A Letterpress Weekend…

 

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Very kind and patient artist who was helping us with the new skill…

I’ve recently been itching to do something arty (as in drawing or something along those lines), and to try to scratch that itch, Superhero and I went along to the monthly First Friday Art Trail that is hosted by the arts organizations in our community. It’s a big event and happens once/month when most of the big galleries here in town open their doors on a Friday evening, rain or shine, and you can just walk around and see what’s shaking up in the local arts world. (There are also food trucks, which also helps gets us downtown on those evenings. Yum.)

As we were strolling around, looking at the hundreds of great artworks on display in both indoor and outdoor venues, I caught my eye on a flyer advertising a printmaking workshop for that following Sunday, and having seen some really good letterpress pieces hanging around town, decided to sign up for that afternoon’s activity.

If you’re not certain what letterpress art is, it rather looks like an early example of printing, and it’s a piece that typically comes out of an old-fashioned heavy iron printing press, and is usually heavily reliant on fonts and words of some description. (Naturally, as it’s a LETTERpress.) So off I trundled to see what I could learn.

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Some of the letter forms used to make the print on the piece of paper….

It was a very casual workshop set in a really well-lit renovated studio that used to be a former gas station (or maybe an old fire station) years ago. Now it’s this great creative space with really good light and with loads of space to spread out and do artist things.

It was a small workshop, only a few participants, and led by two printmaking artists who were very patient at all our questions and inquiries as we learned the process. It’s typically used for broadsheets (large pieces of paper) only printed in very small quantities. You may have seen examples for graphic pieces or perhaps a short poem with plenty of white space surrounding the words. I’d been dying to have a go at this, so was pretty excited to get to do it.

letterpress_workshop_June2017Seeing as it was more of “experiential” workshop than a 100% serious “teaching” workshop, we all got to try our hands at creating some postcards and notecards which, obvs, was very exciting because – ohhh. Writing materials! Each piece was pre-cut with a matching envelope with really good weighty paper that the ink would not be able to bleed through. (Pet peeve.)

(If you’re curious about my results, check out the pic on left. Most of playing with space and graphic design, so no worry if they don’t make much sense.)

Such good fun, and although it’s incredibly unlikely that I will ever get my own printing press (big, expensive, bulky), I had a great time and it really scratched my creative itch which was good. If you ever get the opportunity to try it, it’s pretty easy and extremely satisfying. (Instant gratification. Hooray!)

We’re just about to head off to Albuquerque, NM, and drive with my mum and sister around to look around so things might be quiet here on the blog for a couple of days. Fear not. I will return, and then we can catch up with reading, news, and all those other things that make a life well-lived.

 

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A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman (2015)

book398Pulled off the TBR shelf after watching a presentation given by Malcolm Gladwell one evening, this was a really disappointing read in the end. I was trying to read only from the TBR pile, and thought that this might scratch that Gladwell itch, but Grazer is nowhere near as good. Although billed as a book about curiosity, this read struggled mightily with that charge and veered more often than not into the world of the vanity project.

Grazer is a Hollywood producer who has put this flimsy book together based on a few conversations between him and his friends, all of whom apparently kept begging him to write this book about one of his main interests. I felt as though he somehow expected his readers to bow before him, grateful for his small nuggets of wisdom about nothing much in particular.

It wasn’t badly written, but there was not enough material here to develop into a book and the material that was there was more about the famous people Grazer had met or who he knew, much more so than the theme of curiosity. (I felt quite badly for Fishman, who, as his ghostwriter, probably got blamed for the whole thing in the end, even though he may not have been responsible for the actual content.)

So, a disappointing read but them’s the breaks. Another one off the TBR pile and just think of it this way: I’ve now saved you a few hours of reading it yourself. 🙂

Recap: 2015 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference

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As part of my job and life, I write any number of documents, reports, PR materials and numerous other pieces, so it’s important that I try to learn as much as I can to develop my skills. Luckily, I love to learn and when I was offered the chance to attend a prestigious writing conference near Dallas, I jumped at it.

The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference is an annual event organized by the Mayborn School of Journalism (or J-School as it’s known) at the University of North Texas. It’s been going on for quite some time, and has evolved into a pretty important literary event for those in the world of nonfiction (especially narrative NF, creative NF, long-form NF, literary NF or any of its other permutations). The conference’s theme was “The Great Divide” which covered, as the conference brochure says, “the great divide between the Haves and the Have-Nots in America and the social, economic, racial, cultural and political fissures created by this divide.”

Speakers were heavy hitters in the world of lit NF: there were keynotes from Anne Fadiman and from Barbara Ehrenreich, there were editors and writers of all levels from places like the Washington Post, New York Times, and The Atlantic magazine, and there were Pulitzer Prize winners talking about their work.

There were panel conversations about the ethics of writing someone else’s story (as happens with lit NF many times): should a writer appropriate the life story belonging to someone else and if so, what is the obligation (if there is one) of the writer to that someone during the process and afterwards (in terms of literary success etc.)?

There was one particularly interesting panel about a young journalist (actually on the panel) who had made a colossal mistake with a story, an error which may have played a role in the source’s eventual suicide. Who should have stopped the error? The journalist himself? His editors? In the end, twelve people read the story prior to print and no one said anything to stop it being published as it was written. How did that occur?

Another panel discussed the rights and wrongs involved in Rolling Stone’s wrongly reported fraternity rape case at a Virginia university. So many people were involved in the process, but somehow the source’s story didn’t get fact-checked… How? Why?

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It was a very thought-provoking two days and I learned a great deal, one of the biggest being that every lit NF (whether it’s a book or a short-form article) has a formal structure to it (thanks to good editors if you have one) and I’m slowly deconstructing essays and other documents to see how they are built within these structures.  I think that you have to know the rules to break the rules (re: grammar and other writing bits and pieces). This deconstructing process reminds me of diagraming sentences so if you liked to do that, then you’ll probably enjoy deconstructing essays. It’s great fun on long plane rides, if you ask me.

So – not only was the conference worthwhile, but being in Dallas meant that I was pretty close to lots of friends who live in the area so I managed to catch up with some of them in the scant free time there was. I might also have found a bookshop very close to the hotel. I can neither confirm nor deny that books were bought on this trip.

Anyway, a good trip and well worth the time and effort. You should look it up if you’re interested in lit NF, reading or writing it.

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