Bookmaking and “(A few) Things I learned in college journalism”

I took two semesters of a book arts class in college and absolutely fell in love with the art. I learned to set type, mix ink and print on a traditional letter press. I hand carved my own lino cuts to print images, made paper and even bound my own book. And believe me, nothing makes you more appreciative of computers than dropping 20 lines of size 10 type you just set with tweezers. But the detail that comes in letterpress printing and book making brings an immense appreciation and satisfaction in creating a unique, handcrafted art that just isn’t the same in digital work. I am fascinated with so many things in the art form from the embossed mark each letter leaves on the paper to the many different interpretations of “book.”

My university newspaper adviser sent me a picture of one of my pieces on display in the art building, and I realized I’ve never shown off my work. So… what better time than now to show you a bit.

The first print I made — an 11 by 17 broadside of The First Amendment — is still one of my favorite works I’ve completed. The piece includes a purple watermark-effect of a quill behind the text. I hand set the type, carved the image and ran the print. Here’s the work in the art building at the University of Nevada, Reno (the photo that inspired this post).

My first letterpress print.

My book project was by far the most intricate and time consuming work I finished in the class. I published five copies and have yet to finish assembling two others. The book opens from the center into a four page layout. I wrote the copy, built the graphics from Sagebrush pages and staff photos, letter press printed the text and hand bound the book pages and covers.

To give you a glimpse at the time it takes to do all that, I would estimate that manually setting the type and printing it took 40-50 hours easy; folding, binding, building covers and attaching the images probably took 10 hours per book as a conservative guess; and then of course there was all the pre-planning, such as writing, making the images, outlining a proposal and completing a mock up of the design and binding. In short, the project was a monumental task that took months.

I chose to make a book on “(A few) Things I learned in college journalism” as a keepsake of my Sagebrush years. My work and experience at my university paper made my college years special as I made lifelong friends and learned more than I thought possible.

If you ever visit the office or my home, be sure to ask to look at a copy as the slideshow below is just a few of the pages and, in my biased opinion, doesn’t do it justice.

Here’s all the text:

(A few) Things I learned in college journalism, By Jessica Fryman

This book is dedicated to 20-hour work days, sleepless nights, stressful deadlines, picky editors, inappropriate jokes and thoughtful arguments that go into producing a quality product. To whom I’ve made many memories with — The Nevada Sagebrush staffs of 2007 to 2011.

-Learn to love the First Amendment. Stand up for it like it’s all you have.
-Be bold.
-Never forget: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
-Treat getting in touch with every source as if you would win a million dollars if you do.
-Don’t take everything personally (especially the online comments).
-Appreciate your editor’s use of the dreaded red pen. Chances are good it will only make you better. Chances are better you won’t find another mentor who wants to help you as much.
-Admit failure and make it a learning experience.
-Don’t try to be like the competition. Be better.
-Sleep is a precious commodity. Get it when and where you can.
-Get out of the office once in awhile (or you will go crazy).
-Don’t feel too satisfied. If you do, you’re not reinventing and improving your work enough.
-Break the rules.
-As journalists, your coworkers are naturally perceptive, curious and like to gossip. This means they know about the office scandals, so don’t think yours is a secret.
-Get internships. Stay in touch with the people you meet there.
-Don’t let disgruntled veteran journalists who aren’t getting paid enough ruin your excitement about all the hours you put in for free.
-Play pranks. Make inside jokes. Write on the out-of-context quote board as often as you can.
-Have fun.
-Find a confidant. And vent.
-Know that your staff is family. You might argue and even hate each other at times. But you also make jokes others don’t get and support each other in life’s roughest moments.
-Learn. About journalism. About the world. About yourself.
-Understand the freedom of college journalism. Soak it up.

I also included an “About the Author” page at the end, but didn’t handset that, and if you follow this blog … chances are you don’t need me to rewrite that page for you here.

Of course, many thanks to Bob Blesse, UNR’s book arts instructor. Bob is one of the most relaxed, patient and creative professors I know. Never without a smile, he taught me all about printing and binding books and became someone I consider a good friend in the process.

—JDF