Posts in Letterpress
The intern packed up her carpetbag and rode away. I felt like we should hug but we didn’t – hugs are best left out of print shops. She made this before she left:
Go, my young grasshopper, go and use the life-skills I so generously shared with you.
That’s a true story.
Nobody needs to see a photo of us taken in February.
Jen and I have trashed our share of hotel rooms. Dangled from our share of balconies. Saddled our share of large-scale dogs. Roped our share of ferrel cats. But Monday night, while hanging out the back of a speeding pick-up truck, her hair covered in vomit, Jen turned to me and said, “Thank God for our fans. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know how I’d go on.” My response could barely be heard through a mouthful of cotton-candy, “Especially Andy Schefman. Especially Andy Schefman…”
I regret not jumping into Lake Superior last week. I’m kidding, I don’t regret that. I regret not pushing that weird guy into Lake Superior last week. He was yelling, “the effing dog ate my pills! The effing dog ate my pills!” That poor wiener dog was trying to end its own sad life. Anyway, here’s a photo of Lucy and Jenny braving the frigid waters:
Lake Superior is the poor man’s ocean, just like my Reprex
(notice the vice grips)
is the poor man’s Vandercook.
But I must make do.
I must make do because that’s how I was programmed. The project du jour is a print involving lots of words. And because I’m a daredevil, I decided to lock up the type in a vertical formation. This is not for the faint of heart. The type and I both felt creepy when it was over and now we can’t even make eye contact.
Melissa Peterman and George Keller turned a hot, mosquito-filled night in the Zeichen Press backyard into something magical.
METRO Magazine thinks their readers might like to see a how-to on letterpress printing. Strangely, they asked me to put one together. It should be online in a week or so but I’ll post it here first because I’m generous. °°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°#1) This is called a printer’s block or advertising cut. All Zeichen Press cards start with one of these.
#2) These backwards lead letters are called type. Before computers, they were the only way to print anything. We have cases and cases of them and I like to arrange them into words.
#3) Everything is locked into a heavy-metal frame called a chase using furniture (wood and metal blocks) and quoins (expanding metal wedges). This weighs about as much as my firstborn child. (Ten pounds. TEN POUNDS.)
#4) The chase is pinned into the bed of the press where the rollers can roll over it.
#5) This 1,500 pound printing press was made in the 1930’s by the Chandler & Price Company in Ohio. That round thing in the upper right is called the ink disc. A little ink is dabbed on it, the rollers ride up the rails and onto the ink disc – get covered in ink and spread it across the forme (the type and printer’s block locked into the chase pinned into the bed of the press). I love this press because it is capable of creating beautiful things and crushing your hand.
#6) A blank piece of paper is held onto the platen using little pins. The paper will meet the inked forme when the press closes like a giant evil clam. I always smile like this when I face danger.
#7) Jen will print a bajillion of these and they will be added to our line.
I have noticed that a lot of people around me have “plans” and “schedules.” That is something I’ve always wanted. Even my days of “working outside of the home” seemed haphazardous. I never knew if or how I’d get to work – would it be the city bus? My friend’s pick-up truck? A ride from a stranger? On foot? A police escort? Would I be able to pull-off a cup of coffee before work? Everyone talked about that – the coffee. “Whew, I barely had time for my coffee this morning, the dog just wouldn’t do his business!” They had coffee pots with timers – they’d wake up to the smell and sound of a fresh brewing pot. They’d fill their travel mugs and commute to work.
Why couldn’t I be like these people?
My snooze button (invented by the devil) would be pushed at least twice, granting me temporary amnesty – more time to dream about using inappropriately located toilets. A shower could happen but more than likely would not. Teeth brushed just in time to smoke a cigarette and tie my son’s shoes.
I know what you’re thinking: Glamorous.
A few weeks ago, I started doing the unthinkable: Waking up early and not forcing myself to fall back to sleep.
I actually get out of bed.
I get out of bed, make a smoothie filled with micro-nutrients and whole-food concentrate and go for a bike ride. It seems that other people DO THIS TOO. The paths are full of “others.”
I haven’t decided if I hate myself for being one of these people. Time will tell.
