Archive for the ‘Poetry’ category

Run, Rabbit Run

May 29, 2015



A Rabbit was called for, by the title alone. I found this old hand-coloured engraving, rendered it greyscale in Photoshop then did a sketch on tracing paper. I could flip the tracing paper before copying the image to the block, reversing it so that rabbit is running in the correct direction.

This was the only block in the project that was not cut from wood. It is Resingrave, a polymer compound that they’ve been tweaking for years and years to get it to emulate English boxwood. Still not quite there, but the block was the size and shape for what I needed, and worked sufficiently well for the subject matter.

IMG_2367When Hugh asked me for art direction as to where illustrations would go, I told him “just leave me some gaps” meaning I had no idea what illustrations I would come up with. My little rabbit fit nicely right in between title and author.


Rabbits Unwrapped – Winona Linn

May 17, 2015

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.


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:


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.


A Joyful Collaboration: The Truth About Rabbits

May 2, 2015

IMG_2294 copy

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


IMG_2296 copy

IMG_2293 copy

Tintern Abbey Rolls Off the Press!

May 4, 2012

A binding in green

I finished printing Tintern Abbey early on Wednesday, April 25, marking almost four full weeks of setting type, dissing it again, proofing pages, changing colours and running the edition. Another month or so prior I spent cutting the illustrations, with some trepidation but with satisfactory results. And in the end, it all came together as a book.

I tasked myself to have at least one copy ready for the Grimsby Wayzgoose; in the end, I managed to bind up four. Three sold at the show, I took orders for two more as well as two deluxe editions. the next step is to get the deluxe copies under way, and binding up more regular copies and publicizing them. I’ll put all the details of the edition in both states up in a subsequent blog entry.

The small title page with engraving.

Normally when I print a book, I keep a notebook handy, or record my adventures and mis-adventures here in this non-substantial space. With the Grimsby Wayzgoose always looming ever closer, the production became a rush… not the most ideal of situations. However, the benefit of a deadline is that a project gains momentum and gets done on time.

I’ve been looking back on the project and trying to remember the bits and pieces of either rewarding or peculiar happenings. From the start, TA was a considerably more ambitious project than any of our previous books. The whole would be printed on St. Armand Canal paper, and would be our longest book at 40 pages. It would be illustrated with wood engravings… not such a great technical feat after printing Graven Images, but cutting the blocks myself proved intimidating, especially with all of Thomas Bewick‘s prints around me while I worked. Let’s just say I gained an intense appreciation for the master’s work. This is the first book using Holly’s calligraphy rendered to plates, and a substantial use of a second colour that is not red.

The title page spread.

Beyond these firsts, there are the usual matters: the nature and quality of the type, the work of setting and dissing it, the functioning of the press, the varying degrees in ink and how it interacts with paper, and the paper itself. I’ll make these subjects of upcoming and more frequently regular posts over the next couple of weeks while I work on finishing more books.

Engravings, text and calligraphy working together on a 2-page spread.

To start with, I’ll finish off my thoughts about printing the wood engravings (the making of them has been dealt with earlier). They printed very well, and without much of the anguish I had from the blocks in Graven Images. Granted the latter were 130 year old or more. I found the Resingrave blocks printed very well, as did the engrain maple. Make-ready was minimal and, in one instance of robust energy or desperation, I printed three engravings in one day (on separate sheets). It went well, thankfully.

Tintern Abbey page spread with engraving on wood and calligraphy on magnesium.

The engravings have been well received, and I have been forbidden from staining them my own jaundiced eye. The answers to my own complaints, I know, lie in practice, practice, practice.


Typesetting Begins on Tintern Abbey

January 29, 2012

I cleaned up the press room and then got out the lead to begin setting type on the next book, a fine press version of Tintern Abbey. In spite of having already played with some ideas on the computer, I still changed the size and style of the introduction title (10 pt italic caps from 14 pt roman small caps), and had already consulted the the bible (Robert Bringhurst’s Elements of Typographic Style) for some guiding doctrine. And that’s just one line into it!

The letters ‘INTERN ABBEY’ are set in 12 pt small caps, and you guessed it, the missing “T” will show up curing another printing in red (or green) as a raised capital, probably 18 pt. The third word in (first) brought me quickly to another quandry: to use dipthongs, or not to use dipthongs, that is the question. And Hamlet thought he had it bad. The dipthongs in my font of Italian Oldstyle include fused versions of “st”, “ct” “oe” and “ae”. Ligatures (ffi, fi, ffl, fl, ff) are standard in the font and in common use, but dipthongs can be consider a bit twee, if not downright pretentious. Since the poem is getting on over two hundred years old, I think I can get away with dipthongs, so the word “first” is made up of just three pieces of lead, the “r” being the only single character.

My original plan was to fully justify the text, but when I examined my reasons for doing so it came pretty much down to “cuz I want to” which is not necessarily acceptable. I took some time earlier today and flipped though my own small collection of finely printed books, and noticed that in most of these (but not all) designers fully justified the text block when the block was quite large, perhaps as wide as 6″. Most of the smaller books had flush left, or jagged right if you will. It looks better in these books, so I’m fairly certain it will in Tintern Abbey. I’ll know when I proof the first spread of type. These other fine presses were using smaller type, which may be a factor. (Note to self: pick up a truck load of 10 pt type in next type order!)

The introduction is written by Queen’s University Professor Mark Jones, and I expect it may be the first time his words have ever been set in metal.

Wordsworth for Wayzgoose

March 20, 2011

This year, and as per tradition, at the last moment, I set about to design and print our modest submission to the annual Grimsby Wayzgoose Anthology.

I wanted to try a few ideas around the upcoming Wordsworth book, and a designer title page done in multiple passes using lead type, not magnesium plates.

So here’s the result of the first pass:

And lined up on the press for the second pass:

And after the second pass, including the back page colophon:

Then the third pass, in red:

And then the fourth pass in red to finish the cover:

A fifth and sixth pass for the inside spread, one for the illustration, the other for the text:

It gives Tintern Abbey a rather spooky feel, does it not! I like it. Holly’s design, my cutting work.

But not done yet! Holly insisted I print the Greyweathers Press logo on the back between the colophon and the copyright line. So a seventh pull, at 150 copies made for 1,050 impressions, not including proofs and test runs.

That’s just four pages. Just wait until I print the entire book!

Tenebrismo back again in a 2nd edition

June 14, 2010

Tenebrismo's little brother.

This time as a laser printed edition, approximately two-thirds in size and more affordable for those who want to enjoy Kera Willis’ poetry without the cost of the letterpress edition.

The cover of this second issue is indeed letterpress, black ink on black cover stock, and like the first edition, it has full colour map end pages. The contents are more or less identical, with two or three of the illustrations moved about, and without the gate fold-out ‘broadside’ for Letter from Lisbon.

While this is a Greyweathers Press production, we’re not publishers of the 2nd edition, so it is not subject to discounts for dealers and subscribers like our other books. I’m guessing a price between $15-$25, but don’t hold me to it. More fact-based info to follow.

There are still copies of the letterpress first edition available, although not many. It has been a good seller — in many cases, people have picked up the book, read a couple poems and plunked down $75 on that basis alone. If that’s not a complement to the poet, I don’t know what is. I love having Tenebrismo in the studio, where I keep display copies of all our books. But I still pick it up and read passages during the odd idle moment….

My Dear Hodgson

January 24, 2010

Lord Byron ranks high in the long list of poets on Greyweathers’ printing wish-list. I shy away a bit because I don’t really know him that well. It’s been a long time since I read his stuff, and he is more famous, to me at least, for his life and association with the origins of the gothic renaissance we are experiencing today. Mary Shelley got her start with Frankenstein thanks in part to Byron, and the same weekend produced Dr. Polidori’s Vampyr, and in every vampire ever since, I think there is a little bit of Byron.

It’s nice to know a poet still has some punch. Ian McKay reports in his Letter from London in the Maine Antiques Digest (Jan. edition) that part of a collection of letters from Lord Byron to Francis Hodgson sold at Sotheby’s from US$455,466. Some came from Byron’s European Grand Tour, which for him was the equivalent of today’s Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale In one letter he writes from Newstead Abbey in 1811: “the partridges are pleantiful… pheasants not quite so good, & the girls on the manor just coming into season….”

Oh, Byron.

Still, a half mil. I think he’d be pleased.

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