I don't deserve any of it.
Today was one of those days where I was just bowled over by the kindness of strangers. Since I started on this journey to learn letterpress just over a year ago, I've been carried along, encouraged and instructed by a collection of knowledgeable and generous-beyond-belief people.
It all started when Frank and Bekah opened up their home to me to teach me how to use their Kelsey tabletop letterpress. I was wide-eyed and ecstatic as they shared what they'd learned on their own quest. They gave me paper, ink and time. Most importantly, they gave me insight into their hard-earned expertise. I am forever indebted to them for helping to fan the flame of my initial interest.
When I attended a Hatch Show Print workshop last June on my birthday (hosted by AIGA of Birmingham at Bottletree), I was at a major turning point. It was then that I met Patrick Masterson of Mary Speaker Fine Press at his downtown studio. At the end of the day, I was extremely enlivened to the art, covered in ink and chomping at the bit to learn more.
Just one week later, I lost what had been my full-time dream job at the magazine.
I set out on an all out search for print professionals in the South. I went to Gordo, where I met a print maven (Glen House) and a young lady of letterpress (Jessica Peterson). I drove out to Tuscaloosa to see about the Book Arts program there.
On a whim, I applied for an eight-week position as a work-study student at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
When I found out that I got in, I grappled with the decision, then bit the bullet and went. I benefited greatly from learning under the one and only Bryan Baker. I watched, learned and was spurred on by the creativity of folks like Beth Schaible, Marianne Dages and Lauren Wagner, among others.
I returned home giddy with glee to have put some foundation to my interest.
I touched base with Patrick, who let me begin helping out some in his shop, and then eventually printing some of my own stuff on one of his two Vandercook presses. Over the months since I've been home, he has become a friend, a mentor and a (perhaps unbeknownst to him), a constant encourager.
I also started running into Alan and Jennifer at Night Owl Paper Goods quite a bit. (Birmingham. Big city, small town feel). They've been unimaginably giving towards me. Extra paper, opportunities to fold cards and be in their shop, a small linoscribe press to play around with. Heck, at one point, they even offered me a Chandler and Price press, free of charge if I would just come get it. That didn't work out, but I have greatly benefited from knowing these two, who, for some reason, care to help me on my way.
Since I've been printing more regularly, I've gotten photo help from Stephen, Elaine and Caleb. I've been set up by David Flemming over at Main Street Birmingham with a business consultant, who has been endlessly helpful already in the process of establishing myself as a small business.
In addition to selling on fourhatspress.com, I started selling my cards at Urban Standard, thanks to the unbelievable kindness of the best boss in the world. I've gotten some great leads on some other places to sell locally (more on that to come).
Just today, Duquette Johnston, local musician and carpenter, absolutely blew me away with a gesture of generosity. He's made me some beautifully-crafted display cases for my cards, cutting me the deal of a lifetime, simply because the Lord laid it on his heart to help me as I'm getting started.
I could write a mile long list of other people I could thank for their sweet words and listening ears as I've strayed from the original plan to pursue something more artistic.
(Mama, Daddy, Megan, George, Deanna, Jacob, Sara, Trevor, Ellen Anne, Chane, Annie, Melissa, Amanda, Dan, Elissa, Laura, just to name a few.)
Like I said, I'm flat-on-my-face humbled by the magnanimity of friends and acquaintances alike. Whether you read this or not, I want you to know that I'm tearfully, humbly grateful.
My words aren't near enough, but I hope to one day be able to pay back or forward the same kindness.