|Letterpress Artist Roni Gross teaching in the Print Shop at the Center for Book Arts|
For today’s Friday Insights, we have a special treat for all our readers: another artist interview! Back in February, we did out first interview with book artist Gavin Dovey. This week we’ll be speaking with letterpress artist Roni Gross, who not only does her own work but also spends a lot of time teaching at the Center for Book Arts. Gross, who is teaching a new class, Playing on Press, next weekend (some spots still may be available, so make sure to check it out!) was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions about her time as a letterpress artist—including some typefaces that we might have to explore on Tuesdays!
1. How did you first get involved in letterpress art?
Before my involvement with printing and book arts, I was a choreographer. I happened to take class in a studio that was one floor above the Center when it was on Broadway above Houston. I would go down and look at the shows, and was taken with the fact that anything you were interested in could become a book. Eventually, when I stopped dancing, I took an intensive letterpress class with Carol Sturm (Nadia Press) at CBA, and loved the sculptural quality of letterpress and wanted to start making multiples.
2. What's your favorite piece you've created?
Whatever piece I've just finished is my favorite piece for a time. I often collaborate with my husband Peter Schell, and our bookwork is very satisfying to me. I feel like it expands my ideas of what books can be—as atmospheric, sculptural presences.
Having spent so much more time designing on the computer, I think that I am a better typographer generating my work digitally. Being around Barbara Henry, however, has sharpened my eye to the beauty of handset type, and thus, I have been doing more handsetting in the last few years. I think that I have more patience now to work with it then I did earlier on.
4. What do you love about the Center for Book Arts?
I am all about community. I have made many friends at the Center: fellow artists, teachers, and students. There is a wide range of people coming to the Center and that keeps it interesting. So many different things happen there every week. You never know who you will meet, or what contacts you might make. It's great to see what kind of work other people are doing, and be able to get some feedback when you want it.
5. You’re going to be teaching a new class, Playing on Press, next week. What’s the most exciting thing about that class?
I think that when people are first learning how to print and set type, they get very focused on technical issues. We tend to want to be very precise register everything perfectly, understand the press, and sharpen our eyes to what good printing looks like.
That's all great and necessary, but it's nice to take a break from that kind of focus and see that we can actually be looser on press not plan everything out from start to finish but to experiment with making our own pressure printing plates, monoprinting, and manipulating the elements on the bed of the press to build up a print. It's nice to start out with the idea that you can keep building until you get something you are happy with, rather than having to know where you are going right from the start.There is room for happy accidents, and broader strokes, in terms of using color and shapes. Things can happen more quickly. Anyone can take this class, experienced or not. It's about using the Vandercook as a printmaking tool.
Printing takes practice and patience. The patience part is something I have to keep learning. It's always better to do something the right way at the start than to think that you will fix it later. Generally it takes more time to fix it than to do it right at the beginning. When you are just learning it seems like there is so much information to keep in your mind. As time goes on, much of it will become automatic. The best way to learn is to do projects. When you need to learn something, you will.
7. Lastly, for our readers of “Tuesday Typefaces,” what’s your favorite typeface?
I can't narrow it down to one typeface. In my work, commercial or otherwise, I spend a lot of time trying to select a face that speaks so that is generally more important to me than whether I "like" it. Having said that, I do like and use Mrs. Eaves, Perpetua, and Scala a fair amount.
Thank you very much to Roni Gross for the lovely interview! Gross is teaching more than just Playing on Press next weekend, so be sure to check out out classes page and see what you can learn!
If you are a book or letterpress artist and are interested in being interviewed for Friday Insights, please contact email@example.com
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