Bar­bar­ian Press

Broken Pencil - - Table Of Contents -

In the world of Diy/small-press book arts, let­ter­press books are per­haps the most fas­tid­i­ous and labour-in­ten­sive of the lot. Tra­di­tional let­ter­press tech­niques (some­times dat­ing back hun­dreds of years!) in­volve work­ers lock­ing move­able type (the press) into ink and then press­ing pa­per against it to trans­fer words and images. It's time-con­sum­ing, ex­pen­sive and to some, it might seem com­pletely im­prac­ti­cal. And yet there are peo­ple out there like Mis­sion, B.c.-based work­ers Jan and Crispin El­sted who have been mak­ing let­ter­press books to­gether as Bar­bar­ian Press for over 35 years. When film­maker Sarah Race heard about the pair, she had to know more. “They are rock­stars in the book arts com­mu­nity… I was ini­tially in­spired to make a film about them be­cause their story was so un­usual,” she says.

The re­sult­ing 16-minute short doc­u­men­tary, Bar­bar­ian Press pro­vides a beau­ti­ful and co­zily in­ti­mate view of the cou­ple, their every­day life and their pre­cise and al­most rev­er­ent way of book­mak­ing. Over a six-month pe­riod, Race in­te­grated her­self into the El­st­eds' lives, in­ter­view­ing friends and fam­ily, sleep­ing on their couch and qui­etly ob­serv­ing the ways the artists pur­sued their craft. “I con­tin­ued to make this doc­u­men­tary not only be­cause the books them­selves are un­be­liev­ably beau­ti­ful, but both Jan and Crispin have these amaz­ing in­sights into art, beauty and au­then­tic­ity,” Race says. “They are lovely lovely peo­ple and in or­der to make the doc as I did I had to be part of their world and was in­cred­i­bly thank­ful for it.” See a list of where Bar­bar­ian Press is play­ing at

bar­bar­ian­press­movie.com. (Alison Lang)

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