I thought I had seen enough good examples of the finely printed book and knew something about the world of the private press, but nothing prepared me for the sublime beauty, integrity and artistry of the books by the printers and bookmakers exhibiting at this year’s Oak Knoll Fine Books Festival at New Castle, Delaware: this is book art at the cutting edge.
Fine press work
Not only tiny print runs of five to 25 copies letterpress-printed on handmade paper, and designed, illustrated and printed by just one printer-artist. In many cases, the paper itself was made from conception by the printer. These master book artists are papermakers, typesetters, engravers, printers and publishers all at once. I was too awestruck at first by such fine press work to pick up and examine them until I heard an exhibitor say, “They won’t bite.” “This is the best fine press book fair in the country,” one of the exhibitors said to me, “which is why I have been coming here since it started.”
The Oak Knoll festival and symposia is usually an October affair, and this year’s theme was “The Fine Book in the 21st Century”. Many distinguished names in book art were present here — designers, printers and scholars whose work I had followed and admired — the festival was giving me and other fine press pilgrims a chance to meet them at last. I have come to love the look and feel of mould-made paper (for their “superior, beautiful surface texture, clear watermarks and stunning deckle edges”), so I set off now around the exhibition looking for bookwork that had used this surface.
The Bicycle Diaries, “one New Yorker’s Journey Through September 11th”, contains seven multi-coloured wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec and is “printed on Zerkal mould-made paper.”
Schanilec, whom the Grolier Club describes as “the foremost contemporary artist in coloured wood engraving”, spoke to me of The River, a work in progress that he had brought to the exhibition. Each morning he gets on his little boat and sails on the river he lives close to. When he returns, some of what he felt and saw that morning is sketched and noted. One time he became interested in how pelicans on the bank prepare to fly; the take-off motions are recorded in a wood engraving which was on a large proof page before me — one of the most stunningly beautiful colour illustrations on paper I have ever seen — and the paper texture further pronounced its brilliance.
Oak Knoll Fest XVII, which took place last weekend, was a great success. We’ve heard nothing but positive reviews so far. Below is a sampling of pictures from the weekend. Our facebook album has the rest. We hope to see you all in 2014 for Oak Knoll Fest XVIII!
David Carruthers opened the Saint-Armand paper-mill in January 1979. He had difficult first years, but started selling and exporting his paper and pushed sales as far and fast as he could. He came from a family associated with paper. His grandfather was the owner the Interlake Paper Mill and his father was a paper salesman with the family firm. The expected diminution of handmade production didn’t happen and the paper mill continues to expand its handmade operation. The Saint-Armand paper-mill is located in Montréal, Canada.
Thomas Parker Williams started to make artist books in 1998. Though his primary body of work is painting, he continues to return to the unique book as another form of expression to try out new concepts and structures. Music informs his work as well and he has used his own original music as a source for paintings and several artist book editions that include music CD’s. Since 1990 he has been exhibiting in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere around the United States. Thomas Parker Williams lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
David Esslemont studied Fine Art at the Central School of Art and Design in London. From 1985 to 1997 he was managing and artistic director of the Gregynog Press in Wales. At Gregynog he designed and printed several prize-winning books. He has lectured widely in the U.K. and U.S.A., and his work can be found in both private and public collections worldwide. His archive to 2005 is held at the University of Iowa. He has been artist-in-residence with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, England, and Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis. The Solmentes Press is located in Decorah, Iowa.
We continue our look at the exhibitors of Oak Knoll Fest XVII.
RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press and its co-imprint, RIT Press, are scholarly publishing enterprises at Rochester Institute of Technology. The Press is associated with the Melbert B. Cary, Jr. Graphic Arts Collection, one of the country’s premier libraries on the history and practice of printing. Originally focusing on publishing works in the graphic arts field, the Press has expanded into subjects such as RIT institutional history, deaf studies, business, engineering, and science. The Press issues trade editions for mass-market audiences, limited editions with unique aesthetic standards, as well as gift items. Cary Graphic Arts Press is located in Rochester, New York.
