Ker-bloom! is produced by an amazing young woman called Artnoose (she has a real name, of course, but that's her business) who lives an amazing anarco-communal life, originally in California but now in Pittsburgh.
Her zine provides tantalising glimpses into her outer and inner life; the second-last copy was emotionally heart-wrenching, and I wept as I read it, and I have to admit that my hands were shaking slightly as I opened the most recent one, eager to know how she was coping. This latest one was awesome and inspiring, as she recounted the recent move of her heavy letterpress equipment from a nearby building into the basement of her house with the help of a lot of her community. I read about the moment when her press rolled down the stairs towards her and didn't squish her like a bug, and realised that I'd been holding my breath for slightly too long.
Pittsburgh is one of the American cities hit hard by the GFC (global financial crisis). There are houses throughout the city that have been abandoned. Some have been reclaimed by the city, others are just abandoned, and are ripe for squatters and can be bought extremely cheaply.
I'm telling you this because Artnoose and her friends bought one of these houses and spent a lot of time and energy fixing it up. They have strong beliefs about community and ways to revitalise the community and make it equitable and sustainable.
Artnoose now wants to buy another house just down the road and fix it up to be a studio that can be used not only for production but to teach others the site-specific skills of letterpress. She has set up a website to try and raise the money. I'll share her words with you:
As you probably know, I moved to Pittsburgh in 2007 with the express purpose of buying a house for building a dream printshop. My life meandered a bit, and I ended up living at a writers' collective in the verdant neighborhood of Upper Lawrenceville. This was one of the most fortuitous things that could have happened, and I'm now ready to buy a house near this one so that I can set up the printing wing to this writing house.
In addition to being home to a lot of great people, Pittsburgh also has many abandoned houses, several of which are in my immediate neighborhood. Some are owned by the city, and some are owned by unknown persons. I'm in the process of trying to acquire an abandoned house, and I'm utilizing a diversity of fundraising tactics: bake sales, benefit shows, tattoo parties, letterpress lessons, you name it.
One thing that I'm trying is this website called kickstarter.com in which you put forth a project and try to get people to pledge money. If you reach your fundraising goal (mine is $4000, the cost of a house three blocks away from me) then you get the money and can start your project. If you don't, then no one gets charged, and you don't get the money. I created a kickstarter page with the help of a filmmaker friend and an illustrator friend (both of whom are named Dan). Check it out. It's an admittedly adorable video. Please consider donating something in exchange for fabulous prizes, and please forward this information to friends and relatives, especially those who might have even a passing interest in letterpress.
If you're still wondering why I deserve a house in which to build a dream printshop, think about all the not-for-profit things that I help create for the people around me even without a dream shop: hat bands, house bands, benefit brunches, reading groups, prisoner support events, all-ages zine readings, countless free tattoos and business cards, cupcakes and root beer floats at the drop of a hat, huge breakfasts for touring bands that happen to stay at my house, and dinner for anyone who happens to drop by while I'm cooking.
I don't do these things because I expect something in return; I do them because I sincerely believe that the world could use some more awesome things. With this printshop, I'll be able to do all the things I mentioned above plus more: workshops, letterpress classes, printing residencies, and small-operation publishing. Combined with the literary power of the writers' collective, this is going to be no small thing.
Thanks everyone. Let's do some really great things this year. If you're in Pittsburgh, come by and say hello.
I'm in. Are you?
Just in case you missed that link: here it is again. Do watch the video. It's cute, and there are big drifts of exotic snow!