Rabbits Unwrapped – Hugh Barclay

Posted May 18, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Letterpress printing, Presses, Teachers

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IMG_1118I’m going to guess that it was 1997 when I first met Hugh Barclay. I had helped Holly set up for her first big booth show, in Kingston, Ontario as it happened. Or it may have been the second year she did the show. I can’t remember. I do remember this gentleman with small stature and large personality coming into the booth, buying one of Holly’s charming little books of calligraphic Thoreau quotes in Saint Armand wraps but adding that it would be better printed on a letterpress rather than a photocopier. He invited us to come by his studio and see his press. It took me two years, but we did eventually get there. And from that point, Hugh has been something of an inspiration to me.

In the fall, Hugh mentioned to me that his latest book would be his last, and I suggested that a collaboration between our two presses would have to be now or never. We agreed that he would design the book, set and print the type, and that I would cut the illustrations from wood and print those at my press. I did not know at the time that the author, Winona Linn, was a talented artist herself; she could have and perhaps should have illustrated the book, but the deal was made.

I think the old fox hoodwinked me. Even before The Truth About Rabbits had been launched, Hugh had another book on the press. And he laughed at me when I pointed it out. I think it was his plan all along to force me to write a colophon in the first person, one of Hugh’s many quirks. And I’m not aware of many private press books that contain two colophons, as this one does.

Regardless, I have referred to this book as a joyful collaboration between Hugh, Winona, myself, and others. It has been a blast, and I definitely felt that electric charge while turning out the illustrated sheets from my press: The thrill of the print.

And that, my friends, is what it should be all about.

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Rabbits Unwrapped – Winona Linn

Posted May 17, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Block Printing, Books, Poetry, Writing

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Periodically over future posts, I’ll be deconstructing the process I used for  the illustrations of Winona Linn’s collection of poems, The Truth About Rabbits, but I thought I’d introduce you to the shakers and movers of this project.

First and foremost, we have Winona Linn, a young woman who is certainly making a name for herself. When I say she’s a Kingston-based poet, I beg you to take that in the loosest manner possible, since she floats between Kingston, Paris and other worldly points.

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One of the benefits of having one’s own press is that one may print what one likes  (and you have to say it like that, first person singular pronoun, with a really snobby accent). So I won’t go on and on about the quality of Winona’s poems; if I  didn’t like them, I’d have passed on the opportunity to illustrate them. I will say that these poems are smart, sharp, poignant and witty with refreshingly light-hearted, self-deprecating moments. It is those latter aspects  that conjured images for me from her verse. You see, it has been a very long and dark couple of years; if I had been writing and performing poetry during that time, I would have fit right in with most of the poetry scene – a lot of dark emoting. In fact, I only made one illustration for a book a year or so prior to Rabbits, also for Thee Hell Box Press. Here is that one:

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Linocut illustration from Shane Neilson’s Out of the Mouth 2014 Thee Hellbox Press.

Well. Enough said. There’s plenty in Winona’s vivid imagery to conjure dark images, but (to rip off another poet) ‘I am half-sick of shadows’, so instead I’ve done a lewd Starbuck’s logo, a crow who is about to (or has just) pooped cherries on our poet, a toaster slowly browning a copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar,  young lovers in a church etc. Periodically I’ll blog about the imagery that inspired the illustration, and the sometimes bizarre route I took to creating them.

I should note here that Winona does not only excel at writing and performing her own poetry, but she is an illustrator and artist of some force. Prior to her departure for Paris after Rabbits launched, she showed me some of her linocuts…. All I’ll say is that I’m hoping I get the chance to work again with this amazing artist.

 

Playing With Titles

Posted May 12, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Book Design, Books, Typography

Tags: , , , , ,

Planning is ongoing for future projects, and so is the play-time associated with the design of the titles. Here are three examples; which one do you like?

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I’m thinking the above works, but it begs the question: what is so important about the big E.S. (other than it fits in the middle and end)

 

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Not bad, again it looks cool, but comprehension is somewhat lacking. Then again, if you don’t know Ecclesiastes from the first 3 or 4 letters, there’s another comprehension problem. This model at least begs for a long, thin engraving on the reverse page, as you can see the spread is shaping out.Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.42.41 PMAnd this works as well, in that at least the change in direction does not follow in a “mid-word” crossover, like crossword puzzles. It opens the option for an illustration in the white space, or some text play, or just white space!

 

A Joyful Collaboration: The Truth About Rabbits

Posted May 2, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Announcements, Book Design, Books, Illustration, Letterpress printing, Poetry, Private Presses, Selling, Wood Engraving

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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It is our great pleasure to announce the release of a book of poems by Winona Linn, The Truth About Rabbits. These edgy, intelligent and humorous poems have been set by hand in metal type by Thee Hellbox Press in Kingston, with wood engravings  cut and printed by Larry Thompson of Greyweathers Press — a joyous collaboration of word, type and image.

The Truth About Rabbits
Poems by Winona Linn
Wood engravings by Larry ThompsonJointly published by Thee Hellbox Press and Greyweathers Press
Hand set in type in the Garamond face printed by Hugh Barclay at Thee Hellbox Press
Wood engravings printed by Larry Thompson at Greyweathers Press
Dimensions: 10.5 x 10″ tall. 20 pages on St. Armand paper
142 copies

$75

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Talking and Walking….

Posted February 16, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Announcements, Art, Musings, Talks & Lectures, Teaching

 

It helps that people are asking me to speak as I assemble my thoughts for the 10th anniversary of the Press. The CBBAG folks seemed amused last Wednesday when I spoke about origins, and my rather hazy ideas on how I came to print books by letterpress. I’m looking forward to this coming Wednesday: I’m in Carp, Ontario talking the talk, only this time I’ll be focusing less on how I started and more on how I validate what I do as art. It’ll be interesting to see how I do that!

