This weekend I made my annual trek to Johnson City, TN to teach a printing workshop at the annual Arts in Education conference. This year my lesson was a great success + I had a great time, getting to briefly chat with the bluegrass singer Kathy Mattea, who is such a beautiful person + she gave a great keynote speech on how arts in her rural West VA school saved her (yes, I shed a few tears!).
Anyway, getting back to the title of this post, from a couple of the art teachers (+ fellow printing geeks) I found out that Yee Haw Industries letterpress shop closed this past spring.
About 10 years ago I visited a friend in Knoxville who took me to Yee Haw for the first time. When I walked in I dropped some letterpress lingo + was pegged as a fellow printer. We ended up spending 5 hours listening to Kevin Bradley (photo above) spin wild tales about scouring old barns for printing equipment, U-Haul mishaps + endless hours of listening to (but not watching) The Rockford Files while carving lino blocks.
Prior to my visit to Yee Haw I treated letterpress as a fine art, something that was delicate + precious. Those 5 hours truly changed my work. Letterpress was no longer delicate + precious, it was without rules, it was fun! I immediately tossed all my old work + started carving all my own blocks. I fell in love with printing all over again + have told the story of those 5 hours over + over again, as if I had just returned from that trip.
I still have the surgical tweezers Kevin gave me, which he thought would help keep those pesky pieces of type in line + the postcards I intended on paying for, but he insisted I take as a gift from one printer to another.
Kevin + Julie will likely never see this post, but as the co-founders of Yee Haw Industries, I thank them both for their inspiration + for changing my life.