Reflections on This Year’s ATF Conference

Posted by on Jul 22, 2010 | No Comments

It’s been a few weeks since I got back from the American Typecasting Fellowship Conference in Piqua, OH, hosted by the wonderful Gregory Walters, and I’m excited as ever about our community and our project.

We’re working to establish the C.C. Stern Type Foundry in Portland to create a real working “museum”, and this conference was a working conference. Every day there was time spent working, teaching, learning, and sharing–it’s easy to forget in the two years between conferences how many people share our passion for preserving hot metal typecasting. Observing that passion reinforces my belief that this is worth doing.

This was a diverse conference. Hot metal typecasting appeals to a wide demographic, and it was wonderful to be in the company of people from all over the country, of all ages and backgrounds–this wasn’t a trade conference, even though some of the attendants there worked in commercial hot metal. By the same token, this wasn’t just a fan conference–people were serious about keeping these machines running and doing work (even if of the personal sort) with them. One of the things I’m most excited about, and impressed by, is Bill Welliver’s new scratch-built computer-to-caster interface. Six years ago, I remember Bill talking about he wanted to start on this project. He didn’t have a machine back then. In that time, he’s procured the equipment, and built a hardware and software system that’s in use around the country, and it blows me away.

It was wonderful to meet many of the new faces in typecasting–Micah is at the Dale Guild keeping the ATF tradition alive, and is really making a go of it, with a impressive casting program and some new approaches to getting type into the hands of printers. Jason, in British Columbia, is taking on the huge task of keeping and enhancing on the late Jim Rimmer’s insights and methods (I should say genius) in type design and engraving. As always, the young guys from San Francisco bring a perspective that is truly unique amongst young attendants–they do this stuff every day.

Part of what makes me so excited about the current state of hot metal typecasting is the relief that knowing that given the chance, a young generation will step up and take the time to learn these methods and understand these machines. The machinery is worthless without the knowledge contained in the hands of those that used it, and it takes face-to-face interaction, like what happens at a conference, or during a weekend visit, to enable that knowledge transfer. But that’s only part of it. The joy comes from the knowledge that more great things are to come. From Bill Welliver’s computer interface, to Micah’s revitalized Dale Guild, and the promise that new original metal typefaces will continue to be created by Jason–things are looking pretty bright.

We have volunteered to host the next conference in Portland in 2012 for exactly those same reasons that we walked away with high spirits just last month. In a very short time, we will be moving into a new facility, bringing these machines back from their sleep to share with others our passion for practicing hot metal typecasting. We do it as a way to inform others about our history, share knowledge with those who wish to preserve a wonderful craft, and inspire artists, craftspeople, and designers with the knowledge that comes from working with words with your own hands. We’re more than a little tickled to show off our wonderful town, too!

We’ve already set the wheels in motion, and we’re excited to get things ready. Two years isn’t a long time, and we’ve got work to do. We hope you’ll join us!