Sanford Bledsoe, III

Proprietor
The Espresso Bar
Second Floor, Literati Bookstore (coming Thanksgiving, 2014)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Facebook.com/TheEspressoBar

Sanford Bledsoe is the proprietor of The Espresso Bar, a specialty coffee house that opened its doors as a pop-up in Kerrytown in March, 2012.  After quietly closing this location at the end of August, 2014, The Espresso Bar and Literati Bookstore announced plans for a joint expansion into the second story above Literati. The coffee house is slated to open at Thanksgiving this year. When Sanford is not working you can find him lingering around Ann Arbor retail establishments like Today Clothing and Vault of Midnight. He resides in Ann Arbor and commutes year-round by bicycle.

Photo of Sanford Bledsoe by Jude Yew Choon Loong

Jude Yew Choon Loong

FAVORITES: 

Book: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was my favorite read so far this year. 

Prized possession:  A toss-up between my bike (a 1993 Bridgestone XO-1 with full Shimano XTR components), and a bottle of beer given to me by my first employee - with the label updated to say, “World’s Best Boss.”

Destination:  There’s a tiny coffee shop in Kobe, Japan, called Espresso Bar Plus where I would be happy to sit out front and read books and drink macchiatos until the day I die.

THE QUERY 

Where were you born?

My parents are both from Texas, but I was born in Ann Arbor shortly after my father took a job with the University of Michigan. I graduated from Pioneer High School in 2001. 

What were some of the pastimes and passions of your earlier years? 

For a long time I was obsessed with aliens and conspiracy theories. I also spent several years teaching myself to play the guitar. In my early twenties I started the board game department at Vault of Midnight and amassed a very large collection of board games during that time. Then I really got into fixing bikes and was involved with a non-profit organization in Ann Arbor called Common Cycle. I became obsessed with chess a few months ago if anybody wants to drop by the cafe and play.

How did you get your start in the coffee business?

I got my first cafe job from a Craigslist ad in Seattle, I think January of 2008. I didn’t drink the stuff at the time, but the cafe was supplied by Stumptown Coffee Roasters and it turns out Stumptown is a big deal in specialty coffee. I fell in love with the whole thing and got some really really great training, and then moved back to Ann Arbor maybe a year later. I used to take the bus out to The Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti to get a decent coffee. Then I heard a friend of a friend was opening a place in Nickels Arcade (Comet Coffee) and I walked by every day, for weeks, hoping they were open. I worked there for maybe two and a half years. The owner, Jim, created an environment where the staff was encouraged to learn and try new ideas, and I’ve just never really stopped wanting to learn more.

What led to your decision to open The Espresso Bar as a pop-up in Kerrytown?

After several years at Comet, I started thinking about what was next for me. I went back to Seattle but it didn’t really take. Then I went down to a specialty coffee conference in Houston, Texas, and met some really great people. They offered me a job helping to open a cafe called Blacksmith, but they were just starting to put together their business plan and opening was a ways off. In the meantime, we opened The Espresso Bar in Kerrytown with the intention of folding it when Blacksmith was closer to opening, but dates kept getting pushed back, and The Espresso Bar was gaining traction. I liked running my own cafe, so I turned down the job. 

What was your initial vision for the shop?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Anyone who remembers those first few months remembers a very haphazard, low-budget operation. We never really fully settled in, but I’d like to think that was part of the charm. We also wanted to do service differently, and I think that was what made us really stand out. At some point I found myself surrounded by all these lovely customers, and I decided that was what I wanted. I want The Espresso Bar to be that special place for people. I love being able to make someone’s day just by remembering their drink order, or some other little thing like that. I could be having the worst morning in the world, but when the customers start trickling in, I can’t help but feel like the luckiest guy in the whole world.

Where do you source the majority of your coffee beans?

We work almost exclusively with a company called Anthology Coffee. They’re based in Detroit, and run by my close friend Josh. Anthology’s focus (and for the most part ours as well) is single-origin, single-variety coffees. So, coffee that comes from one farm, or a small part of one farm. My favorites tend to be bourbon varieties (named after the French island Bourbon, now called Réunion) from Latin America (Guatemala and Costa Rica, mostly) and East Africa (Kenya and Rwanda, mostly). Lately I’ve been feeling sort of nostalgic for the roastier blends I used to drink in Seattle, so we’ll probably add an espresso like that for the new location. 