Hand Papermaking magazine was founded in 1986 by Amanda Degener and Michael Durgin. Two issues of the magazine have been published every year since, resulting in a unique repository of information and inspiration on the art and craft of hand papermaking. Articles are written by experts in the field, many of them practitioners, and each magazine includes at least one unique sample of handmade paper. In addition to its award-winning journal and newsletter, Hand Papermaking is known for its distinctive series of portfolios. These exceptional collections of paper art promote the use and enjoyment of handmade paper, by inspiring an appreciation for the art and encouraging an appetite for the aesthetic appeal unique to handmade paper. Hand Papermaking, Inc. is located in Beltsville, Maryland.
The Hesterberg Press was established in 1984 with a move to Evanston, Illinois, after many years spent with R. Hunter Middleton at his Cherryburn Press in Chicago. The work from the Hesterberg Press includes miscellaneous ephemera, keepsakes on Bewick, Hammer and Middleton for the Typocrafters, three books and a film on Bewick, all sharing time with a busy professional life as an Art & Creative Director in Chicago. Hesterberg Press is located in Evanston, Illinois.
In 1973, Warwick Press began as a way to bring words into print that delighted and pleased its proprietor, Carol J. Blinn. What began as a small venture blossomed into a thirty-plus year career. She has issued over fifty books, broadsides and pamphlets covering a wide range of subjects from serious world-class poets to homey ducks having adventures. Her books are widely collected and are in many rare book college and university libraries. Warwick Press is located in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
Our look at the exhibitors of Oak Knoll Fest XVII continues.
The Press of Robert LoMascolo was established by Robert LoMascolo in 2005 while at Wells College in Aurora, New York, majoring in fine art and minoring in the book arts. Currently, Robert is working full time printing, designing, and binding for a varied array of clients. Works from the Press of Robert LoMascolo have been purchased and collected by many individuals, including other book artists. The Press of Robert LoMascolo is located in Union Springs, New York.
Pied Oxen Printers was established by David Sellers in 1981 under the precursor imprint Eleutherian Printers. Their work is primarily focused on contemporary poetry. They design, hand-set, print, and bind each book, while collaborating with an artist in the production of original graphic art. Each book is signed by the poet, artist and printer/binder. Pied Oxen’s titles are in the special collections of a number of institutional and university libraries. Pied Oxen Printers is located in Hopewell, New Jersey.
Harry Reese founded Turkey Press in 1974 when he was a graduate student at Brown University. Turkey Press books are primarily contemporary poetry in a variety of formats and edition sizes, and feature traditional letterpress printing as well as digital imaging techniques. In 1990, they established a second imprint, Edition Reese, to produce artist books in collaboration with other artists, writers and thinkers. The Turkey Press is located in Isla Vista, California.
Established in 1984 by Bob McCamant, Sherwin Beach Press is a small fine press specializing in nonfiction prose. Thus far they have completed seven books. Sherwin Beach Press books have been widely exhibited and are held in libraries all over the world. The Sherwin Beach Press in located in Chicago, Illinois.
The idea that became Lead Graffiti was born while exploring design in London. Over the years, they have acquired a healthy dose of experience and a great collection of presses. The range of Lead Graffiti equipment is ideal for working on projects both large and small, and they have certainly done both, printing books, posters, and various pieces of ephemera. They also maintain an on-site library with books for inspiration and information on letterpress and bookbinding, as well as an active collection of printing samples. Lead Graffiti is located in Newark, Delaware.
Abigail Rorer graduated with a BFA in Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design in 1971. She established The Lone Oak Press in 1989. Over two decades and two-dozen publications later (not to mention the many commissions), she and the press have received numerous awards. Her works can be found in libraries throughout the world. The Lone Oak Press is located in Petersham, Massachusetts.
Named in honor of its first black cat, Ninja Press was inaugurated in 1984 by Carolee Campbell. Turning her photographic sequences into bound books ushered the way into bookbinding, followed by experimental book structures. Eventually, she expanded her work into letterpress printing. The press’s abiding interest has mainly been contemporary poetry. Ninja Press’s works have been exhibited at numerous libraries and universities, and are collected by many of the world’s great libraries. Ninja Press is located in Sherman Oaks, California.
