A love affair: my printmaking treasure

I recently ran across an amazing printmaker’s California table for sale. (It’s called that because of the layout of the drawers — more accurately called cases or trays — as seen here.) I have always wanted a table that I could store type and paper in at the studio, but although I drooled over many on Ebay, I never thought I would come across one close enough to Canmore to buy it without outrageous shipping costs.

LINDA COTE-California TableThis table had many trays, but wasn’t a complete set (several trays were missing). I had been collecting printer’s trays and had four in storage, so it was a quick decision when the seller told me I needed to take the whole thing, or none. I don’t yet create with metal type, but I totally understood the owner who wanted to keep the whole set together, and to have someone who would love it and treasure it as a collection. He found the right person!

So, with my awesome husband, who asked me with a smile why I didn’t knit or have a hobby that didn’t require a truck for supplies, we spent the afternoon bringing a huge table and many heavy trays filled with metal type home.

The table was actually the easy part. Some of the trays — with their metal quads and spaces (small flat pieces used between lines, letters and words) were incredibly heavy.

LINDA COTE-Transporting Drawers

The next challenge was finding room for this large piece in my already full art space. I tore the studio apart and completely rearranged my storage area to move pieces around and find a spot for the table. What a bonus.

Cleaning and rearranging was a crappy, dirty job that sent my back into spasms, but honestly, there is nothing like a good roaring spring overhaul. I dug out boxes of paper I had stored, cleaned out and rearranged drawers, moved several pieces of furniture and found practically every bit of art supplies I had in the studio. It was amazing. I found lots I had forgotten I had, and also sent several bits on their way … recycling or upcycling mat board, books, magazines and other bits and pieces.

LINDA COTE-California Table no drawers

Did I mention I have a third-floor art studio? When I had made room in my studio, my lovely husband carted all the drawers from our garage up three flights of stairs to the studio. I had the easier job of unwrapping, dusting and putting them back in the table.

LINDA COTE-California Table StudioThe last of the drawers came into my studio yesterday. Thanks hubby! Some of the drawers are choked with dust, and will need some extra attention. The metal type can be refreshed using what what one website states is a complex combination of cleaners then popping it into the oven to dry. That’s a project for another day.

LINDA COTE-Dusty typeOne drawer, however, had a lovely set of wooden type in it, in a fairly large type size. So, I set to work with a lightly damp rag, which worked well on the surface dust.

LINDA COTE-type Q markTo get the build-up in the little nooks and crannies of the font, I used a soft bristle brush and a Q-tip.

LINDA COTE-Dusty type SAfter two hours of painstaking work, the type looks great. I still need to vacuum the drawer itself, but luckily the type was in great shape — no sticky ink under that thick layer of dust.

LINDA COTE-metal logosAfterwards, I poked around under the dust of another drawer and found several old logos and type groupings cast in metal. Clearly, these were originally produced for businesses in the area where I was told the table originated from in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. It’s very cool to see the tiny backwards pieces, still readable in a mirror.

LINDA COTE-metal logos2Although I meant to get a new print started yesterday, I was distracted by this amazing collection of printmaking history that’s landed in my lap. It was a delightful zen job to spend a couple hours listening to music and restoring these lovely pieces with a bit of deep cleaning.

LINDA COTE-Dusty type-afterIt’s one of those yucky jobs that make you sneeze and gives you gritty eyes. But, there is something so satisfying about lovingly restoring a piece of craftsmanship like this back to its original glory.

11 responses to “A love affair: my printmaking treasure

  1. Such an awesome find, it looks like a letterpress table. Our print studio just recently acquired 111 year old letter press and would die to have a collection like you have just found. If you see anymore on your journey let me know. You should have a lot of fun with that. Happy Creating.

    • It is an awesome find! I will keep you posted if I run across more. I know they have a lot of fonts for sale on Ebay. I’m looking forward to cleaning the rest to see what I really have!

  2. oh my, what a delightful find…I can totally see you fell in love and had to have it! Great to see items like these will have a new life and been cherished! cannot wait to see what you are going to create with it, Johanna

    • You are right Johanna! It was love at first sight! I absolutely love old pieces like this, and the fact that I can make art with it is even better!

  3. Oh Linda!! What a fabulous find!! I have to admit that’s I am completely envious – the case itself is a fantastic piece of furniture for a studio all on its won, but the type. The TYPE! Just magic. I love working with type; letterpress documents and artwork are very special things. They hold the hand of the maker in them, in the same way that your lovely linocuts do. I am so looking forward to seeing what you do with this find (and need to find a way to hang out in your studio at some point more than ever!) best to you on this new adventure.

    • It would be fun to hang out with you, Sydney. I’m learning a lot about letterpress…but may have to get some hands-on lessons! I would bring the type your way, but it’s heavy!! LOL.

      • I agree – I think it would be fun to hang out! Here’s a thought – if you ever get a chance to spend a weekend in Edmonton, you should try to schedule it around SNAP’s workshop schedule – they teach a great intro to letterpress class! I took it last year to revive my skills, which were rusty from decades away from it, and had a fantastic time. It’s a great organization.

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