March 6, 2013

The Process of Process

Hello All!

At the end of this last year I took on a super fun project for Process Magazine. They contacted me for a story they were doing on Letterpress Printing. What was interesting to me is that more than the usual questions and answers, they asked me to create a letterpress print describing "my process". This print that I would create would be bound in to the magazine. Who does this?! Being a lover of all things ephemera, I knew I had to participate.

What I knew, but didn't admit to myself, is that in terms of production, this would be averylarge project for me. And this would of course be crazy. My presses are old—the one I used for my print dates back to 1887—hardly an automatic-feed press, like many of the ones used today. Each sheet of paper is hand-fed by me, one at a time. And yes, of course I used two colors—so therefore, each sheet was fed twice, in the tens of thousands. In the end, I felt both at one with the paper, and like I had just crossed the finish line of a marathon.

If you want to see the story, along with friends Twig & Fig and Mark Foxworthy/Printing Services of Napa Valley, please click here: PROCESS

Lastly, because I talk too much, the interview-portion was cut short. If interested, you can read the unedited version below:
What is your design philosophy when it comes to letterpress?
Letterpress printing, by its very nature, is an old and beautiful technique. I came to it by a place of letters and type, rather than pictures and illustration. This no doubt is the basis for which I start each project. What is the objective? I believe that type, in and of itself, is beautiful. It is enough. I try my best to create a design that gets the point across as succinctly as possible, and (in regards to my role as the printer) then I just try and stay out of the way and print as cleanly as possible. 
What has been your favorite project and why?
I have so many! I am really super sentimental, so any personal project speaks to me. I love the care, details, and intention that people already seem to have when they seek me out. Any invitation to a celebration is cause for joy. I know it sounds cheesy to read that, but I am sincere. I am touched when people contact me for Memorial cards, as well as trusting me with their new dreams of a business card.
I can tell you the most, “I can’t believe I’m doing this project”. It was for Dwell Magazine, and it was for an advertising series they were doing for Saturn Cars. I was a bookbinder, first, so they had me create four separate book covers, one for each part. On the cover, I was to letterpress the text. I LOVED that they went to the effort to have these authentically letterpress-printed (rather than a photoshop after-thought). The difficult, “I can’t believe it” moments came when I was printing the covers of the book. It was so difficult. I had one shot to get it set up exactly perfect, hold it in-place, and then print it. And then I had to do it four separate times (without smashing fingers), with four separate plates. I am really proud that I was crazy enough to do this.
Who or what influences your work? 
Really, I don’t have a specific person, but I’d say a collective group of strangers has had the biggest influence on the way I view my world. Sign Painters from the turn-of-the-Century, Craftspeople of all types. I really appreciate the care and precision that these people put into their work—mostly without any celebration. It’s just what they do.
If you weren’t designing, you’d be...
Still designing.
If you could host a dream dinner party, who would your top three guests (living or dead) be and why?
This is a hard question! Of course it goes without saying that any family member that is no longer with me would be welcome at my party. Other guests may include Aldus Manutius (the elder), who was the founder of the Aldine Press. Aside from his contributions to printing and publishing, he had such a large influence on all of us. C’mon—the man created the comma. I think we all owe him a cocktail. Johnny Cash popped into my mind, only because I’ve always loved his music and his legacy. He transcends type (no pun) and style, which is a trait that I appreciate in any medium, I suppose.
Daniel Flanagan and Margaret Kilgallen would be invited. We used to work together in the Preservation Dept. at the San Francisco Public Library, repairing old books. I didn’t realize it so much then, but that was a very influential time in my life. I’d love to go back to some of our conversations about design, craftsmanship, and the typefaces that we were privy to, just by going to work. So rich. 
In your professional life, what is the one thing you cannot live without?
My printing presses.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My daughter, who is 5, has started cooking us breakfast. Coffee with my husband, Chris and Astrid’s eggs are a great start to any day. We all three keep pretty busy with projects (art, music, printing), so perhaps we’d be hanging out and scheming together, and of course, making things.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
My iphone.
What’s on your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod. We still buy vinyl over here! My musical tastes are all over the map—I’m looking at a Joni Mitchell record that is sitting next to MC5. Dolly Pardon, Japandroids, Ernst Reijseger, and Dinosaur Jr. have all been playing lately.
The content of a person’s refrigerator says a lot about them. What’s in yours?
Apparently, I live in a world where I think anybody might drop by at any given time for a visit, and I think our refrigerator looks like that. We have many drinks—beer, juices, waters and chilled wine. Also, I see cheese, fruit, and assorted olives. Try me—I’m ready for your impromptu visit (ha ha).

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