Fernie Workshop

“Mike, your drawer of Goudy Hand-tooled is at the airport. Where else would it be?”. This was the text I got from Mark on Monday afternoon. “Doug has it, he’s with airport security”.

I had just met Mark three days prior. A writer and thespian (in the sense that he is dramatic) from Vancouver who had made the trek by plane to a small vacated bakery on the main street of Fernie, BC. He was not the only one; Laura, mother of four. Pam, Elko resident. Brina, freshly bathed in future motherhood. Keith, student of the world and mastermind of said gathering. Myself, the supporting role. And lastly Peter: master and guide.

No, it was not a strange cult gathering (in the traditional sense). We were all people who were driven together for 3 short days out of a love for the printed word, more specifically the letterpress printed word.

Keith Liggett of Salmonberry Press hosted the gathering and we descended upon his Chandler & Price press to listen, learn, talk, laugh, and set type in the old world tradition.

I seem to be drawn to the kind of interests that gather these rag-tag bunches of people. A couple of years ago I harumphed my ’64 Lambretta scooter onto a trailer to meet up with a dozen other scooterists in Trail, BC. Never have you met a more bizarre and likable gaggle. Scooterists, it turns out, are counter-cultural in the best possible ways: Open, loyal, helpful, fun, drunken, appreciative, and accepting. Letterpress people, it turns out, are the same… ish. Letterpress people don’t drink beer before breakfast.

Mark played the part of bard for the weekend. It was quite the feat hearing him slip into Latin to ask a rhetorical question to nobody in particular, answer it himself without pausing for breath, and equally quickly dive back into Goudy Hand-tooled to complete the nearly impossible task he had set before himself as a first printing job. Laura, with all the patience of a woman well into her second decade of parenting, sat without moving for virtually the whole weekend in an attempt to compose not a poem, or broadsheet, but a branch of cherry blossoms aggregated out of 12 point lead type. Pam, not to be outdone, brought an epic poem written by her 12-year-old wordsmith, and left with a 4 page booklet mostly printed… if only there had been enough ‘e’ and ‘o’ to get it all in one go!

The momentum of the weekend climaxed with a tremendous potluck of what Keith swore would be roasted Wild Salmon. We dubbed it the Spirit Salmon, for the white meat (with a strong poultry finish) was of a rare breed of salmon not native to seas of BC. It was a shame to eat such a majestic beast, but we pressed on with much cheer and merriment, and staggered home to warm beds in warm houses.

The final morning saw the press turning over mostly without ceasing, as projects drew to a close and chases were locked up and makeready was madeready. Something close to lunch hour the group started to falter as one after another of our faithful fell to other commitments; to family, to the ski hill… but we know we will return one day to that happy place: the place where the scent of printers ink mingles with old wood smells, bound and bottled by the regular clunking of the press as it makes it’s love to the paper.

It was a good 3 days. It seemed like longer. But just when I thought it was all over there was one last touchstone: When I went to pick up my drawer of Goudy Hand-tooled from Doug at airport security, he said “How old is this stuff anyways”. “Older than you Doug” I responded “But full of fresh memories”.

—m.

3 thoughts on “Fernie Workshop

  1. Thespian says:

    Mike, it was an extraordinary weekend and as I thank you for it, I thank you for this vivid and colourful portrait of it as well.

    Mark

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