What is most unique about your style of service?  

Haha. I’m really glad you asked this one. If you ever have a chance to come to our new spot and order a coffee to stay, we’ll ask you to grab a seat while we prepare it, and then we’ll bring you a glass of water. We’ll bring the drink over to you when it’s done. We’ll refill your water occasionally and if you need anything else you can just let us know then. Then you pay at the counter when you’re ready to leave. I know that this is completely different from the way every other coffee shop works, and I’m sure it isn’t perfect for everyone, but it’s really the only way that makes any kind of sense to me. Otherwise it just feels like working at a McDonald’s or a Burger King. Ultimately we want to be a place that people come to stick around, enjoy some good coffee, and hopefully find some good company as well. Of course we can make your drink to go as well. We recognize not everyone has all day to hang out in the cafe, unfortunately.

How many espresso machines do you have on board?

I own two - an A/V La Marzocco GS/3 that we used in our old location, and an Isomac Millennium at home that currently has a clogged gicleur. But we’re installing a new machine at the new location. It’s a completely refurbished 1989 A/V La Marzocco GS/2 from a really old Starbucks in Seattle. We’re gutting it and installing all the latest technology, and, of course, giving it a new paint job to match the bookstore’s black and white theme. There’s really nothing else like it. To be honest, the grinder is the most important piece of equipment. We used to use four different grinders, but now we just use a Mahlkonig EK43. It literally does the job of those four grinders. It’s amazing. 

What have you enjoyed most about the day-to-day operations of this shop? 

My favorite part has actually been getting to know all the new people. I’ve met so many great friends. Right now during the down time between leaving our old location and moving into the new one, I find that I go out for coffee with some of our old regulars just so I can see them. Without them, I would emotionally wither up and go back to being the grumpy old man that I secretly am.

How did you come to the decision to partner with Literati Bookstore and relocate your business?

I remember Mike and Hilary (owners of Literati) from a Zingerman’s business visioning class we both took, and then we met again, I think through some mutual friends. They’re amazing. Basically, we both found ourselves needing more space. They were talking about taking over the space above them, with the possibility of putting in a coffee shop. They brought it up to me, and I jumped at the chance. This is an opportunity for The Espresso Bar to start over using all of the things that we’ve learned over the last couple of years, while continuing to fulfill our mission of serving good coffee to great people.

Tell us about your hopes and dreams for this new 1300 square-foot second floor space?

At the risk of sounding naive, or self-important, I’d like to believe that The Espresso Bar’s existence has been even just a little sliver of light in the world for our customers. I think Literati has too. It’s my hope that together we can do an even better job of that. Part of the upstairs is going to be an event space for the bookstore, and it’s going to be so much fun. It’s going to be a great fit.

What has been your greatest lesson as a business owner in the last two years?

Learning how to see mistakes as opportunities was huge for our success. Sitting down with the staff after a really busy day when things went wrong was really critical to preventing those problems from happening again. We’d look at the systems in place that allowed the problem to occur, and re-evaluate them. As long as you can see your mistakes as learning opportunities, you will always be growing and moving forward. I see a big part of my job as just making sure my staff has the tools and resources to do their job, so I need to listen very closely to their feedback and make sure they’re being heard. Otherwise, we risk people having a bad experience.

Who in your life would you like to thank, and for what?

Considering that I’m writing this on my birthday, I would like to say thanks to my mother. Obviously, I also need to thank Hilary & Mike from Literati for the opportunity to work with them.

Whats the best advice you’ve ever received?

I recently started saving really aggressively for retirement. Compound interest is an amazing thing and I wish I would have started saving when I was a teenager. Sort of a boring answer—I’m sorry everyone—but I think that making a financial plan for your retirement is incredibly important, and not enough people are doing it. 

Is there a book or film that has changed you?

I saw a big stage production of Les Miserables when I was in high school. That has stuck with me for a long time. I think the idea of redemption is really beautiful. Maybe five or six years ago I read a book called Parecon and it really got me into Participatory Economics, particularly the idea that people should have a say in decisions that affect them (proportionate to the amount they are affected by those decisions). It’s had a lot to do with my politics and a big influence on my managerial style at work.

What drives you these days?

Ice cream, mostly.

