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Iota Press Will Party! 05/20/2010

Posted by jamie-m in Uncategorized.

Eric Johnson, the man behind Iota Press, said something smart to me. When I asked where his inspiration to write came from, he replied that he did not know; that inspiration is elusive, and to name it could make it disappear. It must be with this intuition that he approaches Iota’s letterpress projects, because he always seems to get it right. Check out the website to see the quirky, yet elegant chapbooks and broadsides that are building up Iota Press as a local, literary powerhouse.

On June 6th, Eric is hosting a celebration for Iota’s first anniversary. The open house event will consist of “food & drink, stuff to look at & buy, conversation. A chance to mark one year of work, to demonstrate the old presses and fonts, & show the recent work,” he says. Opening up the studio to letterpress classes and writing workshops, Eric writes that he was “surprised at the enthusiasm of others who have come around the shop this year.  Both those who are fascinated with old tools and trades, and those who see it as a ‘new’ way to publish, to make  artful books or cards”.From the outside excitement, he has found more vigor within himself: ” The interest of others  has greatly increased my own, and I’m seeing more & more things I want to do. Working slowly, one metal letter at a time, has me thinking more sculpturally about my writing.”

To give TL readers a better idea of Eric, Iota, and the work produced, I asked him a few questions:

How long have you been working in letterpress and what attracted you to it?

I was retiring from 35 years of carpentry and wanted to publish a collection of graphic poems I’d been doing for years. Someone told me that with a letterpress one could have plates made of the drawings and run them through the press. I took classes at SF Center for the Book, and apprenticed myself to the venerable poet/printer, Don Emblen. It seemed a wonderful fusion of my two lives…as a craftsman and a poet.

Can you explain the kind of press that you use?

I have three presses at the shop. One is a cylinder press called a Vandercook, which enables one to make larger prints, up to 14″ x 22″.  Then two versions of the old platen press, or clamshell.  They allow greater speed in printing and I use them when that’s important.

How did you come up with the logo for Iota Press?

The logo is a drawing I did twenty years ago to represent myself as a carpenter/fox/bird. I stencilled  it on the side of my truck.  Something in the style of old alchemist’s drawings to represent paradox.

Future projects?

In the next  year  I plan to create a co-op at the shop to accomodate those who want to go further in using letterpress. And develop a group of artists & writers who will experiment with the aesthetics of the broadside…particularly some efforts  inspired by walks in the nearby Laguna floodplain.

Thank you again to Mr. Eric Johnson for the interview!



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