Creative Critical Response #2: Mary Laird and her influence

Mary Laird may be a letterpress publisher, but she is first and foremost an artist. This can be very easily noticed since she only prints a very limited amount of her books. In her interview in A Poetics of the Press, Laird speaks to this by saying her work is “slow and ornery (Laird interview 96-99)” and therefore reproducing it is time consuming. Making numerous copies of her works also takes away from the sentiment and attachment she creates with each work. Per our discussions so far in our publishing course, I strongly believe Laird views her books as art, poetry, literature, and vessels of communication…not so much as plain covers housing important content. See my pictures below to better understand my meaning of this. Laird works for days, even weeks at a time on one book instead of working in a production type fashion, tediously working one by one until she is satisfied with the placement of her multimedia content. Laird’s books consist of everything imaginable whether it’s wood, hand-painted images, hand-written words, leather, lacunose, and so much more.

Surprisingly enough, Mary Laird prefers to work alone. While Laird prefers to work alone and set her own projects, she currently teaches the art of letterpress at the San Francisco Center for the Book. As an artist myself, I understand her mentality. Over the years Laird has produced 40+ styles of chapbooks, each one different from the last; because while Ms. Laird teaches letterpress, she also teaches the art of bookbinding and various forms of it. This can be seen as an explanation for her varying styles of binding used in her books. It’s no wonder Laird describes her work as “slow and ornery” because she takes the time to do things by hand, and do them each perfectly. Additionally, Ms. Laird makes her own paper whenever possible! From personal experience in the world of book arts, papermaking alone adds a significant amount of time to any process whether it would be painting or drawing…or in this case, letterpress and bookbinding.

Laird, Mary. “Mary Laird: Quelquefois Press and The Perishable Press Limited.” A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers, & Publishers, By Kyle Schlesinger, Cuneiform Press and Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021, pp. 96-107.

“Mary Risala Laird & Quelquefois Press – Teaching and Printing Fine Letterpress Books: Master Teacher at the SF Center for the Book: Retreat Guide.” Mary Risala Laird Quelquefois Press,

3 thoughts on “Creative Critical Response #2: Mary Laird and her influence”

  1. I found it interesting she works alone, considering people are usually scrambling to find a worker or two. But I can’t say that’s a bad method since she’s meticulous about her work and wants it to be done a certain way. It’s impressive she’s able to make a name for herself despite running a small press by herself.

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  2. I like how you establish that Mary Laird is first and foremost an artist-which can be seen through her limited selection of printed books. You could not have chosen a better selection of pictures to encompass the meaning of how Lairds’ view of her books is primarily seen as art, poetry, literature, and vessels of communication rather than plain covers that house important content. I really enjoyed your creative blog post!

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  3. It’s incredible how much time and effort she puts into each of her works, and to see it all done by hand and by herself is amazing! The fact she’s able to teach others how to do it too is really cool, since she’s able to share the craft with others and keep it going for generations to come. It’s amazing to see every piece of work she produces!

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