Mary Morgan

Co-Founder/Publisher
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
Ann Arbor, Michigan
www.annarborchronicle.com

Mary Morgan co-founded The Ann Arbor Chronicle and served as publisher from its launch in September 2008 until just this month when the online news site published its final report on September 2, 2014. During a successful six-year run, the publication dedicated its efforts to in-depth reporting on local government and civic affairs in Ann Arbor. Prior to this, Mary served as opinion editor, business editor, and reporter for The (original) Ann Arbor News. When she’s not working, you can find her careening around town on her red moped. Mary and her husband, Chronicle co-founder and editor Dave Askins, live on Ann Arbor’s Old West Side.

Photo of Mary Morgan by Myra Klarman

Myra Klarman

FAVORITES

Book:  Everyone Poops by Tarō Gomi

Motto: Be generous.

Prized possession: A silver pocket watch that Dave gave me when we launched The Chronicle.

Sanctuary: An empty city council chambers.

THE QUERY

Why was it time to cease publication of The Ann Arbor Chronicle?

We worked extremely hard for six years. I’m proud of our work, but also exhausted and ready for something new. We were making a living and could have continued indefinitely — it just wasn’t a lifestyle we wanted anymore. We talked about what it would take to grow the business to a point that we could ease back a bit, but we really didn’t want to go down that path.

How does one go about ending the life of a beloved local newspaper?

There are practical issues, like making sure everyone cancels their PayPal subscriptions. And we’re making arrangements with the Ann Arbor District Library to archive the entire site. But this isn’t like closing The Ann Arbor News in 2009. When the owners did that, it affected nearly 300 employees. There was a lot of spin about why it was happening and how it would actually be great for the community. The logistics of closing The Chronicle are much more straightforward.

What has been the reaction from your readers to this announcement?

A mix of sorrow, thanks, and well wishes. We get a response of “Congratulations!” from anyone who has ever owned a small business — they know how hard it is. We’ve heard from people who are worried about how they’ll get the kind of news we provided. We heard from people I didn’t know were readers, from all corners of the community. It was overwhelming and very gratifying.

What were you able to accomplish during this period that you hadn’t thought possible?

When we started The Chronicle and decided our focus would be on taking a deep dive into local government, most people thought we were crazy. Who cares that much about local government? We were not only able to make a living at it, but also became a valued resource locally and an inspiration for other journalists nationwide. I’m proud of that accomplishment.

Is there a relationship you forged along the way that will remain especially important to you?

Back in 2008 when people heard that I’d be working so closely with my husband, I was often asked whether I worried that our relationship could survive the stress. I’d say we forged an even stronger bond over these past six years. Dave Askins is the most interesting, independent thinker I know. He’s fearless. He always surprises me and makes me laugh. It’s no coincidence that The Chronicle launched and closed on our anniversary.

How do you plan to stay engaged with the strong community you’ve built in Ann Arbor?

We’re thinking about an ambitious project that would focus more intensely on civic engagement, with the goal of infusing participation in local government throughout every corner of this community. One piece of this is moving ahead in a partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library. It’s called Civic Ticker, and would use the LocalWiki platform to produce and archive news and information — including reports about local government. That project is seeking funding from the Knight News Challenge, and I’m pretty geeked about the potential.

What is the most important lesson you learned in the past six years?

No matter how much you know, never assume you know everything.

How has your life changed for the better since you launched the publication?

Over the past six years I’ve become more deeply connected with this community than I ever was, so my life has been enriched on that level. I’ve learned a lot — about running a business, about my own capacity for change and risk. All of that is to the good.

Is it likely we’ll be reading some form of your writing in the months ahead?

I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a blog for column-esque writing, but right now that sounds like more work than fun. So I guess the answer is no — except for Twitter or Facebook, where my posts are more like verbal snacks and don’t really count.

Who in your life would you like to thank, and for what?

Thanks to the legislators who enacted Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts. The legislation isn’t perfect, but it’s an invaluable tool for citizens — including journalists — who care about open government and accountability.

What’s the last book you read?

Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library).

What advice do you have for aspiring journalists?

Be curious. Think of yourself as a researcher more than a writer. Don’t be a quote-collector or storyteller, though that’s a fashionable approach these days. Anticipate change and be flexible, but don’t be a doormat for the people who write your paycheck. If your pay is more important than your principles, you might as well choose a more lucrative, stable profession.

