Check in for the ferry to Harwich was in the evening of April 30th at Hoek van Holland port. So far we had been on the route before but only on a trip at daytime. In that case you’ll disembark around 8pm at Harwich port. That was last year and we had booked a room in a small B&B not far from Harwich, the Sleepy Fox which is in the back of the Layer Fox Pub. We got there rather late almost starved, and even though the kitchen had closed already they didn’t hesitate to serve us whatever hot they could make as late as that. So we were facing a medium size mountain of all sorts of finger food plus a huge bowl of chips each. We had been experiencing a challenging journey through what in daylight would turn out to be a wonderful countryside with colourful pheasants popping out from virtually every bush or hedgerow. However, that first evening we had to find our way tired and whith dusk closing in. What was even more challenging: as we had not yet adjusted to having left the continent it felt as if we were going on the wrong side of the road all the way.
This year we decided we might quite as well choose the ferry trip overnight and book a cabin to sleep in, so we could face the challenge of driving on the left side of the road after a good sleep. We didn’t regret it in any way. We loved the large window to look out on the sea and we got off the ferry at Harwich early in the morning taking in the scenery in full day light on the route to Norwich. It was Turn The Page time again and I was one of the lucky ones who had been chosen to exhibit there. We spent three wonderful days in Norwich. The fair was in The Forum again, a stunning building right in the middle of the city centre housing the library. It was great to meet everybody at the fair, colleagues we met last year and others we hadn’t met at all so far, or whom we hadn’t seen for years, like Martyn and Angela who are running “The Old School Press”.
When the fair was over we were headed west. Next stop on the way was Oxford and we were lucky to pick a pretty warm if not to say hot spring day with bright sun. We got into Oxford on the Sunday and everybody was out relishing their ice cream cones or enjoying a boat trip or having a look inside the colleges. Our B&B was even further west and we got there in the evening. Given the choice we did take the room to the back even though the one to the front offered the full view of the Cotswolds. The room on the back was facing towards the garden which was just beautiful and filled with bird song. Right in the back they were keeping hens. They were all re-homed as they had not been kept porperly at the place they were before. It was their eggs we were served for breakfast.
We went to Oxford one more day strolling the streets and lanes, visiting the Bodleian, spending hours at Blackwell’s bookshops and having tea and cake in the Queens Lane coffee house (“serving quality coffees since 1654”). I had come to love this place when I was here in 2011 visiting the Fine Press Book Fair and seeing Oxford for the first time – after having been here as a teenager and not rembering all that much apart from that I had been taken to some then famous ice cream shop. (And as I simply love Oxford’s Covered Market that was of course where I ended up in.)
We had just one week’s time all together and we spent the days we had left in the small Cotswold villages around where our B&B was. This included a visit at Whittington Press in Whittington. The press is on the premises of Whittington Court. Infact, the old gardener’s cottage has been giving home to the press ever since it was founded back in 1971 by John and Rose Randle. A group of American woodengravers was staying on their tour visiting colleagues and we had been invited to join in. It was a wonderful sunny spring day, a nice multicoloured Comfrey was in full bloom and everybody was cheerful. We did have a nice and relaxed picnic lunch beneath those large trees in front of the press’ home. This was on May 5th and the first copy of Matrix 32 was lying on the table to browse. The more than 600 copies of the limited edition were still at the binders then. Meanwhile they are out and a fascinating read.
Matrix is an annual review for printers and bibliophiles. It is made the traditional way: letterpress using metal type. Issues come with a wealth of thrilling articles about people, places and activities in the field of fine printing and book arts from all over the world. Every issue not only comes with articles it also brings original prints as inserts made by various presses and artists introduced in the articles.
I am happy beyond words as an article on my artist’s book on Kurt Tucholsky is part of Matrix 32. It all began at the “Norddeutsche Handpressenmesse” in Hamburg in 2013. This was where we all met and John suggested having an article on the art work in the upcoming issue of Matrix. Plus he thought it would be nice to have an insert as well. My heart sank when I heard we’d need 700 copies. I am working with proofing presses that are operated by hand. I am feeding every sheet in myself one by one. My editions usually range between 6 and 20. Printing cards I might do around 40. Never ever had I got anywhere near 700. I considered the task and decided the only way it could work was to print the inserts on the younger of my two presses. It is a Grafix with a motorised inking system. The printing is done by hand still.
But there was more to the task than the printing of the sheets. I choose a text in which Tucholsky describes why he is writing. I handset the text from Optima. It is printed on a white Zerkall deckle edge paper. The insert was supposed to be in the same style as the prints in the original artist’s book. So the insert wanted stickers giving the year the text was first published. Now these stickers had to be printed on a pretty old fashioned gummed paper in fading orange, moisted and glued to the prints. Additionally the prints had to be stamped and embossed. In the end they looked really good and off they went in a cardboard box addressed to Whittington nr. Cheltenham.
Now if you wish to have one of Matrix 32 or any back issues for yourself you can easily order them at Whittington Press. Or come to their Open Day on September 6th. You’ll find all information on their website.
Here goes a huge heartfelt Thankyou to John and Rose and everybody else involved in making Matrix 32 such a wonderful read. I am ever so glad that I was given the chance to be part of it.
If you wish to read more about “Norddeutsche Handpressenmesse” or on “Turn The Page artists book fair” find a blogpost for each of these events in the category “Fairs and Markets” here on this blog.