I've always been curious about the history of fonts and typesetting (I'll admit - I'm a typoholic!). So I decided to learn a bit more about it's origins. This past week I attended a class at a letterpress workspace called The Arm in Brooklyn NY. I wanted to get acquainted with the now ancient art of font fondling (technical term). But something strange happened after I had printed my first letter-pressed poster - I was overcome by a strong euphoric feeling. I sat back and looked at my poor excuse for a first attempt and said with pure elation "I made this."
I began to think about why I felt such astonishment for accomplishing something seemingly so simple. I quickly realized why - it wasn't so simple. It took time (seriously - lots), patience (I cussed like a sailor), and attention to detail (like, you know, spelling). Although, individually the steps were simple - the process as a whole was complex and consuming (compared of course to a simple click of the mouse). As a result, I was forced to look at creativity differently. Why was this so hard? Well, I had been living in the luxurious world of instant gratification. More specifically instant creation. I'm guilty. I apply filters to my shitty iPhone photos, I mindlessly add songs to playlists, and order from Seamless way more than I should. But I occasionally forget about the time it took someone to craft these things that I take for granted. The technique of getting the color right in a photo, or how an album is consciously composed from beginning to end or how a meal is delicately prepared and presented. The appreciation for the art of making is often superseded by quick consumption and automation.
It's an obvious point and a tale as long as time - but this moment resonated with me in a very real way because it allowed me to think more deeply about why I love what I do. And it further proves that by being attentive and intimate with a craft in this way you start to uncover it's beautiful idiosyncrasies. It's purpose begins to emerge. By no means am I now a master typesetter (nor is my final product a thing of beauty). But the appreciation was real. Although the Vandercook No. 4 Printing Press is far beyond obsolete - the joy of it's existence will forever remind me of the importance of making something astounding with your own two hands.
Are you a typoholic? Do you wrinkle your nose in disgust when you get an invitation to your college friend's wedding printed in Papyrus? Walk down the street and stop to salivate at the simple yet striking kerning on some random sign? Do you involuntarily vomit when hear the word Zapfino? These are the symptoms of a typoholic. Contact your local letterpress and ask if they have classes today! For those curious here's a video of the Vandercook in action.