For the past few months I've been filling in at Fat Crow Press, the retail store of Julie Sola, a like-minded printmaker and former coworker from Hatch Show Print. On top of being an entrepreneur, a printmaker, an author, artist, and seamstress she is also a veteran wardrobe manager for touring musicians. Think Kiss, Madonna, Motley Crüe, Kanye West & Rod Stewart. When she’s on the road I manage her store on the weekends. Because our printmaking processes are identical I bring my own blocks to carve so that customers can witness the process, ask questions, and learn more about her work and printmaking in general.
It’s been a wonderful experience for me in so many ways. I have some place to be, something that self-employed craftsmen often struggle with. I get into the retail mindset, a role I had not practiced since working at Hatch Show Print. I get to imagine how I would eventually run my own brick-and-mortar store. But best of all, I get to talk shop.
Half of being a bookbinder, printmaker, and craftsman is doing the work. The other half is promoting it. This includes learning how to explain your profession, how and why you do it. You become an educator, a proselytizer of craft practices.
Sometimes you get a clean slate, a curious person who has had no exposure to your craft. Those encounters are magical. As you explain the process, you glimpse a twinkle behind their eyes and realize that you are opening up a world of possibility to a person who had no idea that it even existed. And then you meet those interested people who truly get it. They’re either in the club, they’ve watched the ball game, or they simply appreciate what you do because they recognize that it is important.
I met one of those people this weekend. This gentleman and I talked letterpress, linocuts, and bookbinding. I didn’t have to defend my craft against e-books or e-mail. He didn’t shove me in the mainstream and make me swim against today’s current of technology. The man got it. He came into the shop not once, but twice to show off Julie’s work to his friends and to chat with me some more about my bookbinding. I gave him my card, we shook hands, and he was excited to send me his letterpress printed business card that he had recently commissioned. Smiles, it seems, breed smiles and it was the highlight of my week. Until Monday.
Mondays are typically my day off when I work on the weekends. And I had a full schedule of coffee, cats, and bird watching until I checked my work e-mail. And there he was, this man. Not only had he taken my business card, but he had also looked up my website, browsed my store, and contacted me.
I have spent this past year building inventory, applying to trade shows, teaching, and building a website and an online presence. It’s a lot of work for a one-woman-show, especially in the first year. Product is made, trade shows are packed and unpacked. The studio waxes and wanes in tidiness, and occasionally the online store gets restocked. After a full year of production I have bound hundreds of books and pulled thousands of prints. And Monday, thanks to this man and his interest in a springback journal with ruled pages, I finally photographed and listed my latest inventory.
Thank you, sir for that friendly and unknowing kick in the grown-up pants. I hope you enjoy your new journal. Tell your friends, make them jealous, and pass along that business card. You, sir, have made my month!