Previous to graduate school in Iowa City, I printed my first hand-set type books in what Mary Barrett called South Hall Press in the unfinished walk-out basement of South Hall on the campus of the University of Wisconsin River Falls. I used that press title for the books I produced there as I prepared for graduate school.
Once in graduate school in the letterpress studio on the university of Iowa campus, I’d printed everything but the title page for a book, and then I was stuck – I needed a name for my press. What was I going to call it? I pondered my frequent travels up and down the Mississippi River between western Wisconsin and Iowa City and considered relating the press name to that much beloved route, but that felt too grand for me.
Finally I settled on Gravel Pit. I’d lived on Gravel Pit drive alone in my little cottage in western Wisconsin, when I first started printing books – the pit actually dropped off the back of the hill beyond my back yard. I liked the modesty of the name – nothing pretentious about a gravel pit. I recalled an elegant brunch in Minneapolis in the late 1980's, at a high rise apartment above Lake Calhoun. Our southern hostess, drawled, “My Daddy always said, marry a man with a gravel pit, not a gold mine; a gravel pit keeps on giving.” The name stuck with me. It fit.
I intended to continue to do printmaking: relief, intaglio and letterpress after graduating and returning to western Wisconsin, but needed to purchase a permanent facility to set up shop. I did purchase a house in western Wisconsin, on the Rush River and planned to put in a press, but the realities of paying back graduate school loans, paying for a house and paying for my self to live put an end to that dream. It was a terrible dilemma - I grieved having to stop printmaking. Finally I simply had to let go of it. I found some peace in acceptance.
By simply changing the name after Gravel Pit from Press to Publications, my new venture into freelance Book Design and Production began. I enjoyed many years working with a variety of publishers, such as Minnesota Historical Society Press, University of Wisconsin Press, Fortress Press, Hazelden Publishing, among others, and being on the ground floor of a new organization Minnesota Book Builders. As part of Book Builders I served on a feasibility panel considering consolidating various book venues into one - eventually this became Open Book in Minneapolis.
Life goes on, as I have branched out into different media, Gravel Pit has been further modified to reflect that.
Hand Made Books from Gravel Pit Press
Commercially Published Books
from Gravel Pit Publications