January 18, 2013

2013: The Happy Beginner

Hello All! It's a new year with new beginnings, and I'm still savoring the quiet pace that the first few weeks of January can bring. I feel like 2012 left with a mighty hectic boom, so I'm officially resolving to cool it with my resolutions.

While I have some exciting goals and projects coming down the pipeline, I am making sure I keep some press time open for learning. That's right—13 years later—I still feel like I have much to learn in regards to printing. Maybe not so much in the nuts and bolts of the craft, but I think I'm ready to try new things. Or really—go back to the beginning.

I started printing at Peter Koch's (click) amazing Berkeley studio. I didn't own a computer, I didn't know how to turn on a computer, and everything I learned about design, I learned in-hand, and on-press. At first with a few self-directed projects: Floating Holiday—a literary magazine my husband and I used to publish, show posters for bands I loved, and slowly by slowly, an invitation for a friend here, or a broadside for someone there. My fledgling business began to grow.

With this growth came new skills: I can turn on a computer, I've learned the various software involved to create or replicate what I learned in the beginning: to set type, create artwork, and now make the necessary plates to create the pieces I love. While everyone's design skills are subject to taste, I think I've become fairly proficient at it. If you're reading this, you might agree. But with this, comes a quiet set of challenges (for lack of a better word). I have trained myself to be a designer, and create most of my work using technology. I've become a perfectionist. Since I create custom work for people, it is a collaboration between us all. I love this part, and like any crafts person, I have become very attuned to the necessary skills to carry us all from point A (the meeting of the minds, sharing of the ideas) to the final point Z (the delivery of our hopes and dreams project). And it's from points B to Y that I quietly take our ideas and work through the process to carry it all over the finish line. 

And Dear Reader, this all might seem a bit rambly to you, but that last sentence is where I want to focus on: the process. 

In the beginning at Peter's, this process was fairly short. I had a fixed amount of materials (off-cuts of paper, various wooden or lead type), and a few cans of ink. That was it. I would have an idea, see what I had on hand to execute it, and basically create it all on the press. Only one lower-case l? Looks like I'll have to print, take out some letters, and print again with the one l to make it look like I had two all along. One color of ink? Hmmm... maybe if I print the first color lightly, and then overprint it again, I can get the effect of 2 colors. You get the picture. With the limits came the creativity. THIS is where I'm going with all of this. 

I'm not complaining, but sometimes—when I turn on my computer and have thousands of fonts at my disposal—the potential is both overwhelming and luxurious. I've developed a library of vendors that is at least 4 pages long, so my potential for paper and envelopes is never-ending. Perhaps this is a more zen approach, but I feel like for me in my extra time—less will be my more. I now appreciate the days when having one kind of paper, perhaps a missing-l, made me think outside the box. I felt like it pushed me in a way that I don't have to push myself today. I have all that I could need and with all of that, I miss that excited feeling of not knowing what I could possibly make when I don't have much to start with. And then I do. 

Now this might be the part where you pull out the world's smallest violin for me—I know! But in my resolve for no resolutions I will make this concession: I want to remain fresh. I want to have happy accidents. I want to make mistakes that don't matter, and in this is the learning. 

So, this is my plan, and I want to involve you! In my spare time for the past few months on my Milkfed Press Facebook page (click), I've invited my people to leave a one-word comment. For those that do, I take their word (can be anything—that's for them to decide), and create a print for them. Typically 8 x 10, and I use whatever materials I have on-hand. And I create. And I make mistakes—even a few happy accidents. And the best part? I send each participant a print of their word. 

I'm amused to observe how I am approaching this while on-press. Since I'm limiting myself to wood and lead type on-hand, at first, I was trying to make the letters and spacing as perfect as possible. Kerning (the amount of space between the letters) is something that I learned at Peter's, and no one can see "brasses and coppers" (small spacers—brass being a bit wider than copper) better than he—he is a Typographic Master. Then I started fiddling with my press, focusing on roller height, packing, and all kinds of things that no one ever sees or knows about (unless it's done poorly). Slowly by slowly I started to loosen up. I started overprinting. I started thinking about the words, and the design itself. I started getting itchy for more type options. I started getting uncomfortable, and THIS is the state I want to be in. This is the place where I can learn. 

Yes, the irony that I'm using a computer to set up my playground is not lost on me. But I love the notion of taking something like Facebook, and together, creating something real and tangible. 
I'll be curious to see at the end of the year how this spare time project will affect my custom work. I can only imagine that this is exactly the push I need to bring it to the next level. We shall see. 

Thank you for reading this and for supporting me! I really do appreciate it. 
Here's to health, happiness, and happy accidents in 2013. xo Victoria

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