I was 20 years old and rummaging through an Amsterdam flea market
when I bought for a few guilders what I thought was an envelope
seal. A few days later in Paris I watched in awe from a storefront
as a man inside the window bound a book by hand. And while these
are exotic sounding places, but what is more important is why I was
there. I was beginning to cast a wider net towards the world than
what my life offered in the vast Midwest.
I wandered far from home, searching for songs other than the voices
of my youth, hoping to harvest life experience the hard way by
living abroad on next to nothing.
I earned money working in potato and tulip and sugar beet fields in
the Netherlands, traveled to big European cities between jobs and
slept in fields and train stations. I was paying my dues and
opening the door to my soul. You see the “envelope seal” in
Amsterdam was actually a decorative remnant from an old Dutch
letterpress shop. The Frenchman's book was printed from handset
type and illustrated with relief prints.
In hindsight, I was intuitively drawn to that aesthetic, innocently
preparing myself for a larger part, which was and is working at
Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tennessee. Because I was there in
Europe, I was helping to form the foundation of my work now. I
believe that life experience reawakens in the soul what it already
knows. Eudora Welty wrote that “the strands are all there; to the
memory virtually nothing is ever lost.”
How many times have we heard someone say, “I composed that in ten
minutes,” or “the words just poured out of me” or “the picture just
painted itself.”? But that isn't really what happened. These
accomplishments are the direct result of struggle, meeting
challenge head on with hard work, and facing fear with persistence
and dedication. What seems simple on the surface is instead the
result of years of paying dues. This is how I choose to answer the
question of how I got to wherever people think I am today. There
was hard work, of course, but just as important I have learned to
open the door to my soul. Plato said that learning is recollection,
that the soul before entering the body has already experienced the
Ideal, or Perfection. But it has forgotten it. If our existence
could be likened to a black and white negative, then the soul has
seen the picture in full color. By paying our dues we are
remembering what the soul already knows. Even if we embrace this
concept of learning, we still want to be quick with the lesson and
enjoy instant results. We think we understand it all.
Then I remember what my mentor, Kenneth Hinson, told me, “I've been
printing 65 years and I'm still learning.” This is simple advice
that anyone can understand. He taught and re-taught me the basics
of letterpress design, but he probably never called himself a
designer. Thanks to what I learned from Kenneth-his skill and
humility-I will always be paying my dues, sifting through the days
ahead, keeping and eye out for the good stuff to be discovered like
those letterpress ornaments in Amsterdam.
Manager, Hatch Show Print Nashville, TN
“They just don’t get it.” If you find yourself saying this, you have a communication problem. Kim Erwin, a professor and innovation consultant, offers a three-step process for designers to communicate better.
Section: Inspiration -
professional development, collaboration, business
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