I received a package from my mother today, of work my father did when he was a printer. He had his own print and graphic design shop from the time I can first remember him to when I was about 8. I had my own rolling press and learned to read by setting type–I used to love to frighten teachers by telling them I could only read if I held the book upside down. When you set type you have to be able to read backwards and if you are peering over the other side of the typesetting table you are reading upside down and backwards.
The remnants of his work included holidays cards and advertisements for art gallery openings, and specially printed boxes. I remember those boxes very well. It was such fun to turn a flat and funny shaped piece of paper into a box that you could put things in.
The paper he printed on was so varied. Thick and soft and a different color on each side, glossy and slick, thin and light and gentle, all different sizes from small little squares to large posters–even stickers. I remember visiting paper supply houses with huge sheets of paper, like 10′ square, that were then cut down to custom sizes, and the smell of the paper fiber–like an old used bookstore, but not musty.
And the ink; how I loved the smell of the ink and to watch it change color as I mixed it and spread it out on the metal plate full of bits of type and custom made metal designs.
I miss the smell of the ink and the grace of the machines as they rhythmically pressed ink to paper over and over again, and the beauty of all the type pieces and all the metal carved graphic reliefs that became pictures. But if my father were alive he would be completely enamored with the graphic capabilities of modern computers and printers.