Stepping into Jeffrey Macklin’s workshop is like stepping into a time machine.
The seemingly small space is crowded with tools that have been long forgotten in the realm of graphic design and typography.
Other than the phone in his pocket, and the speakers that play everything from David Bowie to Sonic Youth, Macklin’s Jackson Creek Press has reanimated the letterpress, a technique and tool that saw its decline in the late 1950s.
There are no computers here, only a patient imagination that Macklin has honed since his foray into the print-press world 13 years ago.
A Sheridan graduate and a long-time Peterborough resident, Macklin has always had a love for typography – the study of fonts and their composition.
Despite leaving Peterborough to explore his education in fine arts and graphic design, he returned after the four-year stint to continue his work as an artist, motivated by his love and longing for nature.
Macklin’s connection to the wilderness is reflected in his calm and laissez-faire disposition.
He is not burdened by his art’s intensive process, which involves digging through his many cabinets of typeface in search of every single letter needed to spell out what needs spelling, but rather he is freed by it.
It is in this search, and in hand-carving designs in wood and hockey pucks, that he is at peace. He finds solace in improvising.
While his music playlist tells tales of going against the grain, Macklin does just that in the layers and grooves of ink and paper. He’s the Moonage Daydreamer of print.
His newest project was 50 years in the making. Spasm at the Spill, a wordless narrative that uses 21 hand-carved blocks, visually portrays the Peterborough performance by London-based artists Nihilist Spasm Band.
“They’re Canada’s oldest noise band. They were formed 50 years ago by visual artists who made and modified their old instruments to create a cacophony of sound.”
In listening to Macklin talk about the project and the band, it’s easy to see the passionate connection between the artist and his subject. Both are calloused creators whose love for art can be seen and heard in their handmade work. It’s difficult to imagine a stronger pairing and eventual output.
Macklin is currently in the middle of the creation process. He’s gone about carving each of the images and is hoping to complete it sometime this summer.
Only 50 copies of the book will be hand-printed to commemorate the band’s 50 years of operation.
This release speaks to the charm of the letterpress, as every book is handmade and contributes to a growing trend that Macklin has capitalized on.
“I think there’s a drive to buy things directly from the maker. Whether that’s supporting the local farmer’s market or a print that someone made, there’s something about the letterpress that cannot be reproduced in a modern and digital way,” explained Macklin.
“It has an innate touch and feel to it because of the debossing of the image into the paper. It has a feel that cannot be recreated any other way.”
It’s clear that Macklin’s rebellious nature thrives on the uniqueness of his art, the fact that its human connection means that every piece is different and bears the qualities of the maker.
The same design can be printed endlessly, but each is different in the faintest of ways.
It’s a pursuit that Macklin plans to keep up with for the rest of his life.
“I don’t imagine I’ll ever retire. I plan to never stop printing. I don’t consider it work.”
Until then, if you see posters in the Peterborough streets adored with the Jackson Creek Press moniker and a message urging you to seek out your better self, know that you have come face-to-face with Macklin’s work.
Not only should you heed its message, but you should recognize that what you’ve seen is not only the product of ink and paper, but also the blood, sweat and tears of a passionate artist.
For updates on Jeffrey Macklin, Spasm at the Spill, and Jackson Creek Press visit jacksoncreekpress.ca or follow Jeffrey @jacksoncreek (Twitter, Instagram) and Jackson Creek Press on Facebook.