13 September 2009

Missing the American Amateur Press Picnic

This is me last year using a beautiful Chandler and Price letterpress at the American Amateur Press picnic in Eugene Oregon. Being that I am so nerdy about printmaking, I was ecstatic to meet letterpress printers who have been at it for decades, to hear their stories of printing before the Digital Age. One gentleman told his tale of saving up money when he was 8 years old to buy a small tabletop printing press from the Sears and Roebuck catalog and starting his own newspaper with news of the neighborhood. He's now in his seventies. Still printing! It also reminded me of how little the general public knows about the how the images we see and the words we read are created.

A couple of days ago someone contacted me about my Savannah linocut.

It's listed on Etsy for $30. Really quite a steal for an original hand pulled print! I priced it as such because I never created an edition of this print. I printed the block using a proofing press and while I intended it to be an open edition, I was only happy with about 8 of the prints, and haven't printed it again. Well anyways this person was confused because I included a photo of the actual carved linoleum block. Was the listing for the block, he asked, so he could print in whatever color he wanted.

I don't fault him for asking. Why not try at least? But I know this person couldn't possibly have a press, or he would have valued my carved 11 by 14 inch linoleum block at more than $30. Sigh.

Maybe the misconception begins with scrapbooking. Maybe mass produced rubber stamps are the only connection the general public has to printmaking, and that might confuse someone into thinking a linocut is printed by merely squishing the block onto paper. It's not that I want to be an elitist, or that I can really explain the printing process in one blog post, but more that I wish to encourage anyone who cares to take a printmaking workshop, and discover for themselves the thrills ... and heartaches ... of printmaking.

I regret that this year I can't make it the AAPA picnic. Mostly I regret that a lot of it's members are starting to pass away one by one, and I fear that their printing experiences will die with them. Granted, there's good reasons why say the linotype machine has gone the way of the dodo --- the melting and casting of lead, for example, or washing one's hands with turpentine --- we now know better. But mostly it's the knowledge, being less dependent on computers, or even electricity for that matter. Just the appreciation of a lost art.

Note: While the AAPA's mission statement is "the promotion of amateur journalism and fellowship of amateur writers, editors, printers, and publishers" it includes a group of letterpress printers, which I consider these days to be part of the printmaking world. Back in the day, these were the folks who printed our newspapers! Find out more.


Janice La Verne said...

I am definitely an irritable printmaking snob when it comes to certain terms. Like "print". It just irks me to see copies passed off as original art, signed and numbered. I will never get used to this.

Little do folks know that usually you could buy an original work in the printmaking realm for not much more.

Urgggghhhh... a couple years back we went to an art festival in Florida and there was really no original work there. Just "prints" costing a couple hundred dollars that were copies.

oh don't get me started...
sorry for the rant.

hope all is well, janice

loaded hips press said...

I know what you mean Janice.
I've lowered my expectations with the word "print."