Pressing Letters

I took my first letterpress class (taught by a man in a train engineers cap, so I should have known I'd be hooked) at The Arm in Brooklyn, a shop in Williamsburg full of Vandercooks, denim aprons, and Victorian drawers of type.  It was May, my press partner was there toying with the idea of printing her own wedding invitations.  I wasn't entirely sure where that day at the press would take me, but I have learned that art has a way of revealing itself to me when I least expect it.

With very few exceptions, I've either been self-taught artist or have foisted myself on other artists as an apprentice.  And so it was, nearly a year after that first introduction to the press, I would find myself living in Ithaca, New York where I would meet Jim Tyler, the man who runs the Risley Printing Press at Cornell University.


When it comes to making art, Jim is as patient as I am foolhardy.  Working with type teaches you lessons of practice and of letting go, neither of which come naturally to me.  But in that quiet studio there are moments of grace.  I have used wooden type that last felt the kiss of ink nearly a hundred years ago, I have cursed in the frustration of a ruined piece, and I have marveled at the human ingenuity that created such a machine in the first place.   With a crank of a wheel, the application of ink and pressure (and a whispered prayer) the written word emerges from the reverse, like gospel. 

It has become my Sunday ritual, it is my church.