Wimble’s Wayzgoose Armidale

Market day at the Wayzgoose; Clint Harvey and the Wimble Albion; David Frazer giving an artist talk.

Helen Cole experiences the joy of the Wimble’s Wayzgoose.

During the early days of letterpress printing it was traditional for master printers to reward their workers with a picnic known as a Wayzgoose to celebrate the end of summer and a return to working by candlelight. It was traditionally held on St Bartholomew’s day (24 August). The resurgence of letterpress printing has seen the return of the Wayzgoose, and in the USA they now often include the printing of a huge block with the aid of a steamroller.

The New England Regional Art Museum’s (NERAM) Wimble’s Wayzgoose was so-named because NERAM’s Museum of Printing is based around the collection of machinery and equipment of F.T. Wimble & Co., acquired in 1998. The collection can facilitate printing in a variety of ways. In addition to fourteen presses, a linotype machine, type cases with wood and metal type, composing sticks, furniture, casting boxes and guillotines, it includes a large number of typewriters, duplicating machines and a library of over 1000 volumes.

The long weekend (28-30 April) event began with an afternoon of talks about letterpress and related topics: printmaking, design and typography; the past, present and future of print. Helen Cole spoke on the use of text in artists’ books with particular reference to the letterpress work of English printer Ken Campbell and Katoomba’s Wayzgoose Press. Ross Burnett kindly lent from his Uralla bookshop several Wayzgoose Press books including Dada: Kampfen um Leben und Tod: a prose poem by Jas H. Duke, The terrific days of summer by Ken Bolton and Ockers: a poem by ∏O. These allowed those present to see up-close the phenomenal perfection of both book design and the printer’s art achieved by this press. Dr Benjamin Thorn, whose book Keep the Presses Running was launched during the weekend, discussed the history and prevalence of newspapers in regional NSW and Victoria. At one stage he performed something akin to ‘I’ve been everywhere man’ using the names of small towns publishing newspapers. The University of New England (UNE) Rare Book Collection was discussed and displayed by Ian Stephenson, UNE curator. Books shown included the remarkable Aurora Australis, the first book printed in Antarctica, illustrated with etchings and lithographs and with text printed letterpress. Clint Harvey, letterpress enthusiast and designer from The Bacon Factory in Brisbane shared his latest research on F.T. Wimble, Australia’s first ink manufacturer. Cinematographer, designer and distiller at Dobson’s Distillery near Armidale, Stephen Dobson expanded on his design vision for the Distillery’s print and online presence. Wayne Thompson, type designer from Australian Type Foundry in Newcastle gave a fascinating introduction to the differences between designing type for print and digital uses.

Over the weekend local artists took advantage of workshops offered by visiting teachers: David Frazer in wood engraving and Adele Outteridge in bookbinding. A screen printing workshop was presented by Joanna Kambourian and Darren Bryant from Ms Brown’s Lounge in Lismore.  Letterpress printing demonstrations allowed visitors to use the type and equipment from the F.T. Wimble Collection with Clint Harvey. The Black Gully Printmakers who work out of the Packsaddle Studio on the lower level of NERAM celebrated the arrival of their new etching press just in time for the Wayzgoose. They presented a pop-up exhibition of works created using the F.T. Wimble collection. On display in the Print Room Gallery was the New impressions exhibition of letterpress printing from the Hamilton Wood Type and Print Museum in Wisconsin.

The last day of the weekend was the picnic proper, with artist talks by local and visiting printmakers, a printmakers’ market and the apogee of the Wayzgoose – the printing of the 1.2 x 2 metre Thunderbolt woodblock designed by Okara Harvey and carved by Mark Pai. No steamroller being available, it was necessary to make do with a lawn roller. It gave a more regional Australian flavour. It was a community event with many people helping to ink the block, and when the lawn roller failed to make a strong enough impression, returning with spoons and barens to rub the back of the print. Four copies were taken before enthusiasm waned. A final impression was taken by the helpers dancing on the block; not the best print, though perhaps the one with the most spirit.

As the first of a planned annual series the 2017 Wimble’s Wayzgoose augers well for the next event, being informative, creative and convivial. Put it in your diary for 2018!

Helen Cole