What did you and Dave do after you published your final article?

Dave had ordered a cake from Jefferson Market & Cakery — chocolate with cream cheese icing. We spent most of September 3 eating cake, drinking champagne that a friend gave us, and binge watching “Damages” on Netflix.

If you could share one final thought with your audience, what would that be?

The Chronicle was an important chapter, but not the final one. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

Hong-Yi Mo

Violinist
Second Violin, Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Ann Arbor, Michigan

A native of Hengyang, China, Hong-Yi Mo serves as second violin for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  Prior to joining the Orchestra in 2008, he studied under New York Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Dicterow at the Manhattan School of Music Orchestral Performance Program.  That same year, Hong-Yi led the School’s Chamber Sinfonia performance at Carnegie Hall with violinists Viviane Hagner and Pinchas Zukerman. He has studied with the likes of Lin Yaoji, Taras Gabora, Milan Vitek, Syoko Aki, and his father Si-Ping Mo. In early 2014, Hong-Yi performed as a soloist at Orchestra Hall with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Leonard Slatkin. He has also performed chamber works with the DSO Neighborhood Chamber Music Recital Series at venues throughout metro Detroit and at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor.  Hong-Yi earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a master’s degree in music from Yale University. He teaches private violin lessons at his home in Ann Arbor where he resides with his wife, Wanlin.

image

Cybelle Codish

FAVORITES

Music: Strangely, the Bossa Nova

Destination: Rio de Janeiro

Prized possession: My violin, a copy of Stradivarius Lady Inchiquin 1711

THE QUERY

When did you begin playing the violin?  

At age four. My father devoted the better part of a year to teach me how to read the staff and play the violin. He is himself a very talented violinist and a great violin educator.  My father never pushed me to practice, but I did feel the obligation to do so under his guidance. We worked on basic technique [not long, just 20-40 minutes] every day. He was always with me when I practiced, until the age of 13.

Who/what are your artistic influences?

Gidon Kremer and Frank Peter Zimmermann. Both artists have extraordinary technique and masterful control over the violin.  Mr. Kremer has also inspired me in the ways of living as an artist.

What is your most memorable performance at the DSO?

Maestro Slatkin led us in the performance of Respighi: Pines of Rome - The Pines of Villa Borghese. At the end of the movement, there is a bombardment of brass and percussion coupled with bright string sound, as the volume increases through to the last chord. The performance is physically powerful and implies any irresistible force you could and couldn’t imagine. This is truly the magic moment of music and art: it triggers complex memory from our experiences and suggests an infinite emotional world.

How do you typically prepare for an upcoming performance?

It actually depends on what type of performance — solo, chamber, or orchestral.  I tend to alter my approach for each type of performance. For orchestral performances, I practice very softly while playing a recording of the music, making sure that my sound does not cover the sound of the recording. This is one of the ways to practice sensitivity to the ear, as well as to control ability.

What music do you turn to when you want to unwind? 

If I want to mentally relax, I listen to Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans, or the Bossa Nova sung by Joao Gilberto or Paula Morelenbaum. If I want to spiritually free myself, I play hours and hours of Bach. Indeed, like Gidon Kremer said in his recent documentary Back to Bach:  “By playing Bach, you’ll never get lonely.”

Who has had the greatest influence on your life, and why?

My father is a talented novelist and violinist. He loves reading and showed me the beauty of Chinese language.  He also taught me how to appreciate music.

My mother was a graphic designer.  I inherited her perfectionism as I encountered the visual arts.

Professor Li, a friend of my father, teaches composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.  He introduced me to the literature of Fernando Pessoa, Oscar Wilde, Jorge Luis Borges, and Franz Kafka.  We talked about these bright minds as if we knew them personally, and shared our thinking after finishing each book. At times, I was frustrated if I could not express my conclusions about a book. Professor Li sensed that and always said, “Don’t think too much.” It’s the best advice I’ve ever received.

What three things can’t you live without?

My family, music, and a cell phone battery.

Where do you find inspiration?

Reading.  I tend to read books and articles about the economy and politics.  I also like to read about cooking.  

What do you still want to accomplish?

This is a question I ask myself every day. I try to be a good violin teacher. And, I’m working at being a good photographer - learning how to shoot with a DSLR camera. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be a good entrepreneur.

What style of music are you most intrigued by?

