Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Perfect Print Shop

What letterpress printer doesn’t dream about the perfect print shop? I know my father Gary Hantke did. No matter how many fonts of type or ornaments or borders are in any print shop, there’s always that one illusive item that would make it absolutely perfect.

But by the end of the 1980’s, my father had assembled a pretty amazing print shop, full of wonderful type, cuts, or other printing paraphernalia. Decades of hard work and patient sorting had given him literally tons of options for printing.

Unfortunately in the last two years of his life Dad was too ill to print. His declining health wouldn’t allow him to stand and set type, much less run the printing press. He tried to content himself with immersion in one of his other hobbies, stamps. But more than once Dad told me how much he wished he could print.

After my father’s passing in 1990, my husband and I printed a flyer to be given away to those attending the memorial service. A good printer friend, Rich Hopkins of Hill and Dale Press, produced a booklet of his memories of my father that was distributed throughout our APA printing hobbyist group.

As the months wore on after his death, I wonder how Dad was doing. I missed him terribly. Was he happy? Was he still separated from the printing hobby he loved so much?

Then one night I had a dream. In it I saw my father in a huge, beautiful print shop. He was designing printed pieces, happily collaborating with printing friends who had passed on before him ― Emerson Duerr, Jim Eckman, Norman Forgue, and others.

The unique thing about this print shop in the dream was that it was absolutely unlimited. No type, cut, ornament, or border was lacking. Anytime a printer needed anything, all he or she had to do was think of the item and it would manifest, ready for use. All the setting and press work was still done by hand. That’s the fun of the hobby, after all. But anything a printer could imagine using ― like ornaments from the Bruce Foundry, or fanciful borders from MacKellar, Smiths, and Jordan ― was available instantly through thought.

What a print shop! It made me so happy to think about Dad working there, enjoying the company of his dearest friends.

This printing blog was started a year ago, and it’s been a joy to produce. With a long-distance move of the print shop in my husband’s and my near future however (see April 27th blog), I’ll be taking a break until the move is complete, possibly some time in June. By then I’m sure there’ll be lots more to share.

I’ll close for now with the printed piece my father always kept posted over his Chandler and Price press. Since the long s characters make it hard to read, here’s the text: “I have been obliged by the sheer Weight of Fatigue to leave my Post, & repair to my Dwelling-house, until I have recovered my usual Composure. All Patrons will find me of a cheerful Demeanor, and in good Readiness for Business or for Consultation upon my Return on the Morrow.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Letterpress for Mother's Day

Though not a printer herself, my mother Ruth was always a big supporter of letterpress. She had an eye for good design, too. Often my father Gary Hantke would have her proofread and take a look at a piece he was about to print. Mom would catch the typos and suggest a bit of white space here or there.

Mom became good friends with several of the printer’s wives, and enjoyed attending Dad’s annual APA printing conventions. Often she managed to charm free cuts, paper, or ink from vendors at the swap meets. Mom and Dad even took a month long trip to Europe with one of the couples from APA.

She was also a wonderful mother. My sister and I never lacked for attention. She sewed our Halloween costumes, Easter and Christmas dresses, and spring and fall wardrobes. She loved to garden and play the piano, and was an excellent cook whose homemade bread, coffeecakes and pizza were legend.

In 1966 Dad printed a lovely poetry booklet for Mother’s Day and gave it to her. All that setting and design work, and he just printed one copy ― for her. I found it with some of her papers after she died.

After my mother’s death in 2008, my husband and I printed a memorial piece in her honor. The type was Murray Hill, her favorite typeface, and the quote was surrounded by a border of flowers and musical notes.

I miss you, Mom! Thank you for all you taught me and gave me. And Happy Mother’s Day. Love, Carole