Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All this, in Gordo, AL.

From the GPL Book Arts Project:

A little over a week ago, Eric and I made the trip to Gordo to pick up our tabletop letterpress AND receive some letterpress training from Glenn House, Sr.  While at Gallery 121 (gallery and studio/workshop of Glenn House and his wife, artist Kathleen Fetters), we also got a whirlwind lesson in papermaking.

The entire day was like a grad school class on steroids.  There was note-taking.   There was hands-on letterpressing.  There was a lot of delicate-shimmying-and shaking of papermaking (you see, there is a subtle dance to which you must know the steps in order to do it right).

As overhead lights flickered and went out (chalked up to a longstanding side effect of Glenn’s personal magnetism), Eric and I listened to instructional information, cautionary tales (the ability of levers to crush or smash, Wickersham quoins to pinch, and the ease with which cast iron will break when dropped), and practiced papermaking dance moves until Glenn thought we could replicate them on our own once we returned to Gadsden.

In the midst of all this, we dined family-style at the endearing Cheeky’s Restaurant just down the street from the Gallery.  Eric ordered the special, a Cheeky Burger, which was not actually a burger, but a grilled chicken fillet, smothered in wing sauce, topped with bacon, nestled inside a pretzel bun.  The Cheeky Burger, as the proprietress told us, was created in loving memory of her late daughter.  Basically, she took everything her daughter enjoyed eating, and put it on a bun…I can’t think of a better, more beautiful way to remember someone you love.

Did you all know that there are other fabulous artists in Gordo, within a stone’s throw of Gallery 121?  Photographer Barbara Lee Black has a gallery across the street from Glenn and Kathleen’s place, and letterpress artist Amos Kennedy works in a studio just around the corner.  All this, in Gordo, AL.  Wonder what else they have…

Friday, November 11, 2011 see a man about a letterpress.

From GPL Book Arts Project:

Was headed to a cyclocross race just outside of Tuscaloosa a week and a half ago and accidentally came upon a landmark that I had been hoping to see for myself:  the Moon Winx Lodge neon sign.  Now, I had heard about the Moon Winx Lodge sign many years ago; had even seen picture of it.  But, I had never seen it in person (it’s a shame to have spent so much time in the Tuscaloosa of the early nineties while friends finished law school at the University, and to have even earned my master’s degree from the same fine University many years later and have NEVER seen the Moon Winx Lodge sign).  And I only found out who its celebrated creator was until I actually met the man myself last November, that man being Glenn House, Sr. 

I saw the neon mustachioed moon sitting up there looking like some kind of mischievous (to use Glenn’s word) ambassador of Alberta City, Alabama (gateway to Tuscaloosa, in case you were wondering).  And then I looked beyond the sign…to the pines snapped and scattered and strewn about on the surrounding hills, the rubble piles of houses and buildings, evidence of the almost complete devastation of the area by the mile-plus-wide tornado that ripped across Alabama this past April.  How the sign survived the storm is anyone’s guess…

As long as I live, I will never forget what this particular tornado did to my friends, to neighbors…to folks I didn’t know but came to care about in the most powerful way.  That tornado did some mighty bad things.  But I’m here to tell you that some mighty good things came out of that destruction, too.  Neighbors helped neighbors.  Strangers helped strangers.  Heck, I personally know of some Northerners who came down to Alabama and helped out a bunch of Southerners (yep, B.J. Hill, I’m talking about you and your Red Cross crew).  My throat gets tight just thinking about it.

Now I know we’ve got a long way to go before we’ve cleaned up all that damage.  And I know that some damage…well, some kinds of damage just can’t be cleaned up.  But we’ll be alright.   That Moon Winx Lodge sign standing up there on University Boulevard East proves that we’ll be alright…

We’ll be passing that way again soon; got to go see a man about a letterpress.  In about a week I’ll be meeting with Glenn and Kathy in Gordo to learn how to use our new-to-us Kelsey 5x7 tabletop press and get a real quick lesson in papermaking.  Eric is going to open up a can of photojournalism and document the trip.  He’ll also serve as an extra pair of ears to catch important information.  We are looking forward to it.

By the way, I’m sure you noticed the fabulous photo of the Moon Winx Lodge sign at the beginning of this post.  You probably also noticed that the photo was taken by Ginger Ann Brook.  Ginger (photographer, writer and eternal student of folkways) happens to be one of my favorite bloggers of all time.  Her site, Deep Fried Kudzu, is an addictive assemblage of architecture, art (mainstream, outsider, and otherwise), food, horticulture…and a gazillion other engaging topics.  Ginger was kind enough to give permission for me to use my favorite of her Moon Winx Lodge sign photos.  If you would like to see more of Ginger’s Moon Winx photos, please go here and here.  And seriously, you have to visit Deep Fried Kudzu right now!  But like I mentioned, it is addictive…

Other Moon Winx things you may be interested in:

Alabama Public Radio interview of Glenn House, Sr.:   Kentuck Artist and the "Moon Winx" connection