I’ve been thinking about writing this entry for a while as I often bring it up in Lead Graffiti’s workshops. It would be good if we could get students to read it before they came.
When I was teaching in the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware, to add a bit of pressure to my students, I would often raise the question “What would a good student do? Right here. Right now.” to turn a simple opportunity into a miracle.
Most all educational programs do a reasonable job of exposing their students to educational opportunities, but the question is often, what does the student do with that opportunity. Some teachers probably give better assignments. Some schools have more or better field trips & speakers. And they all have libraries. Everyone has access to almost every website, blog, tweet and photograph on the planet.
We’ve had some 850 students over the past 5 or so years who have interacted with Lead Graffiti through workshops, tours & shorternships. Sometimes professors through their classes drag their students through the experience and at other times it is a choice that the student has scheduled and paid for on their own.
We at lead Graffiti surely think that one of our workshop experiences has value, but we’d like for it to have 5 times the value. We give the studio tour. We show some of what we think is our best work and we show work from a number of other letterpress shops. But to really find a way to take the experience up a couple notches we need a bit of help from the student.
I’m writing this with the notion that you’ll find yourself sitting in a letterpress workshop in Lead Graffiti This is a different place than you’ve ever been, organized in a way you couldn’t possibly understand if you had a week, working in a technology (or maybe a non-technology) and a process you don’t know, probably using a measurement system you might barely know, and you are asked to do a creative project without sketches. You cannot possibly know what to do.
Just ask yourself the question, “What would a good student do?” “Right now.” “Here.”
My additional advice is to ask it 150 times that day.
I, for one, do not believe there are no bad questions. There are a gazillion bad questions. They are the ones that don’t move you anywhere. “Do you like working with letterpress?” Duh. “Why do you like working with letterpress?” may get the discussion to a place you need.
You need to find the time to ask a dozen good questions over the day. 10 of you will generate 120 good questions. Some will have good answers. And it is a good idea to ask them so the other students hear those answers. And for them to ask good questions so you can hear those answers. It needs to be a question that a good student would ask. One that moves their work forward and not sideways. It needs to be a question that gets the answers to a number of other questions and also setting up even better questions. Sometimes a good student will just stand close.
“What would a good student do? Right here. Right now.”
Take a look at our online portfolio and see the things we’ve done that interest you. Bring it up when we are showing work. If we don’t show it ask us to. “How did you get the work?” “Did it lead anywhere?” “What is it about that piece that would make you to want to put it in your portfolio?”
Lunch is a good time when things are calmer and everyone is within hearing range.
An interesting things about asking yourself “What would a good student do?” is that it doesn’t take any more time to do it than to not do it.
Lead Graffiti does a few crafts shows and we love talking up letterpress. It is strange how many people or their family members who were connected to the printing trade at some point. Lots of times it is specifically letterpress.
So, Bill Roberts, of Bottle of Smoke Press, and I are in New York City for the JFK/NYC/OMG poetry reading on the anniversary of JFK’s death. Bill printed a nice keepsake book via letterpress containing Allen Ginsberg’s poem Nov 23, 1963: Alone to be given away to the attendees to celebrate and remember the evening. One of the readers at the event was Grant Hart. Grant was the former drummer and co-songwriter in the influential 1980’s punk band, Hüsker Dü, and then singer and guitar for the alternative rock trio, Nova Mob. Anyway, at the post party at the event organizers’ Greenwich Village apartment, I took the shot of Grant below.
I like shooting photos holding the camera at waist level to give the image a different perspective. Having a more spontaneous feel, this photo has jumped into my top five favorite letterpress portraits that I’ve ever taken, which brings us to the important part of this story.
I’m guessing that life in an 80’s punk band was a somewhat different than the life I was having during some of my most memorable days teaching in the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware.
Bill and I were talking with Grant about music when he mentioned liking the letterpress keepsake. Then out of nowhere, he starts grilling Bill and me about the order of the cells in a California job case. Huh? “What are the top row cells?” and we would stammer a bit and start reciting the list. Then Grant would fire another question.
Grant told us, “Let Me Now Help Out Your Punctuation With Commas,” which is a mnemonic for the middle row of lowercase cells in a California job case. It is strange that after almost 12 years of letterpress, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of these memory aids until Grant blasted us with them. So, sometime in Grant’s life he had done some letterpress.
Also, how can you not like a guy who was in a band that had two umlauts in the name? According to Wikipedia, the term without the umlauts means, “Do you remember?” in Danish and Norwegian. The group added the heavy metal umlauts for effect. I could love Hüsker Dü for the umlauts alone.
Grant was playing a solo performance at the Cake Shop later in the evening, which Bill and I wanted to check out. When we got there, Grant was standing right at the door. He grabbed us and we headed for the stairs. He told the cashier who was taking money that we were friends and to just let us through. The three of us, connected by letterpress, headed down into the basement theater for an hour of great Grant Hart music. Most definitely a night to remember.
I do really love this portrait. Now to figure out how to get Grant to want us to print his next CD cover via letterpress.
It seems like I should show Bill’s Bottle of Smoke Press keepsake book (shown below) that was given away free to those in attendance. Some days I like letterpress more than other days. This was definitely one of the good days.
I should throw in a mention of meeting Meagan who will be the subject of an upcoming Lead Graffiti book.
In the social revolution that is happening on the Internet, it surely isn’t happening in the concrete world of paper. I find it amazing how much trouble you can sometimes go to and have no acknowledgement from the recipient of your trouble.
Anyway, if you’ve been following us at all you should know about Craig Cutler’s CC52 project. While they were here I had commented on how nice it was to have great equipment. Little comes close to “having the right tool for the right job.” Craig had to rush out at the end of the shoot, leaving his two assistants to clean up. I took Craig to the train station and when I got back they had left their lighting stands for us.
When I called Craig to tell him “No way,” he said he was moving his studio into a new location and was getting all new stands anyway. Yeah, right. But honestly we’ve really ramped up the quality of our photos. Those stands help out a lot more than I thought they would.
This was our photographic thank you to Craig with a bit of handrolled letterpress. He left 7 stands and a couple rolls of seamless. It all fit together quite well. It is actually harder to get those arms to intertwine than you would think. Check out Craig’s photos from Lead Graffiti, if you haven’t already.
APA & Histories of Newark: 1758-2008 & Studio & Studio projects & Visual Communications / UD & events & film & honors, awards, media & news & important equipment & inventory / collection & inventory / important type & inventory / miscellaneous & inventory / presses & personal & photo projects / hand-drawn type & printing tricks / advice / help & trips & type & Lettering & uncategorized & workshops Tuesday November 30 1999 12:00 am