Sunday, January 23, 2011

7:07 p.m.

Account of a Letterpress Studio

We walked up stairs, and more stairs. We walked until the smell of hardwood floors was replaced by an inching increase in chemicals and inks. The landing was covered in brown cardboard boxes of all sizes. It was all a small landscape of geometric shrubbery, quaintly pushed and stacked against white, marked-up walls. Higher we climbed, until we faced a dark hallway, ridden with gangly, old, empty frames. In angled messes, they stretched from the walls and threatened to catch our cold ankles.

We entered a bright room. The foggy windows overlooked rooftops and lines of smoking chimneys. A stratosphere of handmade paper hung above our heads like cream clouds. The room was a room full of obstacles: Fraying posters, paints, a special pen for repairing paper. We treaded carefully, past the Francis Bacon.

There were letters. So many of them, in boxes and on desks; hanging on walls and printed on artworks. This was a forest so dense with letters, it was difficult to make out a single one. Cases of haphazardly labeled uppers and lowers were stacked to the ceilings. The wooden shapes grazed our arms like tree branches.

In the center of the forest was the press. Though I had seen many letters and words, and had thought of many ways I could use them today, only one idea ran through me: machine. It looked heavy compared to the paper sky, powerful enough to form phrases. Dirty and inked, its weight excited me. I wanted to touch its cool metal skin. I didn't, for we had to leave. And we treaded carefully back — through the pulp canopy and frame bridge, down and down, until once again, we smelled the wood floors.

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