We've spent the past few days in Nashville where we filled the days and evenings with fun ranging from show choirs to flea markets and everything in between. The excuse was to meet up with my brother Jerry, his wife Carol and their daughter Mindy and her family. Mindy's son Nick is a member of a show choir that was competing in a national competition at the Grand Old Opry so we were there for that too.
The show choir competition was amazing. The kids were all so talented, singing and dancing in a multi-song set that lasted more than twenty minutes. It was a real-life Glee minus Sue Sylvester as the villain. I loved it! Nick's group did great but fell short of the finals and awards.
Among the other activities that filled our long weekend was a tour of the Hatch Show Print facility.
It's a real print shop that dates back to 1879 but remains unique in that the posters created there are hand-crafted and inked onto paper with essentially the same process Gutenberg invented. No digital conversion for them. It was and still is well-known for its posters that span everything from vaudeville and minstrel shows to the biggest names in the entertainment industry as well as politics.
If those wooden blocks could talk, they'd have an amazing story to tell. The two people who explained both the history and the process of making the prints did a great job on their behalf. I'm still fascinated that not only can someone hand-carve the blocks (both letters and designs) but do it backwards and in relief.
The print shop was idle since it was Saturday but normally is filled with artists and machines doing their thing. Well, the machines were there but they were quiet. The walls there and in the classroom were papered with posters old and new as well as the blocks of letters and designs.
The shop is more than a profitable business, however; they focus on preservation too. They produce restrikes of classic posters from the past to further their role as an historian of American advertising and entertainment and they offer and intern program to teach the craft to future generations of print makers.
While we certainly won't rise to the level of interns, we did get to try our hand at the press. The first step was rolling the brayer in the ink, a step Wayne was doing but can't be seen well because of the press.
Then we applied the ink to the blocks like Carol was doing here. It isn't hard but if you don't get all the letters covered, they obviously won't print.
The next step was placing the paper and holding it in position while we started the weighted roller. Once we had enough of the poster under the roller to keep it from moving, we used two hands to move the press the rest of the way.
And then we carefully peeled the poster up off the block like Jerry was doing here. Needless to say we all got to make a print.
Here's the finished design. Each color is run separately and we did the last one, the orange letters. It's a cool memento of our tour.
I really had no idea what to expect when we set out on this activity but it was the perfect combination of history, learning how things work and being involved in something creative. And, of course, we got to share it with people we love.
Our weekend was the perfect mix between doing fun activities and relaxing conversations and you can't always say that about weekend getaways. We need to do this more often.