[ Installment 1 ]
Welcome to Coffee with a Letterpress Friend. We are “sitting down” with many varied friends every few weeks for a cozy, relaxing chat. Certainly, we will ask questions about printing-related topics but things could go off in unexpected directions. This week during Letterpress Week, we’ll gather with a few folks, so go grab your beverage of choice and let’s start.
Today’s friend is Jim Moran of Hamilton Wood Type (HWT) in Two Rivers Wisconsin. Many of us are envious of his job at the Museum surrounded by the history and all those wood type specimens.
Boxcar Press: Hi Jim, Is there one defining moment that you can recall or point to that was the start of your printing career?
Jim: I was 10 years old and goofing around in my grandfather’s print shop. I had seen both he and my Dad setting type, so I had an idea how it worked. I opened a drawer of 18pt. Cheltenham and tried to spell my name. Where the hell was the letter J? I checked other drawers until I found one marked in pencil to designate their place. Once I set my name, I put it on a little Challenge proof press and inked it up. The black ink was always ready for proofing with a brayer hung on the end. The paper had an enamel finish for clarity. I inked up and pulled a proof! There was my name, magically! That’s all it took.
Boxcar Press: We can relate to that feeling. Is there a similar moment for your involvement with HWT?
Jim: I was working for a Green Bay printer 12 years ago and not liking it much. Sales in NOT rewarding, in my mind. I had been volunteering at Hamilton with my brother Bill, often thinking about how much I enjoyed working with type. I met a woman who was dating my cousin and we were talking about doing the things you really want to, in a general way. She said, “I think you have to ask yourself what you want and how much of your time you actually spend working toward doing those things.” She was not speaking to me specifically but I decided right then, that I would work toward getting a job at the museum. I applied for the job 6 weeks later.
Boxcar Press: Your Aha! moment. You are well suited to HWT. Tell us about mentors or printers that you admire or set you on a particular path?
Jim: I owe so much to my Dad. He was a VERY good printer and an even better artist. He worked me pretty hard, in that he expected my best and was extremely thorough in his approach to what I learned. That meant printing, repairing, composing, estimating, managing, laughing, reading and studying. Always learning. I worked with him for the better part of 29 years. My Mom’s lessons were much more subtle: patience, kindness, reading and keeping a sense of humor.
Boxcar Press: The people who guide us are always significant. So can be the equipment. Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use?
Jim: I have an 8 x 12 Chandler and Price that I was taught to run in 1969. I use it whenever I can.
Boxcar Press: What is that one project that you are always going to get to, that you really want to do but it just never seems to get done?
Jim: Printing a four-color billboard.
Thanks, Jim for the little chat. We appreciate this time of getting to know you and will have plenty more questions to ask at future times when the coffee is perked and we can sit again.
We encourage you to visit the Hamilton Wood Type website and catch a Hamilton Hang on Fridays with Zoom. Click on the link to the “Awayzgoose” and make plans to be in virtual attendance in November. This year’s event is in partnership with the American Printing History Association and is packed with speakers and tours galore.