Somehow, playing the violin in Baroque style gives me great satisfaction. Today, we still play the instruments in a Romanticism style. And, we want everything to have more sound, more speed, more emotion, and more drama, even in contemporary music.  To me, a poetic space in instrumental music belongs to the Baroque. Playing Bach and his contemporaries is my meditation. I feel inner peace and happiness.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Practice, practice, and then go to do something else.

What drives you these days?

Practice makes me active.  Living is practicing.

Kevin Pearson

Co-founder/Partner
Today Clothing
Ann Arbor, Michigan
www.todayclothing.com

Kevin Pearson is co-founder and partner of Today Clothing, a contemporary men’s shop featuring curated seasonal collections of clothing, shoes, and accessories. The store, situated on South 4th Avenue one block north of Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Kevin has worked in the apparel business for over 15 years, with earlier posts at Adidas Originals, WeSC, and Kangol Headwear.  He operates Today Clothing with partner Eric Hardin who comes to the business from a design and retail background.  When Kevin is not working, you can find him at The Espresso Bar or Comet Coffee.  He resides in Ann Arbor.

image

Sean Carter

FAVORITES:

Book: The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Motto: It’s better to regret doing something than to regret not doing something.

Destination: Sayulita, Mexico

Clothing designer:  Kazuki Kuraishi

THE QUERY

Where were you born?  

Grand Haven, Michigan

What were some of the passions/pastimes of your earlier years?  

As a younger man, I enjoyed skateboarding.  I grew up on the water, so I spent every spare moment on a boat or fishing.  I still love the water, but haven’t fished in years.  In the winter, I have always enjoyed snowboarding.  And, I used to luge competitively.

How did you get your start in the apparel business?

It was sheer luck. I was fortunate to work with Pontus Karlsson in a previous job in the snowboard industry. Pontus, a man I now call my friend, was the head of design for WeSC, a Swedish brand. The way he crafted his collections each season made me see apparel in a whole new light.

What led to your decision to open Today Clothing?

A couple of years ago, I was having coffee with Eric Hardin and we were talking about the possibilities that exist in Ann Arbor. He had very similar ideas and wanted to do something together. Because we had both traveled so much and seen the best of retail around the world, we decided to bring a piece of it back to Ann Arbor. I had always worked for a brand, but felt it was time to start building something of my own.

Where do you source the majority of your seasonal collections?

Eric and I go to New York a couple of times each year to see what is shown for the upcoming season and to make our selections.  We also work with about 40 different brands.

How did you decide on the aesthetic/interior design for the shop?

First, we were in love with the space, so the design came very easily. Second, Eric has an exceptional design sense, and I’m smart enough to know when to agree with him. We also worked with some creative friends, like Thomas Hosford, who does all of our metalwork.  He brought some amazing ideas to the table.  In the end, we wanted to create a unique space that could really showcase the product. 

Do you have a favorite article of clothing in your inventory right now?

That changes almost daily. Today it’s a Denim Demon flannel shirt. 

How/why have you integrated artist’s collections into your back space area?

From the start, one of the things we wanted to do with the shop was to dedicate a space to highlight different artistic endeavors. We know a lot of creative people, so the space will always be filled with a range of interesting work.

What three things should every man have in his closet?  

A good oxford shirt, a nice pair of boots, and a few skeletons.

As a business owner, what important lessons have you learned along the way?

You can’t win ‘em all. What’s important is that you believe in your idea, stick with it, and see it through.

Is there a book or a film that has changed you?

Yes, several.  But as a kid, Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach changed the way I viewed stories and how I saw the world.  From a very young age, it helped me to understand that the world is bigger than I am.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

It may sound simple but I have an artist friend who once told me, “Do your best.” I try to do that always. 

What do you still want to accomplish?

Travel more, and be a better friend. 

