats, eating, sleeping, and working on my projects, the housework has fallen very far behind. Dust and dog-cat fur-bunnies have accumulated to an alarming degree, carpets and floorboards are littered with things including my project supplies/materials, the bathtub and toilet need serious scrubbing, not to mention dishes and laundry steadily needing washing, drying, putting away. Where's a house-husband when you need one?

24 January 2012

Even more book arts

Lately I've been a bit feverish in my antique book re-purposing. I love having projects to work on. Here are some of the antique book cover collages I've been building:

Old Silver Grizzle the Badger by Ernest Thompson Seton
I thought this title was just wonderful. And by wonderful, I mean hilarious.

Galahad: Enough of his Life to Explain his Reputation by John Erskine
Close-up of text passage used in Galahad collage
This is one of my favorite books of all time. And I loved the castle engraving on this battered hardcover copy that came through the library donations. This is my favorite collage so far.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Close-up of text passage used in Castle collage
And I'm not the only one who loves to use books for crafting. Apparently quite a few crafters have been using old books as materials and medium. 

A couple of good related books I've been looking through recently:
Great ideas and photos. Both are definitely worth your time. In the latter title, there is a passage that caught my attention that I wanted to share here. It actually sounds a bit like something I said a few months ago
Whether you'd place yourself at either extreme or somewhere in the middle, is there any point in investing in shelves and bookcases in the digital age? When a Kindle can easily hold some 1,500 titles, perhaps all our books are headed for landfill. It is true that publishers are facing the biggest upheaval to their industry since Gutenberg invented his press in 1439, but reports of the death of the book have been greatly exaggerated. Some 80,000 books were published in Britain alone last year. It is true that writers can self-publish online, cutting out the middle man and thereby boosting what they earn. But publishers are a key quality filter; they have expertise about what constitutes good writing and how to reach readers; their editorial, design and picture-research staff bring experience and add quality to the finished article. Hand-held devices are a boon to the traveler, no question, but traditional books have visual and tactile qualities that are irreplaceable. Indeed, the net effect of digital publishing may well be that 'real' books will become more expensive, more like the 'niche' products they were in the past; but the process may force us to value them more, to become more discriminating about their aesthetic qualities. As the philosopher Alain de Botton has argued: 'We should stand to swap a few of our swiftly disintegrating paperbacks for volumes that proclaim, through the weight and heft of their materials, the grace of their typography and the beauty of their illustrations, our desire for their contents to assume a permanent place in our hearts.
Looking at this post now, I'm not quite satisfied with how the photos of the book cover collages turned out. They really are much better in person, but you can get the general idea of them from these pictures at least. Someday I must invest in a new digital camera. The one I have now is from 2006, I think. Far too outdated at this point.

17 January 2012

Bring it, St. Valentine

Anti-Valentine's Day card from JulieAnnArt on Etsy
I have never been one to celebrate Valentine's Day. Ever since the hoopla of grade school, it has become more a source of unwarranted alienation than a victory for romance. It's silly, really, so I usually try to let it pass unnoticed.

But I am trying to be a better Etsy shop owner, so I have updated my item titles and tags to reel in some possible Valentine's Day sales through keyword searching.

You lone writer-types can show your typewriter some love with a kitschy typewriter cozy from Thread Lock Press! Or you can continue to look down your bespectacled nose at those lovers with secret rendezvous in the library stacks with this Anti-Valentine's Day, Library Etiquette letterpressed broadside.

11 January 2012

Special guest star

This is just a quick note to say that today I am appearing as a guest-blogger on my friend Annie's Scribbling Glue. Have a look and check out her past posts on the joys of letter-writing!

10 January 2012

There is no cure for bibliophilia

The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire

The library gets so many wonderful book donations. And while most of them are intended for the semiannual Friends of the Library Used Book Sale, some of them have become just too deteriorated to sell and so they are sent to Creafill to be recycled. Of course, we library employees get to take a first look through these even before they are handed over to the Friends; and in this way, I have managed to snag a few (very old) battered books with broken, rotted spines but absolutely beautiful covers that are relatively intact. Newer books just aren't made with this sort of care and skill anymore. These hard covers will have fantastic illustrations engraved into the fabric covering the book board, the titles printed in fabulously decorative fonts. Like any good bibliophile, I couldn't bear to see these books thrown out or even recycled. These covers are ART.

