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Having developed a large book collection and an intense interest in books, I went to work at UNC-G’s Jackson Library in 1977. As adminstrative assistant my time was flexible, my activities highly varied. I gravitated to the Special Collections Department, headed by Emmy Mills, and became friends with Charles Adams, Library Director Emeritus. Dr. Adams taught me how to use the Washington Press owned by the department and encouraged my early papermaking experiments. By the end of 1977, I was producing good quality recycled papers and had ordered my first press – a versatile flatbed with high and low block positions, a type chaise, and a forgiving hard rubber roller.
My papermaking developed out of a backyard project with my first wife, Nora. we used screens from her silk screen course and dried the sheets right on the screens. I was immediately captivated by the possibilities. Early on, most of my paper was board or glass dried – essentially an Asian technique. I contacted numerous paper mills in North Carolina, sending them samples of my paper and inviting input. Several answered back and sent large samples or scraps of various felt materials. I obtained lye and worked with some natural materials, but settled on developing a process for making utilitarian printmaking paper out of high quality scrap.I began ordering cotton linters, building equipment, and building up stock. I bought a laid mould from Bartram & Green in England for 35 pounds. About this time, I ordered fonts of 10 and 18 point type – Palatino, Stemple type from Germany (ordered from NYC). I prepared to do some serious letterpress projects.
In 1980, I left Greensboro and Jackson Library to return to Raleigh and get into the bookstore business. I managed one for two years, then bought their shelves when they closed and opened The Paper Plant in downtown Raleigh, NC in 1982. Used books in the front, papermaking and letterpress in the back. Over nearly nine years, The Paper Plant became an unofficial book arts center and a home for Raleigh’s alternative arts as well. Early in its history, I picked up a Kelsey 3×5 letterpress from a local print shop who had used it with a tiny mechanical matrix to print numbers and emboss serration on to football tickets! Once The Paper Plant was established as a community resource, the studio gained a wide variety of press equipment and type.
Starting in 1983, I edited and published a series of broadsides, folders, and chapbooks, mostly involving the local writers emerging in our open mike series. After The Paper Plant bookstore clsoed in 1990, I established residential studios for most (but not all) of the book arts equipment I had amassed. In 2001, I culminated my use of those studios with the production of Snapper, a book physically produced by the author.