[ Installment 4 ]
Next up in our Letterpress Friend chat is Ben Sargent. A Texas native and avid Chandler & Price printer, Ben is an inspiration for the pursuit of printing knowledge, and offers some good chuckles, and stories. As the conductor of Sargent Brothers Printers & Typographers, he adds a bit of charismatic style that comes only with letterpress.
Boxcar Press: So wonderful to catch up with you and delightful to have you. Speaking of delights… is there one defining moment or point that you just fell hard for printing?
Ben: It was last Christmas. I realized that was the date 60 years prior that my brother and I received our first press and type–a 5×8 Kelsey Excelsior, seven fonts of type, and the whole outfit. While we knew our Dad had been a printer in boyhood and we had grown up around the hot-type composing room of the Amarillo Globe-News, it was the first experience as “real printers” ourselves, and I never looked back.
Boxcar Press: Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use?
Ben: Three years after I began on the Excelsior mentioned above, Dad brought home the C&P 10×15 Old Series he and his brother had bought as teenagers in 1928. That is the press I use to this day. She is a graceful and hardy specimen from the long-ago era of well-built iron-and-steel machinery. “I love her well and she must love me….”
Boxcar Press: What is something people might not know about you that would surprise them?
Ben: Maybe they don’t know that when I’m not printing, I can often be found swinging on and off moving equipment as a fully licensed but volunteer brakeman and conductor on our local excursion railroad. Can’t keep me away from ancient technology.
Boxcar Press: What is your printing superpower? You definitely have one!
Ben: I usually think there are always people who can do better than I in just about every facet of this trade, but if I had to choose a superpower, maybe it would be the delight I have in continuing to learn things about every aspect of the work, even 60 years into it. Sometimes new techniques, skills, and understandings come from my dear colleagues both young and old. Sometimes there are things I just figure out on my own, but it is always a pleasure to learn one more of the apparently infinite things there are to learn about this craft.
Boxcar Press: Anything you want to reveal about a current project you are working on – even a hint or clue?
Ben: Recently, I had one of the most curious and interesting wedding invitations in the course of printing many, many such projects. The invitation itself is a thin 5 x 4 box. It was a challenge finding people who could do the tasks beyond my capacity such as the necessary die-cutting, duplexing, scoring, and laser-cutting of some tiny holes. Really the only part I had left was doing some letterpress on the inside of the box. But the finished box contains a computer chip the recipient plugs in and then touches the laser-cut openings to play various sound recordings from the happy couple. (The wedding involved a graphic designer and a computer engineer, so there you go.)
Boxcar Press: Given these current “strange” times, what is that one project that you are always going to get to but it just never seems to get done?
Ben: If I had to pick one, might be the 3rd edition of our handset-type specimen book, last published in 2010, and in need of an update. But the deck seems to stay crowded with job work even in strange times, so it does keep getting put off.
Boxcar Press: One last question before you finish your drink, an IPA from Texas-local Pinthouse Brewing called “Electric Jellyfish”, – Do you listen to podcasts or music in your shop while you create?
Ben: I always have my Pandora channels on, which beggar the word “eclectic.” I’ve seen a young typesetter friend’s eyebrows rise when hearing Brubeck–Mercedes Sosa–Gregorian chant–Booker T and the MGs–Tommy Dorsey–Handel–Brazilian bossa nova etc. all in a row.
That was an immensely fun time, Ben. Heartfelt thanks out to you for the cheery chat! Want to know more? Visit his website: http://sargentbrothersprinters.com/