Last fall, we finally purchased a new paper cutter. Our old paper cutter was moody, greasy, and not exactly the safest hunk of metal around. So when we finally tracked down a new one that suited our needs and was just the right price, we jumped at the chance to buy it. There was just one little catch (as always seems to be the case around here with equipment acquisition) – we would have to pick it up. But just how far away was this new paper cutter from Raleigh? Well, it depends on the route you take, but to give you an idea, somewhere around 1400 miles away. This may seem a bit far to drive for a piece of equipment, but we had our reasons: a) we really needed a new paper cutter, b) it was great timing since fall is our slow season, and c) we really really really wanted an excuse for a road trip. So, after considering the cost of fuel, food, lodging, and trailer rental, we packed up the car and hit the road.
We planned to spend our first night with family just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, but decided to make a quick stop in Knoxville with plans to visit Yee-Haw Industries.
Yee-Haw is a design and letterpress studio specializing in event posters and art prints. Walking into their shop was one of those “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moments for sure. The walls of the space are lined with trays upon trays of wood and lead type. The place has been in business since the mid-nineties, and the years spent working on this collection of type have definitely paid off. And then there are the posters – both the walls and ceilings are plastered. It’s truly an inspiring sight!
It was great to visit a place where things are so different from what we’re used to. Unlike the folks at Yee-Haw, we do not have a collection of type other than that of the digital variety. While our designs typically start on paper, the final designs are created in the computer. Then, if we’re designing something to be letterpress printed, we create photopolymer plates. This enables us to make truly custom designs for our clients without having a large collection of wood or lead type eating up our precious square footage. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to have some though. We can’t help but imagine what it must be like to open up a drawer filled with type and just start playing around with a concept. From start to finish the job can be done without even so much the thought of a computer.
We’re thankful that owner Kevin Bradley was kind enough to give us a tour of the space and let us check out all the type as well as the presses (including a neglected Heidelberg Windmill!). I wish I had more photos of the space – but I hate to feel like I’m intruding and tend to take less photos when there are people around (I’m totally shy like that). And though we really wanted to stay a little longer and get some dinner in Knoxville, we knew that we had a little niece waiting on us to hurry up and arrive in Chattanooga already, so it was time to hit the road once again and continue on…
Stay tuned! I’ll be posting about our adventure periodically until finished, though not every week in a row. Be sure to check back in the following weeks to find out what happens!