Hand Print Press: contact: handprint (at) cmug (dot) com
Hand Print Press is me, Kiko Denzer, so the story of the business is part of my story (more of that elsewhere).
The press, as such, sprouted about 2001, on a small, cluttered desk in a small cabin, next to a little cob studio, in a sizeable garden, bounded by creek, forest, and neighbors, human and wild.
I wrote the first book, Build Your Own Earth Oven while trying to find a way to make sculpture into a living. I had taken an earthen building workshop with Ianto Evans and the Cob Cottage Company in order to learn how to build a cheap house. Ianto also taught us to build a simple wood-fired, earthen oven. With nowhere to build a house, I started building ovens, a simple kind of sculpture that also made wonderful bread. People saw pictures and wanted their own, so I taught a few workshops, wrote up notes, added pictures and drawings, made a pamphlet, sold 1,000, revised and expanded it, borrowed $5K from my brother, sent the files to the printer — boom! Hand Print Press. (I did build a mud house too — see the photo w/the small boy — now full grown!)
As most do, I started learning how to do stuff from my mother, who learned from (among others) her mom, her granddad, and a teacher named “Miss Doing” (really!), at New York City’s famous “little red schoolhouse.” As part of a long art career that took her around the world, Mom helped develop a hands-on learning program for the Boston Childrens’ Museum visitors’ center. Many Saturdays, I helped her teach paper-making, weaving, rope-winding, etc. When she turned her hand-drawn project sheets into a book, I did the index. Making Things, A Handbook of Creative Discovery sold well for 30 years before Little, Brown let it go out of print. So I re-published it for my kids’ generation. It turned my two-book operation into a real (if small) publishing concern.
In 2010, friends Max and Eva Edleson made the press a two cottage industry. Max re-built the website, and he and Eva wrote and published Build Your Own Barrel Oven, which introduces another variety of wood-fired oven to feed the growing hunger for simple, wood-fired, communal hearths. Max and Eva have two daughters now, a farm, and a business called firespeaking.
Other ideas and projects that came out of the mud include Dig Your Hands in the Dirt, Make a Simple Sundial, Make a Ray Jacobs Rocky Mountain Dulcimer, A Work of Art, and my mom’s final (14th!) book: Satisfy the Image: The Wisdom of Your Dreams and Guided Imagery for Self-Balancing.
I recognize and appreciate that every purchase comes from a real person. Similarly, every purchase supports, among others, the good folks who who print, store, and ship the books, as well as Jeffrey, Jenna, Sandy, Margot, Michael, et al, at Chelsea Green Books, an employee-owned publisher who also distribute some of the Hand Print Press titles. And, of course, the folks at Amazon, if you go that route.
The truth of economy (from the Greek word for “home”) asks us to recognize that we don’t really make our own lives but receive them as a gift from a source greater than ourselves (and greater than Jeff Bezos!) But to the extent that I sit in front of a screen in order to earn a few bux, I’m happy to express gratitude for the support it provides for making a home, growing food, raising kids, and working with neighbors. Whether books, stories, or friendship, I offer all in thanks, because wealth is not ours to keep, but to plant, turn over, share.