Monday, July 29, 2013

Hands down, Choteau is my type of town

This summer's trip to Montana yielded an unexpected bonanza. I came back with 56 pounds of lead type representing four typefaces (Lightline Gothic and Umbra among them). As exhilarating as it is to have some type of my own, I remain haunted by the 950 pounds I had to leave there, all stored in two handsome, heavy double-cabinets.

I hope it doesn't go to bullets or ballast, how a lot of unloved lead ends up, because this seems no ordinary type. For instance, given its long service at the venerable local weekly the Choteau Acantha (est. 1894), it perhaps was touched by novelist A.B. Guthrie, Jr. (The Big Sky, The Way West) and his dad, a prominent educator and newspaperman. Whoever set these letters, it's clear they have told many stories, and now can tell a few more.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Behold the hands of a master

A repaired book heads toward "casing in," when the text block is set in a newly constructed hardbound case.

Tools of the teacher: cheap hardware-store brushes converted to paste brushes courtesy a snip of the scissors; heavy-duty American-made shears (Mr. Ellenport was rather unimpressed with the students' holdings in this department; you're proud of those Fiskars?!); and a paste brush with experience.

This is Sam Ellenport, patron saint of broken books.

For two days last week, I made the pilgrimage to Forest Grove for the biannual Focus on Book Arts, this time to learn how to repair cloth bindings from longtime bookbinder Sam Ellenport, who graced us with his New England accent, masterful technique, no-nonsense shop skills and tools, and yes, plenty of pig jokes.

First we got to take box knives to perfectly good books by Mark Twain and Joseph Conrad (sorry guys). Then we globbed paste all over the exposed spine to remove the decades-old glue. After the fun destruction, we cleaned up the spine, sewed and reinforced it, added new endpapers, and made up a brand new case good for at least the next century.

Bits of the cover can be saved.

It takes a slathering of paste and 20 minutes to strip away a book's messy past.

At last, Victory is at hand.

After such heady work learning new and very old techniques, I returned to Portland and finished a piece for Em Space's annual member show. The theme is "summer," so once I decided on the quote and letterpress-printed it, I knew I had to supplement it with the season's first crop of sweetgrass. Its unforgettable scent brings waves of nostalgia. Even the framer said as I unveiled it, What is that smell? Come see and inhale it for yourself when the show opens at Em Space.