Wednesday, September 5, 2012
End of an era/begin again
A parting shot of the sign on the door I opened and closed almost every day for six years. I'm fairly sure it was brushed by the late Gino Lee, who worked at Firefly alongside John and also Edith McKeon Abbott back in the late '80s/early '90s. Sort of a tacit challenge: learn how to do this, too. I accept.
Life has been a wild tumult these last few weeks, moving house after seven years from Boston to central Massachusetts and shop from a horse stall in a barn and a few galleys at Firefly to a building in a converted textile mill outside Worcester. I'm sort of in a state of elated shock: I own a small business doing the two things I love most and I live in a beautiful village with the one I love most. I return to this space excited to share my excitement (like Philip Booth: "today if ever to/say the joy of trying/to say the joy.") and hope to put an end to weeks of internet silence. There is work to be done.
September 3, 2012, my first day as sole proprietor of a printing and carving shop. By way of swearing-in ceremony, I did what anyone else in my position would do: I assembled a rusty, battered double-wide type cabinet. This was part of the first trove of printing equipment I acquired, before I had any real notion of how to go about living the printing life. I was still involved in publishing, working as an occasionally paid factotum at a small poetry press in Brookline, MA, when the director said he needed to clean the basement. That meant getting rid of the 10x15 Peerless Jobber and a great miscellany of printerly accoutrements originally purchased by the press's founder, who had aspirations of running his imprint as a limited-edition poetry print shop. He died canoeing before this dream could be achieved and so the equipment languished in the director's basement for no one can remember how long. Until I volunteered to take it, that is, the thinking behind this decision being that if I had a press I must be a printer. Now the reverse is true: I'm a printer but I don't (at least until [post alert!] next Wednesday) have a press. However I do have a lot of much else besides, and so I got to work. It took a couple of hours to scrub off the patina of rust, figure out where I wanted to go and then put it together. A satisfyingly absolutely filthy job, but once it was in place I could begin to design the rest of the shop.
After lunch I took a break from shoving equipment around to lay my first font of type into a clean case. Every job has its equivalent, I should think, its "best part." Alright, laying type may not be the best part of printing, per se, but it is awesome. Especially with a face like 42-pt Augustea Inline, which demands satisfaction. It was something of a reunion, actually, as I purchased the face from the sad, amazing type sell-off at The Stinehour Press in 2008 and later purchased the type cabinet from a friend who was present at the final auction of whatever was left in 2010. In that moment I made the world a little more whole. It is a great thrill to serve as a caretaker for the prodigal equipment of a once-great press. We are all stewards of a long graphic-arts legacy. Some realize and appreciate this, others don't. But it seems to me that you can always tell who is on which side. The work doesn't lie.