I’ll be bringing out some treasures from the private collection, some blocks and some type, so plenty to see and hear about.

Larry Thompson Greyweathers Press

 

 

Origins: The Beginning of Greyweathers Press

Posted February 15, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Musings

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The first logo for Greyweathers Press, a tiny linocut based on the view of a gnarled Scott’s pine through the gothic window in the studio. The tree has since died, and now we ponder a new press mark.

The question I most frequently get asked by astonished visitors to the studio, or to my booth at shows, is: “How on earth did you every get involved in… this!?”, meaning of course, letterpress, bookbinding, and creating wood cuts. More often than not, I respond by saying smart-ass things, like “kidnapped as a baby by traveling Romany printers,” or “abducted by aliens who may or may not have done things to me, and I’ve been feverishly compelled ever since to print.” The question is simply too vague, the circumstances too disparate, and those moments that seemed of no consequence at the time but in retrospect take on tremendous value, are never properly recorded. So it is with history and memory; it is easier to create fictions than try to grasp or pinpoint the moment I thought I would move a 2400 lb press and another tonnage of lead type into the studio. When did it happen? Was it sometime early in the 1970s, when I first read C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, which set me on a fantastic reading journey. One can take it to ridiculous ends, but certainly it began an intense love of books – both in the architecture of imagination created by written words, but also the in vessels of paper and glue and leather that contained them. Time passes. I change high schools mid-way through, and the new one has a Graphic Arts course. Flipping through my old yearbooks, I find just one photo from Graphic Arts. 08.IMG_1984 This young woman is printing on what I believe to be the AB Dick offset press. Another large offset press sat just behind her, but in the background, barely visible is the magnificent Heidelberg windmill letterpress, a machine that hissed and made sucking noises, pulled up sheets of paper and deposited them neatly printed in a jogged pile, whilst gripper arms whirled about in a steam-punker’s dream. If you were careless, even for a moment, the windmilling arms could give you a resounding crack on the head. It was a thing of beauty! My teacher used hot type from a Ludlow, the cabinets and trays of cold metal type removed in the ever-dawning realization that letterpress was dying. Was it then? Another decade later, after university and a few years in an office, I found myself variously employed, but able to briefly pass muster on an AB Dick in a basement shop with the most stressed and uptight Caribbean guy I have ever met…. proving that even the most laid back and self-medicated persons can be driven to near madness by commercial printing. After meeting Holly, moving to Merrickville, and becoming familiar with the Calligraphy Society of Ottawa and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, my friend Wendy and I took a workshop from a traveling bookbinder named Gavin Rookledge of Rook’s Books, which proved to be fun and quite cool, but even as a freelance writer, how many blank notebooks could one man use? Perhaps it was in 1996, the centenary of the death of William Morris, and a rather stunning exhibition which came to the National Gallery and featured some examples from the Kelmscott Press. Holly and I were invited to Queen’s University Library to flip through their copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer, a spread of which is shown here: kelmscott01 By this point, I must confess, the inspiration to print books had me. I began to read Morris on printing, and those others who likewise were inspired by him to ‘romance the press’ throughout the Gilded Age and onward into the mid-20th century. In good order, I discovered that the tradition had survived to the present day, with dozens, even hundreds of private presses operating in North America, Australia and Europe. Sometime around the turn of the millennium, I saw the work of Barbarian Press (Mission, B.C.) in the CBBAG newsletter, and ordered one of their stunning books. Not long after, I met George and Michelle Walker at a book arts show, and purchased their treatment of Poe’s The Raven. Those books were really all the encouragement I needed. The Press, then unnamed, now existed in my head, and the search for an actual printing press began.

Ten Years: Pondering a Decade of a Press

Posted February 12, 2015 by Larry
Categories: Fine Press Printing, Letterpress printing, Musings, Private Presses

Tags: , , ,

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Last night I had the very great privilege to speak to the Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild on the origins of the Press.

In preparation for this, I realized that the topic is really quite vast, and could be broken down into several distinct topics. For example, every book printed off the press has its own story, worthy of an entire conversation. There is the business side, of showing and selling, pricing and marketing. And there is the whole messy matter of art. For CBBAG, I chose origins.

I set the start date of Greyweathers Press as 2005, the year that I printed the first book, Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. However, the primary urges go back far earlier, rooted in a love of books and story. I loved comics when I was a kid, and still do although I do not collect nearly as much. In the early 1990s I took a bookbinding workshop but otherwise I just thought about producing books.

In 1996, an exhibit of the work of William Morris opened my eyes to the private presses, and it led me to the rich field of printing being done in Canada.

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I like Morris’ sensibility here, although it does grate a bit with the border and drop caps from his magnus opus, the Kelmscott Chaucer, in this keepsake created digitally some years ago then rendered into a magnesium plate: “a definite claim to beauty.”

From there, an understanding of letterpress came, but that’s a blog for another day.

Letterpress is an umbrella that that overhangs many differing motivations. Some are called to ‘old school’ printing for the romance associated with the history of printing. There are enthusiasts of the equipment, or those wild-eyed collectors of type of every kind. Commercial letterpress is still viable for high end printing jobs, and lino and woodcut artists love letterpress for its reproduction excellence. For myself, books brought me to letterpress and the desire to produce books keeps me printing. I’m also working in the so-called ‘fine press’ tradition, going to sometimes absurd ends to achieve  quality in printing, inking, impression and binding etc. In fact, there are elements of all these things built into my motivation to print.

 

 


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