We are excited to present to you a new Monday morning feature on the LofL blog: Member Spotlight! The light shines brightly today on Lisa Rappoport, owner of Littoral Press in Oakland, California. She prints poetry broadsides, limited edition artist's books, wedding invitations, business cards, coasters, and lots more. Check out her interview below, and check back every Monday to see who the spotlight will illuminate next!
How did you become a printer?
My dear friend Claribel Cone, an amazing artist, asked if I wanted to collaborate on an artist's book of my poems and her images. I was thrilled and honored and we began brainstorming. I knew letterpress had agreatrep in the fine printing world, but I didn't really know what it was. When I asked Claribel if our book could be printed letterpress, she said she thought it was pretty pricey ..... and she was so right! So I brazenly said I would learn to do it myself, and thus an obsession was spawned. I quickly realized I had found what I should have been doing for the prior couple of decades. Better late than never.
What was your first press?
I printed that first book, Heavenly Blue, on an acquaintance's C&P Pilot tabletop press, in 1997. I was thoroughly smitten by the whole book arts world, and my friend Deborah and I started talking about possibly getting a press to share. We went to a sale and ended up being given a 10"x15" C&P platen press, which is what I do 95% of my work on.
What do you like best about your work or physical shop? My shop is a bit small (okay, if I would stop acquiring type, it would stop shrinking!) and not beautiful, but it is very easy to work in and I love that unlike my home, there is a place for everything and everything in its place. I think a large part of my attraction to this work is the way it merges words and images, abstract thought and physical work, poetry and paper, art and craft. I enjoy the variety in my commercial work. This week I printed cover pages for a photographer's portfolio (16"x20"--not so easy to do on a 10"x15" platen press!) and covers for a book the Oakland Library is producing, worked on three different book design projects, finished an item for my subscription series, and made some progress on a book project of my own.
What do you find challenging about being a printer? Hmmm, one of the worst/best things is the way the better your printing gets, the higher your standards get also, so although looking back I can see how much I've improved, here and now I'm rarely satisfied. Also it's kind of challenging to make a living ....
Thoughts (random or otherwise!) on the future of letterpress?
I think the advent of photopolymer plates is a major factor in the current popularity of letterpress--not everyone is willing to find, purchase, house, and maintain a lead type collection, but getting plates made is pretty doable. And the sense I get from students is that a lot of their interest in printing is a reaction to being really fed up with staring at computer monitors all day--as a species we seem to like using our hands and bodies more than most of us get to do in daily life these days. So letterpress looks fairly healthy for now. I do worry about the knowledge that is disappearing as we lose some of the older experts.