Creative and Poor

I purchased a font this past weekend at the Wayzgoose, and I’m so discouraged by what a hard time I’m having with the poster I want to make using it. Either I over ink or under ink and my paper jumps and I just can’t get a good print out of it to save my life.

Normally I don’t get so discouraged, but this week, having spent so much time seeing what other people do with their own creativity, especially in the letterpress world, I’ve become quite discouraged by my lack of equipment, time, and creativity.

My talents usually lie in being a bit of a wordsmith. Yet, I haven’t found my knack for translating that into some kind of appropriate format with letterpress. Which is ultimately my goal. Usually it’s because I never feel like I have enough. Not enough images. Not enough type. Not enough talent. If only I could make my own type, but alas, it is another resource that I simply have no money for. Depleted and discouraged by the font purchase, I worry that perhaps I was not worthy to work with such a lovely font.

If only I were better at woodcuts or something. If only I had more time. More money. More original ideas when I needed them. A bigger and better press. A bigger and better shop. More lead slugs. Less distractions.

I keep trying to remind myself that I really don’t have to be more, but it still feels so discouraging when I feel like every time I make a gain in an artistic direction and I have an idea…I don’t have the resources to execute that idea.

It’s difficult being creative and poor.

Ultimately I know if I had the funds and the practice I could make some really awesome stuff. I’d just need to really be willing to dedicate myself to the design and put in more effort to make something really great. But between my day job, my life as a home owner and wife, and my lack of funds and resources… being able to work on my letterpress has been difficult, and though I try not to be discouraged, I find more often than not I’m comparing myself to those who have quit their day jobs and just work on their presses as a livelihood. They come up with amazing work. So much more beautiful than I have the capacity for right now.

Most days, I laugh at myself for having the audacity to call myself a printer. I’m hardly a designer most days. It’s like my creativity has left me. I’m all dried up and discouraged that this hobby is so expensive, and yet has captivated me so deeply.

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Wayzgoose

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines Wayzgoose as

A wayzgoose (or wayz-goose, waygoose or wayzegoose) was at one time an entertainment given by a master printer to his workmen each year on or about St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August). It marked the traditional end of summer and the start of the season of working by candlelight.

For those of us in modern terms, it’s a time of year that many letterpress printers, paper manufacturers, wood cut carvers, wood/metal engravers, font and typography designers, and lovers of printed ephemera come together for a weekend of workshops, creativity, and art/equipment swapping/selling. In the spirit of the tradition, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum puts on the event the first weekend of every November, and I have been fortunate enough to volunteer each year for the last three years of the event, as well as offer my time there every Saturday I can during the year.

This year had a couple of firsts for me.

It was the first Time I could attend a full-day Friday, which is usually workshop day. I was fortunate enough to assist with the workshop Rick VonHoldt of Foolproof Press and Bill Allan of Gaslight-Daze Printery using the Silver Buckle Press collection now housed at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum. I learned so much during that session and assisted in helping so many talented artists create beautiful and meaningful pieces using this rare collection of type, ornaments, and illustrations.

My other first this year was going to the pre sales for Virgin Wood Type and moors Wood Type, which involved huddling in a crowded hotel room, drinking, purchasing newly crafted wood blocks for letterpress printing, and publicly shaming Brad Vetter for hogging all the good stuff (all in good fun of course).

But the first I enjoyed the most? Finally attending the annual bowling outing and bowling with Jim Sherraden and Celene Aubry of Hatch Showprint who was also our volunteer coordinator. I was out until 2:30 AM sipping gin and tonics, belting out songs that were playing on the juke box, and bowling…badly.

While I had many firsts, some things never change. Friends I see yearly were back, and we were able to reconnect for our annual catching up. Work was swapped, business cards passed, and nearly everyone was in tears when it came time to call the weekend quits. Even though I was tired, I found myself misty eyed as I drove back to my home to rest, knowing it would be another 365 days before I’d see any of them again.

Anticipation Wayzgoose

Every year around this time the letterpress community comes together to spend time with one another at the convention known as Wayzgoose. The first weekend of November, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum hosts the event, and every year since 2016, I have volunteered my time for this long weekend of creativity, fun, and chaos.

I’m expected at the museum at 7am, and as I lay here, frightfully aware of what little I have prepared for my swap table on Sunday, I’m terribly excited to see people I only see once a year.

During the chaos of Wayzgoose I will be thankful for a thing I often take for granted: toilets. During my time at Wayzgoose this weekend, my bathroom is getting remodeled and I will be without a toilet from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Besides that fact, I will also be thankful for the respite that public restrooms can provide for a little introverted girl looking for a moment to get away from the crowds of people swarming around her. Not that the crowds are unfriendly, but they are thick with familiar faces, stimulating conversations, and an overall drain on my psyche and body. I love Wayzgoose, I love seeing friends yearly and catching up. It just drains me to my core in the days following.