The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
So when I come across a book that meets these requirements, one that has a cover that affects me in some way, I bring it home. I pull out my trusty exacto-knife and separate the beautiful cover from its malignant body. Then I search through my stores of vintage fabrics to find a good pairing with the newly liberated book cover. When I find the fabric I want, I cut the appropriate size of it and glue it to the back board of a picture frame as a sort of reverse matting. Then I center the book cover on this fabric covered board and glue it in place. Once I put the mounted cover behind the glass of the frame, it is a piece of art ready to be hung on my wall. 

I love these guys.

06 January 2012

Bigger things

And still I am not satisfied. Here is a list of the bigger things I am wishing for in the near future. These will require a little more saving.

A 6.5 x 10" chase for Captain. This is the bit that the set type is locked tightly into, which is then placed inside the press to be inked and printed. It's like a cast-iron picture frame for a composition in type.

Rollers and roller trucks for (again) Captain. The rollers are, well, rollers that apply ink to the type for printing; and roller trucks anchor and guide the ink rollers over the ink plate and then the print-ready type.

I still need a few sizes and fonts of type for, well, printing!

Then a few cans of rubber-based ink (easier for cleaning than oil-based), in a small variety of colors.

And a book press. For book binding.

With these few things, I will be print-ready. I think I may be able to acquire them all before the new year is through.

05 January 2012

Little things

Even though I got so many wonderful letterpress items for Christmas, there are still a few small things (as there always are) that I would love to treat myself to in the weeks to come. 

The newest issue of the Fairy Tale Review was just released this week. This is one of my favorite literary magazines. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of The Brown Issue.

I bought a bunch of these T-shirts from Natalie Dee for Christmas presents this year. But there are still a couple fun ones that I would like to get for me.

Like this one -->

And in the home improvement area, I'm slowly replacing all the bland off-white light switch plates in my house with funkier ones from Fondue. I love the vintage wallpaper designs that they scrounge up to decoupage.

Having a large, hyperactive dog means the nice china will inevitably be broken. I have had a couple tea cups and saucers sacrificed this past year. But when I came across The Broken Plate Pendant Company a few days ago, it seemed like the perfect way to preserve these beautiful, yet broken ceramics. 

Right now my 2012 calendar is a freebie filler that I got in the mail from my alma mater. It's a nice enough calendar, but my standby for the past four years has been the Nuns Having Fun wall calendar. I don't think it will really feel like a new year until I get the 2012 edition on my bulletin board. 

This last one is a wish for a good bit of news. I am waiting, waiting, waiting for news that the Winter 2012 issue of Moon Milk Review will be coming soon, and with two of my poems inside. I wish I could play it cool, but I am so looking forward to it! And let's face it, I've never been a cool girl.

01 January 2012

O Captain! My Captain!

This has been the Christmas of the letterpress. My beautiful Chandler & Price Pilot (whom I have decided to name Captain, referencing Walt Whitman's poem) has been outfitted with many of the necessaries, and we are moving closer to shipshape. In the morning I unwrapped my new 18" guillotine paper trimmer:


Look at that beautiful blade.

Later in the afternoon, I received a mixed bag of letterpress goodies:

from left to right:
  1. Heavy-duty gauge pins (guides the paper while printing)
  2. Type gauge, or line gauge (for measuring type, spacing, etc.)
  3. Curved, pointed tweezers (for precisely grabbing small pieces of type while editing set type)
  4. Quoin key (for tightening/loosening quoin)
  5. Quoin (locks type tightly in chase when ready for printing)
  6. Composing stick (For setting type. I gave this one to myself actually. They're a bit harder to find  these days.)
  7.  Ink knives (for applying ink to ink plate)
  8. Not pictured: red pressboard (for padding underneath paper to get the best quality impression)
All of these smaller supplies (except for the composing stick) were found at American Printing Equipment. The composing stick I found secondhand at an Etsy vintage shop.

The finale of this day of gifts is the best Christmas present I have ever received. My brother Brett custom-built a BEAUTIFUL type cabinet and gave it to me on Christmas day. It has shelves enough to house eight small type drawers (for which I will soon buy type to fill), space enough at the base to store letterpress supplies like ink, pressboard, cleaning solutions, even my new 18" paper trimmer! It also provides a platform (or pedestal?) for my tabletop model press. Captain and I are both in love with this gorgeous piece of furniture.

I gave him general height and width requirements. Told him it needed to be sturdy enough to support at least 200lbs. resting on top of it. And gave him one drawer to use as reference. Then my brother designed and built this for me. It is incredible and one of a kind. I think this is going to be a future family heirloom.