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240 sheets of rives bfk, sitting patiently in the studio

Work on my MFA in the Book Arts thesis project began in September of this past year. In the intervening months I have researched the work of M.C. Richards, a potter, poet, teacher, and artist who taught at Black Mountain College, and designed a collection of her poetry that will be letterpress printed and housed in handmade enclosures.

One of the major steps in preparing for letterpress printing is the selection of an appropriate paper for the project at hand. Some of the considerations include a paper's composition, weight, texture, format, and color. I knew I wanted a true, yet soft white color as a background canvas for the work. Another important component was the weight and tactile quality of the paper. Because I am publishing a collection of large format (11x17) broadside prints rather than a bound book object, the project requires a heavier weight paper that won't flop around, or drape, too much when handled. I also wanted a paper that would take the ink and impression of letterpress beautifully without needing to dampen the sheets prior to printing.

Despite building upon prior knowledge in the letterpress studio, studying some paper sample books purchased from Talas and performing seemingly endless calculations (format relative to economy of prints yielded per sheet), the decision still felt like a rather large leap of faith. I ultimately chose a Rives BFK paper (an exquisite stack of which can be seen below). I took it as a sign of good things to come when Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and other Motown classics rang out in the type lab on the UA campus as I unwrapped the sheets.



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