Last night I was watching a documentary about The Eagles, the legendary country rock band from LA. They burned bright with creative energy for 10 years, and when success and #1 singles started pouring in the band started simmering internally until after 10 years of forced creativity together the wind of change whistled in and snuffed the flame (almost) permanently.
Creativity is a slippery, elusive thing. It’s like cupping a drink of water; if you don’t sip that quenching liquid quickly it all leaks out around your fingers and leaves your throat parched. You can’t hold it long. Like quantum science you never know for sure where it’s going to be or where it’s coming from at any given moment, but when inspiration hits you better take advantage because its appearance is fleeting and startles easily.
This morning I read this quote in The Painter’s Keys, a twice-weekly letter sent by Sara Genn (artist & daughter to lauded Canadian painter Robert Genn) the following quote:
“The trick to being truly creative… is to be completely unselfconscious. To resist the urge to self-censor. To not-give-a-shit what anybody thinks. That’s why children are so good at it. And why people with Volkswagens, and mortgages, Personal Equity Plans and matching Louis Vuitton luggage are not.” – Linds Redding
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: how does one foster creativity in one’s self? Redding is correct in that many of our modern trappings do interfere. I know from experience the pressure to create knowing that my artist income is the only thing making sure there is food on my family’s table. For years I’ve been searching for a better balance: do I take the stable, bespoke work or gamble with turning customers away and focusing on making great art?
I have found that the clamour of every day living, parenting, small-business owning, and all the other things that just simply ‘are’ in life consume 90% of time and creative energy, and it takes another 8% to get to ‘that space’ that allows me to generate, refine, and articulate artistic ideas that are more than just competent.
I’m realizing now that as Anie and I attempt simplify our lives, I take on less and less ‘custom’ work and push further into that risky ‘artist’ range where there is no safety net… just blessed cool air whooshing past as we fall.
Some may find that scary, and with good reason: It is. Calling yourself an artist is a life-long pursuit because no one can confirm or deny that truth except for the artist themselves… and as artists we are chronic self-doubters.
What I’m finding, however, instead of fear in the free-fall, is joy: I can’t remember being happier. I’ve always been a slow-burn, long-game kind of a guy. I’m willing to be patient, never content to sit and wait, but my progress (self-assessed) has been a crawl forward rather than a sprint. It’s taken me 41 years to find this path but now that I’m on it the Armies of the Nations will have a tough job getting me off.
All that to let you in on this new truth: Clawhammer Press is changing a bit. The past 4 years have been stellar and crazy and wonderful. We’ve worked with some amazing people, and learned some hard lessons. In the end though I realize that I have to chase that happy… and right now that happy is coming from expunging ideas from my head that have been rattling around for years. It’s about finding models and industries and clients that allow Clawhammer Press to do what we do best: Create forward-thinking art with a historic process, to create memorable projects for memorable people, and much of the time that person will be me chasing my spirit animal through the woods.
This is part of the reason why artist are chronically low-income. We realize that often the trappings of success come with golden handcuffs and we need to dance on that razor’s edge of survival in order to generate enough inner turmoil to generate passion to generate ideas. Whether or not it’s true in each artist’s life, security has the perception of complacency. If you don’t need anything why would you chase an intangible thing through an imaginary forest? As Mickey Rourke says in his film Barfly “It’s a cage with golden bars”. Being an artist with a family, I have to be more pragmatic than some but I still get that sense: I must chase the white stag.
I don’t have a lot of information for you about what this all means exactly in practical terms (I’d tell you if I know), but don’t worry because there’s no urgency. Clawhammer Press not going anywhere, but I did want to give you all the heads up that we’re refining our vision and narrowing the focus of our headlights. I’m going to keep chasing that spark and trying to let that extraneous distractions fall away.
Someday, when the fires have burned hot and long, like The Eagles, I’ll let those winds carry me on to the next thing. For now, however, keep your eyes out for the signposts on the journey… it’ll be hot off the press.
Thanks for a great winter everyone! We’re taking a short break to catch a break, but we’ll be back in action in a few days. Our retail shop will be closed from Monday, April 20th and re-open again Friday, April 24th at 12 Noon. Enjoy the week!
Clawhammer Press is excited to announce that we again have an opening for a 14 week paid position for an intern and summer staff person starting mid-May and running to August 30th. The only requirements are that the student must be finishing post-secondary school in April and returning to school in September. Preference will be given to students in graphic artist programs or print-making students who are interested in enriching their knowledge of letterpress printing, typography & type history.
The lucky candidate will begin their 30-hour/week internship on May 10 (ideally) and continue through August 30th. Some weeks may have more hours, and opportunities for a week or so off for family visits are negotiable. July and August will see the learning continue, with more responsibilities, including at least two weeks where the intern becomes master of the shop; overseeing all retail sales, printing projects, and daily operation of both retail shop and print studio.