Wilber H. Schilling, who started his career as a photographer, founded the Indulgence Press in 1992. Named for the medieval indulgences Gutenberg printed to fund the production of his Bible, the books and prints of the press can be found around the world in the collections of the New York Public Library, the British Library, and more. The Indulgence Press is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Since Michael Russem founded it in 1994, the Kat Ran Press has designed books, portfolios, catalogues, and ephemera for 21st Editions, Goshen Editions, The Grolier Club, The Limited Editions Club, Oak Knoll Books, the Veatchs Arts of the Book, and many more. They are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Ladies of Letterpress is an international trade organization for letterpress printers and print enthusiasts that aims to promote the art and craft of letterpress printing and to encourage the voice and vision of women printers. It was founded by Jessica C. White, owner of Heroes & Criminals Press, and Kseniya Thomas, owner of Thomas-Printers. The Ladies of Letterpress community is continually growing and offers a place to read about adventures in commercial, fine press, art and zine printing, ask for advice and learn from other printers, share resources, and get inspiration.
While Chad Pastotnik was earning a BFA in printmaking from Grand Valley State University, one of his professors showed his class a book structure. One thing led to the next and in 1992, a few years after graduating, Deep Wood Press was born. Its books and broadsides include some of Chad’s own works, stories and poetry from other present-day writers, and literary classics such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The Deep Wood Press is located on the banks of the Ceder River in Mancelona, Michigan.
As a history teacher in the late eighties, Graham Moss acquired an interest in paper conservation and book repair and in 1990 acquired a small printing press to print labels. Soon after learning about the differences in typefaces and designs, he became inspired to try more. When an Arab press was offered for sale, he bought it, and transformed his backyard shed into a print shop. Since those days, the Incline Press has grown and has published over fifty books. The Inline Press’s latest home is a three-story building from the 1820s located on one of the oldest streets in the heart of Oldham England.
The Fine Press Book Association was formed by a group of individuals sharing common interests in the art of printing, the matching of worthwhile texts with significant images and artistic expression through the structure of a book. It had its genesis at the 1996 Oak Knoll Fest and had its first official meeting in 1998. That year also marked the release of the first issue of Parenthesis, their journal devoted to fine printing and book-making. Today it has a worldwide membership of those interested in the fine book and contemporary fine printing, and continues to promote the appreciation of fine books and encourage their production.
21ST Editions started in 1998 as 21ST: The Journal of Contemporary Photography, with the idea to broaden the dialogue of contemporary fine art photography by bringing together a wide variety of modern photographic work with the finest international writers. In 2000 the press expanded its offerings to include fine press, handmade monographs on the work of various photographers to complement its Journal anthologies. In 2009 the press established its Legacy Editions imprint, which surveys the broader horizons of history, art, and culture. 21ST Editions titles have been acquired by museums and special collections libraries from all over the world. They are located in South Dennis, Massachusetts.
An interest in fine printing, sparked by the work of Roy A. Squires, led bookbinder Don Rash to do some letterpress printing when he had the time and equipment available. In 2003 he acquired the press of his dreams and soon after founded the Boss Dog Press. A relatively young press, they have produced one book, Rules for Bookbinders by Fritz Eberhardt, and have several others in the works including a catalog of bookbinding tools and equipment previously owned by Loyd Haberly. They are located located just outside of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
After studying letterpress printing with Red Ozier Press and bookbinding with Timothy C. Ely, Los Angeles native Mark McMurray began printing under the Caliban Press imprint in 1985. Among his books are a narrative poem about one of John Coltrane’s last concerts, shaped poetry written during WWI, an elegy to jazz great Miles Davis, and a light-hearted look at French and English printers in Paris. He now lives in Canton, New York and, when he’s not printing, works as both special collections librarian at St. Lawrence University and as a teacher of book and printing history.
It’s not too early to mark your calendars for October 5 through 7 for Oak Knoll Fest XVII. Covering various aspects of the fine book in the 21st century, the fest will consist of fine press printer exhibitions, a special symposium, and educational talks by Jerry Kelly and Carol Grossman. It’s sure to be a great time, so we hope you are able to join us!
Registration will open soon. Continue to stay tuned for more information.