Megan O’Connell

Proprietor, Salt & Cedar
Letterpress Workshop & Bindery
Detroit, Michigan

www.saltandcedar.com

Megan O’Connell is the proprietor of Salt & Cedar, a letterpress workshop and bindery situated in a 3000-square foot former meat locker in Detroit’s Eastern Market. She comes to the business from a background in academia with expertise in graphic design history and practice, typography, bookmaking, curating, and contemporary issues in art. Together with her partner, Leon Johnson, and their son, Leander, she conceives of, designs, and generates a wide range of collateral — from custom invitations and calling cards to monographs and limited edition suites — for clients around the world. Within the region, Salt & Cedar has produced for Media City Film Festival, Corktown Cinema, Trinosophes, Cranbrook Museum of Art, MOCAD, The Detroit Sound Conservancy, i-prospect, Skidmore Studio, Urban Land Institute, The Arab American National Museum, Our Detroit, the cast and crew of Low Winter Sun, Third Coast, and Eastern Market After Dark. The studio’s first commission was a two-volume bespoke book for Beyonce. Collaborators include Matvei Yankelevich, founder of Ugly Duckling Presse (Brooklyn); Silva Rerum (Detroit); Alison Knowles (NYC); Imago (Reykjavík); Steve Locke (Boston); Mildred’s Lane (Beach Lake, PA); and Concord Museum (Concord, MA). Salt & Cedar’s work has been shared at MoMA (NYC), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Vox Populi (Philadelphia), Andalusia: The home of Flannery O’Conner (Milledgeville, GA), Print City (via Wayne State University, Detroit), School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Printed Matter (NYC). Megan and Leon also host after-hours farm-to-table food events, film screenings/premieres, literary readings, design lectures, live music, and workshops at the back-of-the-press.

Photo of Megan O'Connell by Sam Sefton

Sam Sefton

FAVORITES

Book: Orlando by Virginia Woolf (a love letter to Vita Sackville-West).

Sanctuary: A long stretch of beach with a vast horizon line. Or the woods.

Prized possession: Suite of Rob Roy Kelly American vernacular wood type specimens printed in the late ‘60’s. I am the only private individual to own one, the rest are held by special collections libraries and museums. We displayed them at Salt & Cedar in 2013, so that they would be accessible.

Motto: Composition is explanation.

THE QUERY

Where were you born?

In St. Paul, Minnesota, fifty years ago.

What were some of the pastimes/passions of your earlier years?

Reading and drawing. I also enjoyed competing in sports — skiing, swimming, tennis, and soccer. In my teens, the Twin Cities had an exhilarating music scene. My home was near a small liberal arts college with a truly experimental station, so I collected albums based on what I heard on the airwaves. I got to see amazing shows, especially at the local gritty punk club. In college, I hosted a radio show and saw more of my hero performers play. Hand-in-hand with my affection for music was an interest in museums. I was fortunate to spend a summer as an intern at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC). Undoubtedly, Walker Art Center (where I eventually was hired as an instructor in the Education Department) and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts shaped my ideas about history, aesthetics, and freedom. I once took an intensive course with a ‘controversial’ artist whose exhibition was boycotted at the MIA. Censorship quickly became a red button issue for me. Maybe that’s why I am now a proponent of academic freedom, civil rights, gender equality issues, and free speech.

How did you get your start in letterpress printing?

A professor at Minneapolis College of Art and Design casually showed me a small room that the design students had all but abandoned. It had foundry type and a press in it. After that toe-dip, I became the first intern at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, learning every aspect of bookmaking, including how to hand composite type and operate a range of Vandercook presses and an Alexandra cast iron hand press (a machine virtually unchanged since the Renaissance). I had access to paper studios at both sites, which was the perfect complement to learning about traditional forms of printing. From this base, I was able to design my own degree in Book Arts at the University of Minnesota. I continued studying papermaking, letterpress, typography, and bookbinding throughout my graduate studies at the University of Iowa. I also, fortuitously, learned various pre-press operations and was able to edition work on a Heidelberg press. Not long after, Printed Matter offered my work for sale and collectors bought it — all before I completed my MFA.

Why does this form of artistic expression suit you?

It is tethered to the past and trajects into the future: there is great pleasure in using forms and combinations that don’t call for a ‘default setting,’ but are based on curiosity and possibility. Nearly always, I am in conversation with a client or a collaborator, so I see myself as a translator as much as a creator. There is a sense both of rigor and play here:  restrictions and rules don’t necessarily preclude improvisation. If a finished work is multivalent and opens up some questions or problems, I consider it a success. I don’t limit my work to letterpress, however. When I do design digitally, I apply the tenets I have learned from the analogue to the digital platform. The ethos of Salt & Cedar involves using vintage materials from around the city, some of which have been salvaged, so underpinning nearly every project is a sense of ‘reinterpretation.’ With letterpress, there’s a tangibility factor unrivaled by any other print medium, so it is gratifying to physically find my way through to a solution. Opening a case of type reminds me that I have to be both strategic and agile, as there is a finite range of ‘sorts’ in each. These tight parameters evoke solutions that wouldn’t occur using conventional methods of layout and production. The end result bears a sense of authenticity and — dare I say — aura.

