What's in a Press Name? / by Kat Howard

First Book Meat Press Broadside, August 2010 The first letterpress class I ever took was at the Center for the Book in San Francisco.

I'd dabbled in letterpress prior to the weeklong super-intensive workshop, but I wanted to get some more practice under my belt before I embarked on the MFA. There were about 8 people in the class total, and one of the greatest things was the wide range of characters that were gathered in to one group.

There were two undergrad BFFs who were obsessed with polymer, even though it was a class focusing on setting type by hand, a wealthy Dowager with a diamond the size of a donut hole that blinded me every time it caught the light, a wizened geography professor, a made up and manicured princess who wanted to start her own wedding planning company on the side, a serial workshopper (a lady who'd already taken every other class and was a self-professed expert), and a whacky art grad guy, who only showed up for half of the classes.

We learned a crazy amount in just five days, and it all culminated in a broadside project where we were able to design and set our own manifesto or poster. For this final project, I was shocked at how overly serious many of my classmates were in approaching the subject matter. Many of them were choosing biblical quotes or political blurbs for their first personal letterpress projects. They were all so nervous about what each other would think about the content they chose to print; I wondered where all the creativity had gone that had surely led them to take this class in the first place.

Letterpress is a lot of work, it can take hours just to set a few lines of type, and then there's locking up the press bed and inking the press, and cleaning the press... Bottom line, you better enjoy what you're doing and find some personal connection to your work beyond what other people will think of it.

I decided to go against the norm and print a broadside that reflected my personality; it wasn't super serious, it's object wasn't to impress, I knew it was going to take hours to print and so I wanted something with a touch of humor to it. So, I decided on printing a quote by Anthony Bourdain:

"I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, or the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head, food, for me, has always been an adventure. I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once."

It was silly and uncouth and a little outside the box, granted not something I could gift my mother or grandmother, but its quirky message kept me smiling through the hard work.

We were also tasked with coming up with a press name, and I knew that I wanted it to reflect what was most important to me about book art and the craft of the book: the book itself, its very meat and bones, which led to the name Book Meat. It's stuck ever since.