1.18.2009,11:04 AM
Pieces of Terlingua: Menagerie Press
Terlingua Today: Menagerie Press

Lauren Stedman, a graphic designer and printer, left her native Fort Davis, Texas, and moved to California. But, like many native Texans, the circle remains unbroken.

In California Lauren bought two old Chandler and Price platen-style printing presses in Ukiah, north of San Francisco. Both presses, weighing about 1,200 pounds, were transported back to her home in Fort Bragg on the Mendicino Coast. One press is considered an Old Style and built before 1911. The other one, a New Style press, was built around 1941. There in Fort Bragg she and her son built a print shop, which she named Menagerie Press.

Big Bend’s open spaces, vistas and climate beckoned Lauren back to Texas in 2005. She and her son began renovating the old Terlingua church rectory and moved the heavy presses in with the aid of many locals. The rectory is now a beautiful printing shop with commanding views of the ghost town and the west edge of the national park.

To print a document, Lauren designs the layout: type, graphics, color, and paper. From several type cabinets, she chooses each piece of typelead and loads them into a composing stick on the composer’s table. This is set into a frame, called a chase, and locked into place with wood blocks. When complete, the chase is loaded into the press.

The adjoining room contains her design studio and a large and old paper cutter.

Now comes the fun. With lots of labor, an orchestration of ink, typeleads and press are readied for the paper. Each piece of paper is hand-fed into the press and the rest is art, conducted by the artist and the loaded press.

Lauren uses modern computer technology to design type and graphics that are later merged with letterpress printing. Files of type and graphics are emailed to typecasters and engravers that supply her with custom-designed typeleads and blocks for embossing. Thus Lauren with her presses produces distinguished products with design, quality paper and crisp type impressions: business cards, small posters, invitations, and books.

Through the old-glass window of the printing room, the Chisos Mountains float in the background and over other buildings on the outskirts of Terlingua Ghost town. When the spirit takes her, Lauren might grab the helmet off the hook in the hallway and fire up her motorcycle for a ride in the cool of a Big Bend morning.

A heap of Thanks to Roger who shared with us his world in Big Bend and introduced me to several local people. His love and bond with the land and its people there gleams in his eyes and smile when he shares it. I don't know if he knows how visible it is, or catching, but I share that sense with him.
Thanks, Rog.

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posted by Macrobe
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