What led to the creation of Salt & Cedar in 2012?

Somewhere between the venerable wine shop and the 125 year-old cheese shop, a print shop was born. We’re here due to the fact that the merchants of the district saw the value of Salt & Cedar as a neighborhood resource, a creative incubator, and a new type of enterprise in Eastern Market. I am forever grateful to the core group who cared enough to help us get up and running in no time flat.

Can you describe the press you use to make your pieces?

Ninety percent of what we print is on a Vandercook SP15 (‘Simple Precision’), built in Chicago in 1964. It is a cylinder press that Leon purchased for me about 15 years ago. It has moved with us from the West Coast, to the East Coast, and in 2011 to Michigan. It is named ‘Siam’ after my grandfather, a first-generation Swedish laborer who once worked in Detroit. Everything about it is ‘perfection.’

Do you have a particular approach [or process] as you begin a project?

First, I determine the substrate size and the color palette. I then begin to hone in on the tone the piece should have. Concerned with the typographic ‘voice,’ I decide which typeface or type family I will use. I then select paper, have it cut down to size, sketch, organize how many runs (and custom plates, if any) the project will have, set type, create a ‘grid’ or organizing field, lock up the type, proof, make a paste-up, correct the actual layout, mix inks, prepare the press (set the roller height, test the packing on the tympan, set the guides), proof again, and then run each color until the job is complete.

What tools of the trade can’t you live without?

Source books, typefaces I will not soon tire of, a pica ruler, a job stick, a self-healing mat, a stash of interesting papers, inks, a modest camera, x-acto knives in various sizes, artist’s tape, a sketchbook/journal, wall space, and flat files.

Is there a project/piece you’ve worked on that has provided an important learning curve?

A Birds Eye View: 33 Poems with Beans by Alison Knowles. It has stretched me in all possible ways. After many prototypes, it will be released early next year in a very limited edition. A related project involved printing a hand-lettered mesostic from John Cage to Alison Knowles. Every time I consider what the project has meant to me and my family, its meaning is compounded.

Who/what are your artistic influences?

The above, as well as my mentors, Hans Breder and David Dunlap, whom I just visited after a 20-year gap. I also hold the early 20th C. avant-garde movements in high regard, along with Fluxus. Any artist who has created multiples interests me. I’ve been reading a lot about Detroit-born artist Ray Johnson lately. Ultimately, all of the work I create is in direct dialogue with Leon Johnson, the wisest of the wise.

Is there a book or a film that has changed you?

A trilogy of films by Leon Johnson: Faust/Faustus; After; Fortress/Boy/Bridge.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

It was not advice given, per se, but others have reflected back to me the fact that I embody ‘grace’ in various ways:  how I conduct professional relationships, in the way I teach/mentor, in accepting the obstacles inherent to all processes, in moving past disappointments.

What’s next for Salt & Cedar?

Along with creating a selection of printed commissions in-house, we are preparing for the Detroit Art Book Fair (organized by DittoDitto), the Detroit Design Festival (in partnership with Untitled Detroit), Eastern Market After Dark, MAPC’s Print City (Wayne State University), an exhibition at Lake Forest Library (Illinois), a pop-up via Playground Detroit (at Michele Varian Boutique, Soho), ‘Power to the Vanguard’ the collected political ephemera of Brad Duncan (Trinosophes), a partnership with Mobile Frames International Filmmakers in Residence to screen the films of Julie Murray (Ireland), and an exhibition of heart-stopping, deeply beautiful works on paper by Leon Johnson (for ARK). All of this, in addition to our Book & Bread workshops offered a few times each month. The place is humming!

On top of being part-time faculty in the Art Department at Wayne State University this term, I have visiting artist gigs at The Press at Colorado College (with Aaron Cohick) and Virginia Commonwealth University (at the invitation of David Shields). PLUS a decidedly special project with Jonathan Kung (Kung Food), Joseph Wesley Black Tea, and Leon Johnson is currently in the works.