During my senior year at N.C. State’s School of Design I attended a visiting designer’s slide lecture. Asked his opinion of a book he had designed, he admitted he hadn’t read it as he doesn’t have time to read the books he designs. Mustering up the vim and vigor of an idealistic 21-year-old I vowed I would not become like this. It may very well be the way of the world, but it was not going to become my world.After graduating in 1994, I headed for the hills—specifically, Mitchell County—and the Penland School of Crafts where I participated in the Core Student work/study fellowship program. Learning from a revolving group of visiting craftspersons (and fellow students from all walks of life) in a workshop-centered environment, I concentrated in letterpress printing, bookbinding, and papermaking. I gained inspiration from potters and metalworkers who were making functional everyday items and turning the use of utilitarian objects into elevated acts of aesthetic enjoyment. I saw by integrating design with making I could work as a graphic designer in an appealing way; a way that would be a refreshing antidote to what I saw as a culture increasingly hellbent on favoring slickness and high volume over intimacy and tactileness.
In 1996 (along with Ray Duffey who has since gone on to pursue a career in woodworking) I established Horse & Buggy Press at “Antfarm”—an active artist/artisan cooperative established by a group of fellow design school graduates. A former washboard factory, this was H&B’s home for seven years. One of my last activities at Antfarm was organizing a 33-person, 400-piece exhibition at the Gregg Museum for Antfarm’s tenth anniversary. This included co-writing and designing the exhibition catalogue (which featured ten different letterpress designed covers within the edition of 1,000).
In 2003 H&B trotted over the county line into Durham, and in 2005 I co-founded the Bull City Arts Collaborative with filmmaker Kenny Dalsheimer. Housed in a former Rambler Nash showroom just a block down from the farmers market, we had the opportunity to custom design our 1,800 square foot space. The BCAC includes four work studios, an exhibition gallery, large storefront windows, skylights, and exposed bowed iron trusses. It is a beautifully simple space. I curate the foyer gallery—which also includes a wall for rotating guest artist exhibits—and we host open studios for all Third Friday Durham events (Third Friday of every month). Our neighbors at 401 Foster Street include Piedmont restaurant, Urban Durham Realty, and Daisycakes. More info about the BCAC can be found at www.bullcityarts.org