Monday, April 16, 2012

Midwest Craft Pilgrimage, Day 1

Today we head off on the first leg of our Midwest Craft tour, flying first to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and heading on to Chicago via Iowa City; Decorah, Iowa; and Stockholm, Wisconsin. Along the way Annie and I will visit with the MFA Book Arts students at both the University of Iowa and Columbia College, Chicago; drop in for breakfast with poet Bruce Whiteman; spend an evening with artist, printer, and farmer David Esslemont; take a wood engraving lesson and go fishing with Gaylord Schanilec; visit Paul Gehl at the Newberry Library; and dine with a group of Chicago book people at Robert McCammant’s house. At the end of May we will finish the tour with a drive from New York City to Chicago, visiting Mina Takahashi and Marco Breuer in Oxford, New York; Walter Bachinsky and Janis Butler in Shanty Bay, Ontario; Bob and Freddy Baris in Carrollton, Ohio; and ending up back at the Newberry Library for a weekend of events surrounding the American Printing History Association’s Lieberman Lecture.

The purpose of the road trip is to learn from craftspeople who are proficient in a technique in which I have little or no practical experience: wood engraving, pochoir, papermaking, and hand press operation. I am not setting out to try to master any of these crafts but to understand them better, in the hope of broadening what is possible in my own craft. As with any niche community, private press printers are spread out over a large geographic area and, more often than not, tend to live in rural settings. For a New Yorker it is not easy to connect for long periods with other printers. To study with them and to see how they integrate their craft with their lives, you have to visit them in their natural habitat.

Our first stop is the University of Iowa Center for the Book. Tonight we'll gather with faculty and students at Sara Sauer’s house. Tomorrow, we’ll take a tour of the papermaking and printing facilities and meet with the students.

On the plane wearing the optivisor.

Annie with bears at the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport.