Imperfection at its Best

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A 2012 trip to Wisconsin ended up being much more than a typical summer break for Joey Hannaford. The award-winning graphic design professor spent the summer in Two Rivers, Wisc. on an artist residency at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. The trip inspired Hannaford, and she spent the summer reviving the traditional form of letterpress in a new, experimental direction. Now, less than a year later, her work is being shown in an exhibit called “Imperfect: Letterpress X 3.” The exhibit, located at the Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., is a compilation of letterpress work by Hannaford and two other letterpress artists, Jeff Pulaski and Mervi Pakaste.

Letterpress printing uses wooden type and traditional press that were common in most print rooms until the second half of the twentieth century. It involves locking movable type into the bed of a press, inking it and rolling or pressing paper against it to form an impression. Offset printing, the method of painting an ink pattern onto a roller and then transferring it to paper, knocked letterpress printing off the market during the last few decades.

But some fans of the letterpress want it to make a comeback, albeit perhaps not in printing, books and newspapers. “The compositions are not intended to be legible, even though they are made up of large platforms,” said Hannaford. “Instead, with the combination of large geometric forms and a repeated layering of transparent color, it is my goal that the prints become ethereal and spare, inviting contemplation.”

In addition to being a lettering artist, Hannaford is also a printmaker, calligrapher and bookmaker who has taught and conducted workshops at national and international conferences. Her work is represented in the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, four presidential libraries and the collection of the HRH the Prince of Wales Architectural Trust.

“I am grateful for the UWG Faculty Research Grant I received that allowed me to travel to the Hamilton Museum last summer,” said Hannaford. “I am also very indebted to the wonderful people at Coastal Carolina University for their exquisitely sensitive hanging of this exhibition in their serene gallery and for the enthusiastic hospitality they have shown to all the artists in this exhibition.”

The exhibit is scheduled to run until Friday, April 5.