Marnie Powers-Torrey is the head of the University of Utah Red Butte Press and Book Arts Program at the Marriott Library, which offer letterpress workshops for students and community members. For more information about workshops and to register, visit BookArtsProgram.org.
Has the Kindle hurt the Book Arts Program?
I think it’s quite the opposite. E-books have their place, and people enjoy reading certain kinds of books in a digital sphere, whereas there is evermore desire to want to be tactily involved with the word. People have a desire to increase their own visual literacy and be involved with the physical.
Do people still appreciate the craftsmanship of a handmade book?
Because so many people, in their day-to-day lives, have moved to the digital, people have lost touch with the amount of time and skill that are involved in producing things by hand. Oftentimes, people are amazed by the time that goes into projects. They’re used to ordering a computer program online, learning it and having some degree of success. But truly learning a craft takes some energy and attention that is different from digital learning.
How long does it take to create a book?
After the design, and after the type is ordered, it takes approximately three months on the hand press to do the printing, and then another three months to get it bound. Our last project had six people working on it. There were always two people working at once. One does the rolling of the ink and pulls the handle to make the impression, and a clean person handles the paper and does the quality checking.
What is your favorite project?
The Firebird’s Nest, by Salman Rushdie, was really enjoyable. We printed it on a flatbed press, which is a quicker process. The words are carved out on linoleum so what’s raised is what’s inked up and pressed.
What are you working on now?
We’re in the planning phase for several potential Red Butte Press projects, but our largest offering is the Treasure Chest of Rare Books, funded by several grants. Three teachers go into Utah schools and teach a history of the book to K-12 students, with a “treasure chest” full of rare materials. The students get to make a book model based on one of the examples from history.