ecently, a dear friend of mine, Noelle, wrote about the transformation she has undergone since starting her graduate schooling and how, against all odds, she finally sees her place in the world. Graduate School has been the greatest thing I have ever done. Sure, I haven't had a good night's rest in over a year, and yeah, the massive amounts of debt resting on my shoulders keep me tethered to a Mr. Burns-like posture... But similar to Noelle, graduate school has transformed my life.
I have always been a bit of a hippie child, thanks to my Dadu. But at times I have also been complacent with the convenience and consumerism of mainstream American culture. Book Arts works in direct opposition with these trends. The notion of craft is impossible to concretely define, as so many people have differing perceptions of the word and its meaning. But for any person who has labored consciously and deliberately with their hands to produce a piece of work which inspires reverence for the beauty, the precision, the form, and the execution of the piece understands what I mean when I say craft. It is the craftsmanship required in letterpress printing, bookbinding, and papermaking that makes the art form so valuable in our culture of consumption and disposal. When you hold a book in your hands and realize that the papers made from old rags, formed by precise and acute muscle memory of the maker, each letter in each word in each sentence in each paragraph on each page was set individually, one at a time, spaced specifically such that the text is most easily read by the viewer, the form of the book has been pieced together deliberately, each section sewn into the following, the spine covered with various adhesives, papers, and fabrics to allow the most flexibility for function and the most strength for longevity, you soon see the value in the object, the craftsmanship of the maker, and just how much we take for granted. How easily we forget what gratification can be had with working with our hands, how life altering it can be to create something, how grounded one feels when they remember the feeling of touch. How easily we forget this country was built by craftsman, artisans, and farmers; how easily we forget this country was built with hands. Prominent culture in America places highest value on monetary gains, rather than personal gains.
My graduate experience has reinforced to me the power and importance of individual achievement concerning the expansion of ones knowledge, intellect, craft, and self fulfillment. Like Noelle, I am doing that what I love and can't express how happy I am to be able to do it, how grateful I am for the opportunity to cultivate these skills and values, and just how lucky I am that I found not only something that will make me happy, but something I am meant to do. I will never be rich doing what I do. But I will be happy and fulfilled. How many insurance salesmen can claim that?
*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.