About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Perks of an Electrical Co-op

Chad Pastotnik with his linotype machine
Deep Wood Press
P.O. Box 726
121 Doerr Road
Mancelona, MI 49659

You never know where or how good fortune might come your way. You just have to be ready to accept it when it does. Who would have thought, for instance, that being part of an electrical co-op could lead to one of the most engaging and memorable book adventures I have enjoyed to date. Allow me to elaborate. Our electrical service at the cottage in Baldwin comes from the Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, and as part of that organization, we receive each month a copy of Michigan Country Lines, a brief publication featuring news about the energy industry, electrical safety, energy-saving tips, GLE business information and the like. I enjoy thumbing through the magazine stopping to read in more detail the recipes that are a regular feature, and occasionally an article of local interest will capture my curiosity. Browsing this past October's edition, I found myself riveted by one such article, Michigan's Bookmaker, about Chad Pastotnik, creator of literary beauty the handcrafted way.

I learned from this article that Chad runs Deep Wood Press, literally deep in the woods of northern Michigan, where he produces books the old fashioned way using obsolete equipment, handmade paper, and luxurious bindings. "His limited edition fine-press creations," the article said, "are world-renowned and sell for up to $3,000 each." That was the price for Chad's limited edition version of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which won a Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design.

Now, I thought, this is someone I would love to meet! I immediately investigated the artist's website, deepwoodpress.com, where I learned that unfortunately, the studio is not open to the public. Visits are by appointment only. Not being a member of the media nor in any way connected to any publication other than this little blog, I was uncertain as to whether he would choose to take the time from his artistic ventures to talk with me. But, as my supportive husband said, "What do you have to lose? Email him and ask him." So I did just that. What luck!! He agreed to meet with me.

Daniel, the apprentice
Armed with a map and Chad's directions (GPS is not sufficient to find this place), I set off on the hour-and-a-half drive from Baldwin to Mancelona, Michigan, and into the deep woods. Even with the map, I got lost, missed the driveway, and found myself on a muddy seasonal road smack in the middle of nowhere and grateful for my all-wheel drive vehicle. After doubling back a couple of times, trying another muddy trail and getting nowhere, I eventually made my way back to a lone house where I stopped, asked for help, and finally was headed in the right direction.

At last, there it was, in the middle of the deep woods--the house and studio of Deep Wood Press. There was something almost magical about being in this ethereal place nestled alongside a river in the middle of nowhere, a place where books are not simply made, but created by a print artist, by hand, using methods of old.

The artist himself came out to greet me. Chad introduced himself and led the way into one of the small buildings that houses the bindery and the adjacent print room where hard at work was his apprentice, Daniel. Getting to know these two master print artists, I was struck again with the ubiquitous "small world" adage. Not only familiar with my hometown of Lowell, Daniel had actually done some work at our small-town newspaper, the Lowell Ledger. Chad and I found common ground in our collegiate life, having both attended Grand Valley, even living in the same dorm, albeit years apart.

My tour began in a separate building which houses the vintage linotype machine that Chad uses to produce a "line o type" for his books. He gave me a fascinating demonstration of how the sixties-era machine works. Using an unusual looking keyboard, he types out a line of text, and corresponding small molds are dropped into place where molten lead then fills them to cast the line of letters to be used for printing. This building also houses an Intaglio printing machine. Chad explained that Intaglio printing is more or less the opposite of relief printing, using plates on which a design is cut or etched. Ink is then applied to the recesses on the plate, and the paper is essentially embossed into these ink-filled cuts.

Convent press with religious carving still affixed
Back in the print studio, I saw an array of antique hand-operated presses. The press Chad favors for his fine book work is from the forties, and the oldest press in the room is a smaller one from 1911. Coming by all this vintage equipment is no small feat in and of itself. When Chad began in 1992, Deep Wood was just a bindery, and the printing component was gradually added. One of the presses, surprisingly, came from a convent of cloistered nuns in New Jersey.

There Be Monsters with original plates used to produce it
Back in the binding room, Chad showed me some of his beautiful finished products including a small book that he wrote entitled There Be Monsters. A short, sweet story about a walk in the woods, this little treasure was created entirely by Chad, and he showed me the original plates that produced the wonderful illustrations done with 6-color linoleum cut. I wanted to own something that Chad had produced, so I purchased a numbered and signed copy of this little gem. I also came away with some lovely coasters for the cottage, although I don't think I could bear to put a wet glass on this artwork.

Chad Pastotnik is a unique artist indeed, one of a very few who create a book in this historic, hand-crafted way from start to finish--typesetting, to printing, to binding. I felt a sense of admiration and awe in visiting this charming place in the middle of nowhere. I appreciate the opportunity I had to meet this book artist extraordinaire, and I am grateful for the unlikely way that my electrical co-op set me on a path to such a wonderful Deep Wood adventure.

Special Note: I discovered that Traverse Magazine/MyNorth.com did a brief video about Chad in which he talks about his craft and his books.
Here's a link: Deep Wood Press video

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