Having a Coke with You
July has been jam-packed with broadside-printing at the Literary House! We have been rolling up our sleeves, getting good and inky, and having quite a fun time in the process. I am especially excited about the broadside I designed for Elana Bell's poem "How I Got My Name (Jabotinsky)" and how well it turned out. I actually like to think of it as a companion piece to the broadside I designed in the fall for Idra Novey's poem "A History in Six Couplets." Displayed side-by-side, they definitely build on and complement each other.
A couple weeks ago, I heard from Idra again. She told me she was going to be in a wedding at the end of the month, reading Frank O'Hara's poem "Having a Coke with You." She and her friend had the wonderful idea of presenting a framed broadside of this poem to the bride and groom as a wedding gift, and Idra did me the honor of commissioning me to design and print it. What fun! So yet another July broadside was born.
Designing the Broadside:
After giving the poem a close read, I knew right away that I needed to use orange ink somehow. All the references to orange--"your orange shirt," "the fluorescent orange tulips," even "the warm New York 4 o'clock light" seemed orange to me. The poem praises an everyday sort of romance in the small, intimate moments that don't have an entry fee attached over the too-effusive, grand demonstrations brand of love declarations. This idea (and the title phrase) gave me my image.
Using black watercolor, I painted the bottom rim of my coffee mug and stamped it twice in closely overlapping rings on a white sheet of paper. The consistency of the watercolor paint actually allowed me to capture the random splatter effect and the areas of uneven thicknesses in true water rings (file under: what kind of weirdo makes water rings on purpose?). Then, I scanned this on to the computer to create my design draft. The colored representations of water rings on a coffee table are also, of course, wedding rings. So this is where the orange ink would go. These rings are superimposed on the poem text, as if someone very lazily set their drink down on top of it.
After tracking down a free font for the poem title that resembled the iconic Coca Cola typeface (the one I used is Loki Cola), the design was complete. And I was as pleased as if I had just made the best pun anyone had ever heard.
Printing the Broadside:
This design required the use of photopolymer plates for printing (which I have grown quite used to at the Literary House print shop). So I ordered those from the ever-reliable Boxcar Press, then our favorite creamy, mouldmade Arches Cover paper. The size of this design (10x12") also meant that using my little C&P Pilot at home was out of the picture, but luckily I have access to a marvelous Vandercook 4 Proof Press at the Lit House. So I tied up my apron and got to work.
After cutting the huge sheets of beautiful paper to size and arranging the first plate on the type-high base, I got to mix ink! Making orange required a lot of Pantone Yellow and just a dab of Warm Red. And although it is a huge mess to clean up, the ink-mixing process is just so damn pretty to watch.
I printed the orange rings first. Then I let them dry while washing the press and the ink-mixing tools for the next pass--black ink. And this is where I ran into my only real difficulty. The elegant deckle-edge (which we always try to preserve as much as possible during the paper-cutting) at the top of the broadside made the text print at a slant because it was extremely hard to line the paper up precisely on the tympan cylinder without a straight edge as a guide.
My solution: even with the deckle, you can always see where the paper mould ended because of the change in paper thickness where the pulp overflows it. The deckle is really just a thin fringe on the sheet. The mould line provided the straight-edge guide that I needed. So I lined up this subtle edge with another straight line on the cylinder and my margins printed evenly! Here's the final broadside:
Thank you so much, Idra, for sending this special project my way! I had such fun creating this for you.
P.S. Every time I read the title of this poem, Sufjan Stevens' sweet song "To Be Alone with You" starts playing in my head. Seems pretty fitting for an unconscious association.