Last night we made a presentation at the Klingspor Museum in Offenbach. The Klingspor brothers operated a type foundry and collected a lot of printing related stuff. They donated it all, including some rare typeface patents, to a group of collectors who continued to collect, bought a building and tried to fix it up. But alas they ran out of money, thus the Landes Museum Industriekultur, the place where we are working. it has really only been in operation for less than 10 years. Anyway the Klingspor has contemporary work, we were shocked. The show was Marshall Weber, Mr. Booklyn, and friends and quite lovely. There were about 70 people all interested in book arts, either makers or collectors.
People tend to get a tad dressed up. One woman was wearing a toga like thing right out of one of Cleopatra. It was probably linen, but it was quite an open weave. But it was the 6″ silver bracelet that really set off the costume. Men are nearly wearing formal clothes, french cuffs, fluffy handkerchiefs in the breast pocket, you get the picture. We gave our talk and brought a selection of books from the exhibit at the Museum. (They took down the whole show, because they had rented the entrance hall area for a dance party Saturday night, I have no idea if they are going to put it back up).
Next was Marshall. he was outside writing on the pavement, with his feet, by dipping his them into a bucket with some kind of wet colored stuff, I think someone said it was a curry. He was writing in German a line from a Marlene Dietrich song, can love be a sin, which was a general theme throughout his books. There was a singer as well. Bear in mind is was practically snowing and it took at least twenty minutes. Pretty much everyone went out took a quick five minute look and then came back in to look at our books. In the crowd was an Isreali book artist who went to RISD, and another young Isreali bookbinder who had been in Korea with Keith Smith. And a German woman who came right up to us and said she had submitted a proposal and was rejected, but went on to try to explain what she was doing. Also there was a student with fabulous english, she’s Finish, but spent a few childhood years in Cambridge. We had talked to her at the Book Fair since she had a very interesting book about DNA.
We were driven to the event by a woman who is a registrar of the print and drawing collection at the closed museum (40,000 items), She was the original director of the Museum where we are working. She explained that even though the museum operates the last type foundry in Europe they cannot train people to carry on the tradition, because the German government does not have a title for such a position. Already they cannot operate some of the equipment since the last person on the continent who knows how the work the machine is 84, living in Switzerland and too old to come and help. I mentioned I was surprised that there were no Saturday classes for kids. She said, well there is no school. So I explained the concept of parents paying for their kids to take classes at a museum. It is hard to really imagine that Germany is so behind in this level of organizational thinking. The Museum where we are working could be packed with kids and artists working and be a truly vibrant place, but they are worried about saving the equipment, even though only 4,000 people visited last yea, and probably 3,599 were school groups.
Another thing I find odd is it that I thought that Germany was way ahead of the game re. environmental issues, I remember hearing about an active Green political party. It is true a lot of people ride bikes around. But at the museum there is no special place for solvent soaked rags. They have never heard of using vegetable oil as a basic solvent. There doesn’t seem to be any recycling, certainly not paper. And they are heating up lead and there are stacks of lead all over the place. The kids studio where we work has absolutely no ventilation. The artist who lives in the museum, lives in a corner right next to the kids area with a wall only partially blocking off his space. They (he and his young girlfriend) invited us to have coffee and plum cake after printing the other day. The table is set with white linen, covered with plastic, and the snack served on gold rimmed bone china plates with matching cups and saucers.