Nick Wiesner, our talented graphic designer friend and a trustworthy source when it comes to anything cool, classy and relevant suggested I make a trip all the way up to Two River Wisconsin. To visit the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum. So I did.
Operated by volunteers of the Two Rivers Historical Society, this is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. According to their website they house 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns…Housed in the old factory, you don’t expect much when you pull up.Then you enter. And you see. And if you are a sucker for typography, for alphabets, for colors and paper, for big, bright, right on fun or profound signage mixed with the smell of industrial history; you know you have arrived.
Yes, they do sell some cool merchandise, and yes, I bought a couple of beautiful cards. Go visit their site, http://www.woodtype.org/museum_information.shtml because some of the work is available online.
My grand tour was led by a retired Hamilton factory worker…I am not going to give the details away here, I think the pictures captured a sense of the magic and the craftsmanship. Capture what it means to cut letters, whole alphabets and borders, gorgeous intricate borders into wood. And then to preserve and archive them, count them, cherish them…It’s textural, it’s tactile, it’s…well go and see for yourself.
The I met Jim.
Jim Moran is the amazing Printer and Archivist at Hamilton. Passionate. Knowledgable. Talkative…and busy at work printing a recent donation made to the museum: an archive of supermarket signage–Pie? Pop? Cream Soda? Now? New? Yes. All right there and all in wood. Very cool.
Jim had a big rat graphic on press when we entered,
Why a sign that says “Mad Mouse” exists, or how it was used in the context of a supermarket chain I do not know. But if you ask Jim, I am most certain he will have an answer…
Here some more beautiful and profound pieces he printed and then hung through the museum. How about this one: “Go Everywhere. Do Everything.” Yes, I will…
Lets sum it up: letterpress printing is lovely, screen printing is real cool-but wood type? Wow.
Then before you leave you discover that Hamilton, right after the art of wood type was just not longer needed, started producing dryers. Yes. Clothes Dryers.
And on that note, I thought I will end this post with an image of this fabulous quote as seen at the Warhol exhibition in the Milwaukee Art Museum Ladies Room. Because that is exactly were I ended my trip-in Milwaukee. Nick, thanks for the tip!