[Alyson Kuhn] If the chocolate “ouija board” could have foretold the success of the St. Patrick’s Day soirée at the San Francisco Center for the Book (SFCB), it might have just melted with excitement. Kseniya Thomas and Jessica White, the founders of Ladies of Letterpress (LoLP), were in town from the Other Coast. The evening was a blast — no blarney.
The appreciative crowd included book artists, book arts educators, commercial letterpress printers, graphic designers, type aficionados, students of letterpress and — oh, yes — buyers and sellers of letterpress-printed cards, invitations, broadsides and limited-edition prints and books.
Local members of LoLP were invited to show their work for the evening, and the long display table was continually thronged. You could look, you could touch, you could talk to the Ladies.
Lady of Letterpress Lisa Rappoport of Littoral Press displayed Mrs. Yesbut Goes to Town (below). This diminutive delight measures 3.25-in square. Nine accordion-folded pages each present a pocket, and I truly wish I could show you a video. Here’s Lisa’s description: “Each page has a vintage printer’s cut printed in periwinkle onto the pocket; inside each pocket is a removable card with unjust quotes from our universal past: ‘If you don’t understand, I can’t explain it to you’; ‘Would you like to share that with the rest of the class?’ and seven more.” The edition of 100 (someone really went to town!) was a 2007 collaboration between Littoral Press and Yvonne Tsang’s Epistolary Press.
Lady of Letterpress Lara Durback manages the Book Art Studio at Mills College. Her broadside (below) combines text and imagery from Coal Mountain Elementary, a book by Mark Nowak. The broadside (edition of 65; contact [email protected] to purchase) was printed in conjunction with Mills’ ongoing Contemporary Writers Series. This coming Sunday, March 27, Lara will teach a one-day workshop at SFCB, titled Broadsides Outside: “Print broadsides with the intention of posting them outside. Whether it’s poetry, a manifesto, instructions, comments on local places — you decide!”
Russell Wagner (below) — not yet a “laddie of letterpress” — recently attended a class titled Letterpress 2 at the center, taught by SFCB board member Mary Laird. Several passersby paused to flip over Russell’s freshly-printed Underscore broadside. Russell, who has started volunteering at the center, declares, “This place is amazing — all these inspiring little bits of materials you can play with. I’ve discovered I just love sorting type — and I’ve gotten obsessed with cases of underscores.”
An installation of letterpress-printed business cards added to the impression of being at the crossroads of art and industry. As it happens, Art & Industry is the name of the first-ever Ladies of Letterpress conference, to be held in Asheville, N.C., August 5–7, 2011.
Art & Industry is at least a double entendre, probably even a club sandwich. There is the art of letterpress printing; there is the craft — and you need both. There is founder Jessica White, who came to letterpress with a pair of degrees in printmaking and a background in sculpture, working with large volumes of molten metal. Her publishing venture, Heroes & Criminals Press, is a fine press with a focus on contemporary social issues. There is founder Kseniya Thomas, who may have caught the letterpress bug during an internship at the Gutenberg Museum in Germany. Kseniya got her first press in 2004 and started her commercial letterpress shop, Thomas Printers, in 2005. The next year she met Jessica at Oak Knoll … They both felt a need for a friendly forum for sharing information and, as Jessica puts it, “‘a community for new printers to rely on as they explore the letterpress arts.” In her mind, Kseniya was already thinking of it as “Female Letterpress Printers, Organized.” Jessica was not only thinking about calling it “The Ladies of Letterpress” — but had already created an embroidered patch!
When we wrote about Ladies of Letterpress a week and a half ago, there were 916 members. The founders anticipate that membership will top the 1000 mark by mid-May, when 11 members will share a quadruple booth at the National Stationery Show. Go, Ladies!
Read Jessica’s report, “Ladies in San Francisco,” right here.
All photos © 2011 Douglas Sandberg Photography