Sunday, 31 July 2011

First experiments at making bookmarks for The Leeds Library...

Currently, I'm embroiled in several projects in which art, literature and letterpress collide. This is one of the newest: a potential commission for letterpress bookmarks for The Leeds Library. Opening in 1768, the library is one of the country's oldest subscription libraries. It houses a marvellous book collection, which is chosen by and reflects the interests of its members, and recently they were kind enough to allow us to host Fictions of Every Kind there.

The library has a range of merchandise ranging from book bags to postcards and bookmarks. When Geoff told me they were thinking of having new bookmarks printed, I leapt right in to offer to letterpress some. (Everything looks amazing when you letterpress it). He lent me an old printing block that they have, and I got to work typesetting their address and contact details. Above, you can see some of the prototypes. The completed versions should be available before too long!

Currently reading

The Wayward Bus John Steinbeck
Collected Stories Raymond Carver

Friday, 22 July 2011

Letterpress nerdery

Here is a picture of a nice dog I saw yesterday whilst on a print-related adventure.

Yesterday, I went to a strange place - a letterpress graveyard, if you will - with my letterpress conspirator, Nick. He had his eye on a proofing press, and I wanted to perv over many different kinds of type.

At the moment, I'm working on several letter-press projects. One is a collection of micro-stories for an exhibition themed 'Next to Nothing'. I'll letterpress print the stories and show them in the exhibition, which is going to be in a disused shop unit in Leeds later on in the year. There will be three stories, and my aim is to print each using a different typeface... so I needed to get my mucky little paws on some more of those lovely letters!

The chap who runs the strange place used to work with computers, and has gradually moved, bit by bit, into the world of antiquary. While we were there, he mentioned in passing that he would never go back to working back with new technology again. The mainstay of his business is in repairing and moving printing presses, but incidental to that has a massive collection of trays of type, printing press spare parts, and everything that goes along with it. Cases reached from floor to ceiling, each full with type trays. There were lots of rare typefaces, in all shapes and sizes, and I spent a pleasant hour standing on chairs and climbing over printing presses to look at them. I came away with two trays of an 20s style art-deco typeface which so rare it isn't in any of the books. (This is what I'll be using to print one of the stories).

In addition, the guy was looking after two of his friends' dogs and they were both running around the yard, yapping and getting excited. Here's a picture of them in action.

Friday, 8 July 2011

What does it take to be a writer's other half?

Most of the column inches in this blog are taken up with me complaining about being a writer. The hours suck, it's poorly paid, and nobody ever says "well done". In fact, they are much more likely to say, "Would you please stop filling the house with scraps of paper, and get that bloody laptop off the kitchen table?"

It occurred to me lately that few of us would ever get anything done were it not for the support of our other halves. People of a creative mindset are wont to be flighty and inconsistent. Anything and everything interests us, and we can almost forget that the world is turning when we're absorbed in the act of creation. In my rush to get back to the writing desk, I'll often leave pans dirty and crumb-covered plates all over the worktop. Later on I'll come back downstairs and shout "WHO ON EARTH MADE ALL THIS DISGUSTING MESS", forgetting that in fact it is I who has the softest of hands from never bloody washing up.

Stability, that's important to us. The working life of any writer is filled end to end with discouragement. There is no steady ground beneath our feet. Every writer has her black periods. Quite apart from constantly doubting whether our work is really any good, we face discouragement from lots of other angles. A constantly growing pile of rejection letters or resounding silences, or sniping reviews can reinforce our belief that we're really not all that good at what we do. If we didn't have our other halves to support us when we're moping, or to remind us that we have to re-tax the car or break off to eat every now and again, we would probably be a bit depressed, as well as somewhat unproductive.

And the job of being a writer's other half is far from a rewarding one. You're attached to somebody who spends most of their free time staring moodily into a computer screen; and when they're not doing that, their thought processes are mainly taken up with the process of deciding What Happens Next. Your spouse's head is continually in an imaginary place - an imaginary place completely inaccessible to you until its creator has spent months of her life writing, rewriting, and editing it. On top of all that, what your scribbling beloved requires from you most of all is that you never, ever interrupt her while she is working.

So let's all give 'props' to our other halves - for putting up with our inconsistencies, for doing more than their share around the house, and for placing cups of tea unobtrusively just within reach of our hands when we are deep in the quagmire of a third or fourth edit. We would be nothing without them.

Currently reading

The Outsider Albert Camus
The Cossacks Leo Tolstoy