Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Time as a Letterpress Teacher at Elk River High School

Well, it always starts the same. I get asked to do something that I know I can do, it’s not like people are asking me to give lectures on Polynomial functions, they are asking me to teach letterpress and talk about me and my business. Simple right? How could I possibly mess that up? Well, I can’t but I still get wicked nervous and I strain and fret to get everything together for an awesome time. I think high schoolers are a tough crowd, or they get a rap for being such, even if they are not.

So I prepped and prepped with my old intern Nikki in the shop, packed everything up, ran through it and saddled up. I got there and I had no choice but to take charge and tell some kids that this is going to rock. They totally bought it, they did not know why but they were intrigued. Letterpress is a strange thing for young people, mostly what they know at this point in their artist careers is how to control things like drawing, painting, and clay. What they do not know is how to let go a little bit and lay ink on paper and make beautiful things that they have little control of. It is liberating and wonderful and I passed on this virus to 4 classrooms of kids. It was stupendous.

As I talked about my story, which is pretty damn interesting, I included many visual aids, and slowly but surely all eyes were on me. You cannot deny the stunning effect of a good letterpress printed poster, print, broadside, or card. You simply cannot. Well, unless you are a taste deficient moron.

The second day the ideas and thumbnails started to come to life and the ink was already flyin’, I of course had it across my forehead, on my earlobes, and from fingertip to forearm. I think they thought that was interesting, not many teachers actually get in there, up to their eyeballs in it. These kids want to stay clean, and I could give a shit.

On the second day they worked getting further and further sucked into the small poster press I borrowed from St. Bens Art Department. I also graced these oh-so-lucky kids with 2 full drawers of wood type. They also understood quickly that I love my wood type, love like the kid I never had, and they were to respect said type or all bets were off.



There was a week in between the second day and the third and in that time these kids really stepped up their game. Even though the “easy cut” was incredibly “super not easy to cut” cut, they did amazing blocks and were super stoked to print. 










The level one class worked on something very different but with fantastic results! They did monoprints! These self portraits are haunting, hilarious, and like nothing I have seen before. At more than one point in the 53 minute class, the teacher and I noticed near silence and we all know what that means, getting 33 high school kids to concentrate on a project is a ginormous success.

Check out these pictures from some really talented kids…









Thank you students and teachers for a truly awesome experience, I would come back anytime and I hope you are proud of what you accomplished and please come visit me at Bruno Press anytime you find yourselves in St. Joseph!