Event Recap: Baskerville AIGA-Exclusive Workshop

Stepping into Baskerville Studios, located at 3000 Royal St. in the Bywater, is a little like stepping into the past. There’s a record player in the far corner, spinning cool analog tunes, and a feathered velociraptor watches from the rafters, guarding its clutch of eggs and assessing visitors to its lair with its icy reptilian gaze. The air smells of oil-based inks, mineral spirits, and the remains of the sleek hunter’s prey. Steampunk monuments from a bygone era, the bulky letterpresses wait, utterly still, like shamans.

I made up some of that, because I wanted to run with the whole “into the past” metaphor but had nowhere else to go.

Letterpress Studios in New Orleans

I cannot lie: being around those big letterpresses was a religious experience. There’s something shrinelike about an old press. Something talismanic. These aren’t just neat old machines, and their value is far greater than any one thing you or I may print using one of them. They’re tangible evidence of the human mind in flower. There is history caught up in these things. You can feel it. I’m reminded of Clive Barker’s novel, Mister B. Gone, in which Heaven and Hell alike send representatives to earth in order to witness the creation of Gutenberg’s press… and to lay claim to it.

The monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey was just a shiny new piece of furniture from an incomprehensibly vast cosmic letterpress. Yeah, in answer to your question, I did, in fact, have a nice time attending the letterpress workshop with the fine folks at Baskerville Studio, learning to operate three marvels of human engineering and craftsmanship. Learning to mind my Ps and Qs, and why kerning is called kerning. The instructors—I got Amelia and Jeff—are bursting with knowledge and passion. They love these machines.

The Reds and Blues at Baskerville

We started our morning with a chill little getting-to-know-each-other roundtable chat. We talked about art that we liked, we played with print blocks, we learned how the machines work, and we got started on the smallest one first, “Clyde”, cranking out coasters. After lunch, we got started on Gladys, a 119-year-old letterpress (from?), hand printing designs we’d provided weeks earlier. We learned to apply and remove our plates, how to mix colors, and how not to smash our fingers, and we did it to the Footloose soundtrack.

Letterpress Classes

You can treat yourself to this same workshop on Sunday, October 4 and Saturday, December 12. Those who complete the workshop course are eligible to take advantage of Baskerville’s open studio days (upcoming September 27, October 11, 18, and 25). Studio membership costs $200 a month and includes 24 hour access to the presses, use of studio inks, and personal storage space. For more info, email them and visit them at baskervillestudio.com.

Thanks for offering such an unparalleled value and experience to AIGA members, Jeff, Amelia, and Tyler — you’ll see us again.

By RJ Sevin
Published September 24, 2015