A.J. Liebling quipped, rightly, that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” Well, we don’t own our internet server, and we certainly don’t own any of the infrastructure that makes the web work, but Hand Print Press represents an effort by two families to live freely, cooperatively, and well. The “press,” such as it is, started in rural Oregon. It sprouted out of the clutter on a small desk in a small cabin, next to a little cob cottage with an outdoor oven and related work space – including studio, garden, creek, forest, and the homes of neighbors, human and wild. The initial “staff” was mostly me (Kiko), backed up by my wife and boys, as well as my mother, Ann Sayre Wiseman, who let me republish some of her most popular books. Today (12/19/2010) our friend Max Edleson is here to help expand this from a one- to two-cottage industry. It’s an exciting time, not only because it means working with friends, but because we’re hoping the press can help more people to find more ways to free themselves from slavery to things like 30 year mortgages, hateful jobs, artificial food, and toxic competition for illusionary goals.
All of us have been seeking ways to combine handcraft, art, food, agriculture, and community. All along the way, we have learned from and taught others, and the joy of learning has inspired us to share: to tell stories, to take photographs, to write, to draw, to lead workshops, to organize events, to seek out teachers, to learn from students, and to dream of a world where work and art and community all combine in joy and gratitude and grace.
We’d like Hand Print Press to serve as a way to work for those goals – a place to share ideas, inspiration, and information so future generations can gain real knowledge, create beauty, and know harmony. Each of us represented here takes individual responsibility for the work we publish. We work together, as people, rather than working under the legal fiction of a “corporate body,” most of which use public resources and public speech to disguise private hungers for profit and power.
In Greek, the word for private is “idiotikos.” When we can’t successfully participate in the healthy life of the whole community, we’re reduced to idiocy. On the other hand, “to publish” means “to make public.” When you make your work public, you become accountable for what you say. In the old days, when it cost lots of money to print and distribute books, publishers had to take the responsibility for what their authors said. That’s why, in the industrialized world, freedom of the press has been so important to the health of public life and citizenship. Now, however, with the tools for public speech so broadly available, individuals have to take responsibility for what they put into the common pool.
We do charge for books and services, but we don’t see the work as either “for profit” or “private.” We aim at cultivating common soil so that all may feed and flourish. In addition to books, we bake bread, tend the garden, watch the boys, make and build things, teach, and trade with friends and neighbors. We live well, below “the poverty line,” but reap rich rewards in time, friends, and freedom.
Within the book trade, which is as global as any, we operate a home-based economy, and hope for a craft economy – that is, a way of life by which we count what we do not in dollars but in beauty – in the goodness of work, food, fellowship, and grace. Ideally, we would do it without need of global trade, global finance, or global war, but in the meantime, we do our best to live by principles of equity and simplicity.
The first book from the press was Build Your Own Earth Oven, a sculptor’s treatment of traditional earthen building, art, and bread. I was making ovens because I didn’t have a place to build a house – and because the ovens were sculpture that provided wonderful bread. The book began as bare bones notes for workshops I taught for people who saw pictures of sculpted ovens and wanted their own.
As I learned about working with earth, new ideas and projects took root in the mud, most of them educational or community-oriented, They became two more little books: Dig Your Hands in the Dirt, and Make a Simple Sundial.
All of this mud and art and making is founded on an idea I first learned direct from my mother, who traced it back to Aristotle, who said “what we learn to do, we learn by doing.” My mother, Ann Wiseman, is an artist whose own mother sent her to a school where learning by doing was the core curriculum — and where her teacher was called “Miss Doing” (really!)
She has published 13 books, the best-selling of which is Making Things, A Handbook of Creative Discovery. About ten years ago, after nearly 30 years in print, Little, Brown dropped it from their catalog. I picked it up partly because I thought it should be in print for my own kids’ generation, but also because it would turn my one-book operation into a real (if small) publishing concern. It also made sense because what I’ve been doing is really just more “making [mud] things.”
With the re-publication of Making Things came a realization that both my mother and I received more than the current average (industrial) share of what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call “real knowledge” – real because it requires not just thought or belief, but a real integration and commitment of body, spirit, intellect, and heart. That real experience of life defines who we are and our place in the world. It is also too often dismissed by state-sanctioned compulstory education as less important than the day’s fashionable fact or byte of “infotainment.” So we forget, hide, ignore, or deny what we know best – our self, and our experience. Such experience is the source of love; it is what ties us to parents, place, and children – and it is how we create culture.
Thanks for visiting. Holler if you have questions.
Hand Print Press POB 576 Blodgett OR 97326 541-438-4300
Click here to send us feedback