Sometimes the words on a person’s platemaking order just leap off the page and catch our attention. That was true with Eleonore Lee’s curving and falling text layout. Add in that they were lyrics by Queen’s Freddie Mercury and we just “had to see that printed”. We hope this strikes a chord with you too.
In spring 2017, the Fine Press Book Association sent out a call for entries for their annual fundraising portfolio. Since I already had a huge project to complete before heading off on a trip, it seemed fitting to add another project to my docket.
This project was especially enticing as it would support their fine press journal, Parenthesis, and the portfolio would be shared among other printers. Last year was a year in which I was re-discovering myself after a good decade of hardcore parenting. An exchange portfolio would allow others to discover me too.
Like a lot of printmakers, I am a sucker for exchange portfolios. Something I particularly appreciate about letterpress and handmade paper exchanges is that they are a lot more lenient about format. The parameters for this portfolio were generous … produce 125 prints. Within these parameters, it was definitely possible to consider a less likely subject matter.
If you do not know, most often Fine Press work has a tendency to publish known and lauded dead poets. Always the contrarian, I felt like shaking it up a little with less-predictable words. My work aims to ask questions or bring attention to something you might not usually notice.
Because music means so much to me, I have been considering making art about the music that pervades my life. Whilst at work I am known as “that person who wears their headphones and sings out loud”. One epic late night, two BFA students and I had a lot of paper to make. We loudly sang through 2 CDs of Queen’s Greatest hits. That was my inspiration.
I was not a huge Queen fan in my youth, finding Freddie overwhelmingly exuberant. However, I grew into Queen. I learned the lyrics intimately in the same way that I spend a lot of time with the poems I work with. Singing along both joyfully and studiously, so that I could be as accurate as possible with the pacing and the sounds. By including the breaths, the uh’s and drawn out syllables, the project was most enjoyable.
I also revelled in the details: The paper is Neenah’s Flash Pearl Starwhite. Not only is it shiny pearlescent like some of Freddie’s leggings, but it also covers Flash, for Flash Gordon’s theme song, by Queen.
The font is Montserrat. Freddie had a dream to perform with and finally collaborated with Montserrat Caballé on the album Barcelona. And of course, I did my research: Freddie loved red and yellow, bold loud colors. The rhythm of the song is included in the yellow and red dots. They are foam dots, with 2” dots representing a full beat, 1” dots a half beat and ½” dots a ¼ beat.
I wanted a mix of more iconic images of Freddie as well as images from his videos. I chose the song because the lyrics combined with the video spoke volumes about Freddie.
He lived flamboyantly and boldly in public, at a time when being gay was a crime in most countries. In ‘I want to Break Free’ the band appears dressed as working class women. We first see Brian May wake up, with curlers in his hair, very rapidly followed by a hairy arm wearing bangles brandishing a vacuum. After a few swipes, all of Freddie scurries out boldly, staring right at the camera and gives us a brief, contented smirk before proceeding with some very sexy vacuuming (to the music). He dances and sings and winks appearing to enjoy himself a lot. It may seem run-of-the-mill today. It was bold back then, especially for a shy, cat-loving man wrestling with his sexuality. All of these words and images worked well on the tri-fold design I had in mind.
Although the images have enough small details and fine lines, I would never have attempted type with such fine details so I thank Boxcar Press for the plates. They also provided a fine press discount on the plates for this project.
I hope others in this exchange enjoyed this project as much as I did envisioning and printing it.
You can learn more about Eleonore’s project with Parentheses at FPBA.com.