Hand inking on the SP15.... how impractical!
Up with the Revolution!
Artist... Think... Say...
Certified foot power
I have several old printing presses, a small collection of lead and wood type, and plenty of free time to spend in my studio. I design and print small, medium, and large broadsides using my own text or borrowed quotes, with proper attribution. I add visual art by way of the experimental positioning of letters, carved linoleum or wood blocks, collographs, pressure prints, or other experimental ways to print relief images. Mostly what I print fits within the mission of the non-profit corporation I created in 2008, to wit: “A Revolutionary Press promotes, publishes, & disseminates Radical and Revolutionary ideals to inform the People of their Right and their duty to alter or abolish the present greed based capitalist Form of Government, and to institute a new and more humane form of Self Governance.” (Italicized phrases borrowed from the U.S. Declaration of Independence.) I would consider this optimism to be the impractical part of my labor.
I enjoy spending more time in the right side of my brain for a change and to amuse myself. Also, I hope to inspire some critical thinking on the part of the viewer. Additionally, I donate 50% of proceeds to other non-profits whose work is in line with what I print.
I am gluing tulips onto a broadside with a quote of Thomas Merton I printed using handset type. The flowers were printed from a linoleum block and then cut out. The stalks were cut from handmade paper.
In the summer of 2007, a person came into my used bookshop in Middlebury, Vermont, and asked for books on letterpress printing. I was forced to admit I did not know what that was. As he explained what a letterpress printer does I began thinking this is what I want to do after I close the shop, which I was planning on doing at the end of the summer. He left (I didn't have printing books anyway) and my brain caught fire at the idea of setting type and getting all inky with an old clunky printing press, printing words that would make Tom Paine proud. Within an hour a poet friend came in and said “So, John what are you going to do when you sell all the books?” I replied, “Well, David, I think I am going to be a, ... um, ... letterpress printer.” “Tell me about it,” he said as he leaned on the counter. For the next 10 minutes I mumbled and stumbled over what I was all fired up to do next. “I think you're on to something,” he said as he left. Several hours later, after the reality set in that I had absolutely no idea how to get started on my new vocation, David reappeared, called me out to his car, opened the trunk and said “Do you know what this is?” I stared down at a bed of cast iron with what looked to be a roller attached, and replied, “Does this have something to do with printing?” “Yes, and now you have to learn how to use it,” he laughed. I never knew that David used to letterpress print in Boston. Now he was giving me his last connection to the trade, a Vandercook 099 proof press, on the very day that he discovered that his soon to be ex-bookshop owning friend fantasized to the same.
I spend more time than ever with other craftspeople and makers of art. I offer my studio space to willing collaborators from whom I always learn. What I choose to print often makes its way to bulletin boards, telephone poles, art walks, galleries, shops, art exhibits, and farmers markets, and which, on occasion, fosters some thoughtful dialogue.
The ability of human beings to think critically and to change their way of looking at, and relating to, the world.
How to present a thought or statement in an artistic way which does not simply state a “for or against” point of view which tends only to further keep people into culturally imposed categories.
How to gain wider distribution without a website or by selling on-line.
How to price my work not by what I think it is worth, but what might allow a person to consider spending their money on a print, especially a person who might not think of themselves as an appreciator of “art.”
How do humans regain their ability to see the humanity of the other.
Are you an ILSSA member who would like to be interviewed? Please email us at markdown at impractical-labor.org.