Then, there is the anxiety. You get around all these famous designers who are Somebodies with massive talent and bank accounts, only to feel like the smallest of the small. It’s intimidating being around so many big name artists and graphic designers, that one cannot help but feel self conscious in just about every way. Not only that, but I only recently got myself a tiny showcard press for myself, and while I put forth efforts to utilize my press and develop in many ways, my work is limited and falls short compared to other designers around me.

All around, it’s an exciting event. I love listening to designers tell their stories, and I love being part of a community of creatives that are intentional about spending time together and sharing ideas. I love taking in the sights, the sounds, and the smells. Not to mention how great the food is each year.

I’m really excited, I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.

Design Problems

The piles of products that needed rebranding only got bigger, as the team got smaller. Down a designer and with only three of us left to “work our graphics magic” as other employees would say, our week days were filled with the constant struggle of hurrying up only to wait when another department had to provide us with information. Thankfully the waiting gave us time to finish other small side projects, but we all knew that we would be needing a fourth designer…and soon.

Two weeks into being a three man (or two woman and a man) team, our supervisor came into our office having realized we never had job descriptions created for anyone in our graphics department. So we all sat down as a team and started describing our responsibilities as a whole and as individuals. “You guys share a lot of responsibilities.” She said, shocked and wondering how we were going to be reviewed in the future if everything we did, we shared with only a couple exceptions. “Well, design is collaborative, so isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?” I asked confused. “Well how am I supposed to know who did what amount of work for these projects?” She asked trying to understand where the hierarchy in our department was. “We all do large chunks of it.” He said looking puzzled. “Sometimes we each take a whole project start to finish, but our team members offer critique and suggestions.” Said our other team member in an attempt to get the full scope of how we worked together on projects.

Our supervisor, new to how we had done things, still didn’t fully understand. In a competitive corporate setting, collectivism wasn’t something people saw very often. In other departments, individuals took on certain tasks in an assembly line sort of process. In a small graphics department, everyone just did a little bit of everything, because we all have equal talent, and because we all knew we were a department far too small for a company of this scale…so no one could afford to slack, and no one could afford the luxury of a single responsibility.

Still, afterward we collaborated as a team to help assign one another leadership tasks. We wrote out our job descriptions together, with some things shared, and some things realized as singular strengths that met the needs of certain tasks.

Mostly, we laughed at the ignorance of our superiors to our plight. How little they understood the importance of creativity. How little they understood that it took a village to raise a corporate brand…much less 9 in-house and 12 private label. No wonder artists are so misunderstood. We are seen as islands when we are meant to be, and try to live as, villages.

Still, we knew what we had to do. We knew nothing changed in our department. We knew we would keep going as we were because it worked for us. We knew that the powers that be just needed labels to organize themselves. We knew that we could share and didn’t need the labels and titles of individual tasks. It was a hoop. A hoop to jump through and kill an hour of our time with while we waited for the rest of the company to catch up with us.

Unhelpful Criticism

“I don’t mean to use such harsh words, but this look like something our China team would come up with.”

Please tell me what in this phrase is a helpful direction? What does that even mean? I guess you would have to be a racist to know.

Clearly, my boss really struggles with giving constructive criticism.

This particular phrase really bothers me, firstly, because it speaks badly of a team that the owners of the company chose to work with overseas and that we are trying to have good communication and relationship with. I haven’t ever seen our China team come up with a design, and if they work for us and were chosen by our leadership, why are you insulting them? Aren’t we all working for the same goal? Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side? Saying things like this puts a bad taste in the domestic team’s mouth and just makes you look racist.

Secondly, “don’t mean to use harsh words,” is not an excuse to then use the harsh words. You do mean to use them. We all know it. It only makes people more aware of how much you actually mean to use and are going to use harsh words. It means you are aware of how you sound. It means the words you have chosen to use, were selected and intentional to be harsh and you know it. Foolishly, you are trying to remove yourself from your own responsibility, which is an indicator of bad leadership. To be a leader is to have responsibility, and to show you wish to remove yourself from the responsibility of your position and the tact you know you ought to have while holding it lessens your dependability.

Constructive criticism doesn’t use “I” or “Me” statements. It explains why a design or photograph does or doesn’t work based off of brand goals and statements. It doesn’t use insulting analogies. It builds up where it needs to and it makes helpful….emphasis on helpful…suggestions to give a better direction.

Consider this a public service announcement.

Victims

My car was in the shop a few days ago, and since my husband and I get off work pretty close together, and our jobs are only a couple blocks away from each other. I told my husband if he dropped me off at work in the morning, I would walk over and meet him at the car in the parking lot at his place of business.

