Folks, it has been an interesting time in my world of commercial print. General overhead and cost of doing business is going way up, print runs have been going way down. The customer base at my workplace Stumptown Printers is still going strong, the commercial work that we do is always fun and challenging, but the name of the game in the industry are clicks on the press, and the clicks aren't what they used to be. Gone are the days of 15,000 "limited edition" custom paper-based CD packages. Low clicks and high costs aren't a good recipe for a "mom and pop" commercial job shop. We're hanging in there, riding it out as long as we can, and also adjusting our vision for a future of "analog" ink-on-paper classic printing.
Honestly, while I'm worried about our business and my livelihood, I have more concern for the music biz as a whole, and especially how decreased sales of physical music releases have impacted aspiring independent musicians. Man. Without sales of affordable music media*, it's tough for the small independent artist to make enough scratch to cover the expenses of tour, etc. Really, I don't know how "the kids" do it these days, and I hope that the tradition of hopping in a beat-up van with your bandmates to tour and share music, build community, have an adventure, and learn a thing or two about life is still viable. Gotta give those musicians love, folks. Please support them, 'cause it is getting tough to be a troubadour. And the troubadours make the world a better place.
Back to print. There is a silver lining to a lean commercial production schedule: I've had time to plant myself in the Linotype chair and work on creating composition for printing that is outside the scope of Stumptown Printers’ normal “job work.” It has been an absolute thrill to bond with the machine again. Really, I can't believe that a dirt-bag-commercial printer like myself has the opportunity to operate such a thing of beauty — a thing that in my mind stands as a monument to the machine era, the poetic balance of human hand, human touch, human ingenuity and power of cast iron, steel and brass driven by motors and flywheels. The Linotype machine is art and industry and everything in-between, and... it still works. It is still telling its story. Imagine that. My machine is from 1946. It has been through a lot. A lot of operators. A lot of news. A lot of celebration. A lot of death. A lot of all of it. And while it needs attention and repairs, it still dutifully creates beautiful type. Some of which has never been digitized, has never seen a computer. And all of which looks a heckuva lot more beautiful and much more of this world than its digital counterpart. It is a gorgeous thing.
I can count myself among a relatively small handful of folks who have the honor to be the custodians of these wonderful hot metal type composition machines, and as such, it is my goal to keep this one in good working order and casting nice type beyond my time at its keyboard. Just as the operators before me have done. That's the idea. And that goal can't be accomplished if the machine is idle. It is happiest when it is doing what it was designed to do: cast type.
So let’s do it! Time to cast.
Below is a list of projects that I’ll be working on while I have the extra time to sit behind the Linotype keyboard. I'm sharing these projects with you to put a little extra pressure on myself to see these projects through to the inking stage. Thank you for being an unsuspecting accomplice.
- The Horsenecks "Fiddlehead" CD cover. Printed exclusively from Linotype Composition. Additional info here.
- Lino-Lager beer labels, coasters, and ephemera. Yes! A beer to honor the Linotype and its inventor: Ottmar Mergenthaler (I’ll be handling the printing and Linotype, not the beer-making)
- Composition for a series of mesostic poems for artist, mentor and good friend Barbara Tetenbaum.
- Mother Foucault's Bookshop monthly calendar of events (See post here)
- 12"x12" broadside subscription series
- An artist book for my buddy Mark Owens. I cast this type years ago, but haven’t finished it. Time to dust it off and put some ink to the forms.
- Linotype Matrix Slide Being. 3rd in a series of 6. (Previous prints can be viewed here and here)
- Composition for “The Point” a small publication put together by the C.C. Stern Type Foundry Crew.
- Linotype Matrix slide inventory and notecards. Over the years I’ve acquired a fair amount of border Matrix slides. Many of them have not been identified or inventoried, so I hope to print a limited selection of note cards using the border matrix slides as I’m identifying and organizing them.
If you are in the neighborhood of Stumptown Printers, stop on by to see the progress of the projects listed above. You'll find me behind the Linotype keyboard.
* Yes, vinyl. I know. Sales are up on vinyl. I love it. There's nothing like building a relationship and appreciation for a band or artist when listening to a record. It's the way to do it. Also, as a printer, the larger format of a 12" record offers opportunity to lay down some fancy ink and artwork. That's all good. But it takes some serious coin to release a vinyl record, and it's a serious pain to haul records around on tour.