Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Clawhammer Letterpress.


I returned from holiday this week, and I am feeling rested and ready to take on the upcoming term! Admittedly, I cheated a couple of times and checked my work email, but was able to stay *mostly* unplugged for my 10-day jaunt through mainland BC and the island.

For those who are interested, I'd like to share one of the highlights (word-related, of course) of my travels: the morning I spent learning about letterpress from Josh at Clawhammer Press in Fernie, BC.

Clawhammer is a beautiful shop that houses a small gallery and a fully-functioning letterpress studio. Clawhammer creates business cards, invitations, posters, coasters, and other ephemera. I picked up a set of coasters and a necklace and would have loved to have purchased several poster prints, but feared they would be squished as my journeys continued. In retrospect, I should have mailed them home to myself...

The studio has 350ish different kinds of typefaces in-house. My favourite were the large wooden sorts, but they had a variety of styles and sizes, all the way down to teeny tiny letters. 

Fun fact: Apparently, the phrase "out of sorts" (as in, not feeling quite well) is thought to have its roots in typography. In Printers + Founders language, "sorts" are the letters used for printing ("a" is a sort, "b" is a sort, etc.) When a typesetter ran out of sorts - and was thus unable to continue working - they would become understandably irritated (particularly since many printers were paid according to the number of pages produced per day). Hence, out of sorts!





I had no idea how much precision went into preparing the sorts for printing - it really is a game of spacing and numbers. Remember last year when I found out I was basically a kerning genius? Well, turns out, my internet skills didn't translate to real life typography...




Josh was working on a gift for a friend, a print from a poem by Rumi:

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and
kiss the ground.

He generously let me try running a few proofs through, which was very fun. Although, you can tell by the smudges in the photo below that I have a tendency to manhandle the paper as it runs through the press. Josh let me keep one of the proofs as a keepsake, and it's currently leaning on a shelf in my living room awaiting a frame.




I was allowed to wander around the studio, as it wasn't too busy that morning. I poked around, finding vignettes of finished pieces, ongoing projects, and life at work. I must have snapped about 200 photos of the space, but am working on narrowing them down to a few favourites.

I wish there were a place like this closer to home.

Do you know of any great studios in our 'hood?





Thanks, Clawhammer, for a great introduction to letterpress! 

Also, big ups to my sister who humoured my word nerdery with grace. She spent a solid couple of hours in the studio, in spite of her desire to get outside and up a mountain (she got the adventurer genes). Thanks, Bops!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Heading to the Lobby.


I'll be unplugged and out of blogging commission for a week or two. I'm attempting to go sans laptop and sans cell phone while I do some adventuring. I'll report back in September!

Here are five things you might want to check out in the meantime...
  1. Pick up a book that will actually change your life.  
  2. Literary first lines + rap lyrics mash-ups. Love this. 
  3. Just do it. Yeaaah, that "it." #sexted
  4. A reading list to make your heart swell with national pride.
  5. An oldie but a goodie - creative inspiration in less than 20 minutes.
Happy August ❤

(Image via)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mortified Nation.


Have you seen Mortified Nation yet? A couple of nights ago, I cracked a bottle of wine and settled in for a movie night with my life partner (read: Netflix), and I've not stopped babbling about this film since.

David Nadelberg started the Mortified project after unearthing an embarrassingly awful love letter he wrote (and never sent) in high school. It began as follows:
Hello, Leslie. How is your day today? Mine's quite well, I must admit. I do hope that yours is a good one, because what you're about to read may or may not add an extra color to the rainbow at day's end.

Listen up and put your mind at rest because for the few minutes...First off, let me introduce myself...my name is Dave. (Yep, that way cool guy who gave you this letter!). For quite some time I've been, I've been trying to figure out a way to meet you. The older we all get and the more the time that we include into history passes on, it has seemingly become harder and harder to get to know one another...
After reading it to his roommates, Nadelberg realized that there might actually be something to the idea of sharing our adolescent musings with the world. And lo, Mortified was born.

This film takes a look at the stage show, with excerpts from performances across the U.S. The stories range from hilarious (the white dude who describes his 15-year-old self as having "the heart of a poet and the vocabulary of Flavor Flav") to heartfelt (the woman who struggles to reconcile her desire to be loved by her destructive mother and her need to escape the cycle of abuse). 

I think what struck me the most was the absolutely glowing love that seemed to be coming from the audience - everyone can relate, in some small way, to the performers' stories of adolescent love, loss, and indigence. It would be incredible to be at one of the live shows, hopefully they'll make it to Toronto!

Watching this film made me wish that I still had some of my elementary and high school journals. I was a sporadic journaller (and frequent destroyer of embarrassing pages), but I'd love to take a look at what remains. I have no idea what became of them.

We have already established that my early fiction work was comprised mostly of lies, but I did manage to find a few school journals from my early elementary years...


In Standard One (the equivalent of Canadian Kindergarten), I was pretty focused on being a happy, pretty mermaid, and also writing run-on sentences:

November 29th, 1990: "Let's pretend I am a mermaid if I was a mermaid what could I do I can sing songs oh I am going too Flip the Dolphins party I think it will be fun don't you yes I do I am a happy mermaid pretty too bye now."

