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.
This 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Afterwards, 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.
Although 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.
It’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.