view workshop photos.
this weekend i attended the STA‘s woodtype workshop at the hamilton wood type and printing museum. dawn gave me the workshop (plus car rental) as a gift and i can honestly say that it was the best gift i have ever received. i had a lot of reservations about going – driving up there on my own, meeting new people, being creative on demand – but it was one of the best experiences i’ve ever had.
i left for two rivers, wisconsin on friday morning. traffic was light and i made excellent time; the drive only took 3 hours and i was the first one to get to the museum. hamilton is much larger than it appears in the photographs on its website. i actually drove past it twice before i realized that giant factory/warehouse was it. i walked in and dennis (the teacher), michael (newly-matriculated workshop assistant), david (newly-mfa’ed) and norbert (pantographer) were the only ones there. i introduced myself but was so early that i went to the hotel to check in and change. when i got back to the museum most of the other participants had arrived. everyone was incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. dennis and michael had prepared some posters for the workshop and set up one of the presses so we could print the word ‘welcome’ on the posters. we each got to have a go…it’s mind-blowing to think about how awkward we all were that first time compared to how natural the movement became by the end of the workshop. we went over the basic format of the weekend and norbert gave a pantograph demonstration.
the rest of the weekend we got up early for a group breakfast then printed all day. we looked at examples of each others’ work and dennis brought a lot of his prints for us to view. we had lunch at a local sandwich shop and the hospital cafeteria, ate dinner at a 100 year old german place and had chinese buffet twice. the fellowship was fun but the printing and the museum itself were incredible. the atmosphere was so inviting. two rivers is a great little city – everything feels like it moves nice and slow. everything felt simpler and clearer while i was there.
the museum is huge – a lot of the type isn’t even on display. there is just so much that there hasn’t been enough time to sort and categorize it all. i didn’t print on sunday morning – instead i devoted that time to looking around and deciding how to complete my edition. i was in need of inspiration, so michael took me to the back room (which was as big as the main museum floor) to show me the type that wasn’t on display.
the first half of the back room holds a lot of different kinds of presses, the folding machine and the perforating machine. past these is another storeroom holding rows and rows of cabinets of type. some are wood and similar to the type in the main room. a lot of the cabinets hold job cases of metal type in various sizes.
while we were back there, david and greg, the museum’s director, stumbled across us and showed us how some of the presses and the perforating machine work. michael had to go back to help with the printing but i talked to greg and david for quite awhile. david helped me find the metal type i used for my edition and explained how job cases are laid out (if there is a logical pattern to this it escaped me). he also showed me some of his letterpress work, including his thesis (awesome).
by the time i got on a press to do my last layer everyone else was done and ready to leave for dinner. greg was nice enough to stay with me and help me finish my edition so it would dry by morning. after some press problems and a lot of rearranging furniture, we managed to do the actual printing of the edition in about 7 minutes. then we drove back to the hotel so i could change out of my work clothes, picked up david and hurried to the restaurant to meet everyone else. that night andy (last year’s program director for STA and the other printing assistant for the workshop), david and i stayed up until midnight talking about all kinds of stuff, including guessing each other’s ages. i proved once again that i am the world’s worst estimator while andy guessed david and my ages on the first try.
today after the critique almost everyone left. it was strange to be in the press room and not hear motors whirring and presses thunking. i lost count of how many times i washed my hands over the weekend with that orange soap but it had to be at least 10 times each day. i stuck around because i wanted to eat before my long drive. dennis, michael, david, greg, andy and i went back to the chinese buffet for lunch. dennis did his dollar bill origami trick (met by much sniggering from andy, david and michael – i guess they’ve seen this many times) and i made some more cat stairs.
i can’t wait to go back to two rivers. greg has invited me back whenever i can make it up and david has a couple of workshops in the next few months that i might attend. i look forward to seeing everyone again and hope to keep in touch via email. i made some new friends, learned a lot of new things and most importantly got to break my usual work-eat-sleep routine and do something for the right side of my brain. look for a new design for hyperbolation in the coming months if i can weasel david into the proposed design-for-code trade and a lot of new photographs once i have time to get them processed. maybe michael will got a job in chicago and maybe i’ll see kayanna and nancy in atlanta – best wishes to everyone who attended and a huge thank you to dawn for this incredible experience!
edition details: on saturday michael and i picked out punctuation marks in a variety of typefaces. i wanted them to be scattered randomly across the paper so setting the type and furniture was rather time-consuming; we spent 30-40 minutes working on the layout. i printed this layer in a bright lime green. to make this color i experimented with a few different combinations but finally michael ended up mixing pure green ink with transparency medium and a little day-glo yellow to make the green pop. the next day, after the ink had dried and several aborted attempts to get the color i wanted (very light and very transparent), i ran my prints through a press without ink to emboss the paper. i used two pieces of type (large sans-serif s and large serif d) from the job cases in the back that, judging by the thickness of the dust on them and the time it took to clean them, probably hadn’t been printed in decades. i also used a perfect circle zero from david’s own collection. finally, i set 12 pt. metal type (tons of tiny metal furniture…wish i had had tweezers) in 5 different typefaces and completed my edition with a fairly opaque dark blue.