Big mistake. On the way, I got cat called not once, not twice, but 5 times…as well as followed.

The first one was pretty usual. A honk and some lewd yelling. I flipped them off and they sped up. The second was immediately after them, a small piece of the chain reaction, only this one was a man with a young boy no older than eight or so in the passenger seat. I kept walking and mumbled curses under my breath for that one. The third one was just a honk, and when I ignored it and kept walking, they made a u-turn and started back my way very slowly. That really freaked me out so of course, I ducked into the nearest business I could. A hardware store within the block of where my husband worked, and sharing a parking lot. I told the manager what happened, and asked him to forgive me for loitering for a while. He offered to call the cops. I told him I didn’t get a good enough look at the car to really have that be useful. Only that it was a blue car, darker blue, but not navy and not quite royal either. When we looked out to see if any blue cars were around, and saw none, I finally was ushered by the manager to exit the building out the back door to get to the shared parking lot faster.

When I got in the parking lot, and half way across nearly to our car on the far side (where employees are directed to park), I got cat called again. Twice. One guy hollered and I increased my walking speed. Then another guy from another car did too just as I reached for my door handle. I yelled back some vulgar words, remarking on the kind of trash I thought the guy was, since he was nearer to me and I had just about had it with cat callers for one day. He was older too, not like the previous four who were all probably under 40 or so I guessed. I got a better look at him than I did the others since he was closer and moving slower as he was leaving the parking lot.

Of course, when safely in the car I locked myself in, and turned on the AC full blast. The thermostat claimed it was 87 degrees. I felt like I was out of breath and melting. It had been a hot walk in my bootcut black jeans and blazer. What pissed me off was that nothing I was wearing was provocative. No makeup. Wearing all black with a company t-shirt underneath. Which also made me super aware that people who catcalled me on my way to my husbands workplace might now know where I work and watch out for me.

After a quick moment to catch my breath I called my mother to look busy in the car in hopes people would leave me alone. While recounting my tale to her, my mother remarked “I always worry about that with you. You’re so small. Anyone could just grab you up and throw you in a trunk.” Thankfully I’m pretty strong which I half heartedly pointed out to her, but she wasn’t wrong either. On a hot day wearing all black and exhausted by a long workday, I was probably a tired target…which might make me an easy one.

My mother had even asked what I was wearing on my walk after I had recounted my tale and calmed down, conditioned by the culture she grew up in, and every fiber of my feminist being was outraged and I got wound up again. Then I had to calm myself down once more as my heart raced in anger, disappointment, and fear. I was not alone, and how many other women had worse experiences on the matter than I? Too many. It made me angry for them. For the women who were asked the same questions. For the women who were victim blamed.

Why does anyone want to victim blame? It’s rude and insulting to the victim, and it doesn’t call-out the perpetrator for their harassment. II’ve thought about it for a while now. Why do people victim blame? The more I think about it the more complex the answers or reasons become. Part of it is I think people want to give others the benefit of the doubt to make their worlds feel a little safer. Cat callers mean no harm. They would never act on their catcall. It’s just a compliment right? Besides it doesn’t it take two to tango? Then there is the justification issues. Lot of people do it (apparently) so anyone might feel justified in asking how the victim may be asking for it because they have catcalled women before thinking outfits and mannerisms are some kind of justification for it. They want to justify their own actions so they don’t feel badly about it, or worse, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.

When I was harassed, I felt objectified and upset, and when I was followed for a while by the blue car, it didn’t really feel like I was being complimented as some might think. It felt like I was being intimidated. Maliciously targeted. I was afraid. I hated it. Worst part? I got cat called walking to my car (which I had gotten back that afternoon from the shop) in the parking lot the next day when I left work.

So what do I do about it? I can’t go back in time and call cops or come up with better comebacks. So as an artist and letterpress printer, I decided to make posters. A weird response I know, but it was more or less to release my anger as well as an act of public service. Because letterpress printing has its therapeutic qualities. The result:

It’s a pretty great feminist work if I do say so myself. I also like how the image shows the rectum as well, so you can either think it says don’t be a dick, or don’t be an asshole! Or both! You can pick your part! This poster was also a really satisfying way to use my newly purchased gold ink, which looks beautiful on the black hand-cut card stock. Not bad, for my first truly feminist work.

Panic

The e-mails poured in as everyone was suddenly struck into a panic. I did what I could to help quell the incessant noise that came blaring from my computer as it continuously chimed for nearly 20 min before an emergency meeting was finally called.

“You coming to the meeting.”

“Can I bring my lunch?” I said through the fork in my mouth while indicating the container of sweet chili chicken breast and green beans in my lap I had made the night before.

“I guess so. It’ll be your working lunch.” She said in a falsely sentimental voice.

“All my lunches are working lunches.” I retorted.

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