The Printers’ Ball

Hell yeah, that’s a red carpet… welcome to the sixth annual Printers’ Ball! Best estimates are somewhere around three thousand for this year’s attendance count. Not bad for a dying industry, right? The Luddington Building was crawling with all manner of artists and artisans, writers and revelers- a packed house indeed. The Conway Center (i.e. the ground floor) was full of take-away printed matter, free booze, and loud music (not to mention the sweet sound of one hard workin’ copying machine). Upper floors featured various demonstrations related to letterpress printing, book arts, and papermaking compliments of the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts.

Chicago can turn out the crowds for free printed matter. Many of the first through the door were clearly on a mission… more than a few people were filling up a roller bags with a life time’s worth of reading material.

Icy Demons warming up before the doors opened.

The theme this year was Print Loves Digital so organizers installed a Tron-inspired ceiling to reference the science fiction classic. Nice.

Vanessa Place digital reading going on throughout the Ball.

This fence forms the edge of the Chicago Underground Library robotic swag corral and petting zoo.

Just a few broadsides from the Chicago Printers Guild portfolio were on view. If anyone knows whose these are, please add names in the comments.

On the second floor:  demos. We couldn’t stay long for Stampland but we heard this was a crazy scene… a flurry of stamping activity.

Joseph Lappie doing a letterpress demo. Lappie is a graduate of the Columbia program and has started a book arts program at St. Ambrose in Iowa. He was printing this book- the Prestidigitator…

Pretty sure these pics are from a book-binding demo by the Chicago Books to Women in Prison. It’s an amazing program that provides handmade journals and sketchbooks for incarcerated women. Columbia grad CJ Mace taught the CBWP volunteers how to bind in about a half hour and then stayed to help out.

Columbia grad Daniel Mellis was printing Captain Carpenter broadsides.

Looking this post over, I don’t really think it captures the real spirit of the event. DJ Dave Tompkins (“How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip Hop”) provided a surreal soundtrack to the night that is missing here and the pictures don’t explain the volume of the crowd. Maybe a blog post is always going to be too quiet. One thing is for sure, The Printers’ Ball is clearly gaining momentum- three thousand people from varied disciplines and all walks of life is nothing to sneeze at. We’re already looking forward to next year’s print extravaganza.

Head over to Designchat for more pictures.  We’ll have some more stuff in the next few days.

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6 Responses to “The Printers’ Ball”

  1. Nicole says:

    That looks great! Thanks for sharing your pics and describing the scene. I’m so glad this exists.

  2. Shampton says:

    Excellent post. Seems your team hit everything we missed at DesignChat. Loved the “Copy Jam!”

  3. You are correct, it is difficult to imagine the event without being there. I was very impressed by everything including the turnout. There are certainly a more printing and poetry geeks around than I realized! Good seeing you and the Printeresting gang there.

  4. brook says:

    The skeleton broadside poster is by artist Sanya Glisic

  5. Thanks for the great pics! This 1-minute video captures some of the sounds:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PA0n9XUqys

  6. jessica says:

    The second poster is by Matt Nichols and the third was made by me, Jessica Taylor Caponigro.