Friday, June 12, 2009

in a name?

Guess I'm feeling pretty thankful these days, cause I'm gonna have to give props to a couple more people before I can go on with new stuff...

Before I even bought my press, there came the question of naming it. There are lots of great press names out there, but stealing another press name is generally frowned upon, and hoo boy, watch out if you anger a letterpresser with arms thick from lifting trays of type. So, I began to stir some things in the organic stew I call a brain, and here's what came out...

1. The first press I bought is called a Pilot. I got mine at a pretty skeazy flea market in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Most of the place was full of 8-track tapes and old video cassettes, knives, used records by unheard-of boy bands from the 50s, temporary tattoos, and strangely, baby clothes. But there in the back of the market was a skinny old guy who collected letter press stuff when he saw it. I also bought a bucket of type from him which ended up only causing me hours of confusion and resulted in nothing too usable.

2. My first name is Emily, which is close enough to Amelia.

3. I'm a chick. Sometimes chicks are called ladies.

4. There's a great song by Neko Case called Lady Pilot.

5. There's another great song by the Handsome Family called, "Amelia Earhart vs. the Dancing Bear."

6. My great friend Ben suggested calling my press Lady Pilot.

And so the name is stuck, and thanks to Ben, and to Neko Case and the Handsome Family for writing such cool songs, and to Amelia Earhart for being such an inspiring chick. If the greatness of any of these folks rubs off just a little on my press, the world is soon to be my ink-stained oyster.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Featured here: Farrell and Brandon, hard at work trading jokes while the rest of us slave away over hot, dirty presses.

When I moved here from Chicago, I never expected to be doing letterpress. Although I started collecting letterpress type when I was 19 and stopped at a backwoods barn sale, my printing experience in Chicago had been largely limited to work with an anarchist print shop. At the risk of offending, let me just say...BAD IDEA. Running a business with anarchists can put you off printing, politics, art, food, sleep, or associating with anyone for quite a while. True, I had kept my tiniest press and a great deal of type, lugging it from apartment to apartment, but I had never again had the space to truly set up and work.

All of this changed happily when I moved to Asheville and found Blue Barnhouse. I applied for and got an apprenticeship, began working on presses again, along with doing the various errands and coffee-making required of a new apprentice. In all honesty, I don't think I would have considered again buying a press without my experiences here. Blue Barnhouse not only does lovely letterpress work, (coupled with often dirty context), but offered a calm haven, where good music is played, beer is usually present after 3, and sarcasm is an appreciated art form. Check out their blog and cards online at, buy a card, revel in the beauty. Or stop in and meet Brandon, Sarah, or Farrell, but don't tell them I said they were great, I totally won't admit to it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mr. Wright, who sold us the press, gave me rides on his golf cart.

The press ready to climb the tow truck bed.

Three very hot guys.

Three very hot guys and a tow truck driver.

The big baby in her home.

some more shots of moving day.

Sooner or later, most people learn that to be my friend means to be asked to move heavy shit. Sometimes, I have to make an entirely new group of friends to move letterpress equipment cause the ones I already have know better. Luckily, when moving to a new place, you can take everyone unawares. On this sunny Saturday, my boyfriend, (who should know better, but is in for the ride), and two new friends helped me to move this beautiful Chandler and Price from a garage 15 miles away into my own garage/basement.

Surprisingly, it was all smooth sailing til the end. I apparently had not considered the roughly 6 feet of grass between the tow truck and the concrete floor of my basement, and when the press touched sod, it sank into the ground, ready to spend the rest of its days in my yard. Happily, people in Asheville are a friendly lot, and the tow truck driver proceeded to get a jack from the truck and wedge it and himself under a corner of the press. (This would not be likely in Chicago, where the tow truck driver would probably drive away quickly, laughing.) Together the 4 "strapping" "lads" hauled that curmudgeonly machine into the house, its outdoor life ended, at least for while.

why does technology make me burp?

Is it supposed to feel odd to blog? To write something to an unseen, perhaps totally nonexistent audience? Everybody's doin it, but it feels like I'm about to take a step down a very dark staircase and I'm unsure of how many steps there are, or how to gauge their steepness. This is not my house. It makes me feel like I've been having hot dog or onion burps all day. And seeing as how I work with turn-of-the-century machinery, (meaning the 20th) well, current technology always makes me feel a little unnerved.

That said, I'm here at the invisible convention, and I've got my nametag on. The white paper curls at the corners away from my shirt. The thin green line of square border frames my name. I'm trying to figure out the best way to stand - a posture that says confident, but not cocky; astute, not merely clever; alone, but not uncomfortable. I'm fixing my gaze at a point in the distance so I look determined. Come on over and shake my hand, let me tell you a few stories, maybe when the convention ends, we'll grab a beer.