A Rare Commercial Job

It’s not often I take on a commercial work, and it’s not that I have anything against it. I’d just rather be printing books as opposed to somebody’s business cards. However, every now and then, something comes by that I simply can’t refuse, and usually there’s a story behind it.

A woman related to the Craine printing family that had been established in Ottawa from the turn of the 19th century to about 1980, I believe. The founder of the firm grew up in Merrickville just a few doors down from where I live, and I’m not certain but he may have started a hobby press here in his youth, before turning it into a huge business forms concern throughout most of the 20th century.

Well, his widow will soon be turning 100, and her daughter-in-law felt that it would be rather poetic to have a Merrickville printer print the invitations. You know, when someone reaches 100, I think they have the right to letterpress birthday announcements. We discussed terms, paper and illustration. Finding enough St. Armand watercolour paper in the right size entailed a trip to Ottawa to harry the poor staff at Wallack’s. In the end, we had just enough – 20 sheets – which didn’t leave room for any error at all.

It was agreed that I would hand cut from lino a silhouette of a grand piano, which seemed simple enough, but I decided to use a different illustration, one that I liked much better:

It has a kind of a woodcut feel to it, and I intended to hand paint the flowers. Apparently, the centagenarian does not appreciate grand piano’s with the lid down – a rare instance of a lady insisting that the lid be left up!

The final outcome was quite satisfying. I have photoshopped away names, dates, locations to protect the innocent. I love the look of Goudy’s Italian Oldstyle arrayed in this stately format, although it’s a pity you can’t see the woman’s name in 36pt & 24 pt caps.

But this illustrates why I rarely take commercial work. With my press and my limited supply of type, when I give a realistic quote, the response is always incredulity, and sometimes bursts of laughter. On this one, in the end, if I include the trip to Ottawa, cost of paper, cutting two blocks and labour, I might have come out with an hourly rate somewhat less than what a teenager makes at a coffee shop. But I’m not complaining, really. The job came with a great story, one with a printing connection to Merrickville. And to commemorate a life 100 years long, it was worth it.

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2 Comments on “A Rare Commercial Job”

  1. Deb Stevens Says:

    That is a nice job, I’m sure they were very happy!

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