Anyway, number 7 of the Shea 8 will be getting married this Summer and she needed a program – I gladly volunteered and these were created yesterday:
They will contain a disc of music from the ceremony. Understated and cool. Just like my sister. Notice my crummy thumbnail in the upper-left.
Okay, onto something pretty serious.
Summers on Cape Cod before the invention of electronic mail (or personal computers) meant low-tide foraging, wiffle ball and handwritten letters. Letters were elaborate and could include drawings, mix-tapes, whipper-snappers, and live specimens.
I learned that the more letters written, the more received, so rainy days were spent diligently embellishing the news: Picnics with the Kennedy’s, shark hunts, ghost encounters – all sort of true.
There was (and is) no mailbox at 29 Freezer Road and so the day includes a walk to town for the newspaper and a visit to the post office. The post officers knew us by (last) name and quickly slid the day’s mail across the counter.
The Intern has been pulling orders with a smile on her face. How does she do it it?
My job is to bring them to the post office. I am tempted to fill the boxes with live specimens and whipper-snappers but I will restrain myself.
We have a New Andrea.
The Original Andrea got a life and only wants to email me about hypothetical cold-press coffee dates and cramps. They grow up so fast.
Jen’s on vacation and that means two things:
1) I am crying less.
2) I (the intern) have (has) more work to do.
The reps are faxing in their Christmas orders because they want to remind me that this Summertime happiness I feel is fleeting.
It’s good to keep me grounded.
Oh, and here’s why my work environment is not safe:
The customs official demanded we tell him our plans while in Toronto. I told him it was none of his business, and as I reached for the silver cigarette case in my coat pocket, I was wrestled to the ground. The tasers saved me a trip to the bathroom.
Thank God my husband speaks Canadian or we’d still be in the interrogation room.
I should have told that official that my plans were to watch t.v. in my bathroom mirror while soaking in the tub. I think that’s what I did? My head still hurts pretty bad from being banged on the terrazzo.
Like Dora the Explorer, I packed a map and a monkey in my backpack, finished my screwdriver, and headed out.
Using the handy Where To Buy page as a guide, I was able to track down three local stores that carry Zeichen Press goods. Needless to say, my reception was overwhelming – being hoisted up on shoulders and paraded down Queen Street was too much. Do you hear me, shopkeepers??
First shop: Outer Layer, a cheerful boutique. Full of fun and, dare I say, whimsy? No. I’ll never say that again.
But how else could I describe a doll that is also a cheese grater?
Or the Ann Taintor magnet collection on the antique bank safe?
Or a manager named Jett Black???
On to Shop #2: Valhalla Cards & Gifts:
This shop felt like everything in it was curated by a man named Chadwick. Wait, it was! From the Dumpling Dynasty Bunny Kit:
To the Unicorn Wishes action figure:
This shop wouldn’t let me leave – Chadwick finally had to throw me out. But not before he placed an order for more cards.
Okay, onto #3: The Paper Place:
Because paper is my bread & butter, I felt extra reverent crossing the threshold. As I knelt before the card rack, something inside me said, “hey! I wonder if this place has erasers shaped like peanuts.”
And it did! I bought the whole bowl.
I hugged the sock zebra before I left. It was time to go. I knew this because I saw the policeman walking through the door.
Until we meet again, Toronto. Until we meet again.
On the back of the Atari 2600 there was a difficulty switch. “A” was normal but “B” made dragons move impossibly fast
and shrunk trampolines.
Flipping the switch meant a game had been mastered. Mastered.
Those were simpler times.
I opened the door to the shop last night and was greeted by an avalanche of bicycles. Two of them had no kickstands and were tangled with the lawn mower. I would have moved the mower and bikes easily but I was blocked by a giant roll of bubble-wrap.
I wonder if the interns that emailed looking for work have any idea my days contain such physical obstacles.
I almost forgot why I even went into the shop… It wasn’t to get bruises and swear – was it? No! I needed to lay out some new Mother’s Day cards!
I had to set my type by candlelight because the lightbulb burned out over the big cabinet and I couldn’t replace it without using the ladder that was wedged between the weed-wacker and the card-carousel.