For Alan Loney, printer of Electio Editions, the process of composition is the master of all other elements of printing, determining the form and the content of each piece through the restrictions and capabilities of the equipment and the materials on hand. There’s little to no distinction between the act of writing and the act of designing the piece in the letterpress, and maybe that’s why Loney mostly published his own poetry, or works that he made himself involved in, as “[the] form of the poem and the form of the book overlap, intersect, interfere, overlay each other in the pleasure of the work, and the layers or degrees of openness required for that to happen have not in [his] experience come easily, nor can they be taken for granted, but none of [his] work now takes place without them” (Poetics 74). And Loney’s style is fairly distinctive, harmonizing the written word with the visual display in a “superbly integrated performance” (Campbell). The subject of his poetry mostly focuses on the senses, delving into the details of what is seen, hear, and felt by the poem, echoed through the paintings and images he pairs with the poetry. Yet the style of his poetry and the images included in his books are always in simple colors, figures, and fonts. While he veers away from the idea of an ‘artist book’, Loney still considers artistic and imaginative ways to merge the words, the image, and the form of the page together to create a holistic piece that reflects his all-encompassing process.
I was amazed at how he could take the simplest pictures, fonts, and poems and merge them together into something aesthetically beautiful. Loney shows that things don’t need to be complex in order to be pleasing, and that was certainly the consideration I took when creating my own spreads in imitation of his style. Imitating his technical considerations and parts of his style, I created my pieces on two-page spreads and used only the fonts he’d use in his books (Perpetua, Centaur, or Castellar, mostly). Since Loney also had an interesting in Greek words and letters, I translated my titles into Greek as well, and considered some symbolism that I discovered in the process for the images. Then, I printed these pieces out on a manila-colored stationary and added my own simple drawings, meaning my spreads would have to be unique pieces, something that unintentionally fits with Schlesinger’s comment on in his interview with Loney that “Letterpress has an intrinsic resistance to identical reproduction” (87). So, while my inspiration came from Loney’s craft, there is a sense that one can never completely replicate another work, even if that work is your own.
“Alan Loney: Electio Editions,” A Poetics of the Press, edited by Kyle Schlesinger, Cuneiform Press & Ugly Duckling Press, 2021, pp. 68-95.
Campbell, Marion May. “Shadow Enough.” Jacket 40 – Late 2010 – Alan Loney: “Day’s Eye”, Reviewed by Marion May Campbell, http://jacketmagazine.com/40/r-loney-rb-campbell.shtml.
Campbell, Marion May. if not in paint, Electio Editions, 2011. https://www.kelmscottbookshop.com/pages/books/33858/electio-editions-marion-may-campbell-miriam-morris/if-not-in-paint.
Loney, Alan. Jenson’s Greek, Electio Editions, 2013. https://www.kelmscottbookshop.com/pages/books/30598/electio-editions-designer-printer-binder-alan-loney-deirdre-hassed/jensons-greek.
6 thoughts on “CC#2: Simple Style, Distinctive Harmony”
Isabel, it’s interesting that we focused on different elements of Electio Editions’ aesthetic and yet we each seemed drawn to its simplicity. I especially enjoy how you mention that “‘letterpress has an intrinsic resistance to reproduction'” (from the Poetics of the Press interview), because that uniqueness also shines through Electio’s work. It is also an interesting quote to consider in relation to Jenson’s Greek, as that work both reproduces, and yet resists reproduction, of Greek while housing it in a modern, English book. I really enjoy seeing your finished spreads, too! They really do remind me of pages that would not seem amiss in an Electio Editions book.
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YES! This press really seems to embrace, and amplify, that tension between reproduction and resistance-to-reproduction in letterpress–in the way that “simplicity” calls attention to subtle shifts and individual markers. I LOVE your broadsides, especially the bright line art.
What I find great about these pieces is how the aesthetics support the poetry rather than trying to interpret them. Art can certainly support the content, but it can also distract from it. I really enjoyed your pieces. Matiasma is both frightening and beautiful.
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“support the poetry rather than trying to interpret”: OMG – such an important distinction! remind me of this in our conversations about Cold Moons.
I love the negative space in both Loney’s work and your spreads. The openness I think contributes to the simplicity of Loney’s style, and keeps the visuals from distracting from the poetry, as Nick mentioned. I noticed that you printed the titles over your name, which I thought was interesting– kind of like obscuring the author in the poetry, or a confusion between the two. Is that overlapping of text something Loney experiments with, too?
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Excellent point. I love white space. Next time I teach this class, I’ve decided, I’m gonna do a whole week on white space.