After finishing that mountain of calendars and cards on Tuesday, I treated myself to a trip to Newark on Wednesday afternoon. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound like a treat, but I promise you that it was.
In tandem with a fantastic book arts exhibit they have up, The Newark Public Library organized a talk by Amos Kennedy, Jr. and a screening of a new documentary about him and his work. I mentioned Amos’s work a few weeks back, when I first heard about the documentary and was pretty much immediately hooked. When I heard that there would be a screening, I made sure I could have that afternoon and evening free to make the trip, and I’m glad I did.
Amos is a letterpress printer and bookbinder who lives and works in Gordo, Alabama. He has a strong academic background in letterpress printing and book arts, in addition to a strong practical approach to his work and life. He studied at the University of Wisconsin with Walter Hamady (a book and printing god – this is a great sample, but definitely investigate him more, if you’re interested) and knows the technical and theoretical aspects of the craft, but has adapted it into something that serves him in a very personal and beautiful way.
Amos is a wonderfully genuine guy who is contagiously happy because he loves the work he does. He is a gregarious personality who makes it his business to challenge people’s assumptions and, as a black letterpress printer in Alabama, I get the distinct impression he gets to challenge people a lot.
He primarily prints posters on chipboard that are heavily layered from wood type, overlaid with various quotes that are a mix of hilarious, challenging, brilliant, personal, and historical. Right now he’s working on a powerful exhibit design including several of his posters for an exhibit commemorating the Selma to Montgomery march. His own website has a great assortment of his poster images, and is well worth exploring. The images I’ve included here are the posters I was lucky enough to pick up for us on Wednesday.
All of this is to say: there is a lot of great work going on by a lot of different printers and book artists that I find unbelievably inspiring. I’m excited to get a few of the projects I have in mind out of my head and into existence. When Amos spoke on Wednesday afternoon, he said that his wish is that everyone could be as happy with their own work as he is with his. I am, and I have that same wish for everyone else, as well.