New letterpress broadside: Moby Dick November 12 2013, 0 Comments

Last year, while I printed untold stacks of holiday cards, I listened to the entire 22-hour audiobook of Moby Dick. There was one passage that stuck with me simply because it brought back a sense memory that's so intense: coldness. Melville nailed it; the beauty of coldness is finding warmth even when you are surrounded by it.

“We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors;
indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The
more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you
must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is
merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you
are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be
said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed,
the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then,
indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and
unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be
furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich.
For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket
between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you
lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.”

Moby Dick letterpress broadside / 9" x 13" / Letterpress & India ink wash with salt

In the '90s our family lived on a farm down in a valley along Indian Creek in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My parents have always embraced challenge and sacrifice, and so it should probably be no surprise that they chose to sleep not in the main part of the house itself, but on the unheated enclosed-but-freezing back porch. Honestly, it wasn't a whole lot warmer inside. But I'm 33 now, and now I get it. Under mountains of comforters in the middle of January they were that one warm spark. I could extend that metaphor in many ways, but the salient point is that we all understand how much more you appreciate the warmth when you've been cold to your core.

I letterpress printed this passage from Chapter 11 of Moby Dick on 100% cotton stock and have made an arc above the passage on each print in the edition–a sky and a horizon, a cold and a warm, a light and a dark–in a wash of India ink. When the ink was still damp, I sprinkled it with salt, creating a resist that leaves a beautiful and unique speckle on each broadside.

2013 is all about patience and experimentation around here. I like the directions it's taking me.