Position includes 24/7 access to a well-equipped letterpress studio, and supplies at cost for personal projects. Interns with initiative may end up with products and projects for sale on commission in our retail shop.
Important: Expressions of Interest will be accepted EXTENDED TO: Friday, April 17th @ midnight. Select hone interviews will take place Saturday & Sunday, and a decision made by Monday, April 20th. This should give the student ample time to find lodging if necessary, and arrange for arrival.
To express your interest in the position, please read carefully and then forward the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
1. Your name, phone number, email address
2. Why you are interested in the position.
3. A bit about yourself, your experience and your journey.
4. Some samples of your work or a link to your website/CV.
5. Tell us what you are passionate about regarding typography & letterpress, please be specific.
In addition, please also make sure:
• You spell everything carefully. We like good spellers.
• The email subject line reads: “Internship 2015 – Expression of Interest”.
• You are entirely available from May 10th to August 30.
• You have a creative, open mind that’s ready for learning.
Questions you might have:
1. What can I expect to do during my time there?
Interns can expect to everything that is required in a letterpress shop. This includes type cleaning, sorting, distributing. Sorting… lots of sorting. It can include cleaning up ink, cleaning presses and cleaning shelves. It can also include data entry, inventory, and creating lists. The upside is that it also will include extensive experience hand-setting type, creating photo-polymer plates, operating flatbed proofing presses, platen presses, troubleshooting, creasing, binding, mixing ink, talking to customers, quoting, product ideation, articulation, and production. Also, anything else that we think is necessary, relevant, and will enrich your time and experience at Clawhammer Press. If you don’t like following instructions and doing a variety of tasks cheerfully, please don’t apply. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time for creativity. Did we mention sorting?
2. Where will I live?
The city of Fernie is not a cheap place to live, but May is a good time to look for a home because the seasonal workers from the hill will be clearing out. We cannot subsidize your living expenses for the four months, but we can assist with looking for a place to live and helping find ways to keep your living expenses at a minimum. We have connections and may be able to find a room/board situation, or a shared accommodation depending on availability and your preference.
3. What is Fernie like?
Fernie is a resort municipality. There is plenty of recreation to be had in the area: hiking, mountain biking, swimming, live music, fly fishing, and whatever else floats your boat for summer entertainment. It’s a great place to spend a summer. The downtown core is full of boutique shops, good coffee, international cuisine, and artsy things to do and see. People move here from all over the world. You’ll like it here I promise.
4. Will I get some time off?
Yes! The hours are somewhat flexible, and we can work together to work out a schedule that works for you. We do expect you to make yourself available when we need you, and you’ll have lots of notice about when that is. Part of the reason we are offering the position is so we can take some holidays, so that is our priority. Any other time we can be quite flexible about when you work your hours for internship and/or summer staff. Additionally, if you have a week planned away with your family already, that’s okay, I’m pretty sure we can work around it.
5. Will we be doing this every year?
That depends. We’ve had good experiences with interns before, and we’ll continue to offer it as long as it makes sense, but we haven’t had a specific position with a set purpose, so if this process goes well we may continue to offer an internship. It is certainly an opportunity that we would have liked to have when we were looking for a place to learn.
6. Are there other opportunities?
Yes… we are open to talking to you. If you have 3-6 weeks and want to come and volunteer your time as an unpaid position here, we can certainly provide that as a work placement and/or intensive learning experience. We’d basically be trading learning and use of the shop in exchange for your labour helping run the shop and learn about letterpress. We don’t have a set program but can work with people to develop something that may work out depending on the person. We’ll do this on a very limited basis, so we reserve the right to say “that’s not going to work for us right now”. We also do custom 1-3 day workshops for individuals and small groups, which is another, less intense option.
More answers will be added as we get asked by potential interns, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Even though we’ve cultivated a pretty decent group of traveling musicians to play at Clawhammer Press over the past three years, it’s a rare treat to have a group as talented as this husband-wife duo. Banjo builders by day, world-traveling musicians by night. Pharis & Jason are Canadian Folk Music award winners, and in the last year have played on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion twice. If you’re not familiar with the show, picture CBC’s The Vinyl Cafe, but in the USA, with a listener base that exceeds the population of the Lower Mainland, and regular performers like the Punch Brothers.
At any rate, it’s rare that you get to listen to a group like that, it’s great. When you get to print posters for them, and host them in your own venue with a seating capacity of 60 people, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime treat… or rather, it would be if this weren’t the second time they’ve played here.
Regardless, this show is one not to miss, so don’t wait to get your tickets. More info about the event is available on our Facebook Event here. We’ll also have posters to raffle off at intermission, so that’s one way of getting one.
We’ve been involved over the last few months in this interesting project with Henry Georgi and Keith Liggett. The Fernie Originals is part recipe book, part character reference for Fernie, and part showcase of some of the finer points of our little town. We are hosting an informal launch of the book at the gallery this Friday, January 9, at 8PM. Everyone welcome.