I’ve been trying to figure out a way to begin making word based prints of some of my shorter works and I believe this may be a great start. While talking with Karl Saffran at Woodland Pattern he recommended I check out the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. In April I was able to make the trek to take an Intro To WordPress class at Hamilton.
The Hamilton corporation was the largest producer of wood block letterpress type used mostly for newspaper headlines and advertising signage. They’re located in Two Rivers, just north of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Type was handmade with a machine called a pantograph. It’s a specialized router and the process is somewhat similar to how a key is traced by a locksmith. A seasoned professional could craft three characters per minute out of end cut Rock Maple.
UW-Green Bay professor Christopher Cannon happened to also be at the living museum creating artwork, and graciously took time from his own projects to give me pointers. Playing RL Burnside on the stereo made me like the guy before we even spoke.
The first print I made…
Each print must be laid out backwards, you’re essentially making the negative of a photograph. Jim Moran, the head printer and archivist at Hamilton remarked, “Hey you got the “N’s” and “S’s” the right way…” which does require a surprising amount of thought. Each space between letters must be manually decided upon and if your selected font happens to not have the letter “u”, pray there are doubles of the letter “n”. For example, I ended up making a “Y” from an “l” and “v” on the word “day.”
This other one was a bit of a Freudian slip my friend Denis Blaise said in conversation, “Yeah well since hindsight is 50/50…” (instead of 20/20).
The Hamilton Wood Type Museum is a great resource, housing over 1.5 million pieces of wood block letterpress type. This is a very exciting place to find and I’m very new in my foray into creating more visual artwork. I hope to spend much more time there making prints, even if I do end up sleeping in a van instead of the hotel across the street. I called to inquire about “reservations” at the Waverly Inn and the exact response I received was, “It’s seventy-five dollars a week, and you gotta have a job and no police contact!” Hmmm, maybe the ghost of all of Charles Bukowski’s rooming house stories is roaming around up there…?