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Gaspereau's Andrew Steeves "Interview" (2012)

A few words about me and my background in letters and letterpress...

In the summer of 2012, I had a visit from Andrew Steves of Gaspereau Press. He later sent a follow up email with some queries about my background and practice. I rediscovered that correspondence this morning while perusing my Evernote keywords stash (under the tag "mission") 


On 6 Dec 2012, at 11:09 AM, Andrew Steeves wrote:

How are you? Hope all’s well in your neck of the woods. When I was in Nashville, I inadvertently left my notebook at Hatch Show Print. They were good enough to mail it back to me, and I just found my note to send you the Bringhurst book, which I will do shortly. I guess it’s not enough just to write things down; you have to not lose the notebook too.
I’ve got to write something up about the trip for a magazine up here called The Devil’s Artisan, so I wanted to ask you a few questions to supplement (and likely correct) what I remember from my visit. Can you email some answers, perhaps in the next few days? No need to write a novel here; point form is fine.
1.       Can you remind me of the details of your studies as a calligrapher and stone cutter?

I studied calligraphy, inscriptional design and letter cutting with Ieuan Rees in Ammanford, Wales under a NEA Crafts Apprenticeship Grant in 1980. Also studied calligraphy and the history of type design with Prof Hermann Zapf at RIT Summer Sessions 1985-86
Many other calligraphy workshops with teachers such as Thomas Ingmire, Arne Wolff, Georgia Deaver, Alan Blackman in the 1980s.

2.       You were telling me about your adventures in the early days of digital type design. Can you tell me a bit about that? What was the company you were involved in? What typefaces that you designed are still floating around out there that you’d care for me to mention?

Yes, my company was Alphabets, Inc. (It turns out that it was not the first firm called that) and we're still offering fonts out there. However, it's been a hard and financially unrewarding road. Fonts designed by me still out there: Prospera, Quanta, Marlowe (revival of the Fell Types), A*I WoodType and a few others. We tried to become a distributor in the late 1980s, but pretty much failed at that by the mid 90s. 

3.       Your main bread and butter work between then and now would be characterized as web design?

Web strategy and branding. I registered dol.comand and in 1994, for example, and have a stable of domain names which occasionally attract some interest ( sold in 1999 for $65K, sold in 2010 for $12K ). I don't consider myself a web designer, but an information architect and strategist. Typography makes visible the highly structured nature of well written language. I edit language as well as specify presentation.
I hope to increase my practice helping companies and institutions understand their options for web content and brand management.
I worked as a web strategy consultant for the largest organic dairy co-operative; OrganicValley (La Farge WI) from 2002-07 

4.       Maybe tell me a little about Slow Print – what are you hoping to do and how’s it developing?

I hope to keep the shop open by teaching master classes in letterpress and typography, see 
Also, to publish work which is sympathetic to my soul, and maybe even helps the evolution of consciousness.
I'll still take commercial letterpress work, but only if it is rewarding in personal, craft, as well as lucrative terms.
I don't see any reason to work for pennies just because there are printers who can afford to undercut me. It seems that the letterpress market is primarily driven by price these days, which simply does not work with the level of craft to which I aspire.
If we can transition into a not-for-profit model with grants and donations keeping the rent paid, that will be fine. 
I'm planning to ramp up my digital typographic practice as well. My specialty is typographic finesse, paying attention to the subtleties of spacing and arrangement—whether in a logogram, an annual report or for a master stylebook template—that nobody may notice at the gross level, but which can take the work to a level transcendent. I work with agencies and designers to fine tune final drafts before production.

5.       Can you tell me why you love letterpress, and why you think these tools are still relevant today?

I love letterpress for the same reason that I love anything made with respect for the materials.
There is honesty and humility in the practice of an art, the craft of handling the tools well, the appreciation of fine papers and intelligent typography. I love the mechanical problem solving, the mixing of inks, the quest for the perfect alchemical marriage of ink, paper, pressure and texture..

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