Hamilton Wood Type Museum located in Two Rivers, Wisconsin where the Twin Rivers empty into Lake Michigan. The Museum is located in the old mill building right on the river where Hamilton Wood Type became one of the largest producers of wood type back in the heyday of newspapers as the only media source. Jim Moran is the curator/director of the museum and he is hard at work archiving the collection of type and slowly renovating the building. The press room is still active and Jim says that he prints every day he’s there. Jim brought Jim Sherraden from Hatch Show Print up for a workshop on letterpress printing with wood type. Fourteen of us from across the Midwest plus one workshop from Lancaster, PA gathered for this amazing weekend of Hatch at Hamilton.
Jim and Jim plus Mary Sullivan told great stories- patiently helped us with the machinery and let us loose with blocks combined from the Hatch collection and the Globe Collection from Chicago – a group of blocks that were used for promoting circuses, stock car races, carnivals and commercial sales. Some of the Globe blocks hadn’t been used in 50 years. It was incredible to see what we all accomplished in such a short time.
I learned a ton about the process and technology of inking the blocks and printing well but I also learned some good stuff about my own process to bring to my daily process.
1. Slow down, think, and be patient. I set some type. Something I haven’t done since my one foray in the letterpress workshop at RISD. I had grand plans for a multiline poem. But once I got there I realized setting 3 words was going to be all I could really handle. So I settled for our current mantra – right this way. Using type that had amazingly irregular widths. I set everything up – and realized only after I’d gotten everything locked in on the printing bed with the furniture just right – that there were some kerning issues with the i and the g. Did I fix it? No. Do I regret it? Yes. every single time I look at it. Next time I’ll slow down and think a little bit more as I go.
2. Embrace happy accidents. OK some might call these mistakes, but my favorite print from the weekend has this rich texture that comes from a not completely inked block that had been inked with mulitple colors layered on top of eachother. The result was a weathered quality that was beautiful and unexpected. One of the other folks in the workshop had a test sheet that she picked up and realized that she’d created a really nice texture to print onto. The structure and limited time of this workshop wasn’t conducive to too much method – so improvization became king at least for a day.
3. I love ink and paper for a reason. And I need to build a practice of working analog especially now. It’s so darned easy to jump into illustrator and mock something up – but I need to remember to step away and pick up a pencil – or better yet a brush and work away from the machine. I’ve got a good hand – with the ability to create some good line quality. My hand is better than my brain sometimes and I need to let it do some of the work. The results are more innate and more human. I think it’s easier to relate to a hand drawn line than it is to a perfect straight line. The energy that went into making that mark shows.
4. It’s so fun to make a mess. The making is the fun part. It doesn’t need to be beautiful…sometimes it’s way more fun and inspiring just to make a mess.