The following year, I experimented with some decidedly more daring play themes:

September 9th, 1991: "Yesterday I went to Toronto to visit my dad's cousin and my cousins. We climbed the three pear trees and we threw some pears and then we watched Home Alone. Then my cousin Charlie wanted to play Ghostbusters but me and my sister and my other cousin Lizzie dident want to play Ghostbusters then we played with bricks."

A few years passed, during which time I became quite the little revolutionary. Apparently, my left-wing roots really started to take hold in the fourth grade and I've never looked back:

February 7, 1994: "It is not ever good to be stingy. You won't have many friends if any at all. If you have old clothes or stuff you don't need, you could donate them. But if you're not donating it because you think people should earn what they have, then that is not sharing. So you're taking advantage of them. You think they should work but they can't."

March 23, 1994: "I think freedom is important. I'm reading Underground Railroad to Canada and it's about slaves and racism. (You probably know the story). But anyway, if I was around then, I might help them fight for freedom and even give up my life. Even now we still have those problems. Not so much slavery but racism. I still would give up my life for freedom."

April 11, 1994: "I agree with the Civil Rights Act. I think everyone should be treated with equal respect. When people don't treat people equally lots of fights get started. Like when 'white' people stole from the Native Americans. The Wounded Knee took place. People thought since they were a different color they didn't deserve land."

"White" people, amirite?

Do you still have old journals and letters kicking around?

Could you imagine reading them in front of a crowd?

P.S. In the film, Nadelberg talks about his love of old letters. It reminded me to spend some time combing through one of my favourite websites...

P.P.S. As a result of the internet spiral I fell down while writing this post, I found this early effort by the Duplass brothers. Love these guys. 

(Image via)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Giver Film.


The Giver film comes out tomorrow! This is a book that I absolutely loved and cherished in my youth (it has a spot on my much-neglected 100 Must-Reads list). I started re-reading it lastnight in anticipation of the film release, and man, it is still so beautiful and moving.

Will you see the movie?

P.S. Reading The Giver as an adult

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Love is a Mixtape.


A few months ago, I picked up the book Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. The book is a memoir that uses a series of mixtapes to tell the story of how Sheffield met, married, and lost the woman that he loved.

Each chapter begins with a tracklist for one of the real mixtapes that Sheffield and Renée exchanged during their time together. In addition to artists I knew, the tapes featured so many unfamiliar bands (Big Star, Interpol, etc.) that I started reading with my laptop beside me so I could tune in for context.

According to Sheffield, Renée was a feisty, free-spirited, Southern gal: "She rooted for the Atlanta Braves and sewed her own silver vinyl pants. She knew which kind of screwdriver was which. She baked pies, but not very often. She could rap Roxanne Shante's 'Go on Girl' all the way through."

The book is most definitely a love letter to Renée, but in many ways, it is also a celebration of the music scene of the 90s: "I get sentimental over the music of the ’90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I’m concerned the ’90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps."

It won't surprise you to learn that Sheffield has been a columnist for Rolling Stone for nearly 20 years. In this book, he uses his life experience and vast music knowledge to weave a lovely little story about love and loss and the power of songs.

As Sheffield tells us, "the times you lived through, the people you shared those times with - nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life."

What songs make up the story of your life?

(Image via)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Free Download: My First Learning Book.


I'm always amazed when I see wee ones, some no older than two, playing around with their parents' tablet or smartphone. I don't own a tablet, so I mainly stab at the screen with one finger whenever I'm forced to navigate one. It's official: toddlers of the Western world have surpassed me. It's a brave new world, my friends!

That being said, maybe I've still got a slight edge on those tiny idiots. According to this article, while nearly 20% of kids aged 2-5 are able to operate a smartphone application, only 9% can tie their shoes. I can tie my shoes! Loop, swoop, and pull, baby.

Did you ever see this video? It made the rounds awhile ago. It shows a baby using an iPad, and then becoming confused when a magazine cannot be manipulated in the same way. It's a simple example of how our kids are growing up "digital natives" - entrenched in technology, fluent in the ever-changing language of the digital world.

Maybe it makes me a bit of a Luddite (or maybe Louis CK's soulmate), but I cringe a bit when I see parents hand over their phones to kids as if they were pacifiers. However, maybe I need to adjust my understanding of what kids are up to when they're playing with technology. When I was a kid, I was given books or puzzles to entertain me during long waits in line or my mother's experiments with us in church. Is a smartphone really so different? It's a longer read, but this article takes a close look at the so-called Touch-Screen Generation and how technology is impacting their development.

I'm wondering, parents, do you let your kids click away on your phones/tablets? What kind of stuff are they doing?

In case you're interested, the designer of my website banner, Timothy Horizon, has created a series of interactive learning books for kids to use on iPads. The illustrations are fun and colourful, and the books cover content like numbers, colours, rhyming, shapes, and opposites. The best news is: they're free! Jump over to iTunes to download them, if you're looking for kid-friendly phone/tablet resources.