2005 AAPA Convention:

Fun in the Scottsdale Sun

by David M. Tribby

Scottsdale, Arizona, provided a warm welcome for members of the American Amateur Press Association who attended the 2005 convention. To avoid the really hot weather, convention co-chairmen Mike O'Connor and Greg McKelvey set the earlier-than-usual dates of May 12 through 15.

Thursday, May 12

Delegates began gathering at the Days Inn at Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon. The well-stocked hospitality suite was just the place to catch up with friends who hadn't been seen since the last gathering. There were plenty of informal conversations, and also some typesetting of Greg's 12 pt. Caslon.

Thursday dinner plans were left to individuals. Fourteen visited H T Seafood Chinese Restaurant, continuing a convention tradition of Chinese meals started by Charlie Bush. Others took advantage of Scottsdale ArtWalk, a weekly evening open house of Scottsdale's numerous art galleries.

Friday, May 13

Everyone gathered in the Banyan Room at 9 am for introductory remarks by Greg McKelvey. There was time for some introductions -- the most memorable being J. Hill Hamon's description of himself as a "retired pimp." (J. Hill's most important role as a professor was to capture the interest of his students.)

O'Connor, Hamon, Schrader, and Doolittle at the press About 9:30 the group boarded a bus for a ride across town to visit the Phoenix Public Library's Rare Book Room. The Rare Book Librarian, Gladys Mahoney, gave a talk on early forms of printing and displayed examples from the rare book collection, including Babylonian Cuneiform Tablets, illuminated manuscripts, a page from the Gutenberg Bible, and the Second Folio of Shakespeare's works (1632 edition).

After her presentation, the Washington Hand Press was ready for those who wanted to take an impression of a wood engraving designed and cut by Gale Mueller for the convention.

Those who wandered into the Javelina Press typesetting room (just off the Rare Book Room) found an important reference right next to the cases: "Twelve Ways to Avoid Smashing Type and Other Stuff in Your Press," published by the AAPA's Sky Shipley in 2000.

After taking the bus back to the Inn and grabbing lunch, members reconvened for an afternoon session on the AAPA's future. Greg McKelvey introduced panelists Lee Hawes and Dave Tribby.

Lee recalled how local chapters were an important aspect of amateur journalism when he joined AAPA in the 1940s. In fact, Lee was introduced to AAPA because he was a member of the Florida Boy Editors Exchange, a group of young editors who traded copies of their neighborhood newspapers. During the same era, the town of Imperial, Nebraska, had a local club of five AAPA members, including Gordon Rouze. New York City's Metchaps provided another focus of activity.

Dave noted Lee's efforts beginning in the 1950s to recruit members through classified ads in magazines such as Popular Science. In the 1970s and '80s, Les Boyer attracted hundreds of recruits by placing flyers in Kelsey Company mailings. For the last ten years, the AAPA Web page has been the main source of new members, attracting about ten per year (although things have slowed down recently).

Recent membership statistics look gloomy. As recently as 2002 AAPA had over 300 members, but as of April 30 that number dipped to 249. The group is averaging a 10% loss of membership each year, but only seeing a few new members. Recruiting has always been important, but now it's an urgent priority. "Each of us heard about AAPA because someone took the time to recruit us. Now it's our time to return the favor."

Dave and Lee asked those in the room how they heard about amateur journalism. Some came to the hobby by reading advertisements (including the Kelsey campaigns), but most joined as the result of a personal contact.

Following the panel discussion, Greg asked members to break into four discussion groups to answer the questions: Who are we and what do we do? What do we want to be? How do we recruit? What do we want to look like in 5 to 10 years? Each group reported back, providing provocative and interesting answers to those questions. The results were collected by Official Editor Mike O'Connor for publication in the American Amateur Journalist.

Gale Mueller's wood engraving created for the convention

Saturday, May 14

Saturday morning started with Gale Mueller's presentation "Everything You Wanted to Know About Wood Engraving But Were Afraid to Ask." Since he could not easily demonstrate wood engraving techniques for the entire room, he presented a video in which Guy Debenham, a Canadian surgeon and master wood engraver, showed the tools and processes used to create finely detailed wood engraving. [The video was interrupted by a special delivery of two dozen chocolate donuts to Johanna Shipley.]

After the video, Gale talked about the history of wood engraving (used in 19th century publications to provide detailed illustrations for stories) and described how he became a practitioner after first making linocuts and wood carvings.

Gale's first wood engravings, produced in 1986, required an incredible amount of patience and endurance. He found the work tedious, and worked mainly in other media.

A decade later he discovered the Wood Engravers' Network and became enthralled with the medium and its unique characteristics: sharp details; variations of textures, shading, and gradation; transitions of stippling; and undulations of thick and thin lines.

In the other morning presentation, "Growing a University Press," University of Arizona Fine Arts graduate student Heather Green described her ongoing efforts to establish a letterpress studio in the Visual Communications department. Over the current semester, she has made good progress cleaning up and organizing the school's equipment. She recently worked with a professor to lead a group of students in printing artistic Thank You notes. If she can get 12 students to sign up, she will teach a letterpress class during the summer of 2006.

Heather described other academic letterpress initiatives, including this spring's "Schools of Thought 2 AIGA Conference" at the Archetype Press in Pasadena, California.

The convention adjourned for lunch, then reconvened at 2 pm for the annual auction. Auctioneer Sky Shipley, assisted by wife Johanna, kept the room entertained for 2-1/2 hours as they moved over 100 items and wrung $1,017.50 out of bidders. Except for a few convention expenses, the funds go to the AAPA treasury.


The banquet dinner was an informal western style cookout held outdoors as the sun set. There was plenty of beef, chicken, ribs, and conversation. After diners finished their ice cream, Master of Ceremonies Mike O'Connor brought people inside for the program.

Mike's first announcement: the winners of the Marge Petrone Limerick Contest. Third place went to Johanna Shipley and second to Ivan Snyder, but Dean Rea took first place with this poem:
    There once was a man named J. Hill,
    Who created a journal, Whippoorwill,
        But he grew tired and old,
        Left the letterpress fold
    And began e-mailing SPAM as a thrill.

Mike called upon Lee Hawes for the next announcement, an award from The Fossils, Inc. The recipient of the Russell L. Paxton Award for service to amateur journalism is Fred Liddle. (Fred had planned on attending the convention, but unfortunately hadn't fully recovered from recent surgery.) Lee recounted Fred's many terms in a wide variety of AAPA offices, and his publishing record in both the American and National APAs.

Mike introduced Sky Shipley for some Presidential Remarks. Sky noted he was completing his 2nd term (4th year) in office...and it has been an interesting time. He announced Cleveland, Ohio, will be next year's convention city, with Susan Petrone as Chair.

The main speakers of the evening were Lee Hawes and Sean Donnelly on the topic "Treasuring Ajay's Past -- What the Past Means to Our Future." They talked about the research necessary to prepare their book Willis T. Crossman's Vermont: Stories by W. Paul Cook. Cook embodied the meaning of "amateur" -- someone who does things for the love of it rather than simply for profit. Some of Cook's most interesting writing appears in limited editions printed on scrap paper. Those papers exist today only because someone preserved them, highlighting the importance of amateur journalism collections that are available to researchers.

Susan and Heather search for the right typeface

Sunday, May 15

Greg and Sally McKelvey hosted a picnic at their home outside of Pine, a small town in the mountains about two hours north of Scottsdale.

In addition to socializing and eating, visitors got to play in Greg's sizable print shop in the downstairs garage. One wall was covered with type cases -- providing excellent insulation from summer's heat.

Although nobody was in complete charge of producing The Prickly Pear, Sky Shipley took on the job of assembling already-set type into the two inside pages. Jiyani Lawson put together the front page, while others, including Susan Petrone and Gale Mueller, set type for the back page. Due to a tight deadline, there was no time to make corrections to the type that had been set. By 4 pm, the inside pages had been printed and the outside was ready to run.

Convention attendees (* indicates member of AAPA): Craig Aldridge, Rocky Baronowski, Len Carrick*, Michael Delgado, Sean Donnelly*, Jim* & Helen Doolittle, Heather Green, Charlene Green, J. Hill Hamon*, Lee Hawes*, L.W.* & Twyla Lawson, Greg* & Sally McKelvey, Bob Mills*, Gale Mueller*, Mike O'Connor*, Tammy Parker, Susan Petrone*, Dean* & Lou* Rea, Barry* & Kay Schrader, Duane* & Dolly Scott, Jack* & Maurine* Scott, Sky* & Johanna* Shipley, Hugh* & Jean* Singleton, Ivan Snyder*, Harry*, Margery*, and Carol Spence, Dave* & Liz Tribby. and Cathie Yankovich.

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