Presidential Zeal

Mary has worked with “names” before. In fact, as part of her career as a graphic designer, she built a niche doing clever, off-beat or even wacky invites for congressional political fundraisers. The idea was that these invitations would not be lost in the pile of formal or prissy requests that came through a potential donor’s mail slot. They were fun to do — from a gaudy coffee mug and invite for John Glenn’s presidential debt retirement party to an awesome keyboard poster (still one of Shop Boy’s favorites) and invite for Al Gore’s event with musician Herbie Hancock. Heck, President Clinton once gave a big speech in front of a gargantuan logo that Mary designed.

But, please … this is Michelle Obama we’re talking about. The Big

Put the first lady’s name on anything Typecast Press is printing and Mary’s going to freak out.

It goes deeper than politics. Is Mary excited that the Obamas are in the White House? Yes, of course. I mean, it’s undeniably cool that today in these United States, we all can officially believe that any son or daughter of America can be anything he or she pleases.

Even a letterpress printer.

So, a potential client calls Mary, saying she has designed an invitation for an arts event at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., that the Obamas are hosting. Would Mary care to bid on the project?

Are you kidding?

Foldover card with a mod, interwoven pattern — red, pink, white — full program in three colors on the inside. Really cool, but brutal registration. Red envelopes with a detail of the interwoven pattern across the bottom and a Kennedy Center address line on the flap, both to be printed in one pass with intense black ink.

My part of these more complex projects is always easy, comparatively. All Shop Boy has to do is perfect the hand-feed on a thousand or so black-on-red envelopes for the event, then make sure all of our regular — but no less important, mind you — printing assignments are finished and packaged so Mary can focus on really nailing the guts of the job. It’s what I do. Shop Boy’s the donkey; Mary’s the thoroughbred. And I am not ashamed of this in the least. The  donkey is always funnier (and can sing 100 times better, by  the way)  than the thoroughbred. Did I mention “less high-strung”?

I could, but I won’t.

Because then Mary would just bring up the “more stubborn” thing.


Anyway, this is how Mary spent the days — and nights — of her birthday week. We both sacrificed our birthdays to the gods of letterpress this year. We’ll celebrate twice next time. And I was really excited about the project, which Mary was hustling to deliver on the client’s timetable.

Shop Boy’s timetable?

Shop Boy was cleaning ink off the big C&P after running a few hundred Woodberry Kitchen menus and, in a moment of wishful thinking, assumed that the “woosh-woosh-woosh” sound from the Heidelberg Windmill meant that Mary — satisfied that she’d nailed the ink color and plate registration for the next day’s run — was cleaning it, too, so that we could head out.

Au contraire. She was cleaning it, all right. But just so that she could erase an unacceptable shade of pink to make room for a fresh try on the press. She’d need to mix the new color from scratch, as the other pink wasn’t close enough to goose toward the right shade. For  the uninitiated, this meant 90 more minutes at the shop, minimum. It was already very late. My heart sank.

She was on a roll, she said, and wanted to keep going, though whiffing on a color she’d usually nail with ease was, to Shop Boy’s way of thinking, a very bad sign that she, too, needed some sleep.

So I questioned the wisdom of such a decision.

Now, who knows if Barack Obama has ever tried to use the presidential veto with Michelle, but I’m thinking it would work about as well as Shop Boy’s did that night.

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