I was a few minutes early, so I parked across the street in downtown Capac, MI and waited. It was a wide street with angled parking and littered with small stores. There was a hardware store in front of me, but my destination was in an unmarked building, shades drawn directly, across the street from where I was parked. I didn’t want to be the first one to arrive, so I waited and watched. I realize this is a childish thing to do, but I was nervous. Then a compact car pulled up and two heavily bearded men got out. I knew instantly that they were going to the same place I was…still I waited until they went in the building before getting out the car.
It turns out that there is a group of letterpress printers in Michigan, the Michigan Letterpress Guild, that meet a few times a year to talk about printing! I’d looked them up a year ago and had gotten on their mailing list, but this was the first time I’d actually gone to a meeting.
Inside Dan Celani’s print shop I found a new style C&P 8×12, like my own press, and 5 or 6 people…and for an instant they all gave me this look that said, “are you in the right place?” You know the one…eyebrows knit together, heads cocked to the side, and mouths tight with something approaching judgement.
“Um,” I said sheepishly, “is this the letterpress meeting?”
Hands quickly shot out for introductions and I got to meet an incredible mix of printers…all with years more experience than I have. Talking with one of them later, I got a explanation for the looks…it seems that letterpress printers tend to fall into one of two categories…”there are men over 50 and women under.” It’s seems a 41 year-old male is somewhat of an anomaly—go figure…
Over the next 4 hours, I picked more brains about printing then I ever have…it was fun and exhausting. I asked them all sorts of, I’m sure, naïve questions and they were all open with their opinions.
It turns out:
- the key pins have to be put in with the lip over the shaft
- mixing oil and rubber inks is okay (seriously, I’ve read to never do this, but everyone swore it’s okay—I’ll let you know)
- never use all caps with script type
- you’ll never get a consistently good impression from a Kelsey tabletop
- you can never own a space large enough for your collection
- graphic designers will never fully understand (it’s not clear to me what they will never understand, but there it is)
- and you have to be willing to mess up…a lot
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Before leaving, one of the members said that the total spectrum of political bents was represented in the room, but they all agree on printing, so what did politics matter? Seems like a good philosophy to me.
They’re planning at least two more meetings this year. Each meeting is at the shop of a different printer. Each meeting gives me the opportunity to see new and different equipment–and time to ask seemingly strange questions. I get the feeling that, as long as I don’t suggest using a laser printer, I’ll get along just fine.