HAMILTON WOOD TYPE - WAYZGOOSE 2014 November 11 2014

We’ve been traveling to Wisconsin to visit the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum for about 4 years now. It’s a fascinating place, two hours from the closest major airport, in a small town along Lake Michigan. If you’re reading this we suggest planning your next vacation around a trip to Two Rivers, WI. Their collection and hospitality are well worth the effort, and our recent journey (to and from) has given us a moment to reflect on our time there. Here are two accounts, unedited, from first-time attendees of the annual Hamilton Wood Type Wayzgoose (aka printer’s party)…

1. From Briana Kagy – Printmaker

In our shop, we speak often about the limited number of people in the world who can speak about letterpress, printing, and design with the same passion that we feel for them. The Wayzgoose at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum provides an opportunity for that limited group to come together and nerd out over all the things that get our blood pumping, to share tips, experiences, and stories. As its eclectic name suggests, the HWT Wayzgoose is, in a word, surreal. The museum itself is like a playground for printers and designers, filled with pieces of printing history and providing studio space for today’s printers. Adding nearly two hundred printing enthusiasts to that equation is guaranteeing a very unique weekend. It is no wonder that people travel from all over the world to this small town in Wisconsin for this conference each year.

Because of our enthusiasm about the HWT Wayzgoose, our own eight-hour drive to Two Rivers, WI, could not have seemed any easier. The buzzing excitement in our little rental car matched the feeling in the museum when we finally arrived in the early evening on Friday. Entering the museum, we were met warmly by museum volunteers, staff, old friends, and treated to smoked salmon, freshly grilled paninis, tomato soup, and an assortment of other goodies. Later that night, Charles S. Anderson spoke to the group about his vast collection of imagery, formed over the last several decades, and how he has taken steps to modernize vintage illustrations and make them more relevant to present day designers. He was certainly not alone in his two wishes to mix the old and the new and to share his imagery with other designers. After the programming for the evening had ended, we got a chance to explore the museum for a short while, and then the reunion moved to a couple of nearby bars.

After a breakfast of donuts, fruit, and coffee, Saturday was packed with breakout groups ranging from type specimens to papermaking to public art. Choosing which speakers to attend was the most difficult part of the weekend. I decided to see David Wolske, Greg Walters, Bryce McCloud, and Clint Harvey. David Wolskedescribed the techniques he has been using of late in his own work. Greg Walters brought his exquisite collection of European type specimen books, generously allowing us to look through them and witness first hand the painstaking, sometimes hand-painted, detail. Bryce McCloud gave an inspiring presentation about his work in Nashville, emphasizing why he feels public art is important and how he reaches out to his own community and beyond. Clint Harvey, all the way from Brisbane, Australia, spoke about the challenges he has worked through to get The Bacon Factory going in a country that is almost exclusively fascinated with the newest technologies.

Saturday evening began with a couple of covert woodtype sales at the hotel, complete with a bathtub cooler filled with Wisconsin beers, wine, and cheese curds. It was followed by a hearty dinner reminiscent of Thanksgiving, a talk by some of the men behind Tipoteca Italiana, type trivia, and cosmic bowling, but as this group can only get together once or twice a year, the night hardly ended there. We went on to try the “cherry bounce” at the Waverly, witness a bar fight, cheer on our peers at karaoke, and stay up into the early hours of the morning either catching up or getting to know one another.

Sunday went quickly, beginning with donuts once again, a presentation from Greg Walters about watermarks, and an incredible woodtype giveaway. Aside from everything else, the spirit of the print exchange that filled the last two hours of the 2014 HWT Wayzgoose pretty well describes the vibe of the entire weekend. I am certainly biased, but I find that printers are fascinating people, and the generosity and comraderie of the group as a whole is striking. The print exchange felt like a potluck dinner at a family reunion, with everyone giving freely of their tips, techniques, and prints like a distant aunt might offer up her coveted recipe along with a bowl of her infamous chili. The love of design, type, and printing had united veteran Wazgeese and fresh faces alike, and as the new and old friends hugged goodbye, it was clear that the relationships formed and nurtured there go beyond just one brief weekend per year.

2. From Christina Casnellie – Designer

I feel like the luckiest person to have experienced this weekend. It had all the ingredients of history-making: a road trip, some super stars, typographic eye-candy, type geekery, new friends, some booze, donuts, cheese snacks and bowling. Beer was drank from bathtubs and type was dealt in a frenzy from hotel rooms. People were excited, and flowed out into the hotel corridors. Probably it was legal but maybe it wasn´t. I like not to be sure. The local bar has a crowd that reminds me of who you might find in a bar in Krakow on a Sunday to Monday late shift, not pretty. They have something they call the cherry bounce for a mere 79 cts. It is exciting stuff, and I choose to believe that it is a local specialty only available in two rivers. And cheese! That squeaks when fresh and can be single or double fried. Also milk was served at dinner.

I had read about two rivers before knowing I would ever have the chance to come to the wayzgoose, back to the days when the founder had jumped logs down the river and later discovered that cutting type out of holly wood worked very well. It seemed like a dreamy time that was sepia toned. Maybe what I would choose if time travel options were presented to me. Present day Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum has piles of cuts, and type, and machines. The museum is so great that I had to hold onto the wall as a turned the first corner as I came in. It is the first time I have seen a pantograph, which is nothing less than object imbued with magic powers. Hamilton is a Mecca.

Charles S Anderson was one of the super stars and it was pretty cool to see him walk us through his life endeavors. Jim Sherraden left me wanting to run to Nashville to find out if it is a place where people always have a musical instrument on hand and might break out into song and jam away without any warning. The type specimen books made me red cheeked and eager, realizing that all the time this weekend would not get me half way through devouring them. And I needed to see it all. Wolske was cerebral and surgical. There was gravitas in his work and mind set that impressed all. Bryce has great work that is also kind and playful. And pants that are waterproof. And I wouldn’t have thought of making a mural with paint cans in a million years. Also, If anyone knows someone who works with leather and could make him some buckskin pants send the contact, we’ll get it to him. Clint made it quite clear that Brisbane is one of the best places in the world to live. Maybe the best. He is full of dedication and passion that is inspiring. I only wonder what all the slang he had printed really meant. Did we gringo’s capice the aussies lingo at the print showdown?

The watermarks showed on Sunday were kind of like watching the circus. They do tricks while making it appear simple you know all along that you shouldn’t’t try it at home and you can’t help but letting out a verbal ah! of surprise when they finish the trick. The door prize give-away is still had for me to believe, in equal measure for the almost insane generosity as well as the amazing fashion sense of Dave Peat. The swap seems like its there to drain the end of the battery. So much good work was out on show. I know its good stuff when it gives me a stomach ache, its the stomach ache of “I wish I had done of that”, awe with a touch of jealousy. But it also inspired me like a kick in the pants to get back to work and keep trying to make better stuff.

All through this, the Hamilton crew proved themselves at every occasion to be some of the genuinely friendliest people I have ever met. It was nothing less than amazing. Thank you so much Hamiltonians. I hope I can make the pilgrimage and get whoop ass inspired for many years to come. And when I die I hope